Carlos Boozer is a player who invokes heated discussion amongst NBA and Bulls fans alike but it’s not the Bulls power forward who will be gracing the pages of NBA Nation Australia in this piece, no, it will be the Bulls original Boozer, Bob Boozer.
The Chicago Bulls were welcomed into the National Basketball Association at the start of the 1966-67 season and amongst its inaugural players was one Bob Boozer.
Boozer was a 6’8, 215 pound forward from Omaha, Nebraska and was born on the 26th April, 1937.
He played his college ball for Kansas State University where he was a two time All-American in 1958 and 1959. He went on to play for the gold medal winning United States Olympic team at the 1960 Rome games alongside greats such as Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. The team won eight games in Rome by an average of 42.4 points!
Boozer’s NBA career began in the 1960-61 season when he was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals as the number one overall pick. He went on to average 8.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game his rookie season.
Boozer spent the next five seasons playing for the Royals, Knicks and Lakers before he was drafted in the NBA’s expansion draft in 1966. The expansion draft saw the Bulls able to pick 18 players from all NBA teams to fill their roster in their first ever season. Each team was able to ‘protect’ seven of their players from being drafted by the Bulls. Boozer was selected from the Los Angeles Lakers after posting 12.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in the 1965-66 NBA season.
The Bulls first season in the NBA would be the catalyst for Boozer’s rise to an elite NBA player and one that is forever ingrained in Bulls folklore.
The Chicago Bulls went on to win their first three games as a franchise and would go on to a playoff appearance in their first year on the big stage. Boozer led the team in scoring at 18 points per game along with point guard Guy Rodgers, who also averaged 18.
The 1967-68 season began disastrously for Chicago as they dropped nine straight but it was Boozer and Jerry Sloan who would help break the drought for them in a game against the Seattle Supersonics on the 31st October 1967. The Lewiston Evening Journal had this to say on Boozer’s impact on the game.
“The Chicago Bulls have finally won their first game in the National Basketball Association this season after nine straight defeats. They beat Seattle 119-105 Thursday night in the only game scheduled.
The Bulls came from behind against Seattle on a neutral court at Spokane. Bob Boozer and Jerry Sloan sparked a 25-10 Chicago burst in the last seven minutes.
Boozer finished with 29 points.”
The 1967-68 season was to become Boozer’s best season in the NBA as he averaged 21.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game while shooting a career high 49.2% from the field. He also made his only All Star appearance that same year.
He would spend a total of three seasons playing for the Bulls and they would turn out to be his best years statistically as he averaged 20.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in that time.
In 1969 he was traded to the Seattle Supersonics where he played one year before going to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 1970-71 season.
The Bucks won the title that season behind the stellar play of a young Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and The Big O, Oscar Robertson. Boozer played an integral part in the championship winning team, playing 20.2 minutes per game in the playoffs and averaging 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in the post-season.
Boozer retired after the championship winning season with Milwaukee at the age of 33. He would return to his hometown of Omaha Nebraska, working as a telephone company executive and later working at a home for troubled youth.
He passed away on May the 19th, 2012 at the age of 75. He will be remembered as an integral part of the early days of Chicago Bulls basketball and a damn fine player with a hook shot to match.