The Laker family has lost one of its own. Orlando Woolridge, whose 13-year NBA career included stops in Chicago, New Jersey, Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia in addition his two-year run with the Lakers, died earlier today at his parents' home in Louisiana. He was 52.
For those of you too young to have seen him play, Woolridge was an athletic 6'9" wingman and a potent scorer. His style was like a blend of Danny Manning and Rudy Gay. The Bulls drafted him in 1981 out of Notre Dame, and his peak years in the league were from 1983 to 1987. He was basically Michael Jordan's second banana for much of MJ's first couple of pro seasons. Woolridge's best single season was probably 1984-85. As the second option in the Chicago offense behind rookie MJ, Woolridge scored 22.6 points per game on 61% true shooting and posted a PER of 19.5.
After a stopover in New Jersey he signed with the Lakers as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 1988. He, Mychal Thompson and Michael Cooper formed a trio of supersubs on a team that won 57 games and reached the NBA Finals. (Think about that: those guys were the Laker bench. Depth was just a shade better in those days.) The next year Woolridge missed 20 games to injury, but when healthy he played even better than the year before. In 23 minutes a night off the bench he scored 12.7 a game on 60% true shooting and notched a very solid 17.6 PER. The Lakers traded him to Denver in the 1990 offseason. Woolridge played four more years in the NBA before wrapping up his playing career in Italy.
Even after his stint in Lakerdom, he maintained strong ties to Los Angeles. He coached the L.A Sparks in 1998 and 1999, his three children attended the Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City. His kids are very accomplished in their own right. His eldest son Zach played basketball at Princeton, from which he graduated in 2008. The middle child, daughter Tiana, is attending Princeton right now. She's an excellent volleyball player. The youngest child, Renaldo, was a highly recruited baller out of Harvard-Westlake. He just announced that he's transferring from the University of Tennessee to USC.
Condolences to the Woolridge family for their loss. Rest in peace, Big O.