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Orlando Woolridge dies at 52; former Laker was offensive sparkplug

Orlando Woolridge

, the rugged forward and former Laker who carved out a reputation over 13

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NBA

seasons as a scoring specialist and became one of the original alley-oop artists, has died. He was 52.

Woolridge, who was with the

Lakers

from 1988 to 1990, died Thursday at his parents' home in Mansfield, La. He had been receiving hospice care for a chronic

heart condition

, according to the local coroner's office.

Drafted by the

Chicago Bulls

in the first round in 1981, Woolridge spent five seasons with the team. He averaged 22.9 points per game in the 1984-85 campaign, which also marked

Michael Jordan

's rookie year in Chicago.

On the court, Woolridge emerged as an offensive sparkplug. He was known for his high-flying dunks and ability to throw down lob passes in open court.

"He was such an energetic-type, big player," said Jack Sikma, an assistant coach with the

Minnesota Timberwolves

who played against Woolridge. "He really was one of the early athletic-type players to come in the league."

During the 1987-88 season, Woolridge was with the

New Jersey Nets

when he told the NBA he had a cocaine problem. He was suspended for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, and he was signed by the Lakers after completing a drug rehabilitation program in Van Nuys.

The 6-foot, 9-inch Woolridge was a consistent offensive presence in Los Angeles, averaging 11 points a game over a two-year span. He made 55.6% of his shots from the floor during the 1989-90 season, fifth best in the league.

He also played for Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia and spent his final two seasons playing in Italy.

After retiring in 1996, he briefly served as head coach of the

WNBA

's Sparks during the 1998-99 season.

Orlando Vernada Woolridge was born Dec. 16, 1959, in Bernice, La., and played basketball at

Notre Dame

.

He helped the Fighting Irish reach the

NCAA Tournament

in each of his four collegiate seasons, including the Final Four as a freshman in 1978.

One of his defining moments came during his senior year at Notre Dame when he hit a jump shot at the buzzer to beat No. 1-ranked

Virginia

on national television, ending the Cavaliers' 28-game winning streak.

Woolridge is survived by four children, Zachary, Renaldo, Royce and Tiana; his parents, Mattie and Larnceen;and a sister, Dr. Vanessa Woolridge Duplessis.

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