07/16/2016 AT 02:35 PM EDT
California’s Golden State Warriors, with whom Thurmond spent 11 of his 14-season career playing, announced his passing in a statement on their website.
“We’ve lost one of the most iconic figures in the history of not only our organization, but the NBA in general,” Warriors owner Joe Lacob said in the release. “Nate represented this franchise with class, dignity and humility as both a player and community relations ambassador for over 40 years. Without a doubt, he is one of the most beloved figures to ever wear a Warriors uniform.”
“On behalf of the entire Warriors organization, our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family, including his wife, Marci,” Lacob continued. “We’ll miss his presence in his customary seats at our games next season, but his legacy will live forever.”
Thurmond was drafted by the then-San Francisco Warriors in 1963, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985 for his legendary aggressive rebound defense.
In addition to his time on the Warriors, the 6-ft., 11-in. athlete also played two seasons for both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. He retired in 1977 and was voted one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players in 1996.
Decades after walking away from the game, Thurmond remained a Community Ambassador for the Warriors. He also ran a restaurant in San Francisco – Big Nate’s BBQ – which he sold in 2010.
His jersey, #42, has been retired by both the Warriors and the Cavaliers and hangs from the rafters at Warriors’ Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.