Few players have worked harder to achieve basketball stardom than Mr. Lanier, who didn’t make his senior team sophomore. Through hard work and a strong physique – he was 6ft 11lbs and 265lbs – he made himself one of the greatest big men of the 1970s, during an era that included positions such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Bill Walton and Wes Anseld.
Known for his soft left-handed shot and powerful rebounding, Mr. Lanier was an eight-time NBA All-Star and averaged 20.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds over his 14-year professional career.
In college, Mr. Lanier was largely responsible for making St. Bonaventure, a small Catholic school in upstate New York, a nationally recognized basketball powerhouse. During his three seasons of eligibility, he led the Bonnies to record 65-12, including appearing in the Final Four in 1970.
Mr. Lanier suffered a serious knee injury in his last college game, but Detroit picked him as the first player selected in the 1970 NBA Draft. He made the NBA Junior team into his first year, helping lead the Pistons to their first winning season. 15 years ago.
During his second season, he had the highest scoring average in his career of 25.7 points per game. He was the most valuable player in the 1974 NBA All-Star Game. He was traded midway through the 1979-80 season with the Milwaukee Bucks, ending his career in 1985. He continues to lead the Pistons franchise in scoring, averaging 22.7 points per game.
Mr. Lanier was often famous for having the largest foot in the NBA at the time – a size 22 – but officials from Converse Sneakers later said his actual shoe size was 18 1/2.
However, he said, “A lot of people can put both feet in one of my shoes.”
Mr. Lanier was awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award from the NBA in 1978 for community service and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
Following his playing career, Mr. Lanier owned an advertising company and worked in the office of the NBA commissioner, leading the league’s educational outreach program.
“For more than 30 years, Bob has served as a global ambassador and special assistant to David Stern and then me, traveling the world teaching the values of the game and making a positive impact on young people everywhere,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement. He was one of the kindest and most honest people ever.”
This is an evolving story. A full obituary will follow.
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