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Chicago Bulls basketball great Norm Van Lier was born in East Liverpool, Ohio on April 1, 1947. Van Lier played both basketball and football while attending Midland Lincoln High School. While there, he led the 1965 basketball team to an undefeated state championship. Van Lier went on to St. Francis College in Loretto, Pennsylvania, where he continued to excel on the basketball court. He graduated with degrees in history and special education, and was the school’s all-time assist leader.
In 1969, the Chicago Bulls selected Van Lier in the third round of the NBA draft, but he was traded to the Cincinnati Royals before the season began. With the Royals, Van Lier led the NBA in assists his rookie year, making the NBA All-Defensive Team his second year. Returning to the Chicago Bulls in 1971, Van Lier became part of the Bulls’ powerhouse team of the 1970s, which included players like Bob Love and Jerry Sloan. He appeared in three NBA All-Star games, was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team three times and the NBA All-Defensive Second Team five times. Van Lier’s full court shot on January 19, 1977, against the San Antonio Spurs is ranked as one of the greatest moments in Chicago Bulls history.
Van Lier retired from basketball in 1979. He worked as a television basketball analyst for different stations (Fox Sports Net and Comcast Sports Net) since his retirement, as well as co-hosting a popular radio talk show, The Bull and the Bear, on WSCR-AM in Chicago. Committed to education and young people, Van Lier worked as a motivational speaker. He was also a member of Project Teamwork, a group formed by Reebok Foundation designed to improve racial and human rights sensitivity in school-age children.
Van Lier passed away on February 26, 2009 at the age of 61. He is survived by his wife, Susan, his two daughters, Hilary and Heidi, and one granddaughter.