Lonnie Wright

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Lonnie Wright (January 23, 1945 – March 23, 2012) was an American professional basketball and football player who played in the same season for the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association and the Denver Broncos of the American Football League before switching to basketball on a full-time basis.

Education[edit]

Wright was born in Newark, New Jersey and attended South Side High School in Newark where he earned All-City, All-County, All-State, and All-American honors in both football and basketball. He was inducted into the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 1997.[1]

Wright attended Colorado State University, where he played basketball and set the school's shot put record of 52 feet, 9 inches.[1][2] He scored 1,246 points in his college basketball career, and was part of the Rams team that made it to the 22-team 1966 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, losing in the first round to the University of Houston team led by Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney.[2]

Professional careers[edit]

Wright was drafted in the sixth round of the 1966 NBA Draft by the St. Louis Hawks (now the Atlanta Hawks), but did not sign with the team.[3] Despite the fact Wright never played football in college,[4] the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL also showed interest.[2] He signed with the Denver Broncos of the American Football League on April 16, 1966, playing for the team in 1966 and 1967.[1] As a safety, he intercepted one pass in the 1966 season and four more the following year. He caught a single pass in his career, losing two yards on the reception.[5]

Switching sports, Wright signed with the Denver Rockets (predecessor to the Denver Nuggets) on January 5, 1968,[6][7] starting play with the Rockets just weeks after the end of the football season.[2]

A 6 foot 2 inch (1.88 m), 205 pound (93 kg) guard, he played for five seasons in the American Basketball Association, four seasons with the Rockets (1967–1971) and a single season with The Floridians (1971–1972).[3] He scored 3,590 points and averaged 10.7 points per game over his career, with the 1968-69 season marking his career bests, scoring 1,130 points and 16.4 points per game, second on the team in both statistics behind Larry Jones.[8]

While Otto Graham and Bud Grant had done the basketball-football double in the 1940s, only Ron Widby had done it since, through 1999.[9]

Wright was inducted into the Newark Athletic Hall of Fame in 1988 and into the Colorado State University Sports Hall of Fame the following year.[10][11]

Personal[edit]

Wright served as the Director of Students at the New Jersey Medical School of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark.[1]

Wright's wife Johanna is head coach of the girls' basketball team at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey.[12]

A resident of South Orange, New Jersey, Wright died at the age of 67 at his home there on March 23, 2012, due to congestive heart failure.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Hall of Fame, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d Moss, Irv. "Catching Up With: Lonnie Wright - Playing for two teams, one town", The Denver Post, May 21, 2007. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Lonnie Wright, BasketballReference.com. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  4. ^ Mihoces, Gary (April 20, 2005). "NFL seeks best players on the court or mat". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ Lonnie Wright, databaseFootball.com. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  6. ^ Haraway, Frank. "CENTENNIAL SPORTS FLASHBACK", The Denver Post, May 31, 1992. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  7. ^ via Associated Press. "Bronco to Play Pro Basketball", The Washington Post, January 3, 1968. "The Denver Rockets signed Lonnie Wright, a safety on the Denver Broncos professional football team, to a contract for the remainder of the American Basketball Association season."
  8. ^ 1968 Denver Rockets (1967 - 1975), BasketballReference.com. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  9. ^ Pompei, Dan. "One-armed man Boulware copes by changing his style", The Sporting News, October 25, 1999. Accessed August 26, 2008.
  10. ^ Kensler, Tom. "Six added to CSU hall", The Denver Post, September 30, 1989. Accessed August 26, 2008. "Lonnie Wright - Rams star basketball player of the 1960s who played with the Denver Broncos and the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association."
  11. ^ Colorado State's Sports Hall of Fame, CSTV. Accessed September 4, 2008.
  12. ^ Smothers, Ronald. "IN PERSON; The All-Stars' Skipper", The New York Times, March 10, 2002. Accessed March 25, 2012. ONE of Johanna Wright's promising freshmen girls with the uncommon grace of a gazelle but the all too common inconsistency of a balky teenager presented her coach at Columbia High School with her report card, as all team members must. She had two A's, three B's and a C-minus in English. 'It was glaring,' said Ms. Wright, the basketball coach at the high school, which serves Maplewood and South Orange, her usual smile disappearing at the thought of the C-minus.... After graduation she returned to New Jersey where she met Lonnie Wright, a former Newark high school star athlete who had gone on to play both basketball and football at Colorado State University."
  13. ^ Moss, Irv. "Lonnie Wright, who played for both the Broncos and Nuggets, dies at the age of 67", The Denver Post, March 24, 2012. Accessed March 25, 2012. "One word was standard Friday for everyone who talked about Lonnie Wright, who died earlier in the day at his home in South Orange, N.J., from congestive heart failure at age 67."