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The Very First 'Dream Team'

Editor's Note: Today is the second of a two-part story on Bob Boozer, who tonight will become only the second Kansas State basketball player/coach to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The first Wildcat inductee was former coach Jack Gardner in 1984.
 
After a 27-year career with Northwestern Bell in Omaha, Neb., Boozer has served on the State of Nebraska Board of Parole for the last 13 years.
 
By Mark Janssen
 
Featuring Oscar Robertson and the two Jerry's - West and Lucas - the 1960 United States Olympic team might have been the first "Dream Team" before the label was invented by the 1992 unit that headlined Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.
 
"We were recognized as a strong team. For its time, one certainly to be compared to the 'Dream Teams' of today," said former K-Stater Bob Boozer, now 73 and living in Omaha, Neb. "We were a team recognized as one that should win the Gold and we did. We definitely think we were the first 'Dream Team.'"
 
The USA did win Gold, going 8-0, averaging 101.9 points and winning games by a 42.4-point average. Yes, that is a greater margin of victory than the 1992 gang won their collection of games on their way to a golden finish.
 
"It was like a team we had at K-State. We were a family," said Boozer. Laughing, "We were special. We had some horses, and it was fun to watch the horses run. Like at K-State, we got the ball off the board and we were off to the races."
 
While it was natural that Robertson, Lucas and West received the headlines, Boozer said it was a team without egos.
 
"We had a group of starters, but we substituted five-for-five and that second group really got after you," said Boozer, who was one of the reserves and averaged 8.6 point in Olympic competition. "We had teams play with us in the first half, but our strength was the second half when we just wore teams down. We were over-powering."
 
The USA scored at least 104 points in five of the eight games, which included a 112-81 victory over host Italy in the semifinals before a 90-63 thumping of Brazil for the gold medal.
 
THE CEREMONY: To this day, Boozer calls his days at Kansas State the best experience of his life.
 
After his three years in Manhattan from 1957 through 1959, he says, "To win the gold medal, to represent your country, to hear the star spangled banner ... that ranks ahead of anything I did professionally, which includes winning the NBA championship when I was with Milwaukee. But that K-State experience ... it was No. 1."
 
OLYMPIC RESULTS: The USA team went 8-0, winning games by an average of 42.4 points per game. At the time, the eight wins stretched the USA's Olympic win streak to 36 consecutive games.
 
1960 Scores: USA 88, Italy, 54; USA 125, Japan 66; USA 107, Hungary, 63; USA 104, Yugoslavia 42; USA 81, USSR 57; USA 108, Uruguay 50; USA 112, Italy 81; USA 90, Brazil 63.
 
THAT FUNNY BALL:  "It was more like a soccer ball," said Boozer of the ball used in the Olympic Games. "I guess they called it an International Ball, but it certainly wasn't a basketball like we were used to."
 
Boozer said the ball was so strange that players couldn't shoot a shot of much distance because it would "move around in the air."
 
POST-OLYMIPCS: After the Olympic Games, Boozer was still the property of the Cincinnati Royals.
 
"At one time, Cincinnati traded my rights to St. Louis, but I ended up back in Cincinnati when neither team found out they could sign me," said Boozer. "Both teams tried to tell me I was a fool and that I was such a long shot to make the Olympic team, but I just told them I had one opportunity and I was going to take it."
 
Boozer would play 11 years in the NBA - Royals, Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, Supersonics and Bucks - scoring 12,964 points, snaring 7,119 rebounds and handing out 1,237 assists.
 
In 1968, he was an All-Star Game starter and in 1971 he helped a Bucks' team headlined by Lew Alcindor to the NBA championship.
 
ONE MORE STORY: Boozer says he's stayed in touch with Robertson more so than any other of his Olympic teammates. Frequently, he says, stories are re-re-re-re-told of the Kansas State vs. Cincinnati games.
 
The first was in 1958 in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Lawrence where the Wildcats defeated Cincy, 83-80, in double-overtime.
 
Laughing, Boozer said, "He still says he was cheated. I forget if it was regulation or overtime, but we led by two with only a few seconds left when he was fouled. Well, he made the first one, but when the ref threw him the ball, he put it on the floor and started to walk to the other end of the floor shaking his hands trying to get them loose.
 
"At the same time, the referee was making the 10-count. His teammates started hollering at him to come shoot, but by the time he got back to the ball, the count was at eight, so he had to hurry his shot and he missed it," Boozer said. "He missed it, and I guarantee you it was all purple and white around the rim for the rebound and we beat them."
 
Chuckling again, "To this day, and he's serious about it. He thinks Cincinnati was robbed."
 
The next year the "Big O" and the Bearcats got sweet revenge with an 85-75 victory over the then 25-1 and No. 1 ranked Wildcats, ending their season in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.