Syracuse basketball legend Billy Gabor, who went on to play in the NBA for the Syracuse Nationals, died Tuesday after briefly fighting pneumonia, his son, Bill, confirmed to syracuse.com. He was 97.
Gabor, who lived in Jupiter, Florida, celebrated his last birthday May 13 and was believed to be the oldest living former NBA player.
The 5-11 guard quickly became known for his speed and earned the nickname “The Bullet” when he played in college during the 1940s. He started his collegiate career at Syracuse during the 1942-43 season, but it was interrupted by World War II when he served in the U.S. Air Force. He returned in 1945 and played three more seasons and racked up a number of impressive accolades, emerging as Syracuse’s earliest star.
Among his many accomplishments while in college: Gabor was the first player in Syracuse history to score 400 points in a season. He was also the first to score 1,000 points in his career for the school. He finished as the Syracuse’s all-time leading scorer with 1,344 points, which is a record that that stood for nearly 20 years until Dave Bing surpassed it in 1966.
The university retired his No. 17 jersey in 2009. It now hangs in the Carrier Dome and joins the likes of Orange greats Bing, Derrick Coleman and Carmelo Anthony.
“He was one of the greatest Syracuse players of all-time,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He was always a great representative of his school and his family.”
After his college career ended, Gabor played in the NBA for six years and was a member of the Nationals’ NBA championship team in 1955. He averaged 9.8 points per game and was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie team. He also made the league’s All-Star team in 1953.
Gabor is survived by his three children (Bill, Bob and Hallie) and eight grandchildren (Annie, Emily, SarahRose, Malone, Mimi, Jack, Will, and Madison).
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