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Cunningham during his second stint with the 76ers
|Born||June 3, 1943|
Brooklyn, New York
|Listed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Listed weight||210 lb (95 kg)|
|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|
|Position||Small forward / Power forward|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career ABA and NBA statistics|
|Points||16,310 (21.2 ppg)|
|Rebounds||7,981 (10.4 rpg)|
|Assists||3,305 (4.3 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
|College Basketball Hall of Fame|
Inducted in 2006
William John 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.
Billy Cunningham was born in Brooklyn, New York. His fame began while he was playing at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, 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.
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).
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.
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, featuring the likes of Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving. He reached the 300, and 400-win milestone faster than any coach in NBA history. He led Philadelphia to the playoffs in every year as coach, and advanced to the NBA Finals 3 times, in the 1979-80, 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons. The 76ers lost to the Lakers in 1980 and 1982, but after acquiring Moses Malone, they finally got past the Lakers in 1983, winning the franchise's third (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 third best regular season winning percentage in league history of .698 (only Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson are ahead of him). He is still the winningest coach in Sixers history.
Cunningham joined the broadcast team for CBS in the 1976-77 season, often paired with Brent Musburger, leaving after the season ended to coach the 76ers. Cunningham would later rejoin the CBS broadcast team starting with the 1985-86 season, again often paired with Musburger. 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.
|Philadelphia||1977-78||76||53||23||.697||1st in Atlantic||10||6||4||.600||Lost in Conf. Finals|
|Philadelphia||1978-79||82||47||35||.573||2nd in Atlantic||9||5||4||.556||Lost in Conf. Semifinals|
|Philadelphia||1979-80||82||59||23||.720||2nd in Atlantic||18||12||6||.667||Lost in NBA Finals|
|Philadelphia||1980-81||82||62||20||.756||2nd in Atlantic||16||9||7||.563||Lost in Conf. Finals|
|Philadelphia||1981-82||82||58||24||.707||2nd in Atlantic||21||12||9||.571||Lost in NBA Finals|
|Philadelphia||1982-83||82||65||17||.793||1st in Atlantic||13||12||1||.923||Won NBA Championship|
|Philadelphia||1983-84||82||52||30||.634||2nd in Atlantic||5||2||3||.400||Lost in First Round|
|Philadelphia||1984-85||82||58||24||.707||2nd in Atlantic||13||8||5||.615||Lost in Conf. Finals|