Bob Lanier’s basketball greatness was first solidified at St. Bonaventure University where he simply dominated, and re-wrote the record books. The 6’11’ - 260 pound Lanier was a four year letter winner at St. Bonnie and a three time Converse All-American selection from the years 1968-70. In the East Coast Athletic Conference, Lanier was voted player of the year in 1970, and was later named to the All-Decade Team for the entire 1970’s! When his time at St. Bonnie was over. Lanier finished by being the schools All-Time scoring leader with 2,067 points, (currently third all-time at this point in time), All-Time scoring average leader with a post of 27.5 ppg, the school's All-Time leading rebounder with a career total of 1,180, the All-Time rebounds per game leader with an average of 15.7 boards per contest, the career field goal percentage leader at a mark of 57%, the single game rebound record with a 27 board performance coming against Loyola of Maryland in 1967, and the single game scoring record mark of 51 points set against Seton Hall in 1969. After all was said and done, Lanier’s collegiate jersey number 31 was retired and raised to the gymnasium rafters.
The professional chapter of Bob’s career would pick right up where his collegiate career ended. Being the first overall selection in the 1970 draft by the Detroit Pistons meant that there was already high expectations of Lanier. In his rookie campaign, Lanier would post marks of 15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He played in over 2,000 minutes in that season making him a true iron man of a center. The league didn’t keep track of blocked shots in 1970, but Lanier was one of the leagues most prolific shot blockers too. Nothing came cheap if Lanier was in the lane.
In his sophomore season, Bob Lanier really found his niche. In a season that saw Lanier play almost 3,100 minutes of NBA action. It was a rarity that Lanier was ever on the bench. He scored 25.7 points per game, snatched 14.2 rebounds a night, and dished 3.1 assists to his teammates every single time the Pistons took the floor. This was Bob’s coming out party and would set the mark for the majority of the seventies.
In the first nine seasons that Bob Lanier would play with the Pistons he would have an average of twenty points or more in eight of those nine seasons. In 1979, Lanier was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. In his final five years with the Bucks, Lanier and company won the divisional championship all five years! His averages would dip slightly, but Lanier had proven himself as a consistent winner that was a reliable leader. The Bucks never won less than 49 games with Lanier on the team, and in the 198-81 season they posted 60 victories.
While never winning a NBA championship, Bob Lanier’s career accolades are hardly short in stature. First and foremost, not that his career statistical achievements aren’t impressive enough, Bob Lanier has set the bar for what it means to be a model professional. In 1978, he was named the Walter J. Kennedy Citizenships Award winner for his contributions to the Detroit community. From the years 1980-84 he served as President of the NBA Players Association. In 1981 Lanier was honored with the Jackie Robinson Award for service to youth, good citizenship, and leadership. In his last year in the league as a player, Bob took home the Oscar Robertson Leadership Award in 1984. To finalize what already was a saint-like career, Bob has served as a chairman of the NBA Stay In School program since its conception. Bob Lanier knew what it took to be a professional on the court and off, a page that some of today’s stars need to study.
Now on to what Bob accomplished on the hardwood. In his 14-year career, Lanier grabbed enough rebounds, 9,698, and scored enough points, 19,248, to be ranked 19th overall in both categories respectively at his time of retirement. Lanier has career averages of 20.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. He used a sweeping hook and a formidable outside shot to become one of the only true outside-inside threats the NBA has seen at the center position. He was a eight-time All-Star including grabbing All-Star Game MVP in 1974 with a 24 point, 10 rebound performance. He was a consistent winner for the Milwaukee Bucks and his accomplishments, on the court and off, made him a Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame inductee in 1991. Mr. Lanier was no doubt deserving of being this installment of Historical Glimpses and I apologize for making him wait this long!