Basketball Hall of Famer—and Longhorn—Slater Martin Dies

 

The Longhorns’ men’s basketball program has long produced prodigious talent. Stars like Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, and T.J. Ford have cemented Austin as a basketball pipeline.

However, for all the success the program has earned in recent decades, only one former Longhorn has turned in an NBA career worthy of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Slater Martin, who played at UT in 1944 and from 1946-49, was inducted in 1982.

Martin died Thursday, remaining the only Longhorn to have earned a spot among the NBA’s finest. He was 86.

Many of the sport’s older fans may recall Martin’s days in the NBA. One of the game’s first star guards, he was called “the best defensive guard that ever lived” by Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman. Martin was inducted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1962.

Martin played in the NBA from 1949-60, contributing to a total of 745 regular-season games with New York, St. Louis, and the Minneapolis Lakers. At only 5 feet 10 inches, Martin—who commonly went by the nickname “Dugie”—was often one of the smallest players on the court. But his ballhandling skills, pesky defense, and court vision allowed him to earn a spot on seven different All-Star teams, as well as five second-team All-NBA selections.

In the era before the 24-second shot clock, Martin was also able to pair with Minneapolis Laker great George Mikan, one of the league’s first stalwart centers, to lead the Lakers to four championships in 1950 and from 1952-54. Martin also tallied another championship with the St. Louis Hawks in 1958, the only championship the franchise has ever won. He ended his career with an average of 9.8 points and 4.2 assists per game.

One of Martin’s more memorable professional moments came when he was tasked with guarding Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy. Following Cousy to a Celtics huddle, Boston head coach Red Aurbach confronted Martin. Martin replied: “I’m just waiting for No. 14 (Cousy) there. When he steps back on this court, I’m going to be right in his shirt. He ain’t going nowhere tonight without me. He and I are going to dance together all night.” Cousy, for his part, called Martin the toughest adversary he’d ever known.

While Martin, who was born in Elmina, Texas, in 1925, remains known for his professional talents, his time at The University of Texas was no less remarkable. After leading Houston’s Jefferson Davis High School to a pair of state championships, Martin hitchhiked his way to Austin. However, standing only 5 feet 7 inches at the time, Martin didn’t see much playing time, and instead joined the Navy in January 1944. Serving in the Pacific, Martin returned once the war had finished, rejoining the Longhorns in 1946.

Leading the team to a 63-14 record in those three seasons, Martin earned a First Team All-American selection in 1949 and helped UT to third place in the 1947 NCAA Tournament. In his penultimate game with the Longhorns, Martin set a school record with 49 points against TCU. Martin ended his career with 984 points, setting a UT record.

Slater Martin at UT in the 1940s. Photo courtesy Texas Athletics.

 

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