In celebration of the NBA’s 75th anniversary, Bally Sports — throughout the season — has looked back on the standout players, influential figures and memorable moments that helped shape the league. Maggie Hendricks profiles one of the legends on our Cleveland Cavaliers all-time starting five.
When Austin Carr was growing up in Washington D.C. in the 1960s, he gravitated more toward football and baseball, the sport his father played for the Homestead Grays in the Negro Leagues. But when Carr enrolled at Mackin Catholic High, he found the school too small to support football. He tried basketball and quickly realized he finally had his sport.
Carr learned how to play by watching future legends on the D.C. playgrounds. He saw Dave Bing and Elgin Baylor, and then met Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach. Before long, Carr was headed to the famous Camp Millbrook in Marshfield, Mass.
“(With) Auerbach being from D.C., he took me under his wings, so I had a chance to experience a lot of those guys during the summertime when I'd go up and play with them in Marshfield,” Carr recalled. “And when they used to have a camp up there, I'd play with those guys during the summer and then come back home. And playing against college and high school guys, it was just a big advantage.
“As a matter of fact, I can't really remember how I first met (Auerbach), but he just gravitated to me. And next thing I knew, being from D.C., I started getting invitations to come up during the summertime to play with those guys. Because at that time, he would invite his draft picks up to the camp in the summertime, and they would work as counselors. And then at night, we would scrimmage.”
When Bing went to Syracuse, Carr kept an eye on his career.
“It was really when he went to Syracuse, I was on top of that,” Carr said of Bing, the Detroit Pistons legend who was a seven-time All-Star, elected to the Hall of Fame and named to the NBA 75th Anniversary team. “I watched almost every game he played. And that's just how I got into understanding what was going on in the college and the professional ranks.”
Carr decided to play his college ball at Notre Dame, heading to South Bend with other players from D.C. In 1970, he averaged 52.7 points per game to set an NCAA Tournament record — a mark that still stands.
Selected first overall in the 1971 NBA Draft, the 6-foot-4 Carr played nine seasons in Cleveland, earning the nickname “Mr. Cavalier.” His No. 34 is one of seven numbers retired by the team, and in franchise history, he ranks fourth in points (10,265), second in field goals (4,272), ninth in assists (1,820) and sixth in games (635).
Carr works as a Bally Sports analyst on Cavs broadcasts. He mixes his expertise from playing in the NBA with the feelings of being a fan.
“Basically, that's how I try to call the games,” the 74-year-old Carr explained. “And then sometimes people might say I was a homer, but I wouldn't say that. I just gravitate toward my team, but I enjoy watching the game.
“I would say that I'm pro my team, but at the same time, I'm going to let you know if they're playing bad. If they're not playing good, I'm going to let you know that. I'm not going to hold that back. And I will give the opposite team, their players, if they're playing well, I'm going to give them the kudos. I'm going to give them what they should have.
“I just enjoy it. And then as a fan, to me, that's how I'll watch a game. I’m for my home team. But if the other team is playing well, you’ve got to acknowledge that, too.”
Previous NBA 75th Anniversary stories
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Franchise fan favorites
- All-time starting five: Cleveland Cavaliers
- All-time starting five: Atlanta Hawks
- All-time starting five: Milwaukee Bucks
- All-time starting five: Los Angeles Clippers
- All-time starting five: Memphis Grizzlies
- All-time starting five: San Antonio Spurs
- All-time starting five: Orlando Magic
- All-time starting five: Charlotte Hornets
- All-time starting five: Dallas Mavericks
- All-time starting five: Phoenix Suns
- Dominique Wilkins on the NBA greats who inspired him
- All-time starting five: Detroit Pistons
- Kevin Chouinard: From Celtics fan to Hawks reporter
- Renee Montgomery's hoops career started as 'student of the game'
- Lisa Byington's NBA memories of the Bad Boys and MJ
- The five commissioners who oversaw the NBA's evolution