Ex-NBA Star Found Dead in Hotel Bathtub

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Marvin Webster, a fierce shot-blocking center who helped lead the Seattle SuperSonics to the 1978 NBA finals, was found dead in a hotel bathtub in Tulsa, Okla. He was 56.

His body was discovered in his room Monday morning in the downtown Ambassador Hotel, police said Wednesday.

Foul play is not suspected and the death apparently stemmed from an illness, police spokesman Jason Willingham said. He added that the former 7-foot-1 center had been living at the hotel and employees grew concerned after not seeing him for several days.

The medical examiner office said the cause of death has not been determined. W. Charles Bennett, Webster’s former agent and current financial adviser, said Webster’s death was related to coronary artery disease.

Known as “The Human Eraser,” Webster spent nine seasons in the NBA. He averaged 16.1 points during the SuperSonics’ playoff run in 1978. He signed with the Knicks the following season and played six years in New York.

Detroit Pistons assistant coach Darrell Walker played with Webster in New York during his first two NBA seasons.

“That second unit we had when I was here, it was myself, Trent Tucker, Louis Orr, Ernie Grunfeld and Marvin Webster was our center on that second unit,” Walker said before the Pistons faced the Knicks. “The second unit, we’d press and trap, and Marvin was back there erasing it. He was a great shot blocker, one of the best shot blockers of all time.”

After playing 333 consecutive games, Webster missed the next two seasons because of hepatitis before making a failed comeback with Milwaukee during the 1986-87 season. He played in 15 games as a Bucks reserve before retiring.

“Anybody who knew Marvin personally would tell you he was a wonderful man. A jolly giant of a guy,” Bennett told The Associated Press from Albuquerque, N.M.

Bennett said Webster was somewhat reclusive and was always “trying to find a place of serenity and peace.” He remembered Webster as an avid reader who was deeply religious and enjoyed traveling.

Bennett said the hepatitis caused a toxic imbalance, and Webster had sought alternative treatment in Oklahoma. He liked the area and returned to visit for much of the past year.

For his career, Webster averaged 7.1 points and 7.0 rebounds. He played in college at Morgan State and his first pro season was with Denver of the ABA in 1975. He also played with the Nuggets after they joined the NBA the following year.

His best statistical year came with Seattle, when he averaged 14 points and finished ninth in the NBA with 12.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game. The Sonics lost the finals to Washington in seven games that year, one season before winning their only NBA title.

His son, Marvin Webster Jr., played college basketball at Temple but died during his sophomore year at 18 after a heart attack.

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