Bob Lanier, a Hall of Famer who was one of the most elite centers in the NBA during his 14-year career, has passed away, the New York Times reports. He was 73.
The NBA stated that he passed after a brief illness but did not disclose any details.
Born on Sept. 10, 1948, in Buffalo, Lanier was 6-foot-5 by the time he was a sophomore in high school and went on to play for St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y.
In three seasons with the Bonnies, Lanier averaged 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds. Because of his dominant play, he led St. Bonaventure to the Final Four in 1970. Although Lanier would be injured and miss the semifinal, the school remains the smallest college ever to reach the Final Four.
Drafted number one in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, Lanier was one of the best centers in the league in an era where legendary big men such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Willis Reed, Wes Unseld and others dominated the league.
“Guys didn’t change teams as much, so when you were facing the Bulls or the Bucks or New York, you had all these rivalries,” he told NBA.com in 2018. “Lanier against Jabbar! Jabbar against Willis Reed! And then Chamberlain and Artis Gilmore and Bill Walton! You had all these great big men, and the game was played from inside out.”
In nine seasons with the Pistons, Lanier was a seven-time All-Star and was named MVP of the 1974 All-Star Game.
Traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1980, Lanier enjoyed his greatest team success with deep playoff runs each year. Also, Lanier was president of the players’ union, the National Basketball Players Association, and helped negotiate a collective bargaining agreement in 1983 that avoided a strike.
With competition like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, Lanier would never play in the NBA Finals and retired in 1984. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Known for wearing size 19 sneakers, a bronzed pair of Lanier’s shoes are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
After retiring from the league, he owned a marketing firm and worked closely with the NBA as a global ambassador and special assistant to David Stern, the league’s longtime commissioner, and current commissioner Adam Silver.
Silver released a statement honoring the legacy of Lanier.
Adam Silver on the passing of Bob Lanier pic.twitter.com/DDoWZ0KS9Q— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 11, 2022
"Bob Lanier was a Hall of Fame player and one of 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,” Silver’s statement read. For more than 30 years, Bob served as our global ambassador and as a special assistant to [former commissioner] 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,” Silver continued. “His enormous influence on the NBA was also seen in his time as President of the National Basketball Players Association, where he played a key role in the negotiation of a game-changing collective bargaining agreement.”
Most recently, Lanier served on the voting panel for the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team, which was announced last October.
We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Bob Lanier.