Bob Lanier, a left-handed big-time man with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the NBA’s top players of the 1970s, died Tuesday. He was 73 years old.
The NBA said Lanier died after a short illness. The Hall of Famer served as the global ambassador for the league. The Athletic reported in 2019 that Lanier was undergoing treatment for bladder cancer.
Lanier played 14 seasons with the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for his career. He is third on the Pistons’ career list in both points and rebounds. Detroit drafted Lanier with the No. 1 overall pick in 1970, when he led St. Bonaventure to the last four.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier was one of the most talented centers in league history, adding that his achievements far outweighed what he had done on the court.
Silver said in a statement, “For more than 30 years, Bob has served as our global ambassador and as a special assistant to David Stern and then to me, teaching the values of sport and positive impact on young people everywhere.” Traveled the world to make an impact.” “It was a labor of love for Bob, one of the kindest and most genuine people around me.”
Lanier went into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. But their boat-shaped shoes went beyond them with a display of their bronze sneakers at the temple.
He was known to wear size 22 shoes, although this was disputed in 1989 by a Converse representative, who told the Atlanta Constitution that Lanier wore a size 18 1/2.
“The 22 he was known to wear was a Korean size,” said shoe representative Gary Stoken.
It was not immediately clear that his feet were bigger.
“Many people can put both feet in one of my shoes,” Lanier told Hoop magazine.
Born on September 10, 1948, in Buffalo, New York, Lanier starred at St. Bonaventure College, where he averaged 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds over three seasons. Bonnies made it to the Final Four in 1970, but Lanier injured his knee in the regional final, and St. Bonaventure lost to Jacksonville in the national semifinals.
Lanier overcame a variety of orthopedic injuries during his career dealing with shoulder, back, elbow, hand and toe problems. But that didn’t stop him from earning his place among the top NBA centers of his era. After being named to the All-Rookie Team in 1971, he averaged at least 21 points and 11 rebounds for each of the next seven seasons. Lanier was an eight-time All-Star and MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game.
He remains the Pistons’ franchise leader, scoring an average of 22.7 points per game, beloved for both his fierceness and friendliness in Detroit.
“As fierce and dominant as Bob dominated the court, he was as kind and influential in the community,” Pistons said. “As an ambassador for both the Pistons organization and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family and friends.”
While ruling the board, Lanier could beat opponents from inside and out. Although Abdul-Jabbar had a more famous hook shot, the sky hook was much more Lanier’s weapon.
“Guys don’t change teams that much, so when you were facing the Bulls or the Bucks or the New York, you had all these rivalries,” Lanier told NBA.com in 2018. “Lanier against Jabbar! Jabbar against Willis Reed! And then (Wilt) Chamberlain, and Artis Gilmore, and Bill Walton! You had all these great big guys and the game was played from the inside out.”
As exceptional as Lanier was, the Pistons won only one playoff series with him. He played 64 games or less in each of his last four full seasons with Detroit. In February 1980, he was traded to Milwaukee.
Lanier averaged fewer minutes with the Bucks, but he was part of the Milwaukee teams that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 1983 and 1984, the final two seasons of his career.
He also served as president of the players’ union during the final years of his career, with Silver saying he played a “key role in negotiating a game-changing collective bargaining agreement.”
Lanier was Detroit’s career leader in points and rebounds before he was passed out in those categories by Isiah Thomas and Bill Liembeer, and his single-game franchise record of 33 rebounds was topped by Dennis Rodman.
In 1995, Lanier was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, then took over as coach on an interim basis after Don Nelson resigned. Lanier went 12-25, and the Warriors got another coach after the season.
Lanier served as the NBA’s J.J. for the 1977–78 season for outstanding community service. Walter Kennedy won the Citizenship Award. After his playing career, he helped launch the NBA’s Stay In School campaign and participated in other outreach to the league.
“There’s a lot of need here,” said Lanier. “When you’re traveling to different cities and different countries, you see a lot of people in serious trouble that the NBA can only do. We make a huge, huge difference, but There’s always a lot to be done.”
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