February 27, 2009

Norm Van Lier, Ex-Chicago Bulls Basketball Legend Dies at 61

Norm Van Lier, one of the most popular players in Chicago Bulls history and one of the NBA's top defensive players in the 1970s, was found dead in his home just blocks away from the team's arena Thursday. He was 61.

The cause of death was not immediately known, authorities said. Van Lier, who most recently worked for Comcast SportsNet Chicago, had been scheduled as a pregame and postgame analyst for Wednesday night's Bulls game with the New Jersey Nets.

Comcast officials became concerned when Van Lier did not show up for work and could not be reached Thursday. An employee was sent to his apartment near the United Center on the city's near West Side, said Jim Corno, president of Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The employee tried unsuccessfully to get inside.

Van Lier retired after the 1979 season with 8,770 points and 5,217 assists. He finished among the league's top 10 in assists eight times, and among the league's top 10 in steals per game three times, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

"Norm was a complete player, a wonderful passer, a tenacious rebounder and an original character in the 1970s," NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement. "We are all fortunate that Norm continued to share his passion and insight as a broadcaster for the Bulls since the early 90s."

Van Lier the analyst remained a huge Bulls fan, albeit at times a critical one who would call out players he did not think were playing hard or smart.

"If he felt like a guy was not giving maximum effort and not playing the right way he'd let him have it in the post-game show," said Mark Schanowski, the host of the pre- and post-game shows who worked with Van Lier for four years.
"He wore the Bulls on his sleeve," Corno said. "When the Bulls played well, Norm was good and happy enough. When they didn't play well, he felt it."

Non-sports fans may recognize "Stormin' Norman" from his appearances in the movies "Barbershop" and "Barbershop 2" that were filmed in Chicago.

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