Lanier was a three-time ConverseAll-America selection (1968–1970), and in 1970, he led St. Bonaventure to the NCAAFinal Four. He was injured late in the regional championship game in a collision with Villanova's Chris Ford and did not participate in Bona's national semi-final loss to Artis Gilmore-led Jacksonville University. That year he was named Coach and Athlete Magazine player of the year, and the ECAC Player of the Year.
In his 14 NBA seasons, Lanier averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game while shooting a respectable 51.4 percent from the field. He played in eight NBA All-Star Games, and was named Most Valuable Player of the 1974 game. Lanier was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992 and had his #16 jersey retired by both the Pistons and the Bucks.