All-amateur 1960 U.S. Olympic team joins basketball's elite
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. --
But Kelley is proof that appearances -- and resumes -- can be deceiving.
Friday morning, Kelley stood at Center Court in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, pulled on his official blazer and posed for pictures along with
Never mind the fact that Kelley didn't play a day of professional basketball. He helped Kansas win the NCAA championship in 1952, was a star in the old National Industrial Basketball League, saw his Olympic dream come true in Rome, and is walking with the game's giants during this week's Hall of Fame festivities.
"This is the highlight of your life, to be with a group like this," Kelley said, surrounded not only by his 1960 teammates but also by the 1992 Olympic team known the Dream Team. "[Playing in the Olympics] was more than a basketball game, it was a representation of America, our way of life, our economic system and the fact we have our comfort.
"There's nothing like getting a gold medal and hearing the national anthem. I'm still reminded of it today when I go to a game at the University of Kansas and you hear the Star Spangled Banner. It's a passion for your country that really sticks with you every day of your life."
Led by Robertson, West,
But those Olympics were played at time of civil unrest in the U.S., a space race and the brewing Cold War with the Soviet Union. Kelley, who saw limited time in Rome and scored only four points, said the tension between the two countries could be felt on the floor when the U.S. defeated the Soviets, 81-57. West spoke about his pride in a team accomplishment, by a team that was "truly amateur."
Fifty years ago, the Olympic team was a collection of college All-Stars and the top players from corporately sponsored amateur teams in the NIBL. That's where Kelley got his chance, as a guard for coach Warren Womble's Peoria Caterpillars, one of the ruling amateur teams from 1945-60.
Basketball was a different world too.
"It was a lot different then because the AAU controlled everything," Robertson said. "Now there are no amateurs anymore in anything."
The college All-Stars' domination of the amateur teams that year brought an end to the AAU's rule of the selection process, which began when basketball was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1936. Kelley, inspired by his older brother,
"I've still got the letter and the offer was $5,000," Kelley said. "I think they wanted me to pay my way out there and then I had to make the team. I decided Caterpillar was more stability, so I went to Peoria and visited there. AAU was the place to be.
"But you went to work every day and we practiced after work. When we were gone on [game] trips, somebody had to cover your job. Your salary was based on your job, and you were reviewed every year by your boss -- basketball had nothing to do with it."
In Springfield, Kelley had a chance to renew his friendship with 1960 teammate
"I delayed going into the NBA for one year in order to tryout [for the Olympic team]," Boozer said. "There was no guarantee. I'd always wanted to play in the Olympics, from the time I was a little guy in Omaha. And I made up my mind it was only going around my way one time. I was going to do whatever I could in order to obtain that goal."
"There has been some serious, serious trash talking going on," Barkley said.
Boozer, a 6-8 forward, averaged 6.8 points for the 1960 team that defeated Brazil 90-63 for the gold medal.
"It probably would have been an interesting match up [with the 1992 team], if we had an opportunity at our prime," Boozer said. "But they were awful big. I think that would have been somewhat of a decisive factor."
Kelley played in five of the eight Olympic games. He also got the opportunity to go against Robertson and West in practice. Robertson gave Boozer, Kelley and all his teammates credit, for supplying a strong bench and perfectly running drills in practice.
For a humble guy like Allen, it was enough that he got to fulfill his Olympic dream. He never had any idea his ticket would get punched all the way to the Hall of Fame.
"As a player, you didn't have to play long with Oscar and
"Players know who the best players are. So it was kind of nice to have a front-row seat and just watch the boys perform."