One of the great players in basketball history departed Saturday as Zelmo Beaty passed away at age 73.
The 6’9″ center played from 1962 to 1975 in the NBA and ABA with the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks, the Utah Stars, and the Los Angeles Lakers. I’ve written many words on Zelmo’s fantastic career and I encourage you to read them:
However in remembering Zelmo’s career today, I’ve simply decided to select a newspaper headline from every year of his career to demonstrate his greatness and tell a part of his story…
Zelmo Beaty, the 22-year old rookie from Prairie View, Tex., may be ready to help the St. Louis Hawks, after all. The Hawks picked the 6-foot-9, 235-pounder as their No. 1 draft choice this year. But until Sunday night, they were wondering if they hadn’t made a mistake. He had been unimpressive in the first 11 games. But the Hawks… whipped the Detroit Pistons, 117 – 100. Beaty scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Hawks let loose a collective sigh of relief.
The Free Lance-Star – April 5, 1963:
“After the heart-breaking loss we had the other night,” said Coach Harry Gallatin of the St. Louis Hawks, “we still figured we could beat this club and I think we proved it. I think we’ll go all the way now if Zelmo (Beaty) can keep up the good work.” The proof according to Gallatin, was the 125-112 lacing the Hawks handed the Los Angeles Lakers… the difference Thursday was rookies Beaty and Charlie Vaughn who shook off uninspiring performances in the first two games when they managed only 12 points between them. Thursday night Beaty had 21 and led both teams with 15 rebounds…
Beaver County Times - April 1, 1964
Wilt Chamberlain faces his toughest defender, Zelmo Beaty, tonight when the San Francisco Warriors take on the St. Louis Hawks in the opener of their NBA final Western Division playoff. Coach Alex Hannum, who guided the Warriors to the regular season crown in the Western race… said that Beaty probably would give Chamberlain a tough time. “Zelmo has done a good job guarding Chamberlain all season,” Hannum said of the six foot, nine inch pivotman from Prairie View. Figures show that Wilt averaged 31 points against Beaty this season… Overall in the league, Chamberlain [averaged] 36.9 points per contest.
The Owosso Argus-Press – February 22, 1965
Rookie Joe Caldwell led a rally which brought the Pistons to within two points, 107-105 with two minutes to play. But Zelmo Beaty and Cliff Hagan led a late Hawk surge which clinched the game. Beaty and Hagan scored 18 of the Hawks’ 29 points in the last quarter of play. Each ended up with 21 points for the afternoon.
Schenectady Gazette - April 7, 1966
Bill Bridges and Zelmo Beaty went on a scoring spree midway through the second half, carrying the St. Louis Hawks to a 120-113 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night and giving the Hawks their first victory in the final playoffs in the [NBA]’s Western Division. Bridges, who finished with 27 points, put the Hawks ahead to stay, 88-87, with a basket late in the third period. Beaty followed with a basket and two free throws and Bridges added another basket for a 94-88 spread… Beaty added seven more points in the final period and Bridges four…
Milwaukee Journal – December 11, 1967
Zelmo Beaty scored 12 straight points in the third quarter, made the basket which sent the game into overtime, then scored four points in the extra period as the St. Louis Hawks nipped the Baltimore Bullets in their [NBA] game Sunday night 114 – 112.
The Morning Record – January 26, 1968
Zelmo Beaty’s pro career-high total of 42 points carried the St. Louis Hawks to a 105-93 decision over the Boston Celtics… Beaty hit on 16 of 24 field goals and 10 of 11 free throws.Beaty saved his best scoring for the second half, picking up 11 points in the third quarter and 17 in the last period.
Herald-Journal – October 8, 1969
Zelmo Beaty, high scorer and rebouning ace of the Atlanta Hawks, jumped to the Los Angeles Stars of the [ABA]… “I signed because of the security the contract with the Stars provided,” said the 6-foot-9 star whose three-year contract with the Hawks expired Sept. 30. “I plan to wait a year and meanwhile keep myself in physical shape,” said Beaty. Asked why he didn’t plan to compete with the Hawks this season, he replied, “I don’t want to take any chance on getting myself injured so I could not fulfill my contract with Los Angeles.”
Michigan Daily - January 24, 1970
The Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association filed a $4.5 million suit yesterday against the Los Angeles Stars of the rival American Basketball Association in an attempt to halt Zelmo Beaty from playing with the Stars. Beaty, who played for the Hawks during the 1968-69 season, is sitting out this season in order to become a free agent. The suit said Beaty signed to play for the Stars next year on a contract worth “in excess of $500,000.”
The Telegraph - May 6, 1971
The Utah Stars, behind the 36-point shooting of Zelmo Beaty, swamped the Kentucky Colonels 131-121 Tuesday night to win the American Basketball Association championship.
St. Joseph Gazette – April 17, 1972
Zelmo Beaty isn’t letting a pair of arthritic legs stiffen his hopes for another ABA championship.”If this game was an indication, then it’s going to be quite a series,” the veteran 6-foot-9 Beaty quipped after he and the Utah Stars came from behind to whip Indiana 108-100… Beaty’s legs were wrapped in ice to ease the pain and reduce possible swelling after the game. He was on crutches most of last week before the team began practice sessions. The pain and swelling, however, apparently didn’t bother him during the game. Beaty scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.
Herald-Journal - October 3, 1973
Declaring a need to “return to sanity in this business,” Utah Stars President Vince Boryla Tuesday announced his [ABA] club has filed suit against popular center Zelmo Beaty for alleged breach of contract. Beaty has failed to appear for 1973-74 season practice sessions and, according to Boryla, completely severed personal communications with the Stars. He has missed all pre-season games. The Stars open regular season play Oct. 10 against Memphis… [Beaty] holds many team records, including most points in one game, 63 on February 21, 1972, and most points in one season, 1980 in 1971-72.
Beaver County Times - May 6, 1974
Utah hopes the return of center Zelmo Beaty can slow New York and open up the Nets’ inside getting the Stars back into the [ABA] championship playoff. “We’ve got stop them running,” said Utah coach Joe Mullaney, whose Stars trail New York 0-2 on the eve of tonight’s third game in the best-of-seven championship playoffs… [Julius] Erving has scored 79 points in the first two games, and nothing Utah has tried seems to stop him. But tonight, Beaty is scheduled to be back after sitting out two weeks with an infection and fever. His temperature had soared to 105 degrees… “He’s got to be at least a little weak,” Mullaney said, “but everybody on the team is happy he’ll be in there.”
The Press-Courier – March 12, 1975
A pair of clutch free throws by Cazzie Russell were the obvious part of the Los Angeles Lakers’ victory over Detroit. But just as important was Zelmo Beaty’s unabashed bearhug of Bob Lanier with two seconds left in Tuesday’s [NBA] game. “We had a foul to give,” said Lakers’ coach Bill Sharman. “We were trying to foul whoever got the ball immediately.”
All of that is just a small touch on the career of Zelmo Beaty. He was a terrific defender, a good rebounder, a center with range on his jumper, a rough fouler, and an excellent, excellent teammate. He’s deserving of inclusion in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for his All-Star selections, his ABA Playoffs MVP in 1971, and his college success at Prairie View A&M leading the Panthers to the 1962 NAIA title.
RIP, Big Z.