Gross, Bob : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Gross, Bob

Robert Edwin Gross

Gross played small forward for the Portland Trail Blazers in the late 1970s, and was an important member of the franchise's only NBA championship team (1976-77). Considered a "glue guy" that was important to any team because he moved without the ball and could hit the open man when he had it, Gross played eight seasons in the NBA. Frank Coffey wrote in Pride of Portland, "the story of Bob Gross's collegiate and professional basketball life was that noboy noticed him...until they really started looking hard. Then, with a modicum of basketball knowledge, and a keen eye, they discovered a jewel, a consistent, hardworking, extradordinarily effective basketball player."

Bill Walton, a teammate on Portland said, "Bob Gross was the 'grease guy' for that team. He made it flow and played a lot like Bill Bradley from the Old New York Knicks. Bob would run relentlessly, guard and defend. He could pass brilliantly, was a beautiful post feeder, and was fabulous on the back door plays. He was a tremendous finisher on the breaks, made the touch passes, and understood the spacing and concept of how to make a team happen. That was what Bob Gross was all about. Without Bob...Portland could not have won the championship."

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Aug. 3, 1953

Career Highlights:
Prior to his NBA career, Gross played at Los Angeles Harbor Junior College, the University of Seattle (where he started as a sophomore), and Long Beach State. In his junior year, Gross played for Lute Olson (now the University of Arizona head coach) at Long Beach, where he averaged 6.6 points per game. Bob finally became a starter as a senior and Long Beach went 43-9 in his two years; but because they were on probation, they could not play in the NCAA tournament. Still, for his outstanding contributions to the Long Beach teams, Gross was made a member of the school's Athletic Hall of Fame.

While Bob was at Long Beach, his basketball ability may have been overlooked by the majority of NBA scouts. One scout, however, saw something in Gross's play that made him take notice. While attending the 1975 Cable Car Classic, the Portland Trail Blazers' scout Stu Inman saw Long Beach play Michigan State. During the game, Gross missed an easy layup which led to a Spartan fast break the other way. At the end of the break, a Michigan State player went up for his own layup when Gross seemingly came from nowhere and blocked the shot. Inman said, "...when I realized that Gross made the transition so quickly from offense to defense, I started watching his every move. That's when he started impressing me."

When Portland made Gross the 25th overall pick in the 1975 NBA Draft, many coaches and fans around the league thought it was a wasted selection. Others knew better. Wayne Embry, the GM of the Milwaukee Bucks said to an assistant coach when asked about Gross, "Great pick. Portland made a great pick. You'll see." That year, Gross was also selected by the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors, whom he spurned in favor of Portland. In his rookie season (1975-76), Gross played in 76 games for the Blazers and averaged 6.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists but Portland finished last in the Pacific Division with a record of 37-45.

Gross' second season (1976-77) was one of change in the NBA. It was the first season after the NBA-ABA merger; and while four teams (the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, and New York Nets) from the ABA joined the NBA, the players from the remaining ABA teams were dispersed to the other NBA teams in a draft. That year Jack Ramsay took over as Portland's head coach and the Blazers enjoyed the greatest season in team history.

Gross was a quick forward who was as good as anyone at running the court on the break. That season he averaged 11.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists, and helped the Blazers establish a running and rebounding team that thrilled the home crowd. Blazermania was born that year, and Portland finished the season, 49-33, second in the Pacific. With Bill Walton at center, the Blazers had great chemistry in the playoffs; it was the first appearance in the postseason in the Trail Blazers' seven-year history. After sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers (led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walton's predecessor at UCLA), in the Western Conference Finals, 4-0, the Blazers faced a tough -- and heavily favored -- Philadelphia 76ers club, led by Julius Erving, in the NBA Finals.

In Game 1 of the Finals, the Blazers committed 34 turnovers and Philadelphia won at home, 107-101. The second game was also a 76er victory (107-89), but it is remembered more for a couple of scuffles between Blazer and 76er players. Toward the end of the game, Gross and a 20-year-old 76er, Darryl Dawkins, went at it. During a tug-of-war for a rebound, Gross yelled at Dawkins, who threw a roundhouse. Bob ducked at the last minute and the punch hit Dawkins's teammate, Doug Collins, who had been holding Gross. The benches emptied and pandemonium reigned for a few minutes before order was restored.

While there were no more fights during the Finals, the Blazers seemed to come alive when they returned to Portland for Game 3. They swept the next two games, 129-107, and 130-98, running away from the Sixers. In the crucial Game 5, Gross had one of the most impressive all-around games in NBA Finals history. He played 25 minutes, guarded the incomparable Julius Erving on the defensive end, and was very effective on the offensive end. Gross made 10-13 field goals and 5-5 from the line for 25 points, adding five assists and three steals as the Blazers won the match, 110-104. In the deciding Game 7, Gross made 12-16 field goals and the Blazers beat the 76ers, 102-98, winning the franchise's only NBA Championship.

In 1977-78, Portland was still riding the high from the previous year. He finished in first place during the regular season with an excellent 58-24 record. Gross had his best statistical year and registered career-highs in points (12.7), rebounds (5.6), and assists (3.5). He also showed his versatility and value to his team by being named second team All-defense. Unfortunately, the Blazers could not repeat their previous success, and fell in the Conference Semifinals to Seattle, four games to two.

Gross continued his steady play over the next few years, but the Blazers never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. He played for Portland until the 1981-82 season. In his penultimate season with the Trail Blazers, Bob finished 15th in the NBA in free throw shooting (135-159, .849). He finished his career with the lowly San Diego Clippers in 1982-83.


Career Dates:
Gross played college ball at Seattle, Los Angeles Harbor Junior College, and Long Beach State. He then played forward in the NBA for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1975-1982, and with the San Diego Clippers in 1982-83.

Physical description:
6'6", 200 pounds

Career Statistics:
In the NBA:
Games: 513
Points: 4,567
Points Per Game: 8.9

Field Goals Made: 1,857
Field Goals Attempted: 3,629
Field Goal Percentage: .512

3-Pointers Made: 5
3-Pointers Attempted: 28
3-Point Percentage: .179

Free Throws Made: 848
Free Throws Attempted: 1,062
Free Throw Percentage: .798

Rebounds: 2,253
Rebounds Per Game: 4.4
Assists: 1,481
Assists Per Game: 2.9
Steals: 615
Blocks: 361

Personal Fouls: 1,484
Disqualifications: 30
Turnovers: 729

NBA playoffs:
Games: 25
Points: 307
Points Per Game: 12.3

Field Goals Made: 122
Field Goals Attempted: 209
Field Goal Percentage: .584

Free Throws Made: 63
Free Throws Attempted: 74
Free Throw Percentage: .851

Rebounds: 124
Rebounds Per Game: 5.0
Assists: 89
Assists Per Game: 3.6
Steals: 35
Blocks: 17

Personal Fouls: 101
Disqualifications: 5

Use links below to navigate through the basketball section of Jews In Sports.

< PreviousNext >

Jewish Sports Review, September/October 2001 issue (Volume 3, No. 3, Issue 27)
Pride of Portland: The Story of the Trail Blazers, by Frank Coffey and Tom Biracree (New York: Everest House, 1979)
The Official NBA Encyclopedia: Third Edition, edited by Jan Hubbard (New York: Doubleday, 2000)