Thursday, May 14, 2009
Clarence Cleamons of the E Street Band has the greatest nickname. It is simply, "The Big Man." Well, Clarence, let me introduce you to the first real, "Big Man" in my life. The one, the only.... Big Bob Lanier.....
I remember Bob Lanier and his great St. Bonaventure team marching to the national semifinals of the 1970 NCAA Championship and Lanier being forced to sit while Artis Gilmour lead Jacksonville to the national championship. My heart went out to "Big Bob" that night, and years later, I couldn't believe I was working alongside of him at the NBA office.
Bob Lanier, along with Satch Sanders, Mike Bantom, Rory Sparrow, Randy Smith, Mel Davis and yes, even Rod Thorn, were my "Fave 7" of former players at the NBA. (I reserve the right to change and add to that list at any time iof day or night!)
Here's a story about Lanier:
Lanier now known for his big feats
He is Bob “Less Filling” Lanier and Bob “Size 22 Sneakers” Lanier.
“People still point and say, ‘Those are some big feet,’ ” Lanier said. He’s one of the guys Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had to drag “up and down the court for 48 minutes,” and he is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Fans remind Lanier of those all the time, those old Miller Lite “Tastes Great, Less Filling” commercials, his ridiculously large feet and Abdul-Jabbar’s famous line from the movie “Airplane,” and Lanier is grateful to be remembered.
But what really knocks the former NBA center for a loop is when he’s asked to autograph one of the four books he wrote for children or when someone tells him that he — Bob Lanier — is the reason they stayed in school.
“That blows my mind,” Lanier said.
Funny how a few words can ring louder than the loudest ovation.
“We all have, because of our celebrity, a platform to influence, to make a difference,” Lanier said.
Lanier used to run basketball camps with Dick Vitale, his old coach with the Detroit Pistons. They remain close. That’s why Lanier will be one of the many basketball legends to descend Friday night on the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota for the annual Dick Vitale Gala for Cancer Research. Lanier is more than willing to lend his name to a great cause.
“I think it’s pretty phenomenal what he’s doing,” Lanier said.
It was called the Bob Lanier/Dick Vitale Basketball Camp.
The carrot, Lanier said, was basketball. The objective was teaching kids about life.
“Attitide determines altitude in life,” the 6-foot-11 Lanier said.
They taught campers the value in earning and giving respect. They taught campers the importance of making good decisions at critical times. Vitale tells Lanier that if they ran the camp today it would be called the Vitale/Lanier Basketball Camp.
Lanier laughed at the thought: “Dick says some funny things.”
After his playing days ended, Lanier became chairman of the NBA’s “Stay in School Program,” which became the “Read to Achieve” program. He wrote “Hey L’il D,” a four-book series about his childhood. The carrot, as always, is basketball. The goal is get kids ages 6 to 9 hooked on reading and teach a few lessons about life.
When you get older, Lanier said, you become concerned about legacies. He played 14 years in the NBA and made six All-Star teams but never played for a championship. Big deal.
Lanier helped teach kids to read and convinced them to stay in school. Now those are some pretty big feats.