Bob Boozer, the only two-time consensus first team All-American in K-State men’s basketball history and one of just 10 players to have his jersey honored by the school, passed away on Saturday at the age of 75 at his home in Omaha, Neb.
A 6-foot-8, 220-pound power forward from Omaha, Neb., Boozer played three years for Naismith and College Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Fred “Tex” Winter from 1956-59. He helped the Wildcats to an incredible 62-15 (.805) record during his three-year playing career, which included a trip to the 1958 Final Four and consecutive Big Seven/Eight Conference titles in 1958 and 1959.
Boozer averaged a then school-record 25.6 points per game as a senior en route to leading the school to the Big Eight regular season title with a perfect 14-0 mark and the No. 1 ranking in the final regular season poll of 1959. The scoring mark stood for nearly 50 years until Michael Beasley, who also wore No. 30 on his jersey, averaged 26.2 points per game in 2007-08. The Wildcats came within a game of its second consecutive Final Four, losing the Midwest Regional Final to No. 5 Cincinnati and fellow legend Oscar Robertson.
“I join K-Staters around the world in mourning the passing of Bob Boozer,” said K-State head 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. My thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Considered one of the most decorated players in K-State history, Boozer was the landslide leading vote-getter for the school’s All-Century Basketball team in 2003. A first team All-American in both 1958 and 1959, he averaged a double-double for his 77-game career with 21.9 points on 44 percent shooting with 10.7 rebounds per game. He is one of only two players (Willie Murrell) in school history to average 20 points and 10 rebounds in a career. In addition to All-American honors, he was one of only a handful of players to earn first team All-Big Eight honors three times. He is a member of the school’s Sports Hall of Fame, while his number 30 jersey was honored in 2005.
Although he played nearly 50 years ago, Boozer still ranks among numerous Top 10 lists for single-game, single-season and career records at K-State, including first in career 20-point games (45), second in career scoring average (21.9 ppg.), career 30-point games (10) and fourth in career points scored (1,685) and rebounds (824). He still owns the all-time marks for free throws made (529) and attempted (702), while his 23 makes (on 26 attempts) against Purdue on Dec. 1, 1958 remains No. 1 on the chart for most free throws made in a game.
“Bob Boozer is a K-State legend and one of the greatest basketball players to ever wear a K-State uniform,” said Athletics Director John Currie. “I enjoyed getting to know Bob and appreciate all that he did for Kansas State University. He will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Boozer family as we mourn his loss.”
The first Wildcat to play on an Olympic team, Boozer was part of the gold-medal winning 1960 U.S. Olympic team that was enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. Touted as the greatest basketball team in Olympic history, the 1960 U.S. squad went a perfect 8-0 in winning gold in Rome, averaging 101.9 points a game and posting an average margin of victory of 42.4 points. Boozer averaged 6.8 points per game in playing in all eight games. Coached by legendary coach Pete Newell, 10 members of the 12-man roster went on to play in the NBA.
Boozer was the No. 1 pick of the 1959 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals. He went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA for six different teams, including a four-year stint for the Royals from 1960-63 and again from 1963-64. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to the 1971 NBA title in his final season. Twice he averaged better than 20 points per game for the Chicago Bulls in 1967-68 and 1968-69. He scored 12,964 points (14.8 ppg.) on 46.2 percent shooting during his NBA career with 7,119 rebounds and 1,237 assists in 874 games.
Following his professional career, Boozer returned to his hometown of Omaha, where he built a career with Northwestern Bell (now CenturyLink). He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Ella.
Memorial services are pending.