Some players are important not specifically for what they do on the court, but for the trails they blaze. Charlie Scott was one such player, who broke racial barriers during his time playing basketball.
Growing up in Harlem, Scott was embedded in the civil rights movement from a young age. A talented player early in life, he became a legend at the famed Rucker Park. Scott became the first black scholarship in the history of the University of North Carolina, playing there from 1968 to 1972.
He was a dominant athlete in college, leading the Tar Heels to two Final Fours and making two All-American teams. In 1968, he helped the United States win the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
Originally drafted by the Boston Celtics, Scott instead signed a contract to play with the Virginia Squires in the ABA. In 1972, he made the jump to the NBA. Phoenix traded Paul Silas to the Celtics for his rights. In all, Scott played three seasons for the Suns, making the All-Star team in all three seasons. Only seven players have made more for the Suns.
Scott’s best skill was scoring the basketball, and he did that with aplomb for Phoenix. He averaged 24.8 points per game in his three-plus seasons. This was somewhat of an outlier for point guards in that time, who often focused on defense and facilitating offenses than doing the scoring themselves. That paved the way to those All-Star selections.
In 1975, the Suns traded Scott back to the Celtics in exchange for Paul Westphal. The next year, those two teams would meet in the NBA Finals, a series that featured “the greatest game ever played” in a triple-overtime Game 5 matchup. Silas, Scott and Westphal all played key parts in the series. Boston won the series 4-2, behind 25 points and 11 rebounds from Scott.
No player has averaged more points per game during their Phoenix tenure than Scott at 24.8 per contest. Even so, his scoring seemed to amount in some ways to empty calories, as defensively he often gave up many points as well.
Win shares specifically looked poorly upon his time on the Suns, as he never put up more than 6.5 in a season. He finished with 15.2 in just over three years. Scott’s biggest contribution to the Suns however may be the trade for Westphal, who will show up much later on this list.