Why Is Nate Thurmond One of the Most Underappreciated MAC Hoops Players Ever?

May 27th, 2017: That date always sticks out in my mind as the day I graduated from Anthony Wayne High School. Seeing as we were a relatively large school, our Graduation ceremony was held at Bowling Green State University's Stroh Center, the home of Falcon Men and Women's basketball, as well as the Women's volleyball team. The stage was literally set as we received our diplomas and said one final goodbye to the high school as we knew it. At some point during the ceremony, I was looking up one of the right side walls, when I noticed one of the retired numbers; 42 with the name Thurmond.

Being something of a basketball nerd, I always knew Nate Thurmond was one of the few players in NBA history to obtain a quadruple-double (which, by itself, is a remarkable achievement) but why did my friends and I never talk about him? All I've researched about him led me to believe that he should be this all-time great, who is revered in NBA circles, and to some degree, he is. But I don't think he's nearly as admired or respected enough as he should be.

For starters, Thurmond was an outstanding high school basketball player at Akron Central. He was offered a scholarship to then-powerhouse Ohio State, but would've been a backup to college basketball star Jerry Lucas. Thurmond believed in himself enough to instead play at Bowling Green State University. In 3 seasons of play, Thurmond led the entire Mid-American Conference in rebounds, and concluded with a whopping career average of 17 boards per game. He willed the Falcons to two NCAA tourney appearances, and even garnered First-Team All-American honors his senior season.

Nate was drafted 3rd overall by the then-San Francisco Warriors in the 1963 NBA Draft, and to say his skills translated to the NBA was an understatement. As a rookie, the spotlight was on legend Wilt Chamberlain, and Thurmond thrived in the Stilt's shadow, averaging more than 7 points and 10 rebounds per game. That was good enough to earn him a spot on the All-Rookie Team in 1964. After Chamberlain was traded to Philadelphia, Thurmond exploded onto the scene. His scoring and rebounding numbers soared into the low 20 range. He racked up All-Star appearances and All-Defensive Team honors, and at one point, finished behind Wilt in the League MVP voting.

There was just something fascinating about "Nate the Great," as fans referred to him. The pulsing biceps and receding hairline has me convinced that he is somehow the long-lost father of LeBron James (I kid of course, but they're both from Akron, and Lord Almighty, someone do a Google on his arms).

Eventually, Nate was traded to Chicago one year short of Rick Barry's captivating title run with Golden State, but he didn't let that diminish his ability. On opening night of the 1974-75 NBA season, he became the first player in league history to record a quadruple double (ball's in your court, Westbrook). The 22-point, 14-board, 13-assist, and 12-block stat line was one of numerous records he held. So, after all this dominance, why is Thurmond never referred to in most circles as one of the greatest players of all time?

Nate Thurmond is unfortunately a prisoner of his era, and in a time dominated by Russell's Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain, he was never quite the household name the others were. Also, in a sport where offense is seemingly 80% of what's important, a defensive-minded player like Thurmond could only go so far to impress people. His mobility, defense, and rebounding make him an all-time great player, but one that was never fully appreciated for what he did, especially today.

So as I think back to the Stroh Center, having just received my high school diploma, I wonder what it must have been like to be Nate: to dominate the MAC, excel in the Association, and become arguably one of the greatest hoops players ever. I think we could all appreciate guys like Nate a little bit more, they deserve it.

This post was submitted by one of our esteemed readers and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or thoughts of Hustle Belt or SB Nation.