Archibald, Nathaniel ("Nate"; "Tiny")
ARCHIBALD, Nathaniel ("Nate"; "Tiny")
(b. 2 September 1948 in the Bronx, New York), professional basketball player who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and named to the list of Fifty Greatest Players in NBA history.
Archibald was the second of six children born to "Big Tiny" Archibald, a construction worker, and Julia Archibald, a department store supervisor. The Archibalds, who had immigrated to the United States in 1946 from the West Indies, settled in the Bronx. From the age of six to eleven, Archibald attended Public School 18. After school he raced to the neighborhood basketball court to shoot baskets. At Clark Junior High School he made the school basketball team, and at night he played basketball at Public School 18 Community Center. In the fall of 1963, the same year his father left the family, Archibald entered DeWitt Clinton High School. He had thoughts of quitting school, but the former City College of New York star Floyd Layne, his basketball coach at the Public School 18 Community Center, persuaded him to finish his education. As a junior, Archibald made the basketball team but sat on the bench most of the season. He continued to practice his passing and dribbling skills and as a senior became a starting guard for the team. During his outstanding senior season, Archibald was the team's second leading scorer, and his play led the Clinton Governors to a Bronx championship and later to the 1965–1966 Public School Athletic League basketball championship of New York City.
Archibald's play received little attention from local colleges, but Don Haskins, the head basketball coach of Texas Western in El Paso, was interested. Archibald agreed to play for Haskins but spent his freshman year at Arizona Western College in Yuma, where he averaged 29.5 points in twenty-seven games. After his freshman junior college basketball season, Archibald returned home, where he organized a youth basketball team from the Patterson Projects, the same public housing project in the South Bronx where he grew up. Throughout the remainder of his college and professional life, he continued to return home to sponsor teams and events for the youth in his neighborhood. Organizing youth basketball teams was not Archibald's only off-court accomplishment in 1967. That year he married Shirley Dixon; the couple had five children.
When Archibald arrived on the campus of Texas Western for the 1967–1968 season, the education major found his niche as a guard on the basketball team. Nicknamed "Nate the Skate" by the fans who gathered to watch him play, Archibald dazzled them with his ability to pass the ball and to drive to the hoop and score against much taller opponents. He had good seasons with Texas Western (which changed its name to the University of Texas at El Paso), but the team and Archibald received little notice. In his three years at the University of Texas he played in seventy-three games and averaged twenty points a game. After his senior year, Archibald entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft without finishing his college degree and was selected in the second round by the Cincinnati Royals. Archibald, who had grown to six foot, one inch in stature and added about fifteen pounds to his high school weight of 145 pounds, had a solid inaugural season (1970–1971) with the Royals, averaging sixteen points a game.
In 1972 the owners of the Cincinnati Royals sold the franchise to a group of investors from Kansas City, Missouri, and Omaha, Nebraska, and the team changed its name to the Kansas City/Omaha Kings. The coach, Bob Cousy, decided to build the team around Archibald. At the end of the 1972–1973 season, Archibald had posted 910 assists and averaged thirty-four points a game, which set an NBA record. Archibald's outstanding on-court performance led to his first of six All-Star appearances as a player. In the first game of the 1973–1974 season he injured his Achilles tendon and appeared in only thirty-five games. His injury allowed him time to complete his B.A. in education at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1974. Archibald had two more productive seasons with the Kansas City Kings and then was traded to the New York Nets for the 1976–1977 season. That year he broke a bone in his foot after stepping on another player's instep and played in just thirty-four games. He was traded to the Buffalo Braves for the 1977–1978 season, but he saw no playing time, still recovering from the foot injury. The following season he was traded to the Boston Celtics.
During his 1978–1979 season as a Boston Celtic, Archibald was an important bench player who contributed 324 assists to the team. In the 1979–1980 season he started as a Celtic guard and boosted his number of assists to 671—the highest number of his career since the 1972–1973 season record. During the 1980–1981 season Archibald continued as a starter registering 618 assists and, in the words of one analyst, "quarterbacked" the team, along with Larry Bird, to an NBA championship title. In 1981 he was named Most Valuable Player for the NBA All-Star game. The 1982–1983 season was Archibald's last in a Celtic uniform. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, with whom he played the 1983–1984 season, his last as a professional.
Over the course of Archibald's fourteen-year NBA career, he appeared in 876 games, posted 6,476 assists, scored 16,481 points, and averaged almost nineteen points a game. His on-court efforts earned him induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (1991) and selection as one of the Fifty Greatest Players in NBA history (1996). From 1984 to 1989 Archibald served as an assistant basketball coach at the University of Georgia and then at his alma mater, the University of Texas at El Paso. He returned to New York in 1989 and in 1993 earned an M.A. from Fordham University in adult education and human resources development, and later began to pursue a Ph.D. He began teaching health and physical education at Public School 175/Independent School 275 in Harlem. In 1999 he continued to organize youth basketball in New York City by teaming up with the Washington Wizards star Rod Strickland to create the Rod Strickland–Tiny Archibald Summer League for boys. In January 2001 Archibald accepted a coaching position with the Fayetteville (N.C.) Patriots, one of eight teams in the newly organized National Basketball Development Team League. The League, which served as a "minor league" for the NBA, was designed to provide playing opportunities for American players over the age of twenty so they would not have to leave the United States to gain playing experience in overseas basketball leagues.
Archibald will be remembered for his unique style of play, explosive drives, and the remarkable 1972–1973 season in which he led the league in the most assists and points scored. He also will be remembered for his commitment to the youth of New York City.
A chronicle of Archibald's life through 1977 is in John Devaney, Tiny!: The Story of Nate Archibald (1977). Archibald's post-basketball pursuits are covered in John O'Keefe, "Tiny Archibald, Basketball Hall of Famer," Time (9 Nov. 1998), Chuck O'Donnell, "Summer Basketball Remains Part of the New York Culture," New York Amsterdam News (22 July 1999), Brett Fried-lander, "Archibald eager to get started as Fayetteville coach," Fayetteville Observer (1 Feb. 2001), and Brian Holloway, "Community programs important to patriots coach Archibald," Fayetteville Observer (14 Aug. 2001). Archibald's college statistics are in Michael V. Earle, ed., NCAA: Men ' s Basketball ' s Finest, (1998), and his professional career totals are recorded in Zander Hollander and Alex Sachare, eds., The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History and Statistics of Professional Basketball (2000).
Jon E. Taylor