KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Bob Boozer, a two-time All-American for the Kansas State University men’s basketball team, put off his NBA career after being drafted first overall to compete in the 1960 Rome Olympics.
The decision paid off with a gold medal for the U.S., which went undefeated in eight games for the fifth consecutive Olympic Games en route to the championship.
Playing alongside fellow future Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, among others, Boozer and the 1960 U.S. Olympic team — the first all-star squad assembled for Olympic play — dominated all-comers.
Team USA cruised to first place in Group A, winning three games by an average margin of 45.7 points, then got better a four-team pool-play semifinal, winning by an average of 48 points per game to earn a berth in the final pool.
After finishing only third at the 1959 FIBA World Championships behind Brazil and the Soviet Union, the U.S. won every game by at least 24 points during the 1960 Olympics, including a 90-63 victory to ice the gold medal on Sept. 10, 1960.
Boozer, who averaged a then-school record 25.6 points per game as a senior at K-State, averaged 6.8 points during the Olympics.
He had been the No. 1 pick by the Cincinnati Royals and went on to become an NBA All-Star in 1968 during an 11-year career with Cincinnati, the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Seattle SuperSonics and Milwaukee Bucks.
Boozer averaged 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds in 874 career NBA games and won an NBA title during his final season with the Bucks in 1971.
Two years before his death in 2012, Boozer — a former high school teammate of Bob Gibson, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history — was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the 1960 Olympic team, which is considered the greatest amateur team in basketball history.
The team was inducted alongside the 1992 Olympic team, dubbed “The Dream Team.”
Boozer was inducted into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1990.
The versatile 6-foot-8 forward also won a gold medal at the 1959 Pan American Games.
Later in life, he and Gibson owned several radio stations in the Omaha region.
Boozer, who also worked for Northwestern Bell and did some college basketball broadcasting, was a two-time consensus All-American for the Wildcats (1958, 1959) and his No. 30 was retired by the school.
He was the first K-State basketball player to compete in the Olympics.
The Wildcats reached the Final Four during Boozer’s junior season, which also included the first of back-to-back Big Eight championships.
The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.
41 Action News and KSHB.com is your home of the Tokyo Olympics. Follow our coverage at kshb.com/sports/olympics and check out our complete list of 100 Kansas City-area Olympians as it is revealed.