Earlier this week, former New York Knicks small forward Dave Stallworth passed away at the age of 75. He’s remembered well by old-school Knicks fans as an important member of their legendary 1970 championship team.
After a very successful college career at Wichita State, Stallworth was drafted by the New York Knicks with the third overall pick in the 1965 draft. His NBA career got off to a fine start, averaging 12.8 points and 6.2 rebounds a game over his first two seasons. However, on March 7, 1967, he suffered a heart attack during a game against the San Francisco Warriors. He was just 25 years old, and suddenly faced with the prospect of being unable to play basketball again. He returned to Wichita to coach an amateur basketball team, and eventually began working out with them. As he continued to stay in shape and stay healthy, his doctor told him that he could be able to return to the Knicks. After two full years away from the NBA, he returned to action in time for the 1969-70 season.
Stallworth played all 82 games in his return season, serving an important role off the bench for the Knickerbockers. New York started the season 23-1, on the way to a 62-20 record. They’d go on to the Finals, where Stallworth was thrust into action after starting center, and team captain, Willis Reed was injured in Game 5. The 6’7″ Stallworth had to guard the 7’1″ Wilt Chamberlain. On top of that, the Knicks fell behind by 16 points, but they came back to win, with Stallworth scoring a key layup against Chamberlain late in the game. The win would give the Knicks a 3-2 series lead, and they’d go on to win in a memorable Game 7.
Stallworth remained with the Knicks until 1971, when he was traded to the Baltimore Bullets in the deal that brought Earl Monroe to New York. After a solid first season in Baltimore, his numbers dwindled in two more seasons with the Bullets. In 1974, he was traded to the Suns, who promptly waived him. His old team, the New York Knicks, picked him up, but he only appeared in seven games before he was waived once again. It was his last NBA action.
Dave Stallworth overcame a heart attack to play nine seasons in the NBA. His role on the 1970 Knicks permanently etched his name in team lore, and the hearts and minds of Knicks fans, who still revere that legendary squad.
Godspeed, Mr. Stallworth.