Former Bull Norman Van Lier found dead
Norm Van Lier, one of the most popular players in Bulls history, was found dead in his Chicago apartment today. He was 61.
The cause of death was not released, pending a report by the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Van Lier had been working as a Bulls analyst for ComcastSportsnet Chicago after 10-year playing career.
He did not arrive for a scheduled appearance on the network's postgame show following the Bulls-New Jersey Nets game Wednesday night.
A Chicago Fire Department squad conducted a wellness check after he hadn't been reached Thursday morning. They discovered his body shortly before 1 p.m., and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
"Norm Van Lier was one of the all-time greats ever to put on a Chicago Bulls uniform," Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Along with Jerry Sloan, he set a standard for Bulls defense and toughness which we will never forget and which we will always strive to replicate. We will miss him greatly, and extend our deepest sympathies to his family and his many friends."
A two-sport star in high school in Midland, Pa., near Pittsburgh, Van Lier rejected a number of football scholarship offers to play basketball at St. Francis University and was the Bulls' third-round draft pick in the 1969 NBA draft. He was immediately dealt to the Cincinnati Royals and flourished as a point guard under coach Bob Cousy, leading the NBA in assists with 10.1 per game in 1970-71.
The Bulls reacquired him the following season and he went on to become a fixture at guard on a consistently strong contender, teaming with Sloan to give the Bulls one of the toughest and most effective backcourts in the NBA.
His football background influenced Van Lier's playing style; he was known as "Stormin' Norman" throughout his career because of his defensive ferocity and his willingness to mix it up with much larger players.
The Bulls of Sloan, Van Lier, Bob Love, Chet Walker and Tom Boerwinkle established the NBA's presence in Chicago well before the Michael Jordan era, making the playoffs five straight years. Van Lier was named to the first or second NBA All-Defense team eight times during his career. The Bull released him in 1978 and he finished his playing career that season with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Van Lier dabbled in coaching but found a home as a broadcaster in recent years, settling in as a Bulls game analyst on ComcastSportsnet Chicago.
"Our entire network is deeply saddened by the sudden loss of our dear friend Norm Van Lier," James J. Corno, President of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, said in a statement. "Norm was easily one of the most popular athletes in Chicago sports history and one of the most popular on-air personalities to ever grace our airwaves."
"From his start with us on SportsChannel to Comcast SportsNet today, Norm's passion for the game he loved so much was shared and embraced with his legions of fans," Corno said. "On behalf of everyone at Comcast SportsNet, we send our deepest sympathies to the Van Lier family."
Van Lier appeared in three All-Star games (1974, 1976, 1977). He retired in January 1979 with career totals of 8,770 points and 5,217 assists.
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