Orlando Woolridge
Woolridge during his tenure coaching the Los Angeles Sparks
Personal information
Born(1959-12-16)December 16, 1959
Bernice, Louisiana
DiedMay 31, 2012(2012-05-31) (aged 52)
Mansfield, Louisiana
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight215 lb (98 kg)
Career information
High schoolMansfield (Mansfield, Louisiana)
CollegeNotre Dame (1977–1981)
NBA draft1981 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6th overall
Selected by the Chicago Bulls
Playing career1981–1996
PositionSmall forward
Number0, 6
Coaching career1998–1999, 2007–2009
Career history
As player:
19811986Chicago Bulls
19861988New Jersey Nets
19881990Los Angeles Lakers
1990–1991Denver Nuggets
19911993Detroit Pistons
1993Milwaukee Bucks
1993–1994Philadelphia 76ers
1994–1995Benetton Treviso
1995–1996Buckler Bologna
As coach:
19981999Los Angeles Sparks
2007–2008Houston Takers
2008–2009Arizona Rhinos
Career highlights and awards
Career NBA statistics
Points13,623 (16.0 ppg)
Rebounds3,696 (4.3 rpg)
Assists1,609 (1.9 apg)
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at NBA.com
Stats Edit this at Wikidata at Basketball-Reference.com

Orlando Vernada Woolridge (December 16, 1959 – May 31, 2012) was an American professional basketball player who played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) from 1981 to 1994. He was known for his scoring ability, especially on slam dunks.

Early life and education

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 for their Notre Dame Fighting Irish basketball team. He played in the NCAA Tournament's 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. He helped guide Notre Dame to NCAA tournament appearances in 1980 and 1981. The 6-foot-9-inch (2.06 m) forward played one season at center in 1979–80, when he made 58.5 percent of his field goals.[1][2] Named a second-team All-American by The Sporting News in 1981,[3] Woolridge made a last-second fall-away jumper to beat the eventual NBA Hall of Famer Ralph Sampson and no. 1 Virginia to end their 28-game winning streak.[4] Throughout his collegiate career, he averaged 10.6 points, 5 rebounds, 1.2 assists per game and shot just under 60% from the field.[5]

Professional career


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.[5] Woolridge was named NBA Player of the week on December 9, 1984.[6] During the 1984–85 season, Woolridge averaged 22.9 points per game and combined with rookie teammate Michael Jordan to average over 51 points per 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 ft 9 in (2.06 m) tall, and weighing 215 lb (98 kg), Woolridge was one of the most gifted dunkers in professional basketball.[7] Woolridge was also one of the original alley-oop artists.[8] Woolridge competed in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1984 and 1985, and was the first to complete what would be called the eastbay funk dunk in 1984[9] 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.[8] 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[5] for the 1986–87 season, in which he averaged 20.7 points per game. After playing 19 games during the 1987–88 season, Woolridge was suspended by the league for violation of the league substance abuse policy.[10]

On August 10, 1988,[5] he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers, who were looking for a scorer off the bench.[11] "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.[7] 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.[12]

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 per game and a career high 6.8 rebounds per 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.[13]

After his only season in Denver, Woolridge played with the Detroit Pistons during the 1991–92 season. He split the 1992–93 season between the Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks, and finished his NBA career at the end of the 1993–94 season where he played for the Philadelphia 76ers. 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. Playing under head coach Mike D'Antoni, he won the FIBA European Cup in the 1994–95 season, and also won the Italian Cup. Woolridge then signed to play with Buckler Bologna for the 1995–96 season and won the Italian Supercup.

Coaching and later years

After retiring as a player, Woolridge coached the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA in 1998 and 1999. Woolridge later coached the Arizona Rhinos of the ABA, from 2008 to 2009.

Personal life

Woolridge's son, Renaldo, also became a professional basketball player. Woolridge was a cousin to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member Willis Reed.[14]


After a long battle with heart disease, Woolridge died on May 31, 2012, at his parents' home in Mansfield, Louisiana.[15]


  1. ^ Goldaper, Sam (November 25, 1979). "A Preview of the 20 Top College Basketball Teams". The New York Times. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  2. ^ "The Top 20". Sports Illustrated. December 1, 1980. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  3. ^ "2005 NCAA Basketball's Finest" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. 2005. p. 201. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 21, 2009.
  4. ^ "Former Notre Dame Basketball Player Orlando Woolridge Dies At Age 52". Notre Dame Athletics. CBS Interactive. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d "Orlando Woolridge Stats".
  6. ^ http://stats.nba.com/playerProfile.html?PlayerID=78615
  7. ^ a b "Ex-NBA player Orlando Woolridge dead at 52". USA Today. Associated Press. June 1, 2012. Archived from the original on June 1, 2012.
  8. ^ a b "NBA News, Scores, Standings & Stats".
  9. ^ Orlando Woolridge - 1984 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-11.
  10. ^ "NBA suspends Woolridge for admitted drug problem". The Galveston Daily News. Galveston, TX. AP. February 24, 1988. Retrieved October 22, 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  11. ^ Edes, Gordon (August 10, 1988). "Lakers to Announce Signing Today of Free Agent Orlando Woolridge". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 14, 2011.
  12. ^ Medina, Mark (June 1, 2012). "Former Laker Orlando Woolridge dies". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 2, 2012.
  13. ^ "Nuggets' Woolridge Has Surgery for Detached Retina in Right Eye". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. December 22, 1990. Archived from the original on March 6, 2016.
  14. ^ Baker, Chris (1 March 1988). "Clippers to Play Willis Reed's Nets in New Jersey". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
  15. ^ "Ex-Notre Dame, Chicago Bulls standout Orlando Woolridge dead at 52". CBS Sports. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 6 March 2019.