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Bob Lanier, a Basketball Hall of Famer who was an eight-time All-Star during his 14-year career, died on Tuesday after a short illness, the NBA announced. He was 73.
The NBA said Lanier was surrounded by his family. Lanier was being treated for bladder cancer, The Athletic reported in 2019.
“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,” Commissioner Adam Silver said. “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.”
Lanier was the No. 1 overall pick of the Detroit Pistons in 1970. He played for the Pistons for more than nine seasons before he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Kent Benson and a first-round draft pick in 1980.
He would play for the Bucks until the 1983-84 season.
He averaged 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game over the course of his career. He was the 1973-74 All-Star Game MVP and was on the 1970-71 All-Rookie team. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
“As fierce and as dominant as Bob was on the court, he was equally kind and impactful in the community,” the Pistons said. “As an ambassador for both the Pistons organization and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Bob’s family and friends.”
Lanier finished his career with the Pistons as the franchise’s leader in points and rebounds before Isiah Thomas and Bill Lambieer broke those marks. His single-game franchise record of 33 rebounds was topped by Dennis Rodman.
In his post-playing career, Lanier was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors in 1995. He served as head coach on an interim basis once Don Nelson resigned. He was 12-25 in that span.
Lanier also helped start the NBA’s Stay in School campaign. He was the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for the 1977-78 season for outstanding community service.
“There’s so much need out here,” Lanier said. “When you’re traveling around to different cities and different countries, you see there are so many people in dire straits that the NBA can only do so much. We make a vast, vast difference, but there’s always so much more to do.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.