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Passings

February 27, 2009|Times Staff and Wire Reports

Norm Van Lier, 61, a former Chicago Bulls guard and broadcaster, was found dead Thursday afternoon in his Chicago home, authorities said.

Firefighters went to his home, just blocks from the United Center arena where the Bulls play, and found Van Lier unresponsive shortly before 1 p.m. He was pronounced dead at the scene, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman said.

Van Lier began his NBA career with the Cincinnati Royals in 1969, starting at guard in his first season opposite Oscar Robertson. He led the league in assists in the 1970-71 season, then was traded to the Bulls 10 games into the 1971-72 season. Van Lier spent nearly seven seasons with Chicago before finishing his pro basketball career with Milwaukee in 1979.

The 6-foot, 1-inch three-time All-Star played on five playoff teams. He was a defensive standout and a fan favorite who was given the nickname "Stormin' Norman" because of his fiery play. Picked for the NBA All-Defensive first team or second team eight times, he retired after the 1979 season with 8,770 points and 5,217 assists.

Norman Allen Van Lier III was born April 1, 1947, in East Liverpool, Ohio, and grew up in the western Pennsylvania town of Midland, the son of a steelworker and his wife. He played basketball at Saint Francis University in Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in history.

After retiring from the NBA, Van Lier coached in the Continental Basketball Assn., but couldn't break into the NBA ranks. He worked as a motivational speaker for a youth program affiliated with Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. He then found a new career as a sports radio talk-show host and commentator in Chicago.

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