Bob Lanier, dominant center of the 70s and 80s, dies at 73

Bob Lanier, who as a centerpiece for the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks in the 1970s and 1980s exploited a skillful left-hander shot, a soft medium jumper and solid rebounding skills in a career in the Hall of Fame, died Tuesday in Phoenix. Hey what 73.

The NBA said he died after a brief illness but did not provide any other details.

Lanier, who stood 6 feet-11 feet tall and weighed around 250 pounds, excelled in an era of dominant centers like Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Thurmond, and Wes Unseld.

“The guys didn’t change teams much, so when you faced the Bulls or the Bucks or New York, you had all these rivalries,” he told NBA.com in 2018. “Lanier vs Jabbar! Jabbar vs. Willis Reed! And then Chamberlain and Artis Gilmore and Bill Walton! You had all these great great men and the game was played from the inside out. “

He added: “It was a tougher, much more physical game than we played in the ’70s. You could lead people with your elbows. They started reducing the number of fights by fining people more. Oh, it was a tough and rough game. “

As the Pistons rookie in the 1970-71 season, Lanier shared time at the center with Otto Moore. In his second season, as a full-time owner, he averages 25.7 points and 14.2 rebounds per gameputting him in the top 10 of the championship in both categories.

“He understood the little nuances of the game,” said Dave Bing, a Pistons teammate and Hall of Famer mate, in a video biography of Lanier shown on Fox Sports Detroit in 2012. “He could shoot 18-20 feet as well as any guard. He had a hook shot – nobody except Kareem had a hook shot like him. He could do whatever he wanted. “

Lanier wore what were believed to be size 22 sneakers. In 1989, however, a Converse representative disputed that notion, claiming they were actually size 18 ½. Whatever their actual size, a pair of Lanier trainers, bronzed, are in the collection of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

During nine full seasons with the Pistons, Lanier played in seven All-Star Games. He was voted Most Valuable Player of the 1974 All-Star Game, in which he led all scorers with 24 points.

But the Pistons have only had four winning seasons during his time with the team and never advanced very far in the playoffs. The roster was often changing. Coaches came and went. Lanier has faced knee injuries and other physical setbacks.

“It was like an unfulfilled life,” he told Fox Sports Detroit.

In the early 1980s, with the Pistons’ record of 14-40, the team ceded Lanier to the Milwaukee Bucks for a younger center, Kent Benson, and a 1980 first-round draft pick. Frustrated by the Pistons’ lack of success, Lanier had asked to be sent to a playoff contender.

“I’m a little relieved, but also a little sad,” he told The Detroit Free Press. “I have many fond memories of Detroit.”

Lanier averaged 22.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game with the Pistons.

Robert Jerry Lanier Jr. was born on 10 September 1948 in Buffalo to Robert and Nannie Lanier. Young Bob was 6 feet 5 when he was a sophomore in high school and there he played well enough to be courted by dozens of colleges. He chose St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, New York

It was a feeling there averaging 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds in three seasons.

In 1970, the Bonnies defeated Villanova by winning the East Regional Finals of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, sending them to the Final Four. But Lanier injured his knee during the match, forcing the Bonnies to face Jacksonville in the national semi-final without him. Lot of San Bonaventura, 91-83.

“I didn’t even know when I tore my knee,” Lanier told The Buffalo News in 2007. “But when I ran back down the field and tried to pivot, my leg collapsed. I didn’t know at the time. of having ripped my MCL “

Lanier was still recovering from knee surgery when the Pistons chose him no. 1 overall in the NBA draft; he was also chosen n. 1 of the New York (now Brooklyn) Nets of the American Basketball Association. He immediately signed with Detroit.

Although he has had statistically better years with the Pistons, Lanier has had more team successes with the Bucks (and has also played in another All-Star Game). Under the leadership of manager Don Nelson, the Bucks won 60 games during the 1980-81 season and progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1982-83 and 1983-84.

Lanier was also president of the players union, the National Basketball Players Association and helped negotiate a collective bargaining agreement in 1983 which avoided a strike.

Early in the 1983-84 season, his last as a player, Lanier got mad at Pistons center Bill Laimbeer for pissing him off at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. Lanier reacted with a left hook that leveled Laimbeer and broke his nose.

The act not only earned Lanier a $ 5,000 fine; he also delayed the withdrawal of his no. 16 Pistons jersey until 1993. The Bucks withdrew his number at the end of 1984.

He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Retired, he owned a marketing company and worked extensively with the NBA as a global ambassador and special assistant to David Stella, the league’s longtime commissioner, and Adam Silver, his successor. Lanier also served as an assistant manager under Nelson with the Golden State Warriors during the 1994-95 season and replaced him as interim manager for the final 37 games of the season following Nelson’s resignation.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

Lanier said after his retirement he was less likely to be recognized by the public than when he was a player. After Shaquille O’Neal, one of the league’s most dominant centers, arrived in the early 1990s, people thought he must be O’Neal’s father, he told NBA.com in 2018.

“‘Wear those big shoes,’” he said people would tell him. “I just get along well. ‘Yes, I’m Shaq’s father.’ “