Ex-Piston Yardley, 75, succumbs to ALS

Updated: August 13, 2004, 9:48 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- George Yardley, a former Detroit Pistons forward who in 1957-58 became the first player in the NBA to score 2,000 points in a season, has died. He was 75.

Yardley, who played for Fort Wayne, Detroit and Syracuse in his seven-year professional career, died Thursday of Lou Gehrig's disease at his Newport Beach home, said his oldest son, Rob.

Yardley was a basketball star at Stanford, where he studied engineering and was known as "Yardbird" by his fraternity brothers because of the frequent chores they assigned him. The springy-legged "Bird," as the name was shortened to later, was a clutch playoff performer, averaging 20.3 points per game in 46 games.

He is best known for his accomplishment in the 1957-58 season when he became the first player in NBA history to score 2,000 points in a single season, breaking the 1,932-point record held by George Mikan.

Yardley's son Rob, called him "a wonderful father and a legend in Newport Beach."

"He's unique," Rob said of the 6-foot-5 Yardley. "He was an outgoing, flamboyant guy. He wouldn't even talk about his basketball career for decades because he said there's nothing more pathetic than an ex-jock who's always living in the past."

In his seven seasons in the NBA, Yardley made the All-Star team every year except his rookie year. He served in the military for two years at the Los Alamitos (Calif.) Naval Air Station before marrying Diana Gibson on Aug. 29, 1953.

Since hanging up his No. 12 jersey in 1960, he had run an engineering business in Fountain Valley, Calif.

In addition to his son Rob, Yardley is survived by son Richard, daughters Marilyn and Anne and his brother Robert.

There will be a memorial service Thursday in Newport Beach.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press