Friday, February 27, 2009

Norm Van Lier 1947-2009


Norm Van Lier was an outstanding football, basketball and baseball player in high school. He was on a high school basketball team that won 56 straight games in a row and two championships going through both his junior and senior years undefeated. When he played for St. Francis University, I read an interview with him that stuck with me to this day. "I primarily play defense, and to me, that means that if keep my player from catching the ball and scoring, I have done my job. If my player scores an average of 16 points a game and he only gets 3 on me, that means I've scored 13 points that you will never see in the box score. I not only don't want my guy to score, I'll work my hardest to make sure he doesn't touch the ball." THAT was like a bolt of inspiration and I never forgot that quote, as you can see. In the pros, he teamed up with Jerry Sloan (who also had similiar thoughts about defense) to create the nastiest, hardest working backcourt ever for the Chicago Bulls. At 6' 1", his height was also an inspiration to me and probably formed my game (whatever it was) more than anyone ever, outside of Pete Maravich. When I moved to the Quad Cities in 1971, cable TV had just arrived and we got WGN out of Chicago which showed the Bulls a lot and I became even more of a fan than before. His name "Stormin Norman" came from his tenacity on the defensive side. He was also named defensive player of the year three times during his career.

Norm was also a DJ on "The Loop" FM in Chicago and constantly talked about his love for The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and his favorite band ever Chicago. From 1992 to 2002, he was the television pre and post game analyst for the Bulls. During that time, they won numerous championships. He died on Thursday after being found unresponsive in his Chicago apartment. He was 61. Also that day, the Bulls lost longtime play by play announcer Johnny "Red" Kerr who died of prostate cancer. Norm was the epitome of cool and hard work. He left his legacy on this young basketball player at an early age. He and "Pistol Pete" were my favorite players growing up and now they are both gone.

1 comment:

Brian Holland said...

During my youth as a K.C.-Omaha Kings fanatic, I had healthy hatred for NVL, but after enjoying his work as an occasional guest commentator on "Mike & Mike In The Morning" and reading your NVL quote (which I pirated for my own blog tribute--hope you don't mind), Stormin' Norman's not quite the villain to me that he once was. He coulda been a King, too, if the Cincy Royals hadn't traded him to the Bulls the year before they moved to K.C., ironically. RIP, Norm...

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