Bob Lanier, NBA Hall of Famer and Global Ambassador, Dead at 73 Following a Short Illness

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that basketball "was a labor of love for Bob," whom he described as "one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever been around"

Bob Lanier
Photo: Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Bob Lanier, one of the top players in the NBA in the 1970s, has died. He was 73.

The NBA confirmed the news in a statement released early Wednesday morning, saying that the star was surrounded by loved ones when he died, following a "short illness." The eight-time All-Star was a major influence in the league both on and off the court since being drafted by the Detroit Pistons in 1970.

Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement that basketball "was a labor of love for Bob," whom he described as "one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever been around."

"I learned so much from Bob by simply watching how he connected with people," Silver, 60, said. "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."

The sports exec also lauded Lanier's work as a global ambassador for the NBA, a role he held for over three decades.

"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," Silver said. "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."

Bob Lanier
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In a separate statement, the Pistons remembered Lanier as "fierce" and dominant" on the court, while remaining "equally kind and impactful in the community," according to ESPN.

"As an ambassador for both the Pistons organization and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity," the team said. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to Bob's family and friends."

Born on Sept. 10, 1948, in Buffalo, N.Y., Lanier was a star player on the basketball team at St. Bonaventure University, leading his team to an undefeated season in 1968 and the NCAA Final Four in 1970. That year, he was the number one pick in the NBA Draft by the Pistons, the university said.

Playing for the Detroit team from 1970 to 1980, then the Milwaukee Bucks from 1980 to 1984, Lanier appeared in eight All-Star games between 1972 and 1982, including being honored as All-Star MVP in 1974. In 1978, he earned the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, an annual NBA award given to a member of the league that has shown "outstanding service and dedication to the community."

Bob Lanier
Focus on Sport/Getty

After retiring in '84, Lanier was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. His number 16 was retired by Bucks in 1984 and by the Pistons in 1993.

Lanier joined the Golden State Warriors for the 1995 season as an assistant coach and filled in as head coach following Don Nelson's resignation. The St. Bonaventure basketball arena was also named after him in 2007.

Lanier's big heart was often on display throughout his time with the NBA, both as a player and alum. During a 2018 interview with, Lanier highlighted the importance of community relations within professional sports, which he focused on through his work as a global ambassador.

"There's so much need out here," he said at the time. "When you're traveling around to different cities and different countries, you see there are so many people in dire straits that the NBA can only do so much. We make a vast, vast difference, but there's always so much more to do."

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