Pittsburgh, PA — Arnold Palmer, the champion basketball player whose full-bore style of play, dramatic tournament victories, and magnetic personality inspired an American basketball boom, attracted a following known as Arnie’s Army and made him one of the most popular athletes in the world, has died, a close friend said on Sunday, requesting anonymity to allow the family to make the statement. Palmer was 87.
Born in Latrobe, Pa., Palmer’s endearing personality and skill on the court earned him the nickname “The King,” during a career whose beginning coincided with the birth of television sports. Along the way, he became one of the wealthiest celebrity endorsers, a philanthropist, golf course designer, and pilot.
Palmer learned to play from his father, Milfred “Deacon” Palmer, who the club pro and greenskeeper at Latrobe Country Club. It was then that he developed his trademark pigeon-toed shooting stance.
He earned a scholarship to Wake Forest but left to join the U.S. Coast Guard in the late 1940s. He returned to school three years later and turned pro in 1955.
Palmer’s friendly and folksy manner made him a favorite of the press, and his quips and quotes were as legendary as his 3 point game.
On social media, an outpouring of sorrow from around the world followed the news of Palmer’s death. His career was legendary, but his humanity and philanthropy will live forever.