BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — St. Bonaventure will memorialize all-time great basketball player and Buffalo native Bob Lanier throughout the coming season.
Lanier, who died in May at age 73, was a two-time consensus All-American for St. Bonaventure, leading the path to the Final Four in 1970, and many believe Bona’s would have won the national title if not for Lanier’s knee injury in the regional final. The Bennett High graduate went on to be the No. 1 pick in that year’s NBA draft, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992.
The Bonnies will recognize Lanier by wearing uniform patches with his No. 31 on an emblem of the school’s jerseys from his college career. Lanier’s retired jersey banner will be moved to the center of the Reilly Center, where the court is named in his honor, during a ceremony prior to Monday’s opener and remain there throughout the season.
St. Bonaventure also announced creation of the Bob Lanier Literacy Fund. A $5,000 donation will be made to a youth reading program in Olean, and another $5,000 will be used to purchase books for elementary pupils in Cattaraugus County.
Lanier made a strong commitment to literacy initiatives during and after his professional basketball career. He served as chairman for the NBA’s “Stay in School” program that was later renamed “Read to Achieve.” He received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for the 1977-78 season for outstanding community service. In 1990, Lanier returned to Buffalo to promote an event raising funds for the Bob Lanier Center for Educational, Physical and Cultural Development, a program that helps address the various problems faced by city youth.
St. Bonaventure, with an entirely new lineup of transfers and freshman following a two-year run that included trips to the NCAA tournament and NIT semifinals, hosts Alfred in an exhibition game Wednesday night.