I guess even if you’re 7 foot 4 and over 320 lbs, it doesn’t automatically mean you have yourself an NBA career. Priest Lauderdale, despite his presence, sadly did not last in the NBA long enough to be remembered as at least a solid player.
Prior to being drafted in the 1st round of the 1996 NBA Draft (28th pick, 28th overall) by the Seattle Supersonics, Lauderdale played for Central State University (1993-1994), averaging an impressive double-double with 20.1 ppg and 10.2 rpg per game.
After that, Lauderdale left for Europe to play for Greek club Peristeri Nikas. During the 1995-1996 with Peristeri Nikas, Lauderdale averaged 17.2 ppg and 11.2 rpg. That same year he reportedly was in talks with NBA’s Chicago Bulls, yet the deal was never made.
Along with Lauderdale, that 1996 Draft brought some very good players into the league, such as Allen Iverson, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Predrag Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Kerry Kittles.
The Sonics traded Lauderdale (as a 1996 1st round draft pick) to the Atlanta Hawks for a 1996 2nd round draft pick (Joe Vogel) and a 1996 2nd round draft pick (Ron Riley).
The Hawks gave Lauderdale a chance in his first season, as the 7’4 giant appeared in 35 games for Atlanta, shooting an impressive 55 percent from the field, averaging 3.2 ppg and 1.2 rpg in just over 5 minutes of playing time.
Despite his poor freethrow shooting (56 percent), Lauderdale could have improved, given more playing time the next season. Many in fact believed that Lauderdale would be a solid backup for the All-star center, shotblocking specialist Dikembe Mutombo.
However, Lauderdale was traded to the struggling Denver Nuggets team, and his career did not get any better after the trade. That 1997-1998 season, with Lauderdale, the Nuggets lost 71 games of 82, winning only 11, and finishing 7th in the NBA’s Midwest Division.
Lauderdale appeared in 39 games for the Nuggets, playing nearly 9 minutes per game, averaging 3.7 ppg and 2.6 rpg, yet shooting a dismal 41 percent from the field.
His freethrow shooting also did not improve, falling to 55 percent. For someone who could look Georghe Muresan and Shawn Bradley eye-to-eye, it was the end of an NBA career.
In his two seasons in the NBA, Lauderdale played in 74 regular season games for Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggers, averaging 3.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg.
First Lauderdale slipped to the Continental Basketball Association, and joined Grand Rapids Hoops in 2000-2001.
In November 2000, he signed with Fort Wayne Fury, and averaged 9.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, while shooting 64 percent from the field. Yet just a month later he left the team trying to make it into the NBA again. That did not happen.
JOURNEYMAN GOES TO EUROPE
In March of 2001, Lauderdale signed a contract with Real Madrid of Spain, but failed to pass the physical tests and was released without ever appearing in the team’s uniform.
That same year, the journeyman was listed on Gaiteros del Zulia (team in Venezuela) roster, yet he was waived later the same year. In June of 2001, Lauderdale landed in China, signing a contract with China Motion (CHN – Summer League), yet never played a game.
In 2001, Lauderdale had another chance of joining the NBA, when he joined the Southern California Summer Pro League (Portland Trail Blazers), and Rocky Mountain Summer League (also Portland Trail Blazers), yet he was never officially signed by Portland.
After that, the Chicago-born giant has never returned to the NBA, focusing on other countries, where he could apply his basketball skills. Being waived by an NBA team doesn’t mean you can’t play basketball somewhere else.
In February of 2002, he went to Cyprus, joining Apollon Limassol, but never played a game for the team. In June of 2002, Lauderdale tried to join a basketball team in Philippines, but could not get registered there because of league’s height limits… talk about being unlucky.
DOUBLE DOUBLES, MIDDLE EAST AND CHINA
In 2002-2003, Lauderdale finally joined the Akademik Sophia team from Bulgaria, and played in the FIBA Championship Cup. In 18 games for Akademik Sophia, Lauderdale averaged solid 19 ppg, 12.0 rpg, 2.3 apg, and 3.1 bpg.
Next season (2003-2004), Lauderdale continued playing in Bulgaria, in the ULEB Cup, where he averaged 19.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.1 apg and 2.7 bpg in 11 games. In the Bulgarian league that season he averaged 21.9 ppg. Seems like the further Lauderdale was going away from the NBA, the better he was playing. In 2004, Lauderdale received Bulgarian citizenship.
In 2004-2005 Lauderdale played 5 games in the ULEB Cup with 17.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 apg averages. He later was released during the season.
In 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 Lauderdale was already in UAE and Saudi Arabia, however after trying out at several clubs there (An Nasr in UAE, AL Hilal, Al Ittihad Jeddah in Saudi Arabia) he did not land a spot on any team.
Later that year, Lauderdale moved to China, for negotiations with Dong Guang Boning of China Basketball League.
Still in 2008 Lauderdale signed a contract with Shandong Flaming Bulls of Chinese Basketball Association. In 15 games with the team, Lauderdale averaged 20.2 ppg and 12.9 rpg, while shooting nearly 74 percent from the field. He later left the team in December of 2008.
In January of 2009, Lauderdale ended up in Iran, signing with Mahram of Iran’s Superleague. Participating in Asian Club Championship games, Lauderdale averaged 13.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 2.3 bpg in 6 games. The club won the 2009 Asia Club Championship.
Later that season reportedly Lauderdale got injured, and moved to Iraq, where he signed with local team Duhok. He again participated in Asian Club Championship 2010, this time for Duhok, averaging 15.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.6 bpg in 5 games.
In 2010-2011 Lauderdale returned to his new hometown, Bulgaria, signing with Chernomorets Burgas. In 9 games with the team, he averaged 23.2 ppg, 13.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 2.4 bpg with 70,5 percent of field goal shooting.
In January of 2011, Lauderdale was moved to Levski Sofia (Bulgarian Basketball League). Within 9 games of the league, Lauderdale averaged 14.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, hitting nearly 81 percent of his shots from the field.
He also appeared in 4 games of the Balkan League of 2011, averaging 13.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.0 apg, 2.3 bpg.
Lauderdale’s awful free throw shooting was becoming even worse. In 2010 he shot 55 percent during the Asian Club Championship. In 2011, playing for Chernomorets Burgas he was shooting 46.9 percent. During the Balkan League games of 2011, Lauderdale’s freethrow shooting fell to 25 percent.
According to some online sources, Lauderdale is no more an active basketball player.
Throughout his career he has played in: United States, Spain, Venezuela, China, Philippines, Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Although he is listed on the roster of Lebanese basketball team Chahab-Zahle, the DailyStar reported in 2011 that the team announced its withdrawal from the Lebanese basketball league, reportedly, due to financial problems.
By Tim Tal
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