In a game that has been dominated by giants of mammoth proportion and tremendous strength, Nate Archibald did his dominating with neither of the two. From early on in his basketball career Tiny heard words of discouragement that a man of his size would never be able to compete at the highest levels. He would have to start his college career at Arizona Western Junior College and work his way through the entire bunch of nay Sayers with his college career ending at the aforementioned UTEP.
After college basketball at UTEP, Nate would be drafted 19th in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals. He would immediately have an impact in his rookie year. Tiny would average 16 points, 5.5 assists, and three rebounds, but this was merely a foreshadowing of things to come. His sophomore season would be his coming out party as the best little man to grace the league since Hal Greer. That second year he would raise his numbers to 28.2 points, 9.2 assists, and nearly three boards. Not only had his numbers seen a dramatic change, the Royals would move to Kansas City the following year and Nate would treat the league to a feat that has never been matched in nearly forty years.
In the 1972-73 season Tiny would not only lead the league in scoring at a mark of 34 points per contest, but he would also be tops in the game in assists at 11.4 a night. If you have been reading the Nugg Doctor lately you might remember a breakdown I did regarding the best player in the league by a statistical breakdown and a value scale. Allen Iverson won the title right before All-Star break by edging out Lebron James with a better turnover to assist ratio and a total score of 48.5. By that same breakdown, (and I encourage you to check the archives for that article), Archibald would have scored a 57.5! That is nearly 20% more of a contribution to his team every night in the three major categories of scoring, rebounding, and assists. This feat was phenomenal and no player in NBA history has come remotely close to duplicating it.
Even with the proof in the pudding, Nate was still hearing jeers that he couldn’t lead a team to the promise land of a NBA title. His critics were saying he was too dominating of the ball, couldn’t get his teammates involved, (which I’ll never understand seeing how he led the league in assists), and was a hindrance on defense. All of this negativity fueled the little man to what could have been the capstone in his outstanding career. In 1981 he led the Boston Celtics to the world championship while scoring 13.8 points a game, dishing 7.7 assists, and clearing two boards. At this point, all his critics had nothing left to say. Tiny had accomplished everything there was to accomplish.
He would end his career having played for the Cincinnati and KC-Omaha Royals and Kings, New York Nets, Boston Celtics, and the Milwaukee Bucks. He played 13 seasons in the NBA. Graced the NBA first team in 73, 75, and 76. He was elected an All-Star six times and won MVP of the game in 1981. His jersey number 1 will never be worn again by a Sacramento King, and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990. All these accolades are merely addition to the crown jewel that was the 1972-73 season. Will a player ever lead the league in scoring and assists again? Only time will tell the truth on that. In the mean time we will always have the memory that not only is such a feat possible, but it was accomplished by the “Tiny-est” of all the NBA giants.