NBA fans know Larry Nance Jr. as the high-flying big man who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Long before Larry Jr. hit the hardwood, there was a man with the same name who was a top NBA player during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Larry Nance Sr. played for the Phoenix Suns and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Larry Sr. is known for winning the first ever NBA Slam Dunk contest in 1984, but the big man also spent 13 seasons building up an impressive NBA career. Larry Sr.’s son made the 2018 Slam Dunk Contest, and the former NBA great admits his son likely can jump higher than he could at his peak.
“I think he can,” Nance Sr. told ESPN. “I could jump really well, but he’s just so much stronger and he just jumps so much easier than I did. I’ll give it to him. I had my day. And nothing makes me prouder. Nothing makes me prouder, trust me, than if he just flat-out out-dunks me.”
Learn more about Larry Jr.’s father, Larry Sr., and the basketball legacy the family has created.
1. Larry Nance Sr. Won the First Ever NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984
Dunking ability is something that runs in the Nance family as Larry Sr. won the first ever NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984. The ABA introduced the idea in the 1970’s, and the NBA had a season-long contest during the 1976-77 season. The 1984 contest marked the first NBA Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend that used a similar format to the one we see today.
Larry Sr.’s dunks included cradling the basketball, a self-pass off the backboard and dunking two basketballs. Larry Sr. defeated a number of top dunkers in the contest including Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins. Larry Sr. outscored Erving 134 to 122 in the final round. Nance tried to win back-to-back titles, but was eliminated in the semifinals as Wilkins would get redemption in 1985.
During the 2018 contest, his son Larry Jr. has the opportunity to win another dunk contest for the family. Larry Jr. spoke with Cleveland.com about his dream of following in his father’s footsteps.
“It was definitely something that we laughed and kind of joked about,” Larry Jr. told Cleveland.com. “We had our little basketball room at home, my dad’s slam dunk trophy is sitting there. We used to mess around, talk about how cool it would be if I had one too. So it’s kind of cool that I get the opportunity to try.”
2. After Larry Nance Jr. Was Traded to Cleveland, His Father Called the Cavs & Asked Them to Un-Retire His Jersey Number for His Son to Wear
Larry Sr. played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for six seasons (1988-94), and had his jersey retired by the team. His son was traded from the Lakers to the Cavs, and one of the first things Larry Sr. did was call the team to request they un-retire his No. 22 jersey so Larry Jr. could wear it.
As of now, Larry Jr. is wearing No. 24, but his father hopes he can change it over the off-season. Larry Sr. discussed his request on ESPN’s Golic and Wingo (via USA Today).
Well, it really wasn’t a conversation because as soon as he called me and let me now that he got traded here, I called the Cavs and said, ‘He can have the number. Please, give him the number.’ And I think he was calling, saying, ‘My dad deserves to keep that up there.’
But I got this summer. I’m gonna to just let him wear 24, and hopefully this summer I’m gonna to work on him all summer because I would be nothing prouder if he just had that number on his back. He’s wore it his whole career. Well, he had to wear No. 7 in L.A. But I would be proud if he wore it. I think he respects me, so we’re just going to have that conversation a lot this summer, and hopefully I can talk him into it.
3. The Nances Are a Basketball Family With All 3 Kids Playing the Sport
Larry Sr. started an athletic legacy that his three children have all carried on. Larry Sr.’s oldest daughter Casey Nance played college basketball at the University of Dayton, and now is the head coach of the women’s team at her alma mater, Revere High in Ohio. Casey played center at Dayton averaging 5.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Larry Jr. had a successful collegiate career at Wyoming, before being drafted by the Lakers with the No. 27 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. Larry Jr.’s younger brother Pete Nance is finishing up at Revere, the same high school as his siblings. Pete has committed to playing at Northwestern, and will be playing for the Wildcats in fall 2018.
4. Larry Jr.’s Mom, Jaynee, Helped Him Through His Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis
“You hear about bad teenagers — maybe we’re gonna have one of those who doesn’t want to work or go to school or anything,” Jaynee told ESPN. “He had just become a teenager, so we thought, ‘What if we have one of those kids who’s going to live in the basement when he’s 50?’ You never know!”
Larry Jr. went to a doctor for some blood work, and was referred to another clinic for more testing after the initial results did not look promising. Larry Jr.’s stomach and intestines were filled with lesions and sores. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s diease, and the sickness immediately explained Larry Jr.’s behavior.
Larry Jr. still receives treatment, but has overcome the sickness to play in the NBA at a high level. Larry Sr. spoke with ESPN about the transformation he has seen in his son.
We were just in there trying to dunk and I could hear his footsteps where he was planting his feet so hard, trying to get off the ground and the harder he tried to jump, the less he could get off the ground. And now, he’s just a different kid. It’s almost like the more weight he gains — the weight is muscle, obviously — it just makes him more powerful and he’s just getting better and better and jumping higher and higher and easier and easier. It’s a lot of fun watching. I can tell you that.
5. Larry Nance Sr. Played in the NBA for 13 Seasons & Was a 3-Time NBA All-Star
Larry Sr. was not only a great dunker, but a good overall basketball player. After playing four years at Clemson, Larry Sr. was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 20 pick of the 1981 NBA Draft. Larry Sr. played six and half seasons with the Suns before playing for the Cavs, where he also played six and a half seasons.
The power forward averaged 17.1 points, 8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.2 blocks during his NBA career. Larry Sr. was named to three NBA All-Star teams (1985, 1989 and 1993), and played in 68 playoff games.