This is the first article in a new feature here at ProjectSpurs that takes a look at some of the forgotten Spurs of years past. As the name suggests, I’ll be focusing on players who found themselves occupying the end of the bench. I’ve always found the 12th man interesting, and hopefully I’ll be able to uncover some fascinating players. I welcome any suggestions for players to profile.
This whole feature was inspired by one very tall man, Charles Goodrich Nevitt, or Chuck as he was more commonly known. Some of you may remember Nevitt, who is the fifth tallest NBA player ever at 7’5”, from his time in the NBA from 1982-1994. Most of you, however, probably have no idea who Nevitt is.
I came upon Nevitt accidentally one day while perusing Basketball-Reference and looking at Spurs teams from the 90’s. While looking at the 1993-1994 team, I noticed one of the more bizarre and fascinating stat lines, which belonged to Nevitt. During the season, Nevitt appeared in one game for one minute. But what a minute it was. Nevitt managed to attempt six free throws, making three, grab one rebound, commit one foul and have one turnover. Basketball-Reference shows a player’s per 36 minutes stats, showcasing what has to be one of the best statistical seasons. For the 93-94 season, Nevitt averaged 108 points, 36 fouls, 36 turnovers, 36 rebounds and 216 free throws attempted per 36 minutes. He also had a PER, that crazy statistical love child of John Hollinger, of 46.
I hear you now, telling me how stupid it is to look at per 36 averages from a player who played one minute in one game, but it caught my eyes. This one game fascinates me. How did Nevitt attempt six free throws in one minute? Why would you foul him three times? Why was he even on the court? Nevitt was the 12th man, so it wasn’t a close game where the other team was fouling to get back in it. Making this one game even more interesting, it came on November 5, 1993 against the Golden State Warriors — the first game ever played in the Alamodome. A NBA record opening-day crowd of 36,523 saw Nevitt play one minute in a 91-85 Spurs victory. I’m sure most of them remember David Robinson scoring 32 points or Dennis Rodman debut as a Spur, grabbing 21 rebounds off the bench. Still, 15 years later, I’m more intrigued by Nevitt’s one minute of play. His time as a Spur and his NBA career came to an end just days later because he was waived on November 8.
Nevitt wasn’t your ordinary 12th man, though. Not many merit a feature article in Sports Illustrated or two questions in Trivial Pursuit (“How many inches above seven feet is Chuck Nevitt” and “Who is the tallest player in the NBA”). After a forgettable four years on the court at North Carolina State (his four years off the court might be forgotten too, SI called him an “All-American Partygoer”), the Houston Rockets selected Nevitt in the third round of the 1982 draft. At 7’5” and 225 pounds, Nevitt was a project. He never stuck around anywhere for very long, playing for Houston, Los Angeles Lakers (where he won a ring), Detroit, Houston (again), Chicago and finally San Antonio.
Like most 12th men, Nevitt was a fan favorite. The Rockets fans cheered louder for him than anybody else. When he played in Detroit, a pizza parlor had a special where it gave away 12 pizzas to a soup kitchen for each block Nevitt had. He also rejuvenated the crowd with his cheerleader antics on the bench and positive attitude. He enjoyed nicknames like “The Human Victory Cigar” and chants of “Nevitt, Nevitt”. He also possessed a strong sense of humor, which probably came in handy at his height. The Lakers kept him around to work in promotions after waiving him because they liked him so much. Clearly this was a guy people liked having around because lets face it, he wasn’t much of a basketball player.
Still, Nevitt produced one of my all-time favorite stat lines, and for that reason I begin this new feature with Chuck Nevitt, all 7’5”, 225 lb and 108 points per 36 minutes of him.
If anybody was at the first game at the Alamodome and remembers anything, I would love to hear about your experience. Do you even remember seeing Nevitt?