Bob Lanier, the big left-handed man who climbed alongside players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the best NBA players of the 1970s, died on Tuesday. He was 73.
The NBA said Lanier died after a brief illness. Hall of Famer had worked for the league as a global ambassador. Athletics 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 per career. He is third on the Pistons career roster both in points and jumps. Detroit drafted Lanier with selection no. 1 generally in 1970 after he led St.. Bonaventure in the Final Four.
Detroit #Pistona mourn the loss of Bob Lanier, one of the greatest players to ever wear red, white and blue. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Bobs family, friends and our extended Pistons and NBA family. #RIPDobber pic.twitter.com/8WDeT3jV0y
– Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) May 11, 2022
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier was among the most talented centers in league history and added that his achievements went far beyond what he did on the field.
For more than 30 years, Bob served as our global ambassador and as a special assistant to David Stern and then me, traveling the world learning the values of games and making a positive impact on young people everywhere, Silver said in a statement. It was a love affair for Bob, who was one of the kindest and most honest people I have ever been around.
Hall of Famer Dave Bing, who joined Lanier in Detroit from 1970-75, said in a statement released by the Pistons: “It was unfortunate to hear of Bob’s death yesterday. I have many fond memories of Bob, “As a teammate and as a friend. I was lucky to play with him as a member of the Pistons and shared a long friendship. Bob will miss him a lot.”
The Bucks also issued a statement praising Lanier for his contribution on and off the field.
“Bob Lanier was a brilliant Milwaukee Buck of all time and a Hall of Famer, whose pension number 16 hangs in the balance at the Fiserv Forum,” Bucks said in a statement. “But even more than his basketball success, which included being an All-Star in 1982, Bob was one of the Bucks’s most well-known players and known throughout the community for his generosity and kindness. We send our deepest condolences to Bobs’s family and friends. “
Statement by NBA Commissioner Adam Silvers regarding the death of Bob Lanier. pic.twitter.com/8GD9BhKt7C
– NBA (@NBA) May 11, 2022
Lanier entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. But his boat-sized shoes got there in front of him, with an exhibition of his bronze sneakers at the shrine.
He was known for wearing size 22 shoes, although this was opposed in 1989 by a Converse representative, who told The Atlanta Constitution that Lanier was wearing size 18 1/2.
The 22 he was believed to be wearing was a Korean size, said shoe representative Gary Stoken.
Undisputed was the very clear fact that his legs were large.
Many people can put both feet in one of my shoes, Lanier told HOOP magazine.
Born September 10, 1948, in Buffalo, New York, Lanier played in college in St. Louis. Bonaventure, where he averaged 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds in three seasons. The Bonnies made it to the Final Four in 1970, but Lanier had injured his knee in the regional final and St. Louis. Bonaventure lost in the national semifinals to Jacksonville.
Today, Bonnies everywhere mourn the death of Bob Lanier.
– St. Bonaventure Atletics (@GoBonnies) May 11, 2022
Lanier overcame a range of orthopedic injuries, facing problems with his shoulders, back, elbow, hands and fingers throughout his career. But that did not stop him from gaining his place among the best NBA centers of his era. After being named to the All-Beginners team in 1971, he averaged at least 21 points and 11 rebounds for each of the next seven seasons. Lanier was eight times an All-Star and MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game.
Lanier can defeat opponents from inside and outside while ruling the boards. Although Abdul-Jabbar had a more famous crochet hook, the sky hook, the Laniers was very much a weapon.
The boys did not change teams so much, so when you faced the Bulls or the Bucks or 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 men and the game was played from the inside out.
As extraordinary as Lanier was, the Pistons only won 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 moved 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 last two seasons of his career.
He also served as president of the players union during the last years of his career, with Silver saying he played a key role in negotiating a collective agreement that changed the game.
Lanier was the career leader in Detroits in points and jumps before surpassing Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer in those categories, and his franchise record in a 33-game match was held by Dennis Rodman.
– Alumni and NBA (@NBAalumni) May 11, 2022
In 1995, Lanier was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, then took over as coach on a temporary basis after Don Nelson resigned. Lanier went 12-25, and the Warriors found another coach after the season.
Lanier won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in the NBA for the 1977-78 season for outstanding community service. After his career as a player, he helped launch the NBA Stay at School campaign and participated in other activities for the league.
There is so much need here, Lanier said. When you are traveling through different cities and different countries, you see that there are so many people in trouble that the NBA can only do so much. We make a big, big difference, but there is always so much more to do.
Lanier had been married and divorced twice, with Shirley and then Rose. He had five children – Walter Jack Lanier, Kimberly Lanier, Tiffany Lanier, Robert Lanier III and Khalia Lanier – and seven grandchildren.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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