THESE DAYS the toughest decision for most NBA players contemplating life after basketball is which Caribbean island to pick for that vacation villa. Such wasn't the case in the 1950s and '60s, when players such as the St. Louis Hawks' Bob Pettit sweated out what they were going to do after their playing days. So in '63, Pettit felt fortunate to be offered a vice president's position (and a $55,000-a-year salary) by the American Bank and Trust in his hometown of Baton Rouge, where he had led LSU to its first Final Four, in '53. "They wanted someone who could attract new accounts," says Pettit. "It worked out perfectly. I was planning on retiring in two years anyway, so I could relax knowing I had something waiting."
Pettit probably wouldn't be strapped for cash if he were playing today. A rugged 6'9", 205-pound power forward, he's considered the prototype for the position. "I liked playing on the inside and outside equally," he says. He's an NBA Hall of Famer, two-time league MVP, and in 1996 he was named one of the 50 greatest players in the game by the NBA for its 50th anniversary. He played 11 seasons for the Hawks and in '58 led the franchise to its only NBA title, scoring 50 points in the decisive Game 6 against the Boston Celtics.
Pettit remained in banking until he retired in 1988. Today he spends his days in his hometown with his wife, Carole, their three children and seven grandchildren. "What I'm most happy about," says Pettit, "is that while I enjoyed basketball, I enjoyed life after basketball just as much. Not everyone can say that."