Goodbye Sweet Lou
By Anthony McClean, Editor – in – Chief Emeritus
“Young people today don’t know how good Lou Hudson really was. He was a hell of a player. The guy could score with the best in history. He was a phenomenal basketball player. He should be a Hall of Famer and it’s amazing to me he’s not. He was one of the best (shooting) guards and that’s a fact. You go back and look at his career and look at the numbers and see what he did and you understand.”
– Dominique Wilkins.
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) — I was originally going to write about the triumph of UConn’s Kevin Ollie earlier this week becoming the fourth Division I black head coach (joining John Thompson, Nolan Richardson, and Tubby Smith) to win the National Championship. However, the passing of the great “Sweet” Lou Hudson prompted me to give this unheralded superstar his due.
The former University of Minnesota standout passed away Friday at the age of 69 due to complications following a stroke; in spite of the fact that he’s only the third player in the history of the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks franchise to have his number retired, the six-time All-Star somewhat remains an afterthought when talk of the NBA’s greatest guards is brought up. Maybe it’s because he played during the same era as future Hall of Famers like Jerry West, Walt Frazier, and Earl Monroe.
Maybe it’s because he was overshadowed (mainly by white media members) by his flamboyant teammate “Pistol” Pete Maravich when the pair shared the spotlight in Georgia back in the day. Or maybe it’s because many folks think of the aforementioned “Human Highlight Film” as one of the greatest players in Hawk history before they think of the great 6-foot-5 shooter.
When you hear folks talking about someone that has a “sweet jumper,” they’re paying homage to Hudson’s shooting ability. Much like today when much more importance has been placed the dunk, Hudson’s workman-like talents would always get overshadowed by the flashier players of his era.
The Greensboro, North Carolina native was truly one of the greats of the game that literally gets lost in the shuffle. Hudson was a first-round pick by St. Louis in 1966 and made the NBA all-rookie team that season. After a stint in the Army, Hudson returned to the league and took his game to an entirely different level.
Beginning with the 1969-70 season, Hudson averaged at least 24 points in five straight seasons. That season, he scored a career-high 57 points against Chicago on November 10, 1969, matching the franchise record also set by Hall of Famer Bob Pettit and later by Wilkins.
In his years with the Hawks, he averaged at least 20 points seven times. He set a career high with his 27.1 points per game in 1972-73. He was traded by Atlanta to the Los Angeles Lakers on September 30, 1977, and played his final two seasons with Los Angeles. Hudson averaged 20.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists (.489 FG%, .797 FT%) in his 13-year NBA career, including 11 seasons with the Hawks.
Even before he reached the NBA, Hudson served as a college basketball pioneer. He was one of the first three African-American basketball players to attend the University of Minnesota, playing under legendary coach John Kundla. His No. 14 was retired by the Gophers in 1994 and he’s a member of the school’s athletic Hall of Fame.
A great athlete as well, he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1966 NFL Draft despite not playing college football. Also while attending Dudley High School in Greensboro, Hudson starred in basketball, football, and track. He would later be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
I’ve always considered players from the past like Lou Hudson as the silent foot soldiers of sports. They paved the way for the LeBron’s, Durant’s, and others to reap the benefits they enjoy today. It’s refreshing to hear a contemporary player like Dominique give “Sweet Lou” the homage he deserves.
Rest in peace, Mr. Hudson; and for all hoops fans everywhere, we thank you for your cooperation to the game.
NOTE: The Associated Press and NBA.com contributed to this story.