BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bob Lanier, considered one of the greatest athletes to come out of Western New York, died Tuesday at the age of 73.
Lanier attended Bennett High School, and then played college basketball at St. Bonaventure, helping to lead the team to an undefeated regular season as a sophomore in 1967-68.
Following his college career, Lanier was the number one overall draft pick, selected by the Detroit Pistons in 1970. From there, he went on to become one of the best centers in league history. An eight-time all-star, Lanier was named the game's MVP in 1974. His No. 16 jersey was retired by both the Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks.
After retirement, Lanier became a global ambassador for the NBA, working closely with the league commissioner's office. Last night current commissioner Adam Silver released a statement saying in part that Lanier's impact went far beyond what he accomplished on the court. The commissioner's full statement can be read below.
Lanier was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1992, he was enshrined in basketball history as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, one year ahead of other legendary names like Bill Walton and Julius "Dr. J" Erving.
At his alma mater, Lanier's legacy is evident in every game played. The St. Bonaventure Bonnies play their home games on "Bob Lanier Court" inside the Reilly Center. His No. 31 jersey has been retired, and his name was added to the university's Athletics Hall of Fame only five years after he left campus in 1975. The court was named in his honor in 2007.
Late Tuesday and early Wednesday morning, word of Lanier's passing spread to other notable St. Bonaventure alumni, with some paying tribute on social media.
According to the statement from the NBA, Lanier died after a short illness, while surrounded by family.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown issued a statement Wednesday night:
“I was sorry to hear that Buffalo native, Bennett High School graduate and NBA basketball Hall of Famer, Bob Lanier passed away at the age of 73. Even after his career in the NBA, Bob Lanier stayed connected to the Buffalo community. He was a big supporter of The Game Changers basketball and mentoring program that uses basketball instruction to teach life skills and academics to youth in the City of Buffalo. Please join me in extending condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and many fans.”