John William Block, Jr. (born April 16, 1944 in Glendale, California) is a retired American Basketball player.
A 6'10" Forward (basketball)/Center (basketball) from the University of Southern California, Block spent 10 seasons in the National Basketball Association as a member of the Los Angeles (1966–1967), San Diego Rockets (1967–1971), Milwaukee Bucks (1971–1972), Philadelphia 76ers (1972–1973), Kansas City-Omaha Kings (1973–1974), New Orleans Jazz (1974), and Chicago Bulls (1974–1976). Block had his statistically strongest season in 1967–68, when he averaged 20.2 points and 11.0 rebounds for the Rockets, who had just entered the NBA as an Expansion team. Block went on to appear in the 1973 NBA All-Star Game, and he would register 7,106 total points and 3,965 total Rebound (basketball)s in his ten year career.
The new San Diego Rockets were coached by former Cincinnati Royals head Jack McMahon. Scorer Don Kojis, bigmen Toby Kimball and Henry Finkel, and point guard Art Williams also got minutes on that original San Diego team. Ex-Royal Jon McGlocklin and future NBA coach Pat Riley also played. California was the target of two professional leagues in 1967, with a total of six franchises from the NBA and ABA combined. The state had also been the bone of contention of Abe Saperstein's American Basketball League in 1961. Local talent was also key to these franchises, and Block was a prized prospect. A long, slender big man who could perform well at two positions as a pro, Block was drafted by the local Los Angeles Lakers in 1966 after rating All-Pac Eight at USC. Block battled injuries, pro game adjustments and roster competition his rookie season. He played just 22 games behind Elgin Baylor, Darrall Imhoff and others. He played just one minute in the 1967 playoffs. Chosen by expansion San Diego, Block blossomed as the Rockets' starting center. He battled more injuries, including a broken hand and missed 30 games. The Rockets went a league-low 19-53. But his 20.2 points and 11.0 rebounds per game impressed many. He also sank 80% of his free throws. The following year, star Elvin Hayes joined the Rockets. Block slid over to forward and contributed 15 points and nine rebounds per game for a 37-45 San Diego team that made the NBA playoffs. The team faced the Atlanta Hawks in the West Division's first round and lost the series four games to two. Three of the games were decided by only a basket each, and Block missed one playoff game with a broken wrist. Coach McMahon soon gave way to Californian Alex Hannum, but results did not change for the 1970-71 campaign. Kojis had been lost to injury. Block posted 14.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Block is still fondly recalled by San Diego Rockets fans today.
The Rockets then moved to Houston to better promote Hayes, and Block was dealt with Kimball to defending NBA champion Milwaukee. Block was the third forward for the 63-19 Bucks, led by newly-renamed Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Oscar Robertson. In the West Final, which many considered the REAL NBA Championship, the Bucks coach, Larry Costello, limited minutes for reserves and lost the series to the Los Angeles Lakers, the eventual NBA champions, four games to two. For the 1972-73 season, Block was dealt to the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers where he figured to start at forward. The team's new coach was Roy Rubin, who had lost star Billy Cunningham to the ABA. The team sank badly, going 4-47 before Rubin was fired. Block posted 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds for the beleaguered 76ers. When the team traded for Leroy Ellis, a similar player, Block was gratefully dealt to the newly-renamed Kansas City/Omaha Kings ( formerly the Cincinnati Royals ). The Kings would go 36-46 with Block starting with superstar Nate Archibald and center Sam Lacey. The Kings drafted big man Ron Behagen in 1973, and Block was a reserve again for the 33-49 Kings the following year. The 30-year-old then found himself on an expansion team again as a original member of the New Orleans Jazz, the team built around superstar Pete Maravich. Block played four fast games, and then was happily dealt to the contending Chicago Bulls. The Bulls had been slowed by contract holdouts by Bob Love and Norm Van Lier, but went 47-35 under coach Dick Motta and the best defense in the NBA. Block was again the third forward. Chicago easily beat Kansas City/Omaha in the first round of the playoffs, and then faced the Golden State Warriors in that championship team's hardest series of the season. Golden State won the series four games to three when the Bulls did not start star center Nate Thurmond and got poor scoring from their bench. Block played nine minutes per game. Resisting the offer to return home and play for the ABA San Diego Q's, Block played two more games for the Bulls in the fall of 1975, a total of seven minutes. Locked into a contract and seeing few opportunities, the 31-year-old then opted to retire. Like many in the late 1960s-early 1970s NBA, Block was traded too often, but showed ability as a inside player who was a good NBA-caliber starter and very good NBA reserve during much of his career.
An ardent Christian, Block was involved in church-athletic causes, including the Oakbridge Christian Camp in California, during his career. He was also part of the leadership for The Lord's Gym in San Diego. Block not only showed coaching ability but a good touch with people. Block later became involved with the Sports Academy for the West African nation of Benin, when he was requested by President Kerekou, a Christian. Block even became a liaison for the U.S. Government in this position. Today, Block remains active with the nation of Benin, and other christian and coaching activities.