By Mike Bennett

La Salle and Lincoln High great Larry Cannon passed away on May 31.

Cannon, a 1969 graduate, is one of five La Salle men’s basketball players to have their jersey retired (20) and was a first-round draft pick in both the NBA and ABA.

A second team All-American as a senior in 1968-69, Cannon led the Explorers to a 23-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking behind eventual national champion UCLA and future Hall of Famer Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

The previous season, La Salle went 20-8 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Despite playing just three seasons in an era without a shot clock, the local product from Lincoln High School scored 1,430 points to rank fourth upon graduation and led the team in assists both as a junior and senior.

An all-around player, the 6-5 guard finished his La Salle career averaging 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game, and over his final two seasons the Explorers went a combined 43-9 with a perfect 15-0 record against Middle Atlantic Conference foes. A three-time First Team All-Big 5 selection, Cannon was drafted fifth overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1969 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft and was also a first-round selection of the Miami Floridians of the American Basketball Association (ABA).

Cannon was the only player from his first-round draft class to choose the ABA over the NBA and played five seasons in the league, leading the Denver franchise in scoring at 26.6 points per contest to earn All-Pro honors in 1971. He also spent one year with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, averaging 6.2 points in 19 games, before he was forced to retire from professional basketball due to chronic phlebitis in his legs.

“As great a player as he was, he was an even better teammate and leader,” said La Salle head men’s basketball coach Fran Dunphy, who was a teammate of Cannon’s on the 1968-69 team.

“He made every teammate feel that they had value. He cared about all of us and wanted the best for us.”

In 1973, Cannon became the first La Salle men’s basketball player to be enshrined into the Big 5 Hall of Fame, and was later inducted into La Salle’s Hall of Athletes in 1977.

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