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

Bob Lanier, a left-handed big man who strengthened alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the best NBA players of the 1970s, died Tuesday. He was 73 years old.

The NBA said Lanier died after a short illness. Hall of Famer worked for the league as a global ambassador. In 2019, Athletic reported that Lanier was being treated for bladder cancer.

Lanier played 14 seasons for the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds in his career. He is third in the Pistons’ career in points and rebounds. Detroit drafted Lanier as the No. 1 overall pick in 1970 after bringing in St. Louis. Bonaventure to the Final Four.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier is one of the most talented centers in league history and added that his achievements are far above what he has done on the field.

“For more than 30 years, Bob has served as our global ambassador and special assistant to David Stern and then to me, traveling the world to teach the values ​​of the game and have a positive impact on young people everywhere,” Silver said in a statement. “It was a work of love for Bob, who was one of the kindest and most sincere people I’ve ever been with.”

In 1992, Lanier entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But his boat-sized shoes arrived in front of him, depicting his bronze sneakers in the sanctuary.

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

“The 22 he wore was Korean size,” shoe representative Gary Stoken said.

It was an indisputable fact that his feet were big.

“A lot of people can put both feet in one of my shoes,” Lanier told HOOP magazine.

Born Sept. 10, 1948, in Buffalo, New York, Lanier starred in St. Louis College. Bonaventure, where he averaged 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds in three seasons. Bonnie reached the Final Four in 1970, but Lanier injured his knee in the regional final, and St. Bonaventure lost in the national semifinals to Jacksonville.

Lanier has overcome a number of orthopedic injuries, dealing with shoulder, back, elbow, hand and toe problems throughout his career. But that didn’t stop him from winning his place among the best NBA centers of his era. After being named to the rookie national team in 1971, he averaged at least 21 points and 11 rebounds for each of the following seven seasons. Lanier was an eight-time All-Star and MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game.

He is still the leader in the Pistons franchise, averaging 22.7 points per game, a favorite in Detroit because of his fierceness and friendliness.

“As fierce and dominant on the field as Bob was, he was equally kind and impressive in the community,” the Pistons said. “As an ambassador and organization of the Pistons and NBA League, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity. We express our sincere condolences to Bob’s family and friends. “

Lanier was able to defeat opponents inside and out while ruling the boards. Although Abdul-Jabbar had a more famous hit hook, the sky hook, Lanier was a powerful weapon.

“The guys didn’t change teams that much, so when you met the Bulls, the Bucks or New York, you had all these rivalries,” Lanier told NBA.com 2018. Lanier v. Jabbar! Jabbar against Willis Reed! And then (Wilt) Chamberlain, and Artis Gilmore, and Bill Walton! You had all these great great people and the game was played from the inside. ”

As exceptional as Lanier was, the Pistons won just one playoff series with him. He has played 64 games or less in each of the last four seasons with Detroit. In February 1980, it was changed to Milwaukee.

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

He has also been president of a players’ union for the last years of his career, and Silver said he played “a key role in negotiating a game-changing collective agreement.”

Lanier was the leader in Detroit’s career in points and rebounds before being passed in those categories by Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, and his franchise record in one game of 33 rebounds was surpassed by Dennis Rodman.

In 1995, Lanier was the assistant coach of the Golden State Warriors, and 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 NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for the 1977-78 season for outstanding community work. After a playing career, he helped launch the NBA Stay in School campaign and participated in other activities for the league.

“There’s so much need here,” Lanier said. “When you travel to different cities and different countries, you see that so many people are in a difficult situation that the NBA can only do so much. We make a huge, huge difference, but there is always a lot to do. ”

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