Hall of Fame forward-center Clyde Lovellette, who won three NBA championships during his storied career, died Wednesday night. He was 86.
“Clyde was a link to our early years in Minnesota, and a key member of the 1954 championship team,” Lakers president Jeanie Buss said in a statement, per Mark Medina of Inside SoCal. “We’re proud that he was a Laker, and his passing is a sad day for our organization. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Lovellette family.”
Lovellette had been suffering from stomach cancer and died at his North Manchester, Indiana, home, his daughter Cindy confirmed to KUSports.com.
A 1988 inductee to the Basketball Hall of Fame, Lovellette was one of the most accomplished players of his generation. The 6'9" big man was a three-time All-American at Kansas, leading the Jayhawks to the 1952 national championship. He remains the school's fourth-leading scorer more than 60 years after his departure.
“Clyde’s passing is a big loss for anyone who has ever supported Kansas Athletics,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday. “He was a great player, a national champion and Olympic gold medalist. He was a beloved teammate and a great ambassador for his alma mater. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Lovellette led the United States to an Olympic gold medal in 1952 and briefly played semipro ball to keep his amateur status. Taken ninth overall by the Minneapolis Lakers after leaving school, Lovellette joined the team in 1953. He'd play his first four NBA seasons in Minneapolis, winning the 1954 championship and earning his first two All-Star berths.
After a brief stint with the Cincinnati Royals, Lovellette returned to All-Star form with the St. Louis Hawks. He was named an All-Star in 1960 and 1961 amid seasons where he averaged more than 20 points and 10 rebounds as he pushed past age 30. The Royals kept Lovellette for one more largely successful season, which was cut short to 40 games amid injuries.
Lovellette spent his final two seasons with the Boston Celtics as a backup to Bill Russell, earning his second and third rings.
Lovellette said the following of his game:
I started out with a good hook, and then I had a good one-handed shot. The hook shot has sort of gone away because not many people play with their back to the basket anymore. They’re big enough and moving quicker. They’re out there in front where they can see the basket. I shot my shot with my back to the basket, so I couldn’t see the basket. You had to have that touch and distance. It just came natural.
His career concluded with averages of 17.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. After walking away from the game in 1964, Lovellette became a member of law enforcement in Indiana.
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