October 6, 1948|
Necaise Crossing, Mississippi
|Died||June 24, 1975
Jamaica, New York
|Listed height||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Listed weight||220 lb (100 kg)|
|High school||Hancock North Central
|College||Southern Miss (1967–1970)|
|1974–1975||New York Nets|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career ABA statistics|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Wendell Ladner (October 6, 1948 – June 24, 1975) was an American professional basketball player.
Ladner was born in Necaise Crossing, Hancock County, Mississippi and played high school ball at Hancock North Central High School in Kiln, Mississippi. After attending the University of Southern Mississippi, he played five seasons with five different teams in the ABA, from 1970 to 1975. A 6'5" (1.96 m) 220 lb (100 kg) forward, Ladner was one of the great "enforcers" of the American Basketball Association, protecting Dan Issel of the Kentucky Colonels and Julius Erving of the New York Nets. He was named to the 1971 ABA All-Rookie team.
Ladner died at the age of 26 in the June 24, 1975 crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, in New York City. He was identified by medical examiners because he was wearing his ABA championship ring. For many years, the Nets listed his name and number in their list of retired numbers, though Ladner's No. 4 did not hang in the rafters with the other retired numbers. His number was also given to Rick Mahorn during his tenure with the Nets. In October 2013, a New York Daily News article explained that the number was never formally retired. However, out of respect to Ladner, Nets trainer Fritz Massmann had not issued No. 4 to other players for 17 years after Ladner's death.
Julius Erving called Ladner his wackiest teammate because he wanted to be Burt Reynolds with a basketball. Semi-Pro, a basketball comedy set in the 1970s and starring Will Ferrell, spoofs Ladner's Burt Reynolds persona in its trailer.
- Stefan Bondy. "SOLVED: The mysterious case of Wendell Ladner's (un)retired jersey". New York Daily News. October 17, 2013. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
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