Bob Lanier, the left-handed big man who muscled up beside the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the NBA’s top players of the 1970s, died Tuesday. He was 73.
The NBA said in a statement that the legendary NBA center died Tuesday after a short illness. The Hall of Famer and eight-time NBA All-Star had worked for the league as a global ambassador.
“Bob Lanier was a Hall of Fame player and among the most talented centers in the history of the NBA, but his impact on the league went far beyond what he accomplished on the court” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “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 to teach the game’s values and make a positive impact on young people everywhere. It was a labor of love for Bob, who was one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever been around.”
Drafted out of St. Bonaventure by Detroit with the number one overall pick in 1970, Lanier went on to play for the Pistons for 10 years and with the Milwaukee Bucks for the last four years of his career, and appeared in eight NBA All-Star games. He is third on the Pistons’ career list in both points and rebounds. (as of 2020) Detroit drafted Lanier with the No. 1 overall pick in 1970 after he led St. Bonaventure to the Final Four.
Lanier’s prodigious statistics across 14 seasons and 959 professional games included averages of 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
“I learned so much from Bob by simply watching how he connected with people,” Silver said. “He was a close friend who I will miss dearly, as will so many of his colleagues across the NBA who were inspired by his generosity. We send our deepest condolences to Bob’s family and friends.”
Lanier went into the Hall of Fame in 1992. But his boat-size shoes got there ahead of him, with a display of his bronzed sneakers in the shrine.
He was known for wearing size 22 shoes, although that was disputed in 1989 by a Converse representative, who told The Atlanta Constitution that Lanier wore size 18 1/2.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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