Funeral services were held Friday at Morningstar Baptist Church for Omaha native and basketball star Bob Boozer, who died last Saturday of a brain aneurysm at the age of 75.
He was one of the state's best basketball players, finding success at every level of the game. Those who knew him will tell you Boozer was more than just an athlete. Friday, there was one last cheer, one last standing ovation for the man who touched so many lives.
“Bob Boozer and I were All-Americans in 1959 and he was a great man, he was a great gentleman, he was intelligent, he was well-spoken and he was my best friend,” said former NBA player Tom Hawkins.
Boozer graduated from Tech High School and went on to win an Olympic gold medal and play pro basketball for 11 years before returning home to a successful business career.
Born April 26, 1937, Boozer attended Kansas State University and played for the 1960 undefeated Olympic team that won gold in Rome. Boozer was a two-time first-team All-American at Kansas State in 1958-59 and the number one draft choice of the NBA's Cincinnati Royals.
He played for the Royals, New York Knickerbockers, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Seattle Supersonics and Milwaukee Bucks, helping them win the 1971 championship before retiring with a 14.8 points per game average and 8.1 rebounds a game.
Everywhere he went he talked about the city he loved. “Bob loved Omaha,” said Hawkins. “He would always preach Omaha. I said, where the hell is Omaha?”
“There are many successes he had only known to God that do not appear in the headlines of papers," said The Rev. Dr. Leroy E. Adams Jr. of Morningstar Baptist Church. "Another measure of success is not what you have, but what you give that makes others successful."
With so many accomplishments, wife Ella told Channel 6 News last Sunday that Bob had a lot to be proud of. “He loves his gold medal, his championship ring, the torch that is right in back of me and the friends he met while playing in the NBA.”
Boozer returned to Omaha after his playing days and worked as an executive for the Northwestern Bell telephone company. It was his life off the court that brought him the most satisfaction.
"I think he was most proud of being able to beat the ghetto, you know he was on the parole board and all the fellas or women that came before him said you know we were born in the ghetto and he would say, so was I.”
Ella said he took pride in the fact he made the right choices and spread that message to kids. “He took a little cottage, one of the cottages at Boys Town under his wing and he said he was going to get another and the kids said you are ours.”
Boozer was a volunteer at Boys Town and a member of the Nebraska Parole Board. He was inducted into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
While he gave to Omaha, Omaha gave back, too, naming Bob Boozer Drive in his honor. "He was well loved," said Ella.
Boozer was interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery.