Woolridge during his tenure coaching the Los Angeles Sparks
December 16, 1959|
|Died||May 31, 2012
|Listed height||6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)|
|Listed weight||215 lb (98 kg)|
|High school||Mansfield (Mansfield, Louisiana)|
|College||Notre Dame (1977–1981)|
|NBA draft||1981 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6th overall|
|Selected by the Chicago Bulls|
|1986–1988||New Jersey Nets|
|1988–1990||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1998–1999||Los Angeles Sparks|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NBA statistics|
|Points||13,623 (16.0 ppg)|
|Rebounds||3,696 (4.3 rpg)|
|Assists||1,609 (1.9 apg)|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Orlando Vernada Woolridge (December 16, 1959 – May 31, 2012) was an American professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), from 1981 to 1994. He was known for his scoring ability, especially on slam dunks.
Woolridge was born in Bernice, Louisiana, a town dependent on the lumber industry. After attending local schools, he went to the University of Notre Dame, where he played collegiate basketball. He played in the Final Four in 1978 as a freshman with teammate Bill Laimbeer (the two would later reunite as teammates of the Detroit Pistons during the 1990s).
Woolridge started every game as a college sophomore, junior and senior. Woolridge helped guide Notre Dame to NCAA tournament appearances in 1980 and 1981. As an All-American senior in 1981, Woolridge made a last-second fall-away jumper to beat the eventual NBA Hall of Famer, Ralph Sampson and #1 Virginia to end their 28-game winning streak. Throughout his collegiate career, he averaged 10.6 points, five rebounds, 1.2 assists per game and shot just under 60% from the field.
Woolridge was selected sixth in the 1981 NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls, where he played for his first five seasons. Woolridge made his NBA debut on November 7, 1981. Woolridge was named NBA Player of the week on December 9, 1984. During the 1984–85 season, Woolridge averaged 22.9 points/game and combined with rookie teammate Michael Jordan to average over 51 points/game. Prior to the Jordan era, Woolridge was one of the Chicago Bulls' marquee players along with Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore, Reggie Theus and David Greenwood. At 6'9" 215 lbs, Woolridge was one of the most gifted dunkers in professional basketball. Woolridge was also one of the original alley-oop artists. Woolridge competed in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 and 1985, surpassing the scores of Clyde Drexler and Michael Cooper. Woolridge led the Chicago Bulls in scoring in 1986 and was the last player to lead in scoring before Jordan took over. While unstoppable on the open court, his one-dimensional play did not complement Jordan's skills.
He moved on to sign with the New Jersey Nets as a veteran free-agent on October 2, 1986 for the 1986–87 season, in which he averaged 20.7 points/game. After playing 19 games during the 1987–88 season, Woolridge was suspended by the league for violation of the league substance abuse policy.
On August 10, 1988, he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers, who were looking for a scorer off the bench. "I just love it when we go up in the transition game, up and down the court, Magic (Johnson) looking for the open guy ... That's the way I love playing," said Woolridge about teammate Magic Johnson and the Lakers shortly after joining the team. Woolridge averaged 11 points per game in two seasons and provided the Lakers consistent bench scoring around the basket. His 55.6% field goal percentage during the 1989–90 season ranked fifth in the league.
Woolridge was traded for two second-round draft picks to the Denver Nuggets, which started playing an unusual hurry-up offense under head coach Paul Westhead in 1990–91. The prolific offense resulted in Woolridge's averaging 25.1 points/game and a career high 6.8 rebounds/game, but did not result in many team wins. Through most of the season until December, Woolridge led the NBA in scoring. That month, he was sidelined after eye surgery due to a detached retina during a game collision. He was third in the league averaging 29.0 points at the time.
After his only season in Denver, Woolridge played with the Detroit Pistons the entire 1991–1992 season. He split the 1992–1993 season between Detroit and the Milwaukee Bucks, and finished his NBA career with the Philadelphia 76ers (1993–1994). He held NBA career averages of 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Woolridge played professionally in Italy, with the Italian League club Benetton Treviso. He won the European-wide second-tier level FIBA Saporta Cup 1994–95 season's championship. He also won the Italian Cup, under head coach Mike D'Antoni, and the Italian Supercup, with Buckler Bologna (1995–96).
Woolridge's son, Renaldo, studies at the University of Southern California and played for the Trojans basketball team while completing his master's degree. Before attending USC, Woolridge attended the University of Tennessee for four years, earning his undergraduate degree while playing for the Volunteers basketball team.
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