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Cunningham during his second stint with the 76ers
|Born||June 3, 1943|
Brooklyn, New York
|Listed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Listed weight||210 lb (95 kg)|
|High school||Erasmus Hall|
(Brooklyn, New York)
|College||North Carolina (1962–1965)|
|NBA draft||1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 5th overall|
|Selected by the Philadelphia 76ers|
|Position||Small forward / Power forward|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career ABA and NBA playing statistics|
|Points||16,310 (21.2 ppg)|
|Rebounds||7,981 (10.4 rpg)|
|Assists||3,305 (4.3 apg)|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Career coaching record|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
|College Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2006
William John Cunningham (born June 3, 1943) is an American former professional basketball player and coach, who was nicknamed the Kangaroo Kid. He spent a total of 17 seasons with the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers (nine as player, eight as coach), and two seasons as a player with the Carolina Cougars of the ABA.
Billy Cunningham was born in Brooklyn, New York. His fame began while he was playing at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, where he was the MVP in the Brooklyn League in 1961. That year, he was the First-Team All-New York City, and a member of the Parade Magazine All-America Team.
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 single-season 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
- Named to the ACC 50th Anniversary men's basketball team, honoring the fifty best players in ACC history (2002)
Professional basketball career
Cunningham was a member of the powerful 1967 Sixers championship team (featuring Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Luke Jackson). After Chamberlain left the team in 1968, Cunningham became the 76ers' franchise player. He would replace the injured and aging Luke Jackson as the starting power forward of the team, and averaged 24.8 points per game and 12.8 rebounds per game during the 1968–69 season while leading the 76ers to 55 wins. After that season, he earned the first of what would be three straight All-NBA First Team selections.
Cunningham signed a three‐year contract on August 5, 1969 to begin play with the American Basketball Association's Carolina Cougars in 1971–72. Contending that the Cougars had reneged on paying the remaining $80,000 of a $125,000 signing bonus due on May 15, 1970, he reversed himself and signed a four‐year, $950,000 contract extension to stay with the 76ers through 1974–75 on July 15, 1970. The Cougars' attempt to file an injunction against him was denied in United States District Court on September 24, 1971. The reversal of that judgment in the United States Court of Appeals 6 1⁄2 months later on April 5, 1972 meant that Cunningham was obligated to honor his Cougars contract until its expiration in October 1974. He announced on June 15, 1972 that he was going to play with the Cougars beginning with the upcoming season at press conferences in Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina which occurred almost simultaneous to the Sixers' introduction of Roy Rubin as its new head coach.
In his first ABA season, Cunningham averaged 24.1 points per game, 12.0 rebounds per game, and led the league in total steals. He led the Cougars to the best record in the league and was selected to the All-ABA First Team and was named the ABA MVP. During the post-season, the Cougars defeated the New York Nets in five games 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 1973–74 season, Cunningham returned to the 76ers, where he played until torn knee cartilage and ligaments ended his career as an active player early in the 1975–76 season. For his career, he scored 16,310 points and grabbed 7,981 rebounds in both the NBA and the ABA.
He succeeded Gene Shue as head coach of the 2–4 76ers on November 4, 1977. During his tenure, the team featured Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving. In his first playoff appearance, he led the Sixers to a 4-game sweep against the Knicks,  before bowing down to the Bullets in six games. He reached both the 300 and 400-win milestones faster than any coach in NBA history. He led Philadelphia to the playoffs in every year as coach, and advanced to the NBA Finals 3 times, in the 1979–80, 1981–82 and 1982–83 seasons. The 76ers lost to the Lakers in 1980 and 1982, but after acquiring Moses Malone, they finally got past the Lakers in 1983, winning the franchise's third (and most recent) NBA Championship as part of a 12-1 playoff run. Upon his retirement on May 28, 1985, his 454 wins as a head coach were the 12th best in NBA history. He holds the third best regular season winning percentage in league history of .698 (only Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson are ahead of him). He is still the winningest coach in Sixers history.
Beyond playing and coaching
Cunningham joined the broadcast team for CBS in the 1976-77 season, often paired with Brent Musburger, leaving after the season ended to coach the 76ers. Cunningham would later rejoin the CBS broadcast team starting with the 1985-86 season, again often paired with Musburger, covering both the NBA as well as NCAA men's college basketball for the network. 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, but would return to CBS to help fill-in during the 1990 NBA Playoffs, partnered with Verne Lundquist. He then returned for one last year to help cover the 1991 NCAA men's basketball tournament, partnered with Dick Stockton once again.
Head coaching record
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win–loss %|
|Playoffs||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win–loss %|
|Philadelphia||1977–78||76||53||23||.697||1st in Atlantic||10||6||4||.600||Lost in Conf. Finals|
|Philadelphia||1978–79||82||47||35||.573||2nd in Atlantic||9||5||4||.556||Lost in Conf. Semifinals|
|Philadelphia||1979–80||82||59||23||.720||2nd in Atlantic||18||12||6||.667||Lost in NBA Finals|
|Philadelphia||1980–81||82||62||20||.756||2nd in Atlantic||16||9||7||.563||Lost in Conf. Finals|
|Philadelphia||1981–82||82||58||24||.707||2nd in Atlantic||21||12||9||.571||Lost in NBA Finals|
|Philadelphia||1982–83||82||65||17||.793||1st in Atlantic||13||12||1||.923||Won NBA Championship|
|Philadelphia||1983–84||82||52||30||.634||2nd in Atlantic||5||2||3||.400||Lost in First Round|
|Philadelphia||1984–85||82||58||24||.707||2nd in Atlantic||13||8||5||.615||Lost in Conf. Finals|
- 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 NBA 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 allowed it to be worn by Charles Barkley 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.
- "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."
- "Philadelphia 76ers 134 - Portland Trail Blazers 132". NBA.com Stats. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
- Munchak Corporation v. Cunningham, 331 F. Supp. 872 (M.D.N.C. 1971) – Justia.com. Retrieved November 29, 2020
- Munchak Corporation v. Cunningham, 457 F.2d 721 (4th Cir. 1972). Retrieved November 29, 2020
- Goldaper, Sam. "Rubin Quits L. I. U. to Pilot 76ers," The New York Times, Friday, June 16, 1972. Retrieved November 29, 2020
- Goldaper, Sam. "Shue Ousted, Cunningham Named; N.B.A. Rosters Cut," The New York Times, Saturday, November 5, 1977. Retrieved December 1, 2020
- "1978 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals - New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers". Basketball-Reference. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
- Goldaper, Sam. "Cunningham Quits; Loughery Dropped," The New York Times, Wednesday, May 29, 1985. Retrieved December 1, 2020
- The NBA on CBS, April 28th, 1990
- NCAA on CBS, March 14th, 1991
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