For Bob Lanier, It Was His Drive That Set Him Apart in His Hall of Fame Career

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Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier announces the Right Guard Total Defense Challenge at the NBA Store.

Bob Lanier had all the talent in the world. He also had the size and the physical presence during his 14-year NBA career. Most importantly, Lanier had that drive. The former Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks star center died Tuesday at the age of 73 after a brief illness, according to a statement by the NBA.

Bob Lanier snubbed on the NBA’s top 75 players list

For Bob Lanier, It Was His Drive That Set Him Apart in His Hall of Fame Career
Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier announces the Right Guard Total Defense Challenge at the NBA Store on January 27, 2010, in New York City. | Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images.

When the NBA announced its list of top 75 players during the celebration of its 75th anniversary, there was a lot of debate. That’s what lists are for.

Some of those debates were absurd. Klay Thompson upset that he didn’t make it is a perfect example. The Golden State Warriors’ sharp-shooting guard is a heck of a player, but top 75 in the history of the game is quite a reach. Legitimate snubs included Alex English, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, and Lanier, to name a few.

Lanier, the top pick in the 1970 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, averaged a double-double (20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds) in his career. He played the first nine-plus seasons with the Pistons before being traded to the Bucks in February 1980.

As a rookie, Lanier averaged 15.6 points and 8.1 rebounds but exploded for 25.7 points and 14.2 rebounds in his sophomore season. Not only was Lanier banging with the big boys like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he also showed he had a soft touch from the outside.

Lanier was an eight-time NBA Alll-Star. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.

Bob Lanier always had the drive to be good

Lanier had the gift of size, but he worked at his craft. Rejected by his high school basketball team as a sophomore, he bounced back and gave it another shot the following season. As a junior, he averaged better than 20 points per game. Lanier carried that drive to be competitive through college and into the NBA.

As a member of the Bucks in 1984 — his final season in the NBA — Lanier still had that competitive drive. It was apparent after the Boston Celtics took a 2-0 series lead against the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals in blowout fashion. The Celtics won Game 1 119-96 and came back with a 125-110 victory in Game 2.

“It’s not the losing I hate,” Lanier said then, per United Press International. “It’s not being competitive. That’s the thing. “Hopefully, the guys will understand what happened and we’ll be going back with our heads up high.”

The Celtics went on to win the series in five games.

As a 35-year-old center in the final year of his career, Lanier still had the fire. Knee injuries forced him from the game too early.

NBA Commisioner Adam Silver reflects on the life of Lanier

Lanier was more than just a Hall of Fame basketball player. He was a true people person. While many fans remember Lanier as a star on the court, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver perfectly summed up the life of Lanier off it.

“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,” Silver wrote in a statement. “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.”

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