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In memoriam: Bill Sharman, 87

by David Tuttle
Bill Sharman is a member of USC's first Athletics Hall of Fame class.(Photo/courtesy of USC Athletics)
Bill Sharman is a member of USC's first Athletics Hall of Fame class.(Photo/courtesy of USC Athletics)

Former USC basketball All-American Bill Sharman, an NBA champion as both a player and coach, died at his home on Oct. 25 in Redondo Beach, Calif. He was 87.

Sharman was a four-year letter winner at USC from 1947 to 1950 and still ranks among the all-time top 25 in scoring at the university. He was a two-time All-Pacific Coast Conference selection and conference most valuable player (MVP).

In 1949, he was named the team’s most inspirational player. One year later, he was selected as the Trojan team captain and MVP, scoring 1,108 points in 81 games for a then school-record 13.7 per-game average. A well-rounded athlete, he also played two seasons for the USC baseball team (1949-50) before signing a professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Known as “Bullseye Bill” for his marksmanship at the foul line, Sharman played baseball briefly in the Dodgers’ organization before excelling in his basketball career.

In 10 seasons with the Boston Celtics, he was named All-NBA first team four times and played in eight All-Star Games, earning MVP honors in the 1955 game. Sharman teamed with Bob Cousy to form one of the league’s most formidable backcourt duos, and the pair helped Boston win four NBA championships.

He later became a standout coach, directing the Lakers to their first NBA title in 1972 and earning Coach of the Year honors. That season, the Lakers finished with a 69-13 regular-season record, including 33 straight victories, an NBA single-season record.

By winning championships in the NBA, the American Basketball League (Cleveland) and the American Basketball Association (Utah), Sharman became the first coach to win titles in three different pro leagues. He later joined John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens as the only members enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a coach.

Sharman was inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor in 2002 and was a member of USC’s first Athletics Hall of Fame class in 1994. His No. 11 USC jersey was retired and hoisted into the Galen Center rafters on Jan. 13, 2007.

Sharman is survived by his wife, Joyce; sons Jerry and Tom; daughters Nancy Scott and Janice Hand; six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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