Bob Boozer, the most active 75-year-old you could ever know, died suddenly over the weekend. Friday afternoon he was fine. Saturday afternoon, a brain aneurysm had taken his life.
While Boozer’s name likely means very little to people of my generation, his place in Omaha history is almost unrivaled.
He is, without a doubt, the most accomplished basketball player the state has ever produced. He was a leader and role model, not only for blacks in his old neighborhood, but for whites who witnessed his class and integrity.
In February, I called Boozer to seek his opinion on Doug McDermott. If anyone could break down McDermott’s game, it was Boozer, who put up similar numbers at Kansas State in the late-50s.
Boozer’s response: He hadn’t seen McDermott play.
I was baffled. Really? Creighton has an All-American and you haven’t seen him? Boozer suggested we go to a game sometime. I called him a few weeks later, but he had a conflict.
The point is not to say Boozer didn’t care about McDermott. But even at 75, he had bigger issues on his agenda.
Upon retiring from the telephone company in the late 90s, Boozer couldn’t stand sitting around, so he accepted a position on the Nebraska Board of Parole, driving to Lincoln four days a week; the fifth day he spent in Omaha. Occasionally, I’d call his house at 7 or 8 at night seeking a comment for a story and he wasn’t home yet.
Boozer was No. 4 on The World-Herald’s list of greatest athletes in state history. But he didn’t seclude himself from the community. Nor did he spend much time re-living the glory days. He poured hours and hours back into Omaha, using his fame to help others. That’s the most important piece of Boozer’s legacy.
We’ll have much more on Boozer this week in The World-Herald.
>> The 2015-16 Big Ten football schedules came out this morning. Nebraska obviously kept Penn State (its official crossover rival). It was due to face Indiana. The question was whether the Huskers would draw Wisconsin or Ohio State. The answer was Wisconsin. I applaud the Big Ten’s decision. But I really wish the Nebraska-Wisconsin matchup could happen every year. It makes so much more sense than an annual clash with Penn State.
>> Can Nebraska win the Big Ten baseball tournament as a No. 4 seed? You have to like its chances better than a few weeks ago, especially with freshman lefty Kyle Kubat on a roll. Kubat can beat Michigan State. The question is, which starting pitcher can beat Purdue on Thursday?
>> Bo Pelini stands up for Alfonzo Dennard. I applaud Bo for saying what he thinks. But hopefully Dennard does indeed learn from his April incident on O Street. It may have been out-of-character, but it’s still a red flag.
>> Ridicule LeBron James if you must. But you better also enjoy him. Because there’s never been a player like him, says Michael Rosenberg.
>> James and Wade were unbelievable in Indy on Sunday. But Durant and Westbrook weren’t far behind Saturday night in Los Angeles. It’s incredible the poise and maturity the Thunder has demonstrated in the first two rounds. But beating San Antonio, which hasn’t lost a game since Manu Ginobili had a full head of hair, is the toughest stage of the gauntlet.
Here’s a few leftover links from last week (I didn’t post a blog on Friday):
>> I liked this Mike Bianchi paragraph from his column about Florida State: “If the Seminoles want to leave the ACC, fine. But here’s an even better idea: How about winning it every once in a while?”
>> I’ve never linked a story about ping pong, I mean, table tennis. But this is very good.
>> College football needs a commissioner, writes Clay Travis.
>> I missed this last week. A Missouri state senator GOES OFF on the rival Jayhawks. Hilarious.