Orlando Woolridge : biography
Orlando Vernada Woolridge (December 16, 1959 – May 31, 2012) was an American professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1981–1994. He was known for his scoring ability, especially on slam dunks.
Coaching and later years
After retiring as a player, Woolridge coached the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA in 1998 and 1999. Woolridge later coached the Arizona Rhinos of the ABA, from 2008 to 2009.
Woolridge's son, Renaldo, studies at the University of Southern California and plays for the Trojans basketball team while working to complete his masters degree. Before attending USC, Woolridge attended the University of Tennessee for four years, earning his undergraduate degree while playing for the Volunteers basketball team.
Woolridge was a cousin to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Willis Reed.
Woolridge was selected sixth in the 1981 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, where he played for his first five seasons. During the 1984–85 season, Woolridge averaged 22.9 points/game and combined with rookie teammate Michael Jordan to average over 51 points/game. At 6'9" 215 lbs, Woolridge was one of the most gifted dunkers in professional basketball. While unstoppable on the open court, his one-dimensional play did not complement Jordan's skills. He moved on to the New Jersey Nets for the 1986–87 season, in which he averaged 20.7 points/game. After playing 19 games during the 1987–88 season, Woolridge was suspended by the league for violation of the league substance abuse policy.
In 1988, he signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, who were looking for a scorer off the bench. "I just love it when we go up in the transition game, up and down the court, Magic (Johnson) looking for the open guy ... That's the way I love playing," said Woolridge about teammate Magic Johnson and the Lakers shortly after joining the team. Woolridge averaged 11 points per game in two seasons and provided the Lakers consistent bench scoring around the basket. His 55.6% field goal percentage during the 1989–90 season ranked fifth in the league.
Woolridge was traded for two second-round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets, which started playing an unusual hurry-up offense under head coach Paul Westhead in 1990–91. The prolific offense resulted in Woolridge's averaging 25.1 points/game and a career high 6.8 rebounds/game, but did not result in many team wins. Through most of the season until December, Woolridge led the NBA in scoring. That month, he was sidelined after eye surgery due to a detached retina during a game collision. He was third in the league averaging 29.0 points at the time.
After his only season in Denver, Woolridge played with the Detroit Pistons the entire 1991–1992 season. He split the 1992–1993 season between Detroit and the Milwaukee Bucks, and finished his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers (1993–1994). He held NBA career averages of 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
He played professionally in Italy for Benetton Treviso (1994–95, won the European Cup and Italian Cup under Mike D'Antoni) and Buckler Bologna (1995–96) (won Italian Supercup).
After a long battle with heart disease, Woolridge died on May 31, 2012 at his parents' home in Mansfield, Louisiana.
Early life and education
Woolridge was born in Bernice, Louisiana, a town dependent on the lumber industry. After attending local schools, he went to the University of Notre Dame, where he played collegiate basketball. He played in the Final Four in 1978 as a freshman with teammate Bill Laimbeer (the two would later reunite as teammates of the Detroit Pistons during the 1990s).
Woolridge helped guide Notre Dame to NCAA tournament appearances in 1980 and 1981. As a senior in 1981, Woolridge made a last-second fall-away jumper to end #1 Virginia's 28-game winning streak.
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