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Former Cal Basketball Star McNamara Dies

April 29, 2020

Mark McNamara, the former Cal basketball star who spent eight-plus seasons in the NBA died on Monday. He was 60.

The cause was an enlarged heart, a condition the 7-0 McNamara had been dealing with for years. The ailment caused him to give up a promising pro coaching career with Toronto in the 1990s.

His career at Cal was brief but very productive. After spending his first two collegiate years at Santa Clara, the San Jose native transferred to Cal. The Bears’ MVP in both of his seasons in Berkeley (1981-82) he averaged 22.0 points and 12.7 rebounds, while shooting  70.2 per cent from the field as a senior He led the conference in all three categories, only the third player to do it. Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton were the first two. That senior season he was named a third-team All-American by UPI. As a junior his averages were 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds 

He set a school mark by scoring at least 30 points six times. His career FG percentage of 66.2 p is still the best in school history.  McNamara finished with 1,041 points, becoming the first Cal player to reach the 1,000-point mark in only two years.

In 2009, McNamara was announced as one of 30 players on the Golden Bears All-Century team in celebration of 100 seasons of Cal basketball. He was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.  

“As a player he was incredible, but he was also a great person,” said his former Cal coach Dick Kuchen on Wednesday by telephone. “We really stayed close over the years..”

He was the first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia 76ers and won an NBA title with them in 1983 as a rookie. He also spent time with San Antonio, Kansas City, Philadelphia again, the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando. The latter was just two games. McNamara's best year as a professional was with the Spurs in 1983-84 appearing in 70 games and averaging 5.5 ppg. In his NBA career, McNamara played in 278 games and scored a total of 980 points.

Following the NBA, he played one season in Europe.

Health issues were a problem for him almost from birth. There were two bouts of encephalitis while he was growing up, the second of which he was lucky to survive. Countless battles with pneumonia, each seemingly more severe than the last, during and after his NBA career. Then there was the heart issue, which, unfortunately, is all too common among super tall basketball players. 

Prior to his passing, McNamara was based in Haines, Alaska, where he conducted basketball camps and coached a local high school basketball team, guiding Haines High School to divisional state championships in 2008 and 2010.

“My wife and I took a cruise to Alaska and stopped off to see him,” Kuchen said. “Everybody in town knew him, They had great things to say about him, and that’s the kind of guy he was.”

Kuchen last saw McNamara about three years ago.

“I was the keynote speaker when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of his fraternity,” Kuchen said. “We had a big party at the Faculty Club  We had such a great evening. He was the happiest I had seen him in a while because I knew and he knew that his health was not good.”

Although he dominated the ball, McNamara was very popular with his Cal teammates. “They alll showed up when he went into the Cal Hall of Fame,” Kuchen said.. “They had pushed for his induction.  We all loved the guy. 

“We are saddened by his loss, but we are better people for having known him.”





Discussion from...

Former Cal Basketball Star McNamara Dies

8,332 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 8 mo ago by Gfroce16
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Rest in peace Big Mac.

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I had the pleasure of following Mark both at Del Mar High School in San Jose as well as Cal. When I was in 8th grade, Mark was a Sr at Del Mar and all of my friends at the time absolutely idolized the guy. I recall watching Mark play against Kurt Rambis ( Cupertino HS) during the CCS Championship game his JR year at a sold out Maples Pavilion. Back then, they were huge both Bay Area Superstars who were being heavily recruited by everyone and eventually Santa Clara snagged them both ( the Broncos were real good back in those days)

McNamara and Rambis didn't fit real well together ( they both were similar players in that they were dominant low post players who needed the ball) on the court so Mark ended up transferring to Cal where he played much better in a higher profile league

I only knew him in passing personally, but I had older friends at both Del Mar as well as Cal who absolutely adored the guy. I was very sad yesterday when my sister texted me this link ( she and her friends all knew him)

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