The 2015 was a rough year for the NBA, considering how many former players have died of various reasons.
Since 2000, more than 50 former NBA players have died of complications related to heart disease, according to the Philadelphia-based news site Billy Penn.
Since the negative trend of former NBA big men dying of heart diseases hasn’t slowed down, the NBA has started to implement a health screening program for the retired players.
In this post, ExNBA remembers those, who are no longer with us, who passed away too soon and will be missed.
RAY LUMPP (1923-2915)
Ray Lumpp, a World War II veteran, died at age 91. He was a 1948 Olympic guard, who played 214 games for the NY Knicks between 1949-53. Lumpp was part of Knicks teams that lost to Minneapolis in the 1951 and 1952 NBA Finals. He averaged 7.1 points in 231 games in five seasons in the NBA with New York and Baltimore. More information here.
ROY TARPLEY (1964 – 2015)
Roy Tarpley, a talented but troubled former NBA center died on Jan. 9 at age 50. Tarpley was suspended several times for drug and alcohol abuse, and was eventually banned from the NBA in 1995. He played 6 years in the league, appearing in 280 games, averaging 12.6 ppg, 10 rpg and 1.2 bpg. Read more on Tarpley here.
JEROME KERSEY (1962 – 2015)
In February, the NBA world was stunned to learn about the passing of long-time NBA player, ex-TrailBlazer, Jerome Kersey. Kersey spent his prime years with Portland, and won an NBA title with San Antonio Spurs. He appeared in total of 1153 NBA games (started in 571), averaging 10.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg in 24.4 mpg. Additional information here.
EARL LLOYD (1928-2015)
Also in February, the first black player to ever play in the NBA, Earl Lloyd passed away as well, at age 86. Lloyd played for Washington Capitols in 1950-51, and underwent military service after the season. He came back in the 1952-53, and helped Rochester Royals win a championship with in 1954-55. Lloyd finished his career with the Detroit Pistons. After retiring, Lloyd became the first black assistant coach in NBA history, joining the Pistons’ staff in 1968. In 2003, Lloyd entered the Basketball Hall of Fame. He scored a total of 4682 points in the NBA, appearing in 560 games, averaging 8.4 ppg and 6.4 rpg.
ANTHONY MASON (1966 – 2015)
And on February 28, one of the best NBA athletes, a fan favorite in New York, forward Anthony Mason died, following multiple heart surgeries and a massive heart attack. Mason spent a few days in intensive care, but eventually didn’t make it through. A one-time All-Star, the 6-foot-7 defensive stalwart spent 13 seasons in the NBA with New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets, NY Knicks, Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. He won the Sixth Man of the Year for the 1994-95 Knicks. Mason played in 882 NBA games (started in 559), averaging 10.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg. More on Anthony Mason here.
JACK HALEY (1964-2015)
Former NBA center Jack Haley has passed away at age 51, after allegedly suffering from a heart disease. Haley, a 9-year NBA veteran, was known for his friendship with Dennis Rodman, having played with him on the Spurs and championship Chicago Bulls team. When Haley passed away, Rodman released a touching letter to Haley. Following Haley’s passing, Scottie Pippen, Phil Jackson as well as the LA Lakers sent their condolences.
“HOT” ROD HUNDLEY (1934-2015)
You’ve heard him before – even if you haven’t seen him play. Hundley was the “voice of the Utah Jazz” for 35 years. Hundley broadcast 3,051 Jazz games from 1974 to 2009. He joined the franchise before its first season in New Orleans in 1974-75 and moved with the team to Salt Lake City in 1979-80. Hundley was a player as well – a 2-time NBA All-Star played in 431 NBA games,averaging 8.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg.
ROBERT “BOB” HOPKINS (1934-2015)
Former NBA player and Seattle Supersonics coach Robert (Bob) Hopkins died at 80, after battling with kidney disease and congestive heart failure. Hopkins was the first player in NCAA history to reach 1,000 points in 1953-54 and 1954-55. He also played in the NBA for 4 seasons for the Syracuse Nationals, appearing in 273 games, averaging career 8.2 ppg and 5.6 rpg. After retiring from the NBA, Hopkins worked as a scout and coach for the Seattle Supersonics, and as an assistant coach under another former NBA star Bill Russell, his cousin.
JACKSON VROMAN (1981-2015)
Former American-born Lebanese NBA player, 6’10 Jackson Vroman was found dead, after reportedly hitting his head and drowning in a pool at his Los Angeles home in June, 2015. The 34-year old Vroman originally drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 2004, played two seasons in the NBA for Phoenix Suns, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Vroman played a total of 87 NBA games (started 20), averaging 3.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg in 12.8 mpg. Vroman also played basketball in several countries, such as Puerto Rico, China, Philippines, South Korea, Spain.
DARRYL DAWKINS (1957-2015)
Legendary NBA dunker Darryl Dawkins died from a heart attack in August 2015, his family said. Dawkins played in the NBA until 1989 … and also spent time playing with the Harlem Globetrotters. Dawkins was known for his powerful play and monster dunks – he shattered two backboards in 1979. Dawkins was the first basketball player to be drafted to the NBA straight out of high school in 1975. He played 14 seasons in the NBA, 7 of them with Philadelphia 76ers. Dawkins remained enormously popular after his playing days were done, even during his stint as a member of the Harlem Globetrotters.
MOSES MALONE (1955-2015)
Former NBA star, legendary Moses Malone has passed away at the age of 60. Malone played both in ABA and NBA. He was a 3-time NBA MVP and one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in history. Malone was the most successful prep-to-pro player of his era, going straight from Petersburg High to a 21-year career in professional basketball. By the time Malone retired after 19 seasons in the NBA he was the last former ABA player active and held numerous distinctions in both leagues, including a championship ring and NBA finals trophy won with the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
NEAL WALK (1948-2015)
NBA center Neal Walk, who mostly played for the Phoenix Suns, has died at age 67 in 2015. In recent years he worked for the Suns in community relations and as a photo archivist. Walk played a total of 568 games in the NBA, holding career averages of 12.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg. In 1988 Walk had to undergo a spine surgery to remove a tumor, and that left him in a wheelchair, but didn’t stop him from playing basketball. Walk would go on to play wheelchair basketball. In 1990, he was honored by President George Bush as the Wheelchair Athlete of the Year. In 2006, he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
HARRY “THE HORSE” GALLATIN (1927-2015)
Former NBA player from the early days of basketball, Harry Gallatin, passed away at age 88 in 2015, following a surgery, said his family. After serving in the Navy in World War II, Gallatin was drafted by the NY Knicks. At 6’6 Gallatin, a ferocious rebounder, played 9 seasons for the Knicks and 746 consecutive games in a postwar era. Gallatin left his mark in basketball history, as a bruising rebounding forward/center, was a 7-time All-Star, never missed a game in his 10-year playing career, from 1948 to 1958, and who grabbed 33 rebounds in a game against the Fort Wayne Pistons on March 15, 1953. Gallatin is also a Hall of Famer. At 6’6 Gallatin wasn’t the biggest on the court, and yet he never averaged below 10.1 rebounds per game in 7 consecutive NBA years. He led the NBA in rebounds per game (15.3 rpg) and total rebounds (1098) in 1953-54.
DAVE MEYERS (1953-2015)
The 62-year old former NBA player Dave Meyers, passed away at home after a lengthy battle with cancer. Meyers was a star in UCLA, leading them in scoring at 18.3 points and rebounding at 7.9 in his final season. He was also part of a trade that brought Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the LA Lakers. Meyers sat out the entire 1978-79 season due to an injury, but came back strong the following season. Prior to the 78-79 season, Meyers was pressured by team management to undergo surgery because of his injury. He refused, partly because that surgery went against principles of his Jehovah’s Witness religion. Meyers shocked the sports world in 1980 — five years into a career with the Bucks — by announcing that he was leaving the NBA to spend more time with his family. He never returned to the NBA again. After retirement, Meyers received his teaching certificate and taught elementary school — mostly fourth and sixth grade — for more than 30 years, according to LA Times.
LUTHER “TICKY” BURDEN (1953-2015)
Former NBA and ABA player Luther “Ticky” Burden has passed away at age 62 in 2015. Burden died at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., where he lived for years. Burden played one season in ABA for Virginia Squires and then two more seasons in the NBA, for the NY Knicks. Burden developed a bad knee that ended his pro career. He eventually had nine knee surgeries. Burden spent nearly two years at Auburn Correction Facility before a judge overturned his conviction on robbery charges in 1984. He was convicted in an $18,000 bank heist in Hempstead in 1980 but won his appeal because police failed to obtain a search warrant before they entered his home and found stolen money. Burden said in a 2010 interview that he was set up by three other men who committed the robbery. Following his basketball career, Burden became an active teacher of the game of basketball at local YMCAs for several years.
DOLPH SCHAYES (1928-2015)
Hall of Fame forward Dolph Schayes passed away at age 87 in 2015. Schayes’ son, Danny Schayes, also a former NBA player, said his father died of cancer. Back in his day, Schayes was among NBA’s best players, and was the first one to score 15,000 points. Schayes was a 12-time All-Star, never missed a game between February 1952 and December 1961, and led the Nationals to the championship in 1955. Schayes played a total of 996 NBA games, averaging 18.5 ppg. After his playing days were over, Schayes switched to coaching, and was named the NBA Coach of the Year in 1966.
“HOT ROD” JOHN WILLIAMS (1962-2015)
Former NBA player John “Hot Rod” Williams died at the age of 53 towards the end of 2015, said the official report from the NBA. The 6-foot-11 Williams died in a hospital, battling with complications related to prostate cancer, said the agent of Williams, Mark Bartelstein. Williams spent his first 9 seasons with Cleveland Cavaliers, reaching a career-high averages of 16.8 ppg in 1989-90, and 8.3 rpg in 1996-97. Williams also played two seasons for the Phoenix Suns and one season with Dallas Mavericks.
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