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Famed basketball icon dies at Scappoose home

by: Courtesy photo, LeRoy Ellis

LeRoy Ellis, famed center on the legendary Los Angeles Lakers championship team of the early 1970s, died June 2 at his home in Scappoose.

Ellis, 72, was living in Scappoose with his wife Vera when he died this week from prostate cancer, according to a New York Times report.

At a towering 6 feet 10 inches, Ellis was a natural on the court during his 14-season NBA career, including a stint on the first-ever Portland Trail Blazers squad in 1970. Ellis reached the professional level thanks to his success at St. John's University in New York, where he played under coach Joe Lapchick. The Brooklyn native won a most valuable collegiate basketball player award with a 23.5 scoring average and 430 rebounds.

He was backup center to Wilt Chamberlin when the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship in 1972.

'For a big guy, he was awfully quick. You can never catch him,' said St. John's Hall of Fame Coach Lou Carnesecca in a statement posted on the university's website. 'He spent 14 years in the NBA and you could not catch him, longitudinally. He had a soft touch and was a good rebounder. He was a quiet guy, you never knew he was around. But when he was on the court, you always knew.'