All the good ones have blemishes. The great ones understand that and will do anything to erase them.
Bob Boozer understood. That’s why for 15 straight offseasons — four at Kansas State and 11 in the NBA — he returned to Omaha and called his friend, Johnny Nared.
For 15 years, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they found an empty gym and got down to business. No dunk contests or half-court shootouts. Just lots of grunt work and attention to detail.
Nared, a former standout at Omaha Central, was the perfect remedy for a hotshot basketball player who was performing in front of thousands of adoring fans.
"He was so quick and so strong," Boozer said. "Playing 1-on-1 against him really improved my quickness on the outside. And he was not easy to score on inside, either."
Boozer averaged more than 19 points and 10 rebounds during his final three seasons at K-State and was the leading vote-getter on the Wildcats' 10-man Team of the Century. He helped KSU go 62-15 during his playing career, which included an appearance in the 1958 Final Four. In his senior season, Boozer averaged a then-school-record 25.6 points and was named a first-team All-American for the second time.
He was the No. 1 pick of the 1959 NBA draft, but he postponed his professional career in order to remain eligible for the 1960 Olympics, where he averaged 6.8 points in eight games and helped the U.S. win by an average of 42 points en route to a gold medal.
He averaged 14.8 points and 8.1 rebounds over 11 NBA seasons with six teams, with season-high averages of 21.7 points and 11.1 rebounds.
After starting his pro career as a reserve with the Cincinnati Royals and short stints with the Knicks and Lakers, he was taken by the Chicago Bulls in the 1966 expansion draft. He averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds as the Bulls made the playoffs in their first season and was named an All-Star in the franchise's second season. Boozer retired after winning a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971.
Boozer is one of just 10 players in Kansas State history to have their jerseys retired.
Boozer died in 2012 at age 75 because of a brain aneurysm.
Played for: Omaha Tech High, Kansas State Wildcats, Cincinnati Royals, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Seattle Super Sonics and Milwaukee Bucks
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Bob Gibson. "Has to be."
Best moment as an athlete: Winning an Olympic gold medal in Rome in 1960 and winning an NBA title in 1971 with the Bucks.
» 1960: Made his NBA debut with the Cincinnati Royals on Oct. 19.
Boozer was No. 4 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »