Leroy Ellis Passes Away at 72

The Lakers were saddened to learn of the loss of a family member on Saturday, June 2, as former first-round draft pick and member of the 1971-72 championship team LeRoy Ellis, 72, passed away after a battle with cancer.

Ellis spent six of his 14 NBA seasons with the Lakers, starting in 1962-63, when he was drafted after starring at St. John's University. By his fourth season in L.A., the 6-11, 210-pound Ellis nearly averaged a double-double with 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, before being traded to Baltimore the following season.

Ellis spent four seasons with the Bullets, then moved on to Portland in 1970 before ultimately being traded back to Los Angeles prior to the record-setting 1971-72 season, when he was Wilt Chamberlain's backup en route to a 33-game winning streak and the championship.

"LeRoy was a wonderful person to begin with, and a wonderful player as well," said Lakers director of scouting Bill Bertka,who first joined the Lakers in 1968. "He was so well-loved by all his teammates and if you asked if he were a perfect role player, yes he was. He had to play behind Wilt later in his career, and he was happy to do so. He could play multiple positions at both power forward and center, and he was just a complete basketball player."

A native of Far Rockaway, Queens, Ellis was born in 1940, and starred at Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.

For his career, he posted averages of 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, and totaled 10,176 points and 8,709 rebounds before retiring subsequent to the 1972-73 season.