Billy Cunningham

Billy Cunningham

infobox NBA Player

name = William John Cunningham
nickname = Billy, The Kangaroo Kid
position = Shooting guard / Small forward
height_ft = 6 | height_in = 6
weight_lbs = 210
nationality = USA
birth_date = birth date and age|mf=yes|1943|6|2
birth_place = Brooklyn, New York
college = North Carolina
draft = 5th overall, 1st round
draft_year = 1965
draft_team = Philadelphia 76ers
career_start = 1965
career_end = 1976
former_teams = Philadelphia 76ers (1966–1971)
Carolina Cougars (ABA) (1971–1973)
Philadelphia 76ers (1974–1976)

awards =

William John "Billy" Cunningham (born June 3, 1943) is an American former professional basketball player and coach, who was nicknamed the Kangaroo Kid.


Billy Cunningham was born in Brooklyn, New York. His fame began while he was playing at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, [ [ "The Rumble: AN OFF-THE-BALL LOOK AT YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS CELEBRITIES"] , "New York Post", December 31, 2006. Accessed December 13, 2007. "The five Erasmus Hall of Fame legends include Raiders owner Al Davis, Bears quarterback Sid Luckman, Yankee pitching great Waite Hoyt, Billy Cunningham and Knicks founder Ned Irish."] where he was the MVP in the Brooklyn League in 1961. That year, he was the First-Team All-New YorkCity, and a member of the "Parade" Magazine All-America Team.

College career

Cunningham then went to the University of North Carolina, where he excelled. He once grabbed a record 27 rebounds in a game vs. Clemson on February 16, 1963. Cunningham also set a single-game North Carolina record with 48 points against Tulane on December 10, 1964. In his UNC career, he scored 1,709 points (24.8 points per game), and grabbed 1,062 rebounds (15.4 rebounds per game). Upon graduation, his 1,062 rebounds were the best in North Carolina history and he held seasonal records for most rebounds (379 in 1964) and rebound average (16.1 in 1963).

Honors and achievements

* 3-year letter winner (in his day, freshmen were ineligible for varsity athletics)
* All-Atlantic Coast Conference (1963–65)
* ACC Player of the Year (1965)
* All-ACC Tournament Team (1963–64)
* ACC Academic All-Conference (1965)
* A USBWA All-America (1964–65)
* Helms Foundation All-America (1965)
* "Sporting News" All-America 2nd team (1965)
* Team Captain (1965)
* Played in the East-West Game in 1965
* Played at the World University Games in 1965

Pro basketball career

In 1965, Cunningham joined the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association as a sixth man and played well enough to be named to the NBA All-Rookie Team.

Cunningham is well-known for coaching the 76ers to the 1983 NBA Championship. Cunningham also played on the powerful 1967 Sixers championship team (featuring Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Luke Jackson).

In 1972, he joined the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association. In his first ABA season, Cunningham made the All-ABA First Team and was named the ABA MVP. In that 1972-73 season he led the Cougars to the regular season Eastern Division championship and into the 1973 ABA Playoffs where they beat the New York Nets in the Eastern Division Semifinals to advance to the Eastern Division Finals. In the Division Finals the Cougars lost a tight seven game series to the Kentucky Colonels, 4 games to 3. In the 1973-74 season Cunningham and the Cougars finished third in the Eastern Division and lost again to the Kentucky Colonels in the Eastern Division semifinals. After the 1973-1974 season, Cunningham returned to the 76ers, where he played until he suffered a career-ending injury early in the 1975-76 season. For his career, Cunningham scored 16,310 points and grabbed 7,981 rebounds in both the NBA and the ABA.

After his playing days were done, he became the head coach of the 76ers on November 4, 1977, and built a great team featuring the likes of Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, and of course Julius Erving. He led Philadelphia to 3 Atlantic Division Titles in 1978, 1981, and 1983. He reached the 200, 300, and 400-win milestone faster than any coach in NBA history. In his most successful season as coach, Cunningham coached the 1982-83 76ers to a 65-17 record and won an NBA Championship with a dominating 12-1 March through the playoffs. Upon his retirement, his 454 wins as a head coach were the 12th best in NBA history.

Beyond playing and coaching

In 1987, Cunningham replaced Tom Heinsohn as the lead color commentator (alongside play-by-play man Dick Stockton) for CBS' NBA telecasts. Cunningham left CBS Sports the following season to join the Miami Heat expansion franchise as a minority owner; he ultimately sold his interest of the Heat on August 12, 1994. Cunningham was subsequently replaced on CBS by Hubie Brown.


*Elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1986)
*All-NBA First Team (1969, 1970, 1971)
*ABA All Star, First Team (1973)
*All-NBA Second Team (1972)
*Four-time All-Star
*Elected to the ABA's All-Time Team
*One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996)
*His number 32 jersey is retired by the Philadelphia 76ers; however, he reactivated it for Charles Barkley to wear for the 1991–92 NBA season. Barkley normally wore the number 34, but switched to 32 in honor of Magic Johnson, who had announced at the start of the season that he was HIV-positive.


External links

* [ Billy Cunningham statistics]
* [ Historical Glimpses: Billy “The Kangaroo Kid” Cunningham]
* [ Hoopedia bio]
* [ Billy Cunningham page and statistics]

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