Sad news in the NBA world ... Hall of Famer Bob Lanier passed away on Tuesday at 73 years old.
The Detroit Pistons legend -- who made eight All-Star teams in 14 seasons -- died following a short illness, the NBA announced. He was surrounded by his family when he passed, the league added.
"I learned so much from Bob by simply watching how he connected with people," NBA commissioner,Adam Silver,said in a statement mourning Lanier's death on Tuesday night. "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."
"We send our deepest condolences to Bob's family and friends."
Lanier -- who gained notoriety for his size 22 shoes -- was taken by the Detroit Pistons with the #1 overall pick in the 1970 NBA Draft ... and he went on to star for the Motor City for the next decade, averaging 22.7 points per game and 11.8 rebounds per game.
The 6-foot-11, 250-pound big man later went on to star for the Bucks -- playing four seasons in Milwaukee before retiring following the 1983-84 season.
Silver called Lanier one of "the most talented centers in the history of the NBA."
Following his career on the court, Lanier briefly coached the Golden State Warriors. He later became a global ambassador for the NBA and a special assistant to commissioner David Stern and then Silver.
"His impact on the league went far beyond what he accomplished on the court," Silver said. "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 continued, "It was a labor of love for Bob, who was one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever been around. 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."