Billy Cunningham

For other people named William Cunningham, see William Cunningham (disambiguation).
Billy Cunningham

Cunningham during his second stint with the 76ers
Personal information
Born (1943-06-03) June 3, 1943
Brooklyn, New York
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Listed weight 210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
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
Playing career 1965–1976
Position Small forward / Power forward
Number 32
Career history
As player:
19651972 Philadelphia 76ers
19721974 Carolina Cougars
19741976 Philadelphia 76ers
As coach:
19771985 Philadelphia 76ers
Career highlights and awards

As player:

As coach:

Career NBA statistics
Points 13,626 (20.8 ppg)
Rebounds 6,638 (10.1 rpg)
Assists 2,625 (4.0 apg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

William John "Billy" 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.

Early life

Billy Cunningham was born in Brooklyn, New York. His fame began while he was playing at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn,[1] 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.

College career

Cunningham while at UNC.

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

Professional basketball career

Phil Jackson (#18), Walt Bellamy (#8), Bill Cunningham (with ball), and Lucious Jackson (#54) all in a Knicks and 76ers game.

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 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 in 1972

In 1972, he joined the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association. 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 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 Julius Erving. He reached the 200, 300, and 400-win milestone faster than any coach in NBA history. He led Philadelphia to the playoffs in every year as coach, and advancing to the NBA Finals 3 times, in 1979–80, 1981–82 and 1982–83, facing the Los Angeles Lakers all 3 times. The 76ers lost to the Lakers in 1980 and 1982, but after acquiring Moses Malone, Cunningham finally got them past the Lakers in 1983, winning the franchise's second (and most recent) NBA Championship as part of a 12-1 playoff run. Upon his retirement, his 454 wins as a head coach were the 12th best in NBA history, he holds the second best regular season winning percentage in league history .698 (only Phil Jackson is ahead of him)

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.

Head coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
Philadelphia 1977–78 765323.6971st in Atlantic1064.600 Lost in Conf. Finals
Philadelphia 1978–79 824735.5732nd in Atlantic954.556 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Philadelphia 1979–80 825923.7202nd in Atlantic18126.667 Lost in NBA Finals
Philadelphia 1980–81 826220.7562nd in Atlantic1697.563 Lost in Conf. Finals
Philadelphia 1981–82 825824.7072nd in Atlantic21129.571 Lost in NBA Finals
Philadelphia 1982–83 826517.7931st in Atlantic13121.923 Won NBA Championship
Philadelphia 1983–84 825230.6342nd in Atlantic523.400 Lost in First Round
Philadelphia 1984–85 825824.7072nd in Atlantic1385.615 Lost in Conf. Finals
Career 650454196.698 1056639.629


See also


  1. "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."
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