Bob Rule, one of the original Sonics whose promising NBA career was cut by short by a devastating Achilles injury, died last week.
Rule, who lived in Menifee, Calif., passed away in his sleep on Sept. 5 at his sister Sherry Randle’s home in nearby Riverside. He was 75 years old.
“Bob was a private man and he died much like he lived his life, which was in quiet,” said Rule’s brother Gary Randle. “We knew – his family – what he did in the NBA, but unless you really go back and look it up, you may not know how good he was. Bob was a special player, but he was also a really good man.”
Before the Seahawks and Mariners, Rule became one of Seattle’s first professional superstar athletes after he was taken in the second round of the 1967 NBA draft by the expansion Sonics.
Rule, a 6-foot-9 center who had an unstoppable left-handed hook shot, was a bright spot during the team’s first season when it finished 23-59.
His rookie scoring average of 18.1 points was a franchise rookie record that stood for 40 years until it was eclipsed by Kevin Durant in 2007-08.
“I admired people like Wilt (Chamberlain) and Bill Russell and Nate Thurmond and those guys, but I was not afraid of them,” Rule said in a 2011 interview with the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif. “My initial experience in the NBA was to have Nate Thurmond block six of my first seven shots in the first half.
“I go to the locker room and the coach (Al Bianchi) says, ‘Keep putting ’em up. He can’t block ’em all.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, well if I hadn’t made that layup it would have been all of ’em.’ ”
The expansion Sonics didn’t get many wins during Rule’s rookie season, but No. 45 in the green and gold jersey who garnered the nickname ‘The Golden Rule’ gave Seattle fans many amazing performances. He put on a show at the Seattle Center Coliseum on Nov. 21, 1967 with a 47-point spectacle against Los Angeles Lakers great Elgin Baylor during a 137-132 win.
The 47-point outburst is still a rookie team record.
Paired with Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, Rule rose to stardom over the next two seasons and might have become the greatest player in franchise history if he hadn’t gotten injured.
“He had a chance to become an outstanding player,” Wilkens said. “Great touch around the basket (and) hook shot. He could run the floor and get up and down the court for his size. Tremendous potential.
“He could also go outside. He could move. He wouldn’t stay on one spot. That made a difference. Back then, centers didn’t like to guard centers away from the basket.”
In his second year, Rule averaged 24.0 points and 11.5 rebounds during the 1968-69 season and established himself as one of the most prolific low-post players in the NBA at a time when big men ruled the league.
On Nov. 8, 1968, Rule exploded for 37 points on 14-for-28 shooting to topple Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics 114-112.
“Bob could score, no question about that,” Wilkens said. “We tried to help Bob, because he was such a good offensive player. We set little screens to free him. He had tremendous hands; he could grip the ball like a grapefruit.”
During the 1969-70 season, Rule gained national prominence while averaging 24.6 points and 10.6 rebounds. He garnered a spot in the 1970 NBA All-Star Game and became the third Sonics All-Star, following Walt Hazzard (1968) and Wilkens (1969).
Four games into the 1970-71 season, Rule’s season ended after he tore his Achilles’ tendon and he was never the same again. He averaged 29.8 points that season.
“It was tough,” Wilkens said. “He certainly wanted to recover, he knew he had a good future. I never saw him healthy again.”
Rule averaged just 7.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 16 games for the Sonics in 1971-72 before the team traded him to the Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 17.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in 60 games that season for the Sixers.
Rule spent one more season with Philadelphia before playing two years (1972-74) in Cleveland where he averaged 4.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.
Following a one-game stint in Milwaukee during the 1974-75 season, Rule retired at age 30.
Rule, who was born June, 29, 1944 in Riverside, Calif., played basketball at Riverside Poly High School. He starred for two seasons at Riverside Community College under Jerry Tarkanian before transferring to Colorado State.
Rule is survived by two sons Randall and Russell Rule; siblings Charlene Marcus, Sherry and Gary Randle, and Eloise Talbert; three grandchildren and his partner for over 40 years Alayne Harris.
This story has been updated from the original with a correct photo of Bob Rule.