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Bob Lanier, NBA force who left big shoes to fill, dies at 73


(AP) – Bob Lanier, the left-handed big man who muscled up beside the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as certainly one of the NBA’s top players of the Nineteen Seventies, died Tuesday. He was 73.

The NBA said Lanier died after a brief illness. The Hall of Famer had worked for the league as a worldwide ambassador. The Athletic reported in 2019 that Lanier was being treated 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 profession. He’s third on the Pistons’ profession list in each points and rebounds. Detroit drafted Lanier with the No. 1 overall pick in 1970 after he led St. Bonaventure to the Final 4.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier was amongst essentially the most talented centers in league history, and added that his accomplishments went far beyond what he did on the court.

“For greater than 30 years, Bob served as our global ambassador and as a special assistant to David Stern after which me, traveling the world to show the sport’s values and make a positive impact on young people in every single place,” Silver said in a press release. “It was a labor of affection for Bob, who was certainly one of the kindest and most real people I even have ever been around.”

Lanier went into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. But his boat-size shoes got there ahead of him, with a display of his bronzed sneakers within the shrine.

He was known for wearing size 22 shoes, although that was disputed in 1989 by a Converse representative, who told The Atlanta Structure that Lanier wore size 18 1/2.

“The 22 he was reputed to wear was a Korean size,” shoe rep Gary Stoken said.

Not contested was the abundantly clear indisputable fact that his feet were big.

“Lots of people can put each feet into certainly one of my shoes,” Lanier told HOOP magazine.

Born Sept. 10, 1948, in Buffalo, Latest York, Lanier starred in college at St. Bonaventure, where he averaged 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds in three seasons. The Bonnies made it all of the option to the Final 4 in 1970, but Lanier had injured his knee within the regional final, and St. Bonaventure lost within the national semifinals to Jacksonville.

Lanier overcame a litany of orthopedic injuries, coping with shoulder, back, elbow, hand and toe problems during his profession. But that didn’t prevent him from earning his place among the many top NBA centers of his era. After being named to the all-rookie team in 1971, he averaged at the least 21 points and 11 rebounds for every of the following seven seasons. Lanier was an eight-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game.

He stays the Pistons’ franchise leader in scoring average at 22.7 points per game, beloved in Detroit for each his fierceness and friendliness.

“As fierce and as dominant as Bob was on the court, he was equally kind and impactful locally,” the Pistons said. “As an envoy for each 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.”

Lanier could beat opponents from the within and the surface while ruling the boards. Although Abdul-Jabbar had a more famous hook shot, the sky hook, Lanier’s was very much a weapon.

“Guys didn’t change teams as much, so while you were facing the Bulls or the Bucks or Latest York, you had all these rivalries,” Lanier told NBA.com in 2018. “Lanier against Jabbar! Jabbar against Willis Reed! After which (Wilt) Chamberlain, and Artis Gilmore, and Bill Walton! You had all these great big men and the sport was played from inside out.”

As exceptional as Lanier was, the Pistons won just one playoff series with him. He played 64 games or fewer in each of his last 4 full seasons with Detroit. In February 1980, he was traded to Milwaukee.

Lanier averaged fewer minutes with the Bucks, but he was a part of Milwaukee teams that reached the Eastern Conference finals in 1983 and 1984, the ultimate two seasons of his profession.

He also served as president of the players’ union throughout the final years of his profession, with Silver saying that he played “a key role within the negotiation of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement.”

Lanier was Detroit’s profession leader in points and rebounds before he was passed by Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer in those categories, 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 found one other coach after the season.

Lanier won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for the 1977-78 season for outstanding community service. Following his playing profession, he helped start the NBA’s Stay in School campaign and took part in other outreach for the league.

“There’s a lot need out here,” Lanier said. “While you’re traveling around to different cities and different countries, you see there are such a lot of people in dire straits that the NBA can only accomplish that much. We make an unlimited, vast difference, but there’s at all times so rather more to do.”


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