Few players worked harder to achieve basketball stardom than Mr. Lanier, who did not make his high team as a sophomore. Through hard work and his overpowering physique — he was 6-foot-11 and 265 pounds — he made himself into one of the most formidable big men of the 1970s, during an era that included such standout centers as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Bill Walton and Wes Unseld.
Known for his soft left-handed hook shot and his tenacious rebounding, Mr. Lanier was an eight-time NBA All Star and averaged 20.1 points per game and 10.1 rebounds over the course of his 14-year pro career.
In college, Mr. Lanier was largely responsible for making St. Bonaventure, a small Catholic school in Upstate New York, a nationally recognized basketball powerhouse. During his three seasons of eligibility, he led the Bonnies to a 65-12 record, including an appearance in the Final Four in 1970.
Mr. Lanier suffered a serious knee injury in his final college game, but Detroit selected him as the first player chosen in the 1970 NBA draft. He made the NBA’s all-rookie team in his first year, as he helped lead the Pistons to their first winning season in 15 years.
During his second season, he had a career high scoring average of 25.7 points per game. He was the most valuable player at the 1974 NBA All Star game. He was traded midway through the 1979-80 season to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he finished his career in 1985. He is still the Pistons’ franchise leader in scoring, at 22.7 points per game.
Mr. Lanier was often reputed to have had the largest feet in the NBA at the time — size 22 — but officials from the Converse sneaker company later said his actual shoe size was 18 1/2.
Nevertheless, he said, “A lot of people can put both feet into one of my shoes.”
Mr. Lanier received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1978 for community service and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
After his playing career, Mr. Lanier had an advertising business and worked for the NBA commissioner’s office, leading the league’s education outreach program.
“For more than 30 years,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement, “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. It was a labor of love for Bob, who was one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever been around.”
This is a developing story. A complete obituary will follow.