Kermit Alan Washington (born September 17, 1951) is an American former professional basketball player. Washington is best remembered for punching opposing player Rudy Tomjanovich during an on-court fight in 1977. The punch nearly killed Tomjanovich, and it resulted in severe medical problems that ultimately ended his playing career. During his pro years and after his retirement, Washington has struggled with the negative perception of him that resulted from the punch.
Washington was not a highly coveted player coming out of high school and barely got into college on an athletic scholarship. He averaged a mere four points per game (ppg) during his senior season of high school. He improved rapidly once at American University, and became one of only seven players in NCAA history to average 20 points and 20 rebounds throughout the course of their career.
A big defensive forward, Washington was known for his ability to gather rebounds. He averaged 9.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in ten National Basketball Association (NBA) seasons and played in the All-Star Game once. Washington was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the fifth overall pick in the 1973 NBA Draft. He played sparingly his first three seasons, and sought the help of retired basketball coach Pete Newell before his fourth season. Under Newell's tutelage, Washington's game rapidly improved and he became a starter for several teams. He played for the Lakers, Boston Celtics, San Diego Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors.
By Dean Hanley
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