BOWLING GREEN - Nate Thurmond is probably the most dominant player ever in the history of Mid-American Conference basketball. He changed the game and few had that kind of impact.
Now he's planning to return to Bowling Green and hopes to impact the lives of future BG athletes.
Before the 6-11 Thurmond took to the court for Bowling Green State University over 40 years ago, the centers in the MAC were just tall. Thurmond brought finesse with his size, and an ability to run the floor, shoot, and be an athletic defender and rebounder.
Thurmond helped Bowling Green win two MAC championships and was a unanimous All-MAC selection for three straight years.
Although he played in an era when freshmen were not eligible and he had just three seasons to compile his numbers, Thurmond is still BGSU's all-time rebounding leader by a wide margin, having averaged a phenomenal 17 rebounds per game for his career.
Thurmond led the Falcons to a stunning 92-75 win over then top-ranked Loyola in the 1962-63 season - the only time a MAC team has bumped off the No. 1 team in the nation. He had 31 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game against Mississippi State that same year.
Following his days at Bowling Green, the Akron native was the MAC's highest pick ever in the NBA draft when the San Francisco Warriors made him the third choice overall. Thurmond played professionally for 14 seasons, making his mark with rebounding and defense. He had an NBA-record 18 rebounds in one quarter in a 1965 game, and 42 in a game against Detroit that same season.
Thurmond had the NBA's first quadruple-double while playing for the Chicago Bulls when he had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists and 12 blocked shots in the opening game of the 1974 season against Atlanta.
Those accomplishments earned Thurmond a place in the NBA Hall of Fame, and on the NBA's 50th anniversary all-time team. Today he lives in California and owns and operates a popular Bay Area restaurant, Big Nate's Barbecue, and is the community relations director for the Golden State Warriors.
Thurmond plans in a couple of weeks to help his alma mater raise funds for its Falcon Club Endowment, which supports scholarships for student-athletes.
“I've got nothing but good memories - great memories - from my days at Bowling Green,” Thurmond said. “I enjoy the opportunity to continue my association with the athletic programs there, and do a little something to help them fund scholarships. I benefited from the generosity of others, and this is a chance to return that gesture.”
Thurmond is the honorary chairman for the Falcon Club Auction Odyssey on May 19 in BGSU's Olscamp Hall.
“It's very important for any individual who has been positively affected in some way by their experience at Bowling Green to give back,” Thurmond said. “This event can really help a lot of kids get to college, and that is a very worthwhile endeavor since a college education in today's world is really mandatory.”
Last year's Falcon Club auction raised more than $90,000 in scholarship funding. This year the auction offers a round of golf with ESPN personality and 1994 BGSU grad Jason Jackson and other ESPN broadcasters; dinner and football tickets for four with university president Sidney Ribeau; as well as a wide range of athletic collectibles and gifts.
Thurmond said he hopes the event helps in getting future Falcon athletes through college.
“My father instilled in me at a very young age how important a college education is,” Thurmond said. “Attending a college or university gives an individual the opportunity to soak up knowledge as well as meet new people. A college education opens doors to endless possibilities.”