Bob Lanier, Saint-Bonaventure and NBA legend, dies at 73 | College Sports

No one can mention the Saint-Bonaventure men’s basketball team in 1970 without mentioning Bob Lanier. In fact, no college basketball fan can talk about St. Bonaventure without the association of Lanier, the larger-than-life Buffalo native.

Lanier died on Tuesday. He was 73 years old. The NBA confirmed Lanier’s death in a statement from commissioner Adam Silver, which was posted to social media early Wednesday morning.

“For more than 30 years, Bob has been our global ambassador and special assistant to David Stern and me, traveling the world teaching the value of the game and positively impacting young people around the world,” Silver said in the communicated. “It was a labor of love for Bob, who was one of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever met.”

The NBA statement says Lanier died following a brief illness. The cause of death was not immediately given, but Lanier had battled bladder cancer for the past few years and had also undergone various neck and knee surgeries.

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Lanier is one of the greatest basketball players to come out of Buffalo. The 1966 Bennett High School graduate was a three-time Converse College All-America selection that helped the Bonnies reach the 1970 Final Four, and he became a Hall of Famer.

He scored 2,067 points in three seasons at Bona and was the Detroit Pistons’ first overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft, following a season in which he averaged 29.1 points per game.

In three seasons at Saint-Bonaventure, the 6-foot-11 center has become one of its most prolific players and has become a hallmark of not only the basketball program, but also the longtime face of the school sports program.

His name is on the Reilly Center basketball court, an honor bestowed in 2007.

Lanier was also known for his legendary extra-wide sneakers, one of which was displayed at the Buffalo History Museum.

It even has a pop culture mention, in the movie “Airplane”, when a young fan recognizes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – dressed as a co-pilot named Roger Murdock – and insists that the Los Angeles Lakers center does not not enough effort.

“Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier to the field for 48 minutes!” Abdul-Jabbar exclaims as he breaks character.

Lanier was also in the movie “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” about a losing basketball team that tries to turn things around with the help of an astrologer’s advice.

But it was Lanier’s three years with the Bonnies that helped solidify their place in college basketball lore and helped propel Lanier to a Hall of Fame professional basketball career.

Bob Lanier thanks the current players after the presentation of the St. Bonaventure Bonnies basketball Final Four team at the end of the game at the Reilly Center in St. Bonaventure in Olean on December 7, 2019.

James P. McCoy/File Photo

Lanier played 14 seasons in the NBA, with the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks, and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. He scored 19,248 points. He also served as interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors for 37 games in 1994-95, after Don Nelson resigned.

He helped the Bonnies reach the 1970 Final Four, but injured his knee in a regional final against Villanova and missed a loss to Jacksonville in a national semi-final.

That didn’t scare away the Pistons, who, according to an story, signed Lanier while he was still in the hospital recovering from knee surgery that spring. He became an eight-time NBA All-Star averaging more than 20 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, and had his uniform number (16) retired by the Pistons and Bucks.

Bona inducted Lanier into its Athletics Hall of Fame in 1975, and he was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. Bona has also retired his uniform number, 31.

At Bennett High School, Lanier dominated—even after being kicked off Bennett’s basketball team as a sophomore—but honed his basketball skills with Masten Avenue Boys Club athletic director Lorrie Alexander. Nick Mogavero, the trainer who cut Lanier, told The News in 1990 that he wanted Lanier’s stamina and coordination to catch up to his 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame. He didn’t want Lanier getting injured playing against older, more talented players.

Lanier told The News in 1990 that he was hurt and angry but determined to prove Mogavero wrong – but also called Mogavero “a very insightful and compassionate coach, and one hell of a human being”.

“It was probably one of the best things that could have happened to me,” Lanier said at the time. “I feel like it was a turning point in my life. It allowed me to focus on what I needed to do to get where I wanted to go. It was an obstacle that turned into an opportunity.”

According to the Bennett Alumni Association’s Sports Hall of Fame page, Lanier was an All-High selection as a junior and senior for the Tigers, averaging 25 points per game his senior year. He had scholarship offers at over 80 colleges to play basketball, but he stayed close to his home in Bona.

In March 2018, St. Bonaventure won its first NCAA Tournament game since the 1970 win over Villanova, a 65-58 win over UCLA in a first-four game in Dayton, Ohio. Bonnies coach Mark Schmidt made sure to honor Lanier during his postgame media briefing.

“When I got the job here 11 years ago we heard stories about 1970 and how disappointing it was that Lanier got injured and they didn’t get a chance to have a full squad to play in Jacksonville,” Schmidt said. “And everyone talks if Lanier was healthy, they would have taken UCLA. This win is for those guys. They didn’t get a chance to show off their talent.”

That 1970 team, Schmidt said, was Bona’s greatest team to ever play.

“I talked to the team about it,” Schmidt said. “Because I think that’s really important – the legacy and the tradition. For our guys to be able to go out and play against a great UCLA team and beat them, for me, I hope that helps with the disappointment from 1970.”

Lanier returned to campus less than two years later, in December 2019, when Bona honored the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Final Four team.

“My four years here have been the best of my life,” Lanier told a packed house at the Reilly Center. “I appreciated the enthusiasm and the friendships that were formed. And over the past 50 years, it has simply been remarkable. I think that’s the reason for our success. »

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.

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