William John "Billy" Cunningham, born June 3, 1943, was nicknamed the Kangaroo Kid. Born in Brooklyn, New York, his fame began while he was playing at Erasmus Hall High School, where he was the MVP in the Brooklyn League in 1961. That year, he was the First-Team All-New York City, and a member of the Parade Magazine All-America Team.

In 1965, Cunningham joined the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association as a sixth man and played well enough to be named to the NBA All-Rookie Team.

Cunningham was a member of the powerful 1967 Sixers championship team (featuring Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Luke Jackson). After Chamberlain left the team in 1968, Cunningham became the 76ers' franchise player. He would replace the injured and aging Luke Jackson as the starting power forward of the team, and averaged 24.8 points per game and 12.8 rebounds per game during the 1968-69 season while leading the 76ers to 55 wins. After that season, he earned the first of what would be three straight All-NBA First Team selections.
Cunningham in 1972

In 1972, he joined the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association. In his first ABA season, Cunningham averaged 24.1 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game, and led the league in total steals. He led the Cougars to the best record in the league and was selected to the All-ABA First Team and was named the ABA MVP. During the post-season, the Cougars defeated the New York Nets in five games in the Eastern Division Semifinals to advance to the Eastern Division Finals. In the Division Finals the Cougars lost a tight seven game series to the Kentucky Colonels, 4 games to 3. In the 1973-74 season Cunningham and the Cougars finished third in the Eastern Division and lost again to the Kentucky Colonels in the Eastern Division semifinals.

After the 1973-74 season, Cunningham returned to the 76ers, where he played until he suffered a career-ending injury early in the 1975-76 season. For his career, Cunningham scored 16,310 points and grabbed 7,981 rebounds in both the NBA and the ABA.

After his playing days were done, he became the head coach of the 76ers on November 4, 1977, and built a great team featuring the likes of Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving. He reached the 200, 300, and 400-win milestone faster than any coach in NBA history. He led Philadelphia to the playoffs in every year as coach, and advancing to the NBA Finals 3 times, in 1979-80, 1981-82 and 1982-83, facing the Los Angeles Lakers all 3 times. The 76ers lost to the Lakers in 1980 and 1982, but after acquiring Moses Malone, Cunningham finally got them past the Lakers in 1983, winning the franchise's second (and most recent) NBA Championship as part of a 12-1 playoff run. Upon his retirement, his 454 wins as a head coach were the 12th best in NBA history.

 

Reference - Wikipedia

Leave a comment