SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - Legendary Golden State Warriors center Nate Thurmond was laid to rest Monday, on what would have been his 75th birthday.
The NBA Hall of Famer died a little over a week ago after a several months' long battle with leukemia.
KTVU was at the morning funeral where friends, family and the Warriors remembered him as a gentle giant both on and off the court.
"He was sort of a powerful, humble human being," said current Warriors' head coach, Steve Kerr regarding the seven time All-Star Warriors center. Kerr recalled fondly how Thurmond, Al Attles, and Tom Meschery visited his team last year to share old Warrior stories. Kerr admitted that the era in which Thurmond played was vastly different than today's.
"We live a much better life than they did. They kind of set the table for us and so we all look up to the guys who kind of established the foundation of the NBA."
Thurmond played 11 of 14 seasons with the Golden State Warriors and in 1996 was voted one of the NBA'S 50 greatest players.
Former teammate Jim Barnett explained how Thurmond once made 42 rebounds in a single game. He admitted that his friend, however, was not flashy and rarely dunked the ball. "Once in awhile he did dunk if you got him mad!" quipped Barnett to which the crowd laughed heartily.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held called Thurmond the best defender he ever faced.
"Kareem came up and Nate played him for the first time," explained Barnett. "Nate held him to 15 points, which was Kareem's rookie low."
Thurmond leaves behind his wife Marci of 23 years and a son Adam from a previous relationship.
Thurmond owned Big Nate's BBQ in San Francisco's SOMA District for more than 20 years before selling the business.
He was active in the community and built 60 basketball courts for underprivileged youth in the Bay Area with the help of the Golden State Warriors and the Good Tidings Foundation.
"God blessed Nate with a very large body but it wasn't to play the game of basketball," said Good Tidings Foundation President Larry Harper, "it was to make room for his giant heart."
"He is the ultimate person to exemplify professionalism and how you should be both on the floor and off," said Bob Lanier, a former Detroit Piston and Milwaukee Buck who used to play against Thurmond back in the 70s and 80s.
As a young lawyer, former Mayor Willie Brown handled Thurmond's contracts.
"You know when you replace Wilt Chamberlain, you know you really are somebody. Because Chamberlain was considered the best," Brown said.
Finally, Thurmond's niece shared a quote from her uncle. "Long after they've forgotten the last hook shot or block shot," she said, "if you are a good person, to me, that's the most important thing. Happy Birthday, Uncle Nate."