Robert “Bob” Lanier, an NBA star of the 70s and 80s, 8-time NBA All-Star, and inductee into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame who played for the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, died Tuesday after a short illness. He was 73.
The news was announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday night.
“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. 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,” Silver wrote.
“It was a labor of love for Bob, who was one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever been around. His enormous influence on the NBA was also seen during 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,” Stern continued.
“I learned so much from Bob by simply watching how he connected with people. 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,” Stern concluded.
Lanier “was the epitome of ‘gentle giant,’ always in a good mood… ambassador for the game,” Charles Barkley said Tuesday night during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs. “Just a wonderful man. He will be missed.”
“He was a great man, he really was,” Shaquille O’Neal added.
Born in Buffalo, New York in 1948, Lanier attended St. Bonaventure from 1967-1970; his Jersey number, 31, has since been retired. He was drafted into the NBA in 1970 by the Detroit Pistons, playing for the team for 10 seasons. He was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1980 and continued playing for 5 seasons until his retirement in 1984.
During his time as a player, Lanier was an 8-time NBA all-star. His other career highlights include All-Star game MVP in 1974, receiving the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1978, and having his #16 jersey retired by both the Bucks and Pistons after he ended his playing career.
He also served as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors in 1994 and 1995. In addition to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, he was also inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.