Bob Lanier, the left-handed big man who was muscular next to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the top NBA players in the 1970s, died Tuesday. He is 73 years old.
The NBA said Lanier died after a brief illness. The Hall of Famer has served as a global ambassador for the league. The Athletic reported in 2019 that Lanier was being treated for bladder cancer.
Lanier played 14 seasons with the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for his career. He ranks third in both scoring and rebounding in his career with the Pistons. Detroit drafted Lanier with the No. 1 overall pick in 1970, after leading St. Vincent to the Final Four.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier is one of the most talented centers in league history, adding that his accomplishments go far beyond what he does on the court.
“Bob has served as our global ambassador and special assistant to David Stern and me for over 30 years, traveling the world teaching the values of the sport and making a positive impact on young people around the world,” Searle Fu said in a statement. “It’s love for Bob, one of the kindest and most genuine people I’ve ever met.”
The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Lanier was considered a big man in his day and used that size to his advantage.
Lanier was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. But his boat sneakers got there before him, showing off his bronzed sneakers in the shrine.
He was known for wearing a size 22, although a Converse representative disputed that in 1989, telling the Atlanta Constitution that Lanier was wearing a size 18 1/2.
“It is said that he wears a size 22, which is a Korean size,” said shoe representative Gary Stoken.
There’s no arguing that his feet are huge.
“A lot of people can put their feet in one of my shoes,” Lanier told HOOP magazine.
Lanier was born on September 10, 1948 in Buffalo, New York, and played in college at St. Vincent University, where he averaged 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds for three seasons. The Bonnies went all the way to the Final Four in 1970, but Lanier injured his knee in the regional finals and St. Bonaventure lost to Jacksonville in the national semifinals.
Lanier has overcome a string of orthopaedic injuries, dealing with shoulder, back, elbow, hand and toe issues throughout his career. But that didn’t stop him from earning a spot 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 over the next seven seasons. Lanier was an eight-time All-Star and the MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game.
He remains the team leader for the Pistons, averaging 22.7 points per game, and his ferocity and friendliness are beloved in Detroit.
“Just as Bob was fierce and dominant on the court, he was just as kind and influential in the community,” the Pistons said. “As an ambassador for the Pistons and the NBA, he represented our league, our teams and our fans with great enthusiasm and integrity. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Bob’s family and friends.”
Lanier can beat opponents from the inside and outside while controlling the rebound. While Abdul-Jabbar has one of the more famous hook shots, Lanier’s sky hook is largely a weapon.
“The players don’t switch teams that much, so when you’re facing the Bulls or Bucks or New York, you’re going to have all of that competition,” Lanier told NBA.com in 2018. “Laniel vs. Kareem! Kareem vs. Willis Reed! And then (Wilt) Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore, Bill Walton! You’ve got all these great big men, game It’s from the inside out.”
As good as Lanier is, the Pistons have won just one playoff series. He played in 64 games or fewer in each of his final four full seasons in Detroit. In February 1980, he was traded to Milwaukee.
Lanier averaged fewer minutes with the Bucks, but he was a member of a Milwaukee team that reached the Eastern Conference finals in 1983 and 1984, the final two seasons of his career.
“In addition to his success in basketball, including his All-Star selection in 1982, Bob was one of the most popular players among Bucks fans, and his generosity and Kindness is well known throughout the community.”
He also served as president of the players’ union in the final years of his career, and Silver said he “played a key role in negotiating a game-changing collective bargaining agreement.”
Lanier was Detroit’s career leader in scoring and rebounding before he was surpassed by Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer, and his single-game record of 33 rebounds was broken by Dennis Rodman.
Lanier served as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors in 1995, taking over as coach on an interim 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 in the 1977-78 season for outstanding community service. Following his career, he helped launch the NBA’s stay-at-home campaign and was involved in other outreach activities across the league.
“There’s a lot of need here,” Lanier said. “When you travel to different cities and different countries, you see so many people in distress that the NBA can only do so much. We’ve made huge changes, but there’s always a lot to do Do.”
Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.