Clyde Lovellette.jpg

No Kansas basketball player will wear the number 16 ever again — it's against NCAA rules

A banner with this number, which was famously adorned by the legendary Clyde Lovellette, ascended to the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse in 1992. Although his jersey retirement is an astounding feat, Lovellette most notably assisted in raising another banner, one which reads, “National Champions 1952.”

If it weren’t for the persistent recruiting of coach Phog Allen, Lovellette would have never been a Jayhawk. He had already committed to Indiana, so Allen traveled to his hometown of Terre Haute, Indiana, to attempt to convince him otherwise.

Lovellette recollected in an interview the moment he saw Allen arrive at his house.

“I said, ‘Dad, you just stay here. And when Phog comes, just tell him that I’m not home and try to get rid of him,’” Lovellette said.

Allen eventually talked his way inside and began persuading Lovellette to give Kansas a chance. Allen was successful, and Lovellette agreed to visit the campus. The all-state center was convinced, and he enrolled at the University of Kansas.

A key point in Allen’s rhetoric was his promise that Lovellette would lead the Jayhawks to a national championship, and that they would follow that victory with an Olympic gold medal in Helsinki.

Allen kept these promises.

In the 1951-52 season, Lovellette led the Jayhawks to an overall record of 22-2, which granted them entrance into the NCAA tournament where they played TCU in the first round. After securing the four-point victory, Kansas advanced to the second round to play St. Louis. Lovellette, a 6-foot-9 center, exploded for 44 points and propelled Kansas to the semifinals. In this round, the Jayhawks soundly defeated Santa Clara by 19 points.

In the national championship game, Lovellette once again personally willed Kansas to the victory. He scored 33 points while contributing 17 rebounds en route to an 80-63 win over St. John’s and Kansas’s first-ever NCAA Championship.

When he left Kansas, he was the Jayhawks’ all-time leading scorer. Currently, he is ranked fourth.

Lovellette proved himself as a truly dominant, multi-faceted player throughout his entire college career, and his accolades were awarded accordingly.

Lovellette remains the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring and win a championship in the same year. He was named Helms Foundation Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player of the 1952 NCAA Final Four and was a three-time All-American. He was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

Exactly four months after he led Kansas to the national title, Lovellette led his nation into Helsinki. As an instrumental contributor to his team, he averaged over 13 points per game. The Americans steamrolled their way to an Olympic gold without recording a loss.

As elite as Lovellette was on the collegiate and Olympic hardwood, his talents transcended equally, if not greater, when they were put to the test in the NBA.

Following his 1952 national championship campaign and gold medal excursion, Lovellette was drafted No. 9 overall by the Minneapolis Lakers.

Lovellette flirted with averaging a career double-double, as he averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in his 12 seasons. During his tenure, he spent time with the Minneapolis Lakers, Cincinnati Royals, St. Louis Hawks and Boston Celtics.

Lovellette was an NBA champion in his rookie season, 1954, with the Lakers. After departing Minneapolis, he ended his career with two championships with the Celtics in 1963 and 1964.

At the culmination of his extraordinary career, Lovellette encapsulated his career-long dominance with his induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.

In his naturally humble tone, Lovellette addressed the audience at his enshrinement speech.

“As a high school player back in Garfield in Terre Haute, I never thought I’d be here. As a college basketball player, I never thought I’d be here. As a pro player, I never thought I’d be here,” Lovellette said. “But I’m finally here, and it’s a great honor.”

Lovellette, the only Jayhawk to ever wear No. 16 at Kansas, remains regarded not only as an elite collegiate talent, but as an elite Olympian and professional as well. His dominance at all levels of the game solidify his legacy and adamantly justify his place in the rafters among the rest of the Kansas greats.