Damn it, it’s time to stop shortchanging B.H. Born, a Kansas University basketball immortal who triple-doubled before we ever heard of Wilt Chamberlain or Cole Aldrich. Bert did it in a national championship game en route to being chosen most valuable player for the 1953 NCAA Final Four. No wonder his jersey is honored in Allen Fieldhouse.
Figure filberts went darn near orgasmic when sophomore Cole Aldrich got 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks against Dayton for the first official triple-double in Jayhawk history. There was, however, suitable recognition that the incomparable Wilt Chamberlain had at least two unofficial triple-doubles against Marquette (39-22-14) in 1956 and Colorado (40-13-12) in 1957.
But no reference to Born’s 26 points, 15 rebounds and 13 blocked shots, while battling a horrendous cold, in KU’s 69-68 loss to Indiana in the 1953 college title game. Indiana kept driving on B.H., a superlative defender, and fouled him out with 5:36 to go. Hoosier star Don Schlundt scored 30 points. But it was the willowy Medicine Lodge Pole from Kansas who was voted the tourney MVP, a heroic warrior who at 6-9 didn’t even break 200 pounds. Never admired any athlete more than I do Bert.
As for Wilt, Born helped bring him to Kansas while starring for the potent AAU Peoria Caterpillar-Diesels. Why not the NBA? Bert said a pro coach took him up to the Catskills in the mid-50s to evaluate a promising high school control tower from Philadelphia. B.H. said Chamberlain turned him inside out in workouts and he decided he’d do his best to steer Uncle Dippy to KU. Bert also concluded that if that was the kind of guy, along with Bill Russell, that he’d have to face in the NBA, he’d be better off to stay in the AAU ranks, which in those days were on the NBA level.
Again, the Born and Chamberlain triple-doubles at KU (Wilt actually had more than two) were unofficial. The NCAA started keeping track of rebounds in 1950-51, assists in 1983-84 and blocks in 1985-86. So those Born-Wilt feats had to be informalized until Aldrich came along to officialize a 10-plus, 10-plus, 10-plus performance for KU. Clyde Lovellette had 810 rebounds for 1950-51-52. No blocks listed.
Just think of all the college guys, like Born and Wilt, whose resumes are discounted because of too-late inclusion of assists and blocks. Wonder how many dishes Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson had. Or how many blocks Bob Kurland and Bill Russell actually registered as collegians.
Research by the late Don Pierce, KU sports publicist par excellence, showed Chamberlain had 182 confirmed blocks in ’56-57, an average of just under seven per game. He missed two games in ’57-58, but had 120 rejections, thus a two-year total of 302. Greg Ostertag is considered the KU record-holder for swats with 258 in four seasons, still 44 short of Chamberlain’s two-year number.
KU’s Cole Aldrich now has 90 blocks, eight shy of Ostertag’s single-season record. How about a 10-swat game against Michigan State?
But B.H. Born and Wilt were in the triple-double bin eons before Aldrich, official or not.
Still, let’s not forget Bert Born went 3-D first.