Bob Boozer will be remembered in basketball circles all across the world, but it’s hard to imagine his accomplishments being appreciated anywhere more than at Kansas State.
The Wildcats lost one of their greatest basketball players of all time when Boozer died at age 75 at his home in Omaha of a brain aneurysm after becoming ill Friday night. Funeral services are pending. Boozer’s jersey hangs from the rafters at Bramlage Coliseum, and current players still try to follow the example he set in Manhattan more than 50 years ago. His absence will be noticeable.
“When you think about Kansas State and all its players and tradition, Bob Boozer is always a name that is right there at the top,” said Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, who is a former K-State player and coach. “You hear all the great stories about how tough he was and how nice he was. The universal opinion of him was that he was truly a great person and player.”
He was arguably the most decorated player to ever wear a K-State uniform. Not only was he a two-time All-American in the late 1950s and the first consensus All-American in school history while averaging a double-double — 21.9 points and 10.7 rebounds – he was a major part of one of the most successful eras in program history.
In 1958, he helped the Wildcats win 22 games, claim a Big Seven championship and reach the Final Four. In 1959, he guided K-State to a dominating Big Eight championship, which featured a perfect 14-0 league record. The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in both seasons.
“I join K-Staters around the world in mourning the passing of Bob Boozer,” said K-State coach Bruce Weber. “Although I’m just getting to know the rich history of our basketball program, the name Bob Boozer resonates throughout the history of basketball. He was not only a two-time consensus All-American at K-State, but also part of one of the greatest Olympic teams in history. He will be greatly missed by our basketball program.”
Added K-State athletic director John Currie: “Bob Boozer is a K-State legend and one of the greatest basketball players to ever wear a K-State uniform. I enjoyed getting to know Bob and appreciate all that he did for Kansas State.”
A 6-foot-8 forward, Boozer went on to play 11 years in the NBA. His most memorable season came in 1971 when he helped the Milwaukee Bucks win the 1971 NBA championship. He was drafted No. 1 overall by the Cincinnati Royals in 1959. He played for six NBA teams and averaged 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds before retiring.
Boozer also played with Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas on the 1960 Olympic team, which dominated on its way to winning a gold medal.
Kruger remembers watching Boozer play not long after that impressive victory.
“He was a terrific player. When you look back at his career, there is so much to respect,” Kruger said. “He was always very gracious, carried himself in a great manner and was very proud of his Wildcats.”