Walter Davis, famed Tar Heel, NBA player and Olympian, dead at 69

Walter Davis, the former NBA great and star of the University of North Carolina (UNC) basketball team, died on Thursday, according to UNC. Davis was 69.

The school said Davis was visiting family in Charlotte, North Carolina, when he died of natural causes.

Davis was a star player for the Tar Heels during the 1970s. Under the tutelage of famed head coach Dean Smith, Davis compiled an impressive 1,863 points and 670 rebounds, and dished 409 assists. He is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. Davis won an ACC tournament title and played for an NCAA title in the 1977 championship game.

Davis had strong ties to UNC as his nephew, Hubert Davis, is the current head coach of the men’s basketball team.

Davis’ strong amateur career earned him a spot on the US national team, which won gold at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.

Walter Davis dribbles the basketball during the NBA Midwest Division basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 31, 1992, at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. - Tim DeFrisco/Allsport/Getty Images
Walter Davis dribbles the basketball during the NBA Midwest Division basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 31, 1992, at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado. - Tim DeFrisco/Allsport/Getty Images

Professionally, Davis thrived too.

The 6-foot-6 forward/guard was selected as the fifth pick of the 1977 NBA Draft. He was a six-time NBA All-Star and played 15 years in the NBA – most of them with the Phoenix Suns. He remains the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 15,666 points.

“We are heartbroken,” the Suns tweeted on Thursday.

“‘Sweet D’ was one of the game’s best, a prolific scorer whose smooth playing style and ‘velvet touch’ endeared him to generations of our fans.”

His scoring ability and speed were so revered that he was dubbed “The Greyhound.” Suns broadcaster Al McCoy coined many nicknames for Davis, including “The Candyman” and “The Man with the Velvet Touch,” according to the Denver Nuggets, whom Davis played for as well.

The Suns retired Davis’ No. 6 jersey in 1994.

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