100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Clyde Lovellette, basketball

Lovellette Lienhard Hougland
Posted at 8:00 AM, Jul 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-05 09:00:21-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Clyde Lovellette became the first player to win NCAA, Olympic and NBA championships.

Lovellette, an Indiana native, chose the University of Kansas for college, where he led the Jayhawks to the 1952 NCAA title as a senior.

He averaged 24.5 points and 10.2 rebounds in 77 career games with KU — averaging an eye-popping 28.4 points, which led the country, and 12.8 rebounds in 1951-52.

During the 1952 NCAA final against St. John’s University, Lovellette scored 33 points, with 17 rebounds, during an 80-63 Jayhawks win.

The 6-foot-9 Lovellette was a two-time first-team All-American and remains the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring and win a national title in the same season.

This AP file photo shows Clyde Lovellette of Kansas. On Tuesday March 6, 2012 Lovellette was announced as part of the 10-member class that will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November. The rest of the class includes Patrick Ewing from Georgetown, Earl Monroe from Winston-Salem State and Willis Reed of Grambling. was selected along with North Carolina's Phil Ford and Wyoming's Kenny Sailors. Dave Robbins, who won more than 700 games at Virginia Union, and joins former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall as the two coaches to be inducted. Businessmen Jim Host and Joe Dean will go in as contributors.

After leading a Kansas-dominated team to a win in the subsequent Olympic qualifying tournament, Lovellette turned down an $80,000 pro contract — more than $786,000 adjusted for inflation — to play in the 1952 Helsinki Games.

Lovellette led the U.S., which went undefeated in eight games, in scoring at 13.9 points per game.

The Soviet Union deployed a stall tactic in the Olympic final, but it didn’t change the outcome. Lovellette scored a game-high nine points in a 36-35 U.S. victory.

The Minneapolis Lakers picked Lovellette, who was known for his bruising and physical style of play, at No. 10 overall in the 1952 draft, but he initially played instead for the Bartlesville (Oklahoma) Phillips 66ers and led them to an AAU national title.

He joined the Lakers for the 1953-54 season, averaging 8.2 points and 5.8 rebounds for the NBA champions, as fellow Hall of Fame center George Mikan’s backup.

During the next eight NBA seasons — three more with Minneapolis, one with Cincinnati and four with St. Louis — Lovellette averaged 20.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in 526 games, becoming a four-time All-Star.

Paired with another Hall of Famer, Bob Pettit, in St. Louis, the Hawks reached the NBA Finals in 1959 and 1961 only to lose to the Boston Celtics.

Lovellette joined the Celtics as the backup to yet another Hall of Fame teammate, Bill Russell, for his final two seasons, adding NBA championships in 1963 and 1964.

After broadcasting Indiana State and high school games, Lovellette became the Vigo County sheriff for two terms.

Lovellette was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982, selected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and KU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.

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.

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