Robert Jerry Lanier Jr. (September 10, 1948 – May 10, 2022) was an American professional basketball player who played center for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association. Lanier was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
In 14 NBA seasons, Lanier averaged 20.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.5 bpg, and 1.1 spg while shooting a stellar 51.4% from the field. He played in eight NBA All-Star Games and was named Most Valuable Player of the 1974 game, although he never played in an NBA Finals during his career. His accomplishments came despite a long history with knee injuries. He had his No. 16 jersey retired by both the Pistons and the Bucks and his No. 31 jersey retired by St. Bonaventure University, for whom he played college basketball. After retiring from playing he was an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, and briefly served as their interim head coach. He went on to work as an NBA Cares Global Ambassador.
Lanier was a three-time Converse All-America selection (1968–1970). As a senior in 1970 he led the St. Bonaventure to the NCAA Final Four. Near the end of the regional championship game he injured his knee in a collision with Villanova‘s Chris Ford and did not play in St. Bonaventure’s national semifinal loss to Jacksonville University; future ABA and NBA Hall of Fame center Artis Gilmore played for Jacksonville University. That year Lanier was named Coach and Athlete Magazine player of the year, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference‘s Player of the Year.
- Inducted into the St. Bonaventure Athletics Hall of Fame in 1975.
- St. Bonaventure retired Lanier’s No. 31 jersey.
- In 1978, Lanier was selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA) as the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for outstanding community service.
- In 1981, the YMCA organization presented Lanier with the “Jackie Robinson Award.” The award is given for service to youth, good citizenship and leadership.
- Lanier was awarded the Oscar Robertson Leadership Award in 1984.
- Lanier was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1991.
- Lanier’s No. 16 jersey is retired by both the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks retired his jersey in 1984. The Pistons retired his jersey in 1993.
- Lanier was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
- In 2000, Lanier was the recipient of the Congressional “Horizon & Leadership Award.” The award is presented annually by the Joint Leadership Commission of the United States Congress and the Board of Directors of The Congressional Award Foundation to individuals who have made an exceptional impact on the lives of America’s young people.
- In 2006, Lanier was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
- In 2007, Lanier received the National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award. It was awarded for his significant contribution to civil and human rights internationally in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The basketball court at Lanier’s alma mater, St. Bonaventure, was named in his honor in 2007. “Bob Lanier Court” is in the Reilly Center Arena. Said the 2007 press release, “Bob Lanier elevated an already established St. Bona basketball program to the next level and is an ideal ambassador of the sport. When we were thinking about names for the court he was the obvious choice and a perfect fit.”
- Lanier was named co-recipient of the 2009 “The Mannie Jackson – Basketball’s Human Spirit Award.” The award was given by the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in recognition of his passion for the game of basketball and his continued commitment to community service.
Cause of Death
Lanier died on May 10, 2022, after a brief illness. But he had also been battling bladder cancer.
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