In a somber announcement, the basketball world mourns the loss of NBA player and coach Paul Westphal, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 70 in Scottsdale, Arizona, after a courageous battle with brain cancer. The University of Southern California, where Westphal played from 1969 to 1972, confirmed his demise.
Westphal’s legacy in the NBA is a tale of resilience, skill, and an enduring love for the game. Drafted by the Boston Celtics as the 10th pick in the 1972 NBA draft, Westphal’s career spanned from 1972 to 1984, leaving an indelible mark on the league.
A five-time All-Star guard, Westphal’s prowess on the court was highlighted by his role in the Celtics’ 1974 championship victory. However, it was the 1976 NBA Finals with the Phoenix Suns that etched his name in the annals of basketball history. Game 5 of that series, a triple-overtime spectacle, is often hailed as “the greatest game ever played.”
Beyond his playing days, Westphal seamlessly transitioned into coaching, beginning with success at Grand Canyon College, where his team secured the NAIA national championship in 1988. His coaching journey continued in the NBA, leading the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals in 1993 and later guiding the Seattle Supersonics and the Sacramento Kings.
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver paid tribute, stating, “His toughness, skill, and intellect made him a key contributor on the Boston Celtics’ 1974 championship team and a perennial All-Star with the Phoenix Suns.” Silver emphasized Westphal’s enduring impact, describing him as a figure remembered for his generosity, leadership, and unwavering love for the game.
Westphal’s achievements were recognized with inductions into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019, solidifying his status as a basketball legend.
Born on November 30, 1950, in Torrance, California, Westphal’s basketball journey began at USC, where he earned accolades as a second-team All-American. His skills led him to the NBA, where he crafted a career averaging 15.6 points and 4.4 assists per game.
The news of Westphal’s passing prompted an outpouring of condolences from the basketball community. Former Suns owner Jerry Colangelo reflected on Westphal’s impact, saying, “There may be just a handful of people who have as much influence and significance on the history of the Phoenix Suns.”
Westphal’s contributions extended beyond the court, with stints in coaching at various colleges and a brief foray into acting. However, it was his basketball acumen that defined his legacy.
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Survived by his wife Cindy, their daughter Victoria, and son Michael, Paul Westphal’s number 44 jersey will forever hang in the Phoenix Suns’ Ring of Honor, a fitting tribute to a player and coach whose imprint on the game is everlasting.
We continue to honor Paul Westphal’s legacy today and always. 💜🧡
Coached by Westy and sporting the rising sunburst across their chest, the 1992-93 Suns set a record with 62 regular season wins and claimed a Western Conference Championship. pic.twitter.com/ffc1Djodgi
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— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) August 24, 2022
In crafting this tribute to Paul Westphal, the writer seeks to capture the essence of a basketball luminary whose impact reverberated through both playing and coaching realms. The article reflects a genuine admiration for Westphal’s storied career, highlighting his pivotal role in unforgettable NBA moments and his seamless transition to coaching. The narrative is infused with a sense of respect for his resilience in the face of brain cancer, acknowledging his enduring legacy as a player, coach, and influential figure in the basketball community. I aimed to convey not just the facts but the emotional gravity of losing a beloved icon, celebrating Westphal’s contributions and the indelible mark he left on the sport.