“One Of The Kindest And Most Genuine People I Have Ever Been Around” | Basketball Hall Of Famer Bob Lanier Dies At 73

(Photo by Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images)

Basketball Hall of Fame player and NBA global ambassador Bob Lanier died on Tuesday at the age of 73, according to the NBA. The cause of death was not mentioned, only that he passed after a “short illness.” The Athletic reported that Lanier was being treated for bladder cancer in 2019. NBA commissioner Adam Silver described his close friend Lanier as kind and genuine in a statement.

“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. 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.
“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.”

Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley mentioned Lanier’s declining health last week on “Inside the NBA.” Late Tuesday night Barkley paid tribute to his friend, and called him the “epitome of gentle giant.”

Lanier was drafted No. 1 overall in 1970 out of St. Bonaventure. He was struggling with a knee injury he suffered his senior year, but still managed to average 15 points and eight rebounds a game for the Detroit Pistons that year.

He was named to the NBA All Rookie first team and went on to earn eight All-Star appearances and was named All-Star MVP in 1974. For his 15-year career Lanier averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a block and a half per game. He was a career 51 percent shooter from the field. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.

Many former players and historians believe Lanier was one of the most talented all-around big men to ever play the game. If not for knee injuries his career would’ve likely been even better.

Lanier was an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors from 1994-95 under Don Nelson, and was named interim head coach for the rest of the 1995 season after Nelson resigned.

From 2005-22 Lanier served as the Global Ambassador for NBA Cares, the league’s global social responsibility program that builds on a mission of addressing important social issues in the U.S. and around the world.

In 2006, Lanier was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2007, Lanier received the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award. 

The basketball court at St. Bonaventure is named “Bob Lanier Court” in his honor.