He was known in his day as being one of the most prolific dunkers in the NBA and made a name for himself becoming one of the grandfathers of the alley-oop over his 13 year career.
He was 52 years old.
“He’s been sick for quite a while, about a year,” Woolridge’s mother Mattie Woolridge told a source. “During that time, he has had two heart attacks and he couldn’t hold a job because of his heart.”
Drafted sixth overall in the 1981 NBA Draft, Woolridge spent most of his NBA career in Chicago as his half a decade stint with the Bulls proved to be the longest of his career. He was one of the most gifted dunkers in the game with a 6’9″ frame and was known for lobbing up passes at the basket from just about anywhere on the court.
When the Bulls drafted Michael Jordan in 1984, Woolridge’s style of play didn’t mesh with that of the young superstar’s and although he averaged 22.9 ppg he moved on to New Jersey where he was suspended in 1987 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Looking to continue his career, Woolridge signed with the Magic Johnson led Lakers where he gained praise from Magic for his upbeat play. Woolridge also expressed joy at the flexibility in Los Angeles.
“I just love it when we go up in the transition game,” Woolridge said. “Up and down the court, Magic (Johnson) looking for the open guy … That’s the way I love playing,”
Woolridge was traded to the Denver Nuggets for two second round picks in 1990 and once in Denver he saw his game skyrocket in production thanks to a fast-paced, hurry up offense run by Paul Westhead. Woolridge scored 25.1 ppg and had a career high in rebound during the 1990-91 season but he seemed to be the only Nugget doing anything. He missed the remainder of his best season in Denver after detaching a retina during an in-game collision.
His last seasons were spent bouncing from Detroit to Milwaukee and finally Philadelphia before finishing his playing career in Italy.
The NBA Star made an American basketball comeback though when he took over as head coach for the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks in 1998-99. From 2007 to 2009 he coached in the ABA before finally leaving the game of basketball for good.
One of the highlights of Orlando Wooldridge’s career, and the image we will leave you with was when he participated in what is widely known as the best NBA Slam Dunk contest of all time. Wooldrige, the kid from Mansfield, Louisiana went toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkens, Julius Erving, and Clyde Drexel among others.
Orlando Woolridge was always known as one of the nicest people you could have interacted with in the game of basketball and he will be sorely missed.