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In era of great centers, Nate Thurmond was among the best

Hall of Famer Nate Thurmond was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team in 1996. Getty Images

Nate Thurmond, who recorded the NBA’s first official quadruple-double and locked horns with some of the best centers in league history, died of leukemia Saturday at 74.

Thurmond -- whose playing career overlapped with those of Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willis Reed, Wes Unseld, Walt Bellamy, Bob Lanier and others -- was named an NBA All-Star seven times. He was a first- or second-team all-defensive team member five times. Abdul-Jabbar called the 6-foot-11 Thurmond the best defender he faced.

Thurmond is one of five players in NBA history to average at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in his career. He was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1985 and was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team in 1996.

The third pick in the 1963 NBA draft, Thurmond played the first 11 of his 14 seasons with the San Francisco/Golden State Warriors, averaging 17.4 points and 16.9 rebounds. He finished his career with the Bulls and Cavaliers.

In 1967-68, Thurmond averaged 20.5 points and 22.0 rebounds. Chamberlain (who did it six times) is the only other Warriors player to reach the 20-20 threshold in a season.

With the Bulls, on Oct. 18, 1974, Thurmond had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks against the Hawks. It was the first official quadruple-double in NBA history. (Blocked shots became a recognized statistic in 1973-74.)

On Nov. 9, 1965, Thurmond had 42 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons. The only players in NBA history to record more rebounds in a game are Chamberlain and Russell.

Thurmond’s team made the postseason in nine of his 14 seasons, including reaching the NBA Finals in 1964 and 1967.

Thurmond ranks first on the Warriors’ franchise list for defensive win shares (52.8). He is second to Chamberlain on the team leaderboard for rebounds per game and minutes per game (40.6).

The Warriors retired Thurmond’s No. 42 jersey in 1978. He is among six players so honored by the franchise, a list that includes Chamberlain and Chris Mullin.