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Bob Lanier’s death sparked an outpouring of tributes from former Detroit Pistons Wednesday.
The Basketball Hall of Famer, who was an eight-time All-Star during his 14-year career, died Tuesday after a short illness, the NBA announced. He was 73.
Isiah Thomas was among those who released statements.
Bob Lanier (16) of the Detroit Pistons against the Boston Celtics during a game in 1976 at the Boston Garden in Boston. (Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
“All of us who love the game of basketball are hurting with the loss of Bob Lanier. He was one of the greatest centers to play the game and one of the toughest and fiercest competitors,” Thomas said. “Just as he impacted the game on the court, Bob was one of the game’s greatest ambassadors. His class and caring for others set a great example for so many to follow. I’m grateful for his friendship and mentorship as I led the Pistons as a player and later followed his footsteps as president of the Players Association.”
Fellow Hall of Famer Dave Bing said he was saddened to hear about Lanier’s death.
“I have many great memories of Bob, both as a teammate and as a friend. I was lucky to have played with him as a member of the Pistons and to have shared a long-lasting friendship. Bob will be greatly missed,” Bing added.
Lanier was the No. 1 overall pick of the Pistons in 1970. He played for Detroit 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 played for the Bucks until the 1983-84 season.
Bob Lanier (16) of the Detroit Pistons posts up against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33) of the Milwaukee Bucks during a game in 1974 in Milwaukee. (Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
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.
“Big Bob was a fierce competitor and one of the greatest big men to play the game of basketball, but he was an even better human being. He was always ready to share his knowledge of the game and life and had a lasting impact on many lives and communities,” Rick Mahorn said.
“He and Wes Unseld, who we also lost, were like father figures to me. It didn’t matter if I was still playing or when I retired, I was still scared and intimidated whenever I saw him, but it was all out of respect and love. Our world, and especially the basketball world, lost a great one. He will surely be missed.”
Lanier finished his career with the Pistons as the franchise’s leader in points and rebounds before Thomas and Bill Laimbeer broke those marks. Lanier’s previous single-game franchise record of 33 rebounds was topped by Dennis Rodman.
After his 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 recipient for the 1977-78 season for outstanding community service.
Bob Lanier of the Detroit Pistons smiles during a game in 1974 at the Boston Garden in Boston. (Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
“There’s so much need out here,” Lanier once 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.