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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ex-NBA star, Olympian Boozer dies at age of 75


OMAHA, Nebraska — Bob Boozer was a star in college, an Olympic gold medalist and an 11-year professional who finished his playing career with an NBA championship.

News photo
Bob Boozer

His friends and family remember him more for his humility and service to others.

Boozer died of a brain aneurysm Saturday afternoon at an Omaha hospital. Ella Boozer, his wife of 46 years, said Sunday that he had become ill Friday night while visiting friends. He was 75.

"Bob always said that he got everything you could have ever gotten from playing basketball," she said.

Boozer was the No. 1 pick in the 1959 NBA Draft after he earned All-America honors his junior and senior seasons at Kansas State. The 203-cm forward retired after winning the 1971 NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks.

One of his great joys was playing with Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas on the gold medal-winning 1960 Olympic team. He went on to average 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds for six professional teams.

Boozer and his teammates on the '60 Olympic team were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. The star-studded squad won eight games by an average of 42.4 points, and 10 of the players reached the NBA. Boozer was a reserve who played mostly a defensive role.

"We had so many shooters on the Olympic team that he didn't get to shoot it like he did in college," Robertson said. "Bob never, ever complained."

The Olympic experienced forged a half-century friendship between Boozer and Robertson. The two spoke the day before Boozer died about projects Boozer had planned.

"Bob was a nice guy who wasn't too talkative, and neither was I," Robertson said. "We came from the same type of background and just hit it off. He was just a pleasure to be around."

Boozer rarely spoke about his basketball exploits unless asked. If he used his celebrity, it was to help him give back to his hometown, particularly helping inner-city youth in North Omaha.

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