A stout 6’11″ and 250 lbs., Bob Lanier was among the NBA’s best centers for over a decade. However, his excellence eludes the masses. Most of his career was spent with the Detroit Pistons where there was some modest success, but more often frustration. A late career move to Milwaukee gave Lanier his best and most sustained taste of success, but small market Milwaukee is hardly given its proper due for being a 1980s powerhouse.
Lanier himself is denied the recognition of being a powerhouse in the pivot.
From 1972 to 1979, the sterling left-handed center delivered 24 points, 12.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2 blocks a night on 51% shooting from the field and 78% shooting from the line. Although the Pistons possessed a winning record during just three of Lanier’s nine full seasons there, his stats weren’t of the empty variety. Every single one of his rolling dreadnought hook shots was necessary to keep the Pistons at least mediocre. He controlled the boards with a single-minded ferocity. His defense was so determined that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar complained about it in the comedy classic Airplane!
If Jabbar was tired of carrying Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes, Lanier by 1980 was tired of carrying the moribund Pistons 82 games a year. His blockbuster trade to the Bucks cemented the fortunes of a burgeoning title-contender. These Bucks squads consistently won over 50 games every year, captured the Central Division title every year, and reached the Eastern Conference Finals twice by the time Lanier retired in 1984.
Bob’s career was one of the best but remained slightly unfulfilled due to his tendency to accrue nagging injuries. Over the first half of his career, Lanier played in over 70 games five times. Over the last half, he managed only two seasons over 70 games. Even more unfulfilling is the stark realization that Lanier for all his offensive abilities and defensive terror never made an All-NBA or All-Defensive team. Nonetheless, his eight all-star appearances serve as a reminder that he was indeed the cream of the crop.
Years Played: 1970 – 1984
8x All-Star (1972-’75, 1977-’79, 1982)
All-Star Game MVP (1974)
All-Rookie Team (1971)
NBA Career (1970-71 through 1983-84)
Peak Career Production (1971-72 through 1979-80)
Average and Advanced Stats
Drtg, Steals, SPG, Blocks, and BPG not kept until 1973-74
Ortg not kept until 1977-78
3PTs, 3PT% not kept until 1979-80