NBA great Bob Lanier, Hall of Fame center for Detroit dies at 73

  • November 25, 2023

Bob Lanier, the greatest basketball participant in St. Bonaventure college records, died early these days surrounded by own family in Arizona. He turned into 73. Lanier’s death turned into introduced this morning via St. Bonaventure. The Reilly middle area court docket where the Bonnies have performed for the reason that 1966 changed into named after Lanier in 2007.

“The spirit of St. Bonaventure is greater than anyone guy, but no singular soul in 164 years has ever brought more honor, dignity, glory and love to bear at Bona’s than Bob Lanier,” said Mike Vaccaro, St. Bonaventure magnificence of 1989, New York publish columnist and the foremost historian on Bonnie’s basketball.

“Bob transcended race, united a campus and, by way of the manner, changed into one of the first-rate basketball players who ever lived. He could be synonymous with St. Bonaventure endlessly.”

The No. 1 basic NBA Draft choose by way of the Detroit Pistons in 1970, Lanier led the Bonnies to an undefeated everyday season in 1968 (23-0) and the NCAA final 4 in 1970.

but the All-American center suffered a critical knee injury in the 1970 East local title win over Villanova and the game however brief-passed Bonnies couldn’t overcome his absence in a 91-83 loss to Jacksonville within the country wide semifinal.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver known as the corridor of reputation player some of the most talented centers within the history of the NBA, but that his effect at the league went a way beyond what he performed on the courtroom.

“For greater than 30 years, Bob served as our international ambassador and as a special assistant to David Stern after which me, visiting the sector to teach the sport’s values and make a superb impact on younger human beings everywhere,” Silver stated in a declaration this morning.

“It become a hard work of affection for Bob, who was one of the kindest and maximum real human beings I have ever been round. His sizable impact on the NBA become also visible all through his time as President of the countrywide Basketball gamers association, in which he performed a key function in the negotiation of a recreation-converting collective bargaining agreement.

“I learned so much from Bob by way of definitely looking how he connected with human beings,” Silver said. “He changed into a near buddy who I can leave out dearly, as will so many of his colleagues throughout the NBA who had been stimulated via his generosity. We ship our inner most condolences to Bob’s family and buddies.”

Lanier was presented an honorary doctorate with the aid of his alma mater in 1985 and the Gaudete Medal, the university’s maximum provider award, in 2004.

In an interview at the day of the Reilly middle area floor dedication in 2007, Lanier wept recalling how devastated he was not being capable of play in the very last four.

“We have been kind of warriors … in this trench collectively, and we had one consciousness: to win an NCAA identify. I don’t suggest this to be trite: We definitely loved every different and would undergo the wall for each other,” Lanier said, recalling the preseason aim the crew had set for itself over beers and burgers at the Burton.

“We get to the match and we have been simply rolling through humans. after which the worst component inside the international that could take place (vs. Villanova) — Billy’s (Kalbaugh) happening on a break, I turn around, and growth, a man falls into my knee. I didn’t even know at the time I tore my knee up. however, after I ran go into reverse the courtroom and attempted to pivot, my leg collapsed. I didn’t realize on the time I had torn my MCL.

“It harms me to my heart that my guys were going (to the tourney) without me,” Lanier stated, wiping tears from his cheek. “It’s simply that you’re now not there to assist them. I was in a health facility mattress and that I watched them bust their butts against Artis (Gilmore) and Pembrook (Burrows) and I know that I should have helped them triumph over that. They made me so proud.

“I reflect on consideration on the lasting memories and the lasting friendships I should this day due to those men I was in a trench with for see you later.”

Years later, Lanier was instrumental in bringing the final four crew back to campus each few years for an under-the-radar reunion few people knew become happening.

Recruited out of Buffalo’s Bennett excessive school by instruct Larry Weise, Lanier grew as a freshman into his mythical size-22 sneakers, leading St. Bonaventure returned into the countrywide spotlight in the course of his sophomore season in 1967-68.

In his first varsity season, the 6-eleven Lanier and his teammates — the mythical Iron man 5 of Lanier, invoice Butler, Billy Kalbaugh, John Hayes and Jim Satalino — prepare an undefeated ordinary season and a No. 3 countrywide ranking earlier than dropping to North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tourney. Lanier averaged 26.2 factors and 15.6 rebounds according to recreation.

A silky-smooth left-hander with a deadly hook shot and mid-variety jumper, Lanier averaged 27.2 points and 15.5 rebounds a recreation his junior 12 months and 29.1 factors and sixteen rebounds his senior season. He was a consensus All-American each season.

Lanier finished his 75-game career because the St. Bonaventure report holder in seven categories: profession scoring (2,067 factors); profession points per recreation (27.6); career rebounding (1,180); unmarried-recreation scoring (51 factors vs. Seton Hall); unmarried-recreation rebounding (27 vs. Loyola, Md.); single-season rebounding (416); and average rebounds in one season (16) in 1969-1970.

In 52 years, best his career factors document has been handed — by means of 3 guys who performed 29, 37 and 48 greater video games than Lanier did, when beginners were allowed to play varsity (after 1972) and schedules grew large.

An eight-time NBA All-famous person and member of the 1970-71 All-Rookie crew, Lanier scored more than 19,000 factors over his 14-12 months profession with Detroit and Milwaukee, averaging 20.1 factors, 10.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals while shooting 51.4 percentage from the field.

The MVP of the 1974 NBA All-famous person recreation, Lanier had his No. sixteen jersey retired through the Pistons and greenbacks, to whom Lanier changed into traded in 1980. Lanier become inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of reputation in 1992.

because 2005, Lanier were the NBA Cares global Ambassador, mechanically running with adolescents-serving packages that help training, kids, circle of relative’s development and health-associated reasons.

Lanier turned into a longtime spokesperson and chairman of the NBA’s “live in school” software, later renamed “read to acquire,” a yr.-round initiative supported with the aid of all 30 NBA teams, thirteen WNBA teams, and 6 NBDL teams that promotes the cost of studying and on-line literacy and encourages households and adults to examine regularly with young youngsters.

The Bob Lanier center for academic

odily and Cultural development is a children’s and teens service in Buffalo, founded in 1994.

Lanier changed into presented an honorary doctorate through his alma mater in 1985 and the Gaudete Medal, the university’s highest provider award, in 2004.

when Bob Lanier hung up his basketball shoes in 1984 after 14 years in the NBA, the 8-time All-big name joked that he did so handiest because the Milwaukee greenbacks had subsequently discovered in Alton Lister any other player who actually should fill his shoes. It became no small feat: like Lanier, Lister took to the court docket in length 22 sneakers. one of the game’s greatest huge guys, Lanier turned into absolutely preceded into the hall of reputation by means of a bronzed pair of his shoes, the largest the NBA had ever seen. “Lots of people,” he noted in HOOP mag, “can put both toes into considered one of my footwears.”

Lanier excelled in a generation of extremely good facilities consisting of Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willis Reed, Dave Cowens and bill Walton. despite his 6-foot-eleven body, Lanier’s actions have been fluid. He had a lethal hook shot from the lane, a robust outside shot, and first-rate rebounding abilities.

Lanier performed extra than nine seasons in Detroit and is the Pistons’ all-time chief in scoring common (22.7 ppg) and ranks second in rebounds (eight,063) and third in factors (15,488). Counting his four seasons in Milwaukee, Lanier gathered 19,248 factors in 14 years, finishing his career with averages of 20.1 factors and 10.1 rebounds consistent with sport.

yet despite Lanier’s Hall of reputation numbers (he was inducted in 1992), in 14 seasons with the Pistons and the bucks he by no means realized his greatest aspiration: to put a championship ring on his finger. Like baseball’s Ernie Banks, a hall of Famer who by no means played in a world collection, Lanier become an athlete whose greatness was overshadowed via his failure to now not simplest win the big prize, but in no way having the possibility to play in an NBA Finals.

“I finished maximum of the individual dreams I ever dreamed of on this game,” he stated within the Milwaukee Sentinel the year he retired. “However, the ultimate reward is to be topped champions. And if you don’t recognize what that feeling is, I assume it leaves a void.”

Lanier is likewise remembered for his willingness to undergo ache. He started his rookie season fresh from knee surgical operation and later underwent seven extra knee operations. In his very last 10 campaigns a bunch of bodily issues restricted him to fewer than 70 games in seven specific seasons. Dogged by accidents for the duration of his NBA tenure, Lanier compelled himself to play while hurt in an irritating quest to attain the postseason championship round.

“I’ve continually favorite him because he comes to play with injuries,” onetime Piston’s teammate Chris Ford stated inside the Detroit unfastened Press. “He’s a man who’d do something to win. He’s in no way been with a winner, regrettably, but he’s a winner.”

even though always cordial and open to journalists, Lanier became never gregarious as a player, best occasionally revealing his altruistic side. “I’m a maverick,” he once instructed the Milwaukee journal. “I do what I sense is good. I don’t want to step on toes. I supply humans their area, however I don’t expect them to infringe on my space, either.”

in spite of his gruff on-courtroom appearance, teammates and the front-workplace staffers recalled Lanier as a notorious prankster and realistic joker whose distinctiveness became impersonating others on the smartphone. In retirement, his dynamic persona, combined with his lifelong hobby in youngsters’ troubles, made him an ideal candidate for the chairmanship of the NBA’s live in faculty software (later re-named examine to Achieve), a submit he held from 1989-94.

in contrast to other basketball greats who seemingly have become successful athletes by using divine right, nothing in the sport got here without difficulty to Lanier. developing up at the poor facet of town in Buffalo, the big apple, he tried out for his grammar faculty group however became advised via the coach that his feet (already length 11 at age 11) have been too big for him ever to be an athlete.

despite the fact that he had surpassed 6-foot-5 by the time he turned 16, Lanier become cut from the varsity basketball squad in his sophomore year at Buffalo’s Bennett excessive. He joined a Boys membership, worked out, and practiced exhaustively. A yr. later he became All-city; two years later he was All-Western big apple country and had led his school to successive metropolis titles.

A negative scholar in excessive faculty, Lanier turned into rejected with the aid of his first university of choice, Canisius, due to his grades. but along with his athletic abilities no longer unsure, he become eagerly courted by more than a hundred different schools; he selected St. Bonaventure. This time he worked difficult within the school room as well as on the court, incomes a business management degree on agenda. in the meantime, the now 6-11 Lanier led St. Bonaventure to a 22-0 normal-season report and a No. three national rating in most effective his sophomore year. He set college marks for scoring (2,067 points) and rebounding (1,180).

In his ultimate yr. with the Bonnies, but Lanier suffered the form of unhappiness that later plagued his professional profession. En path to a reputedly certain spot within the NCAA championship sport, St. Bonaventure lost Lanier to a knee ligament damage inside the regional finals against Villanova. without him, the squad changed into upset in the national semifinals.

despite his damage, the Detroit Pistons claimed Lanier with the primary standard pick within the 1970 NBA Draft. The club had not had a prevailing document within the 13 years seeing that transferring to Detroit from fortress Wayne, and group officials have been so keen to relaxed Lanier that they signed him to a settlement while he turned into nevertheless in a hospital mattress getting better from knee surgery.

Lanier put up impressive numbers all through the following four seasons, averaging higher than 20 factors and 10 rebounds from 1974 to 1978.

He became nevertheless limping painfully from the surgery when he stated to education camp for his rookie season, and because of his lengthy restoration period he become additionally obese. “I had a whole lot of apprehension when I first came to Detroit,” Lanier advised the Detroit loose Press in 1987. “I had a knee damage, and that I genuinely could not play as much as my capability the way I had in university. returned then there was a whole lot of strain to play even though you had been hurt.”

Lanier played in all 82 of the club’s video games at some stage in his rookie season. He averaged an impressive 15.6 factors and became named to the NBA All-Rookie crew for 1970-71. The Pistons advanced to 45-37, a 14-sport jump over the preceding yr.

together with his self-assurance and mobility improving, Lanier soared to twenty-five.7 ppg and 14.2 rag in 1971-72. He played in his first NBA All-megastar game that yr., and two years later he became the All-big-name sport’s most precious participant. Lanier played in eight All-big-name games all through his 14 years in the league.

With Lanier dominating the middle, the Pistons sooner or later started to click in 1972,73. “It wasn’t till I used to be into my 0.33 yr. that I began gambling the kind of basketball I felt I was able to gambling and had the form of mobility I desired,” he said within the Detroit unfastened Press.

His protection and rebounding improved. Lanier averaged 14.9 rebounds, which include a single-game high-quality of 33. He credited part of the Pistons’ regular improvement to new teach Ray Scott. “He took over and we started gambling collectively as a unit,” Lanier stated within the loose Press. “We had a good feeling, and we associated nicely with one another.”

Lanier placed up astounding numbers during the subsequent 4 seasons, averaging higher than 20 points and 10 rebounds from 1974 to 1978. The Pistons made the playoffs in 3 of those seasons however have been eliminated inside the early rounds every time. “We were continually one man [away] from being capable of compete towards the cream of the league,” Lanier informed the loose Press. “That become a large unhappiness for me. We constantly needed to be at the top of our game to compete, and the massive boys didn’t must be on the pinnacle of their sport to overcome us.”

Managerial instability contributed to the trouble. in the course of Lanier’s 10 seasons in Detroit he played beneath 8 distinct coaches. “There have been constantly special ideologies,” he brought, “exceptional philosophies and patterns, exclusive players. It changed into a steady adjustment.”

The damage jinx started to plague Lanier in 1975, 76. He had never overlooked extra than two video games in each of his first four seasons, and he had neglected only six in 1974-75. but he sat out 18 games in each of the subsequent two seasons, 19 video games in 1977-78, and nearly 30 contests in 1978-79, as he handled a litany of issues. in addition to in poor health knees he suffered fractures to his proper hand and left finger, a terrible returned, and continual shoulder issues. while he broke the hand in a recreation, he performed nearly the whole contest before having the destroy diagnosed.

Lanier’s physical fashion of play may have contributed to his proneness to accidents. “I haven’t been blessed with remarkable leaping potential or velocity, so I’ve had to make use of my property,” Lanier recounted in the Kansas town megastar. “Without being bodily, I wouldn’t have survived on this league.”

in spite of the time spent at the sidelines, Lanier put up suitable numbers while he became on the floor. In 1977-78 he scored 24.5 ppg and racked up 11.3 rag. That year he also earned the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given yearly to a member of the NBA own family who distinguishes himself in community provider. His charity paintings on the time included fund-raising for muscular dystrophy research, the special Olympics, Boys clubs, and the YMCA.

Dick Vitale took over as head coach in 1978-79 and the Pistons fell to 30-52. Lanier played in 53 video games and averaged 23.6 points. In 1979-80, inside the middle of the worst season in Detroit franchise records (16-66), Lanier, nonetheless nursing desires of gambling for a champion, asked to be traded. The Pistons obliged, sending Lanier to the Milwaukee dollars for Kent Benson and a first-round draft pick. Lanier left Detroit having amassed 15,488 points and 8,063 rebounds in a Pistons uniform, each team data on the time.


“When I got on that aircraft, I cried like a toddler,” Lanier recalled in 1993 inside the Detroit unfastened Press. “I requested for that exchange, but my blood and my guts have been Pistons. playing in Detroit was an emotional roller coaster. there was lots of sadness of now not being able to cross in which you want to move.”

In Milwaukee, Lanier helped lead the dollars to five consecutive division titles within the normal season, however his awful success within the playoffs persevered. In 1980-81 the greenbacks fell to the Philadelphia 76ers inside the Japanese convention Semifinals; sport 7 changed into decided by using an unmarried factor. two years later the greenbacks made it to the convention finals earlier than once more bowing to the 76ers. In 1983-84, Lanier’s remaining 12 months, Milwaukee reached the convention finals once more however become removed with the aid of the Boston Celtics.

lacking a shot at the championship hurt

“You do the excellent you can, however it still bothers you,” he advised the loose Press years later.

Repeated knee surgeries restrained Lanier’s time and effectiveness in his years with the dollars. He averaged round 25 mins a game in his four full seasons with Milwaukee after having performed almost 40 minutes a night time for a whole lot of his time in Detroit. In 1982-83, he regarded in a profession-low 39 contests. Lanier scored 10.7 ppg that 12 months, and he averaged handiest 14.3 ppg in his first-class season in Milwaukee, 1980-81. He referred to as it quits after the 1983-84 campaign.

during his very last years on the courtroom, Lanier become voted president of the NBA gamers association by his friends. Lanier’s former teaches, Dick Vitale, stated in the loose Press, “If every participant had a Bob Lanier mindset, it would be smooth for a instruct to function.”

In 1985, Lanier launched a marketing promotions enterprise in Milwaukee, marketing such specialty gadgets as T-shirts, umbrellas and coffee mugs. From an initial stake of $50,000, in four years he expanded his business to greater than $2 million in annual sales.

In 1989, Lanier became involved inside the launching of the NBA’s stay in school application, a nationwide campaign wherein the NBA and its gamers urge middle college students to complete their excessive faculty education.

Lanier have become this system’s countrywide chairman, travelling masses of schools throughout the use of a and turning in his well-known “pleasure” message. In endless speeches and motivational talks, the dynamic “huge Bob” related reports from his very own lifestyles to convince college students that pride and backbone are important to success, and that every body’s desires start with the inspiration of education.

even as serving as stay in faculty chairman, Lanier also did color commentary for country wide radio broadcasts of NBA video games. In 1992, he became elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball corridor of fame. His uniform No. sixteen became retired an yr. later through the Pistons in 1993.

Following the 1993-94 season, Lanier left his put up with the live in school campaign to return to the courtroom, this time as an assistant teach to Don Nelson with the Golden nation Warriors. Nelson, who had been Lanier’s teach in Milwaukee, hoped that massive Bob could impart some of his expertise to young Warriors massive men Chris Webber, Clifford Rozier and Carlos Rogers.

midway thru the 1994-95 season, Lanier became multiplied to interim head coach whilst Nelson stepped down due to private motives. Lanier turned into on the helm for the group’s final 37 video games and posted a 12-25 report. After the season the warriors employed Rick Adelman to take over as train, and Lanier lower back to his position as an assistant.

shortly thereafter, Lanier left the bench and back to the NBA govt office as a special Assistant to the Commissioner. In that function, he serves teens in programs that aid schooling, own family improvement and health-related training. He became also a spokesman and chairman for the NBA’s “stay in faculty” software from 1989-94.

Lanier died on may also 11, 2022 at 73 after suffering a quick contamination.