Lance Blanks was born on September 9, 1966, in Del Rio, Texas, to Sidney "Sugar Bear" Sr. and Clarice Blanks. It was on this rich soil that he planted seeds of a bold, beautiful, and bountiful legacy.
As the youngest son of the first Black football player to not only receive a scholarship at an integrated school in the Lone Star Conference but go on to play in the American and National Football Leagues, Lance’s athletic prowess was ignited early in childhood and nurtured during his time at McCullough High School in The Woodlands, Texas. He would go on to be named Texas’s Mr. Basketball and a third-team Parade All-American in 1985.
Lance dedicated his career to the sport of basketball and, through the game, he cultivated a life founded on empathy, fortitude, passion, and love. Lance first took his talents to the University of Virginia before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin in 1988, where he was part of the high-scoring Texas guard trio “BMW,” comprised of himself, (Travis) Mays, and (Joey) Wright. Together, they helped lead the Longhorns to the 1990 Elite Eight as one of the nation’s most exciting teams. His legacy as a Longhorn was defined by exuberance and excellence on and off the court, and he was inducted into the Texas Longhorns Hall of Honor in 2007.
Lance went on to be drafted by the Detroit Pistons as the 26th pick in the 1990 NBA Draft and played for three years in the NBA, followed by seven years as a professional player across Europe. In a beautiful reflection of life’s symmetry, Lance established his lifelong relationship with his NBA family the same year he expanded his own nuclear family, welcoming daughter Riley Blanks (now Reed) into the world and, soon after, Bryn Blanks (now Lewis).
The team he formed at home with his daughters and wife Renee would anchor his life and cement his legacy far beyond the sport of basketball. Even as basketball took his talents around the world—from Detroit and Minnesota to Germany and Cyprus—his family was where his heart truly was, from the southwest region of Del Rio and Austin, to Santa Barbara and the Pacific Northwest.
After his playing career, Lance served as a scout for the San Antonio Spurs, Assistant General Manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers, General Manager for the Phoenix Suns, and, most recently, as a scout for the Los Angeles Clippers. The same infectious enthusiasm that compelled Texas fans in 1990 to join the jubilant celebratory “Dance with Lance” phenomenon bled into everything Blanks did, whether he was putting a young Spurs draft prospect named Tony Parker through a one-on-one workout or broadcasting games on TV for his alma mater.
Seen as a mentor to many kids, players and executives, Lance devoted time off the court to invest in the success of others, seeking to understand and honor their humanity first. He served as a consultant in nearly all facets of life and blazed countless new trails, always with a deep commitment to creating space and opportunity for future generations to leave their mark on the world. As part of this work, Lance spent many years with Basketball Without Borders in Africa, South America, and Europe, investing in players from underserved areas with a passion for the sport. He was also involved with the Nigerian National Team in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
But Lance always brought it back home, eventually returning in 2018 to Forty Acres to be a sideline fixture and narrate the UT Men’s Basketball games as a commentator for the Longhorn Network and ESPN.
However, the greatest chapters of his life story were forged outside of basketball and broadcasting, and indeed outside of his most important position, that of coach. Perhaps a reflection of his multifaceted nature—Lance was a man who exhibited the bold and the soft; the disruptive and the centered; the commanding and compassionate—he poetically and masterfully met folks right where they were. This was never truer than in the way he fathered and cared for his most precious gifts, his daughters, helping to prepare them for the game of life.
It is perhaps appropriate to believe that Lance refined his skills as a mentor and coach during the nearly 15 years he coached his daughter Riley on the tennis court. But he did more than embolden a four-star collegiate recruit and put her on the professional track. He taught her about fortitude and faith in one’s self, and he helped shape her muscles of human connection and empathy that inform her work today as a multi-disciplined artist and storyteller.
During an interview for NPR’s StoryCorps aptly titled, “Father And Daughter On Family, Responsibility And Caring For A Legend,” Lance sat beside Riley and reflected on the ways he’d passed the metaphoric baton to her throughout her life—as an athlete, an artist, and, most significantly, the future author of their family story. Likewise, he built a special bond with his youngest, Bryn, honoring her curiosity about the world and her quiet, yet commanding, intellectual brilliance. Lance passed down more than attractive physical features and distinct mannerisms to Bryn; he bequeathed to her the role of being an agent for change. Now a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion, Bryn’s life’s work reflects her father’s heart.
Perhaps it was their daddy-daughter trips to Jackson Hole, Montreal, Dakar, or Senegal that instilled a global perspective that nurtured her compassion for all people and a life posture to protect their rights.
It was Lance's own commitment to foster community, his undeniable culture-bridging presence, and his role as father, son, and brother that has left an indelible mark on the world. He has offered us principles for how to love big, love well, and love graciously.
In 2019, Lance honored his father’s story by advocating for better preventive measures and elevating an important conversation around the impact of football head injuries and its link to Parkinson's disease,- leading to a research summit at the University of Texas at Austin. He lived out his own steadfast commitment to protecting and caring for humanity with a remarkable level of grace, caring for his father for nearly two decades, until Sid Sr. passed in the fall of 2021. During the later years of his father's life, Lance led a multi-generational effort to cement the family legacy, heavily investing in real estate projects, community affairs, and business opportunities in his father's hometown of Del Rio, Texas. In 2020, signaling his deep reverence for the footprints etched before him, he founded Sugar Bear Estates in honor of his father, to provide a bastion of the Del Rio community and reflect both history and heritage.
As an athlete, entrepreneur, storyteller, and human observer, it is Lance’s love for people—all people—that anchors the treasure trove of memories the world now carries and the formidable legacy we seek to honor.
Lance is predeceased by his father Sidney Sr. He is survived by his mother, Clarice; brother, Sidney Jr.; the mother of his two daughters, Renee Alexandre; his daughters, Riley Blanks Reed and Bryn Blanks Lewis; his sons-in-law, Jack Reed and Jake Lewis; and his granddaughter, Isabel Lewis.
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