Funeral held for former Bulls player

March 2, 2009 8:57:38 PM PST
Family and friends are remembering Chicago Bulls great Norm Van Lier. The three-time all-star guard for the Bulls in the 1970s was found dead Thursday in his home at the age of 61. Talk to many people and you would get many different opinions of "Stormin Norman" Van Lier. But one thing was always constant, he had a passion for the t he city of Chicago, for the game he played and for the Bulls.

"He always wanted the team to win and the players to succeed. It was always passion born out of love for the Chicago Bulls," said John Paxson, Bulls General Manager.

Not only did Van Lier have a passion for the Bulls, he had a passion for life.

"Off the court he was a teddy bear. I thought he was a grumpy old guy when I first started to work with him because I didn't know him. Then after three years of working with him, nicest guy I ever knew," said Kendall Gill, former Bull.

Even though he didn't grow up in Chicago, Van Lier was a typical Chicagoan, and he was easy to relate to.

"This is the city that works. And he worked hard. People sometimes took it the wrong way, but that was the energy Norm brought," said Mickey Johnson, former teammate.

"Chicago loves the tough work the policeman does, the fireman does. They like people who work for a living and to him basketball was a fight. It wasn't over until the whistle blue, and as a commentator he was as honest as the day was long," said Johnny Bach, former Bulls Assistant Coach.

One of Van Lier's long-time friends, Bob Love, said the three-time all-star was always fun to be around and that he died way too soon.

"Norm always had my back off the court and on the basketball court I had his back," said Love.

"He just had an enormous love of life. He wasn't afraid to show who he was. I think a lot of us get in front of a camera and we are guarded and I don't think Norm was ever guarded. He was going to be himself. That's what made him special," said Paxson.

Van Lier's body will be flown to Pennsylvania where there will be another service held on Thursday. He will be buried in suburban Pittsburgh where he was raised.

Van Lier is survived by his mother, his wife and two daughters.