Pete Maravich was like a comet streaking across the NBA during the 1970s.
“Pistol” Pete could do it all — shoot, pass and dribble — with flash and style rarely seen in the league.
His moves “were exciting, always so quick, as if Maravich himself did not know what he was doing until he had done it and then it was too late,” author David Halberstam wrote in April 1980.
Maravich only had the benefit of the 3-point play during the last of his 10 NBA seasons, but he drained 10 of 15 attempts.
Films of Maravich playing in the pros are rare, but SCP Auctions will be selling a newly uncovered collection of 37 game films in its Winter Premier Auction, which opens next month.
The “Lost Films of Pistol Pete” are 7-inch, 16mm black-and-white reel-to-reel tapes, all in their original metal canisters.
The collection of 37 game films is being seen for the first time in over 40 years.
They belonged to Bill Bertka, who was general manager of the expansion New Orleans Jazz during Maravich’s prime.
Bertka, who is 93, has spent more than 50 years working in the NBA, mostly with the Los Angeles Lakers. He began as an assistant coach and scout with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968, but from 1974 to 1981 he was the general manager and vice president of the Jazz. He returned to the Lakers after that and served as an assistant for eight coaches in L.A., including Pat Riley, Magic Johnson, Kurt Rambis and Phil Jackson.
In 2019, Bertka received the Tex Winter Lifetime Impact Award and was a nominee for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020. He owns 10 championship rings with the Lakers and was part of the franchise’s 20 trips to the NBA Finals.
He wasn’t a bad coach, either. Bertka once won 41 consecutive games, a national record, while coaching Hancock College to the California state junior college title in 1957. He also coached at Kent State, his alma mater, for three years.
But it was as a scout that Bertka made his biggest impact. His business, Bertka’s Views, was established in 1961 and was called one of college basketball’s most respected scouting services. And Bertka was always watching film.
“I remember the days before videotape,” former Jazz public relations director Dave Fredman told The Salt Lake Tribune in 1988. “The guy’d be in the airport and he’d have film-splicing equipment. He’d do his breakdowns by film splicing.”
When the Jazz acquired Maravich as an expansion team in 1974 — sending the Atlanta Hawks their first-round draft pick — Bertka had plenty of time to accumulate film. There were lots of highlights. Maravich led the NBA in scoring average in 1976-77 with 31.1 points per game. That same year he averaged a league-leading 41.7 minutes per game. He also made 501 out of 600 free throws to lead the NBA.
Maravich would go on to score 15,948 points during his career. He died in January 1988 at the age of 40.
Bertka’s game films, which do not have sound, are a treasure because the NBA was not a global league like it is today. Films were scarce, and few games were televised nationally.
The collection is made up of 37 different, complete New Orleans Jazz games from 1974 to 1978. Examples of jaw dropping stat lines from “Pistol Pete” are his Jan. 17, 1975, game against the Seattle SuperSonics when he delivered a triple-double of 42 points, 10 rebounds and 17 assists. It also includes his Oct. 26, 1975, game against the New York Knicks, when Maravich dropped 45 points, had 11 rebounds and dished out eight assists.
Bertka’s film trove also includes game action of 1970s NBA stars such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Rick Barry, Julius Erving, Earl Monroe, John Havlicek, Bill Walton and Bob McAdoo.
Many reel-to-reel tapes were rerecorded or erased, but Bertka, who hired a private firm to film Jazz games, saved them all. He kept the tapes in a storage room at his home in Santa Barbara, California, for decades.
SCP Auctions believes they could sell for $100,000 or more. Bidding will run from March 17-April 3.