Nathaniel "Nate" Thurmond (born July 25, 1941, in Akron, Ohio) is a retired American basketball player, feared and praised by legends including Bob Pettit, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wilt Chamberlain. His nickname during his playing years was "Nate the Great".
He played in high school with another future NBA star, Gus Johnson, at Akron Central. Their powerful team went undefeated before losing to Middletown, led by Jerry Lucas, in the Ohio state high school playoffs. Passing on a scholarship offer to Ohio State, to avoid becoming Lucas's backup there, the 6'11" Thurmond chose Bowling Green. He was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News in 1963, and was drafted by the San Francisco Warriors later that year.
With the Warriors, Thurmond was an aggressive rebounder-defender who played at the forward position opposite superstar Wilt Chamberlain or was his backup at center. Despite playing on the same team as the dominant Chamberlain, Thurmond made an impact and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1964.
When Chamberlain was traded back to Philadelphia's new franchise, the Philadelphia 76ers, Thurmond became the All-Star starting center Chamberlain said he could be. Among his many accomplishments, Thurmond still holds the regular season record for rebounds in a quarter with 18. He averaged 21.3 and 22.0 rebounds per game in the 1966-67 and 1967-68 seasons — season averages exceeded by only Bill Russell and Chamberlain in NBA history. Thurmond placed second to Chamberlain in the MVP balloting in the 1966-67 season, and averaged over 20 points per game each season from 1967-68 through 1971-72, and played in seven NBA All-Star Games while with the Warriors. However, while star players like Rick Barry and Jerry Lucas came and went, the Warriors were unable to win a championship with Thurmond at center. Thurmond was also an excellent passing center and was well known as the best screen setter in the league for many years.
He was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Clifford Ray prior to the 1974-75 season. On October 18, 1974 against the Atlanta Hawks, in his debut as a Chicago Bull, he recorded 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocked shots, thus becoming the first player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double. He was then traded to Cleveland Cavaliers 13 games into the following season. In Cleveland, the now 35-year-old Thurmond came off the bench for the injured Jim Chones to lead Cleveland to the Eastern Conference Finals before the Cavaliers lost to the star-studded Boston Celtics in 1976.
After retirement, Thurmond returned to San Francisco and opened a well-known restaurant, Big Nate's BBQ, after a brief attempt at broadcasting. In 1996 he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, and he remains one of the greatest rebounders and shot blockers in basketball history.
His jersey number, 42, has been retired by the Warriors and Cavaliers. Nate Thurmond was enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame on July 1, 1985.