Originally published February 4, 2013 at 05:41p.m., updated February 5, 2013 at 12:13a.m.

KU basketball great B.H. Born dies

Kansas men's basketball great B.H. Born died Sunday at the age of 80.

Kansas men's basketball great B.H. Born died Sunday at the age of 80.


Former Kansas University men’s basketball great B.H. Born, a member of the 1952 NCAA title team whose jersey hangs in the Allen Fieldhouse rafters, died Sunday in Peoria, Ill., Born’s son David said Monday. Born was 80.

“We heard this morning about the passing of B.H. Born,” KU coach Bill Self said Monday. “He’s one of the very few people that have been the most outstanding player of the Final Four on the team that did not win a national championship. He was certainly a gentleman and a great ambassador for KU through the years. Our sympathies certainly go out to his family as they go through this difficult time. I’m sure our KU family is saddened today but also very proud of the legacy that he left as a faithful Jayhawk.”

A 6-foot-9 center from Medicine Lodge, Born played for Kansas coach Phog Allen from 1952-54, when KU won three conference titles and amassed a 63-14 combined record. His sophomore year, Kansas won the 1952 NCAA championship, posting a 28-3 overall record and 11-1 Big Seven Conference title mark.

In 1953, Born became the center of attention for the Jayhawks and established himself as one of the country’s best centers. He was named All-American and first-team All-Big Seven. That same year, Born was selected as the most outstanding player in the NCAA Tournament, becoming the first player to win the award from a non-championship team. KU fell to Indiana, 69-68, in the 1953 NCAA title game, and Born had 26 points, 15 rebounds and 13 blocked shots in the Jayhawks’ effort. Though unofficial, it is believed to be KU’s first ever triple-double.

“He was outstanding on that ’53 team. He carried them,” noted former KU player and assistant coach Jerry Waugh. “He was really good at blocking shots when people drove toward him. He was a small-town guy who was a very good person.”

In Born’s senior season, he was named to the All-Big Seven First Team. He led Kansas in scoring his junior and senior seasons with an average of 18.9 ppg in 1953 and 19.0 ppg in 1954. He went on to represent the USA in winning the gold medal at the 1954 World Championships.

Following his KU career, the Fort Wayne Pistons selected Born with the 22nd overall pick in the third round of the 1954 NBA Draft, but he did not join the team. In the mid-1950s he played for an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team in Peoria, Ill.

Born’s KU jersey No. 23 was retired on Feb. 15, 1992, in a ceremony honoring the 1952 NCAA title team. A member of the KU Athletics Hall of Fame, the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame, Born would frequently come back and visit KU. He had planned to return for the 115th Year of KU Basketball celebration later this month.

“He was an incredible guy who came here at 6-9, 190, and worked his butt off to become great. I never covered a KU athlete I admired more than I did B.H.,” said former Journal-World executive editor Bill Mayer, who covered Born during his KU career. “He became great as a KU junior and senior and had a tremendous record with the Peoria Caterpiller-Diesels. Home town was Medicine Lodge, Kan. He became one of the finest representatives KU has ever had. I’m so glad his jersey hangs in the fieldhouse.”

Born was the first person to notify Allen and assistant Dick Harp of the prowess of former Jayhawk great Wilt Chamberlain.

The Journal-World’s Mayer reports that in the early 1950s, many college court standouts spent summers working for resort hotels in New York’s Borscht Belt in the Catskills. The players would have day jobs, then play games against teams from other hotels to the delight of their guests. As a high schooler, Chamberlain played for the Kutsher’s resort. Born played for another hotel.

“He turned me inside out,” Born told Mayer of his first game against Wilt. “I’d never seen college guys do some of the things he did, dunking, blocking, running along with the speediest little guys ... it was almost terrifying. Several times I just wanted to save my life. I think he got something like 29 off me, and I was supposed to be able to play defense.”


jakejayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, Mr. Born, for being a part of the Jayhawk legacy. Always great when our Kansas products become part of a national, and even international championship team. My prayers are with the family. Know that Jayhawk Nation mourns with you.

KU_alum_2001 7 years, 10 months ago

One of the men that helped establish what the Kansas Jayhawk legacy and tradition is today. RIP and Rock Chalk, Mr. Born.

Bert White 7 years, 10 months ago

Truly was one of the all time greats to of passed through KU, RIP Bert

kay_you 7 years, 10 months ago

I hope they do something as well. I think the patch on the jerseys would be fitting. It also lets the current players know they are all part of this family of players that spans through generations.

Rest In Peace Mr. Born.

ahpersecoachingexperience 7 years, 10 months ago

Pay heed Another spirit joined the rafters of AFH

mikehawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Rest in peace dear friend. Blessings and peace to his family and friends.

moonlightschlademan 7 years, 10 months ago

One of Medicine Lodge's finest. He will be missed. He truly was an amazing talent. I like the idea of honoring his passing. He was one of the best ever at KU.

dickmerkin 7 years, 10 months ago

Bill Mayer wrote some great columns about Born and teams from that era. I remember one that said, no one else on the team was over 6'2". Born worked his tail off. If Charlie Hoag would have been healthy enough to play, they would have had back-to-back titles. Truly under-rated. My condolences to his family. I like the patch idea.

FearlessJayhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

Those were great KU memories. I remember my Dad going to see BH and Wilt when Allen Field House was new.

VaJay 7 years, 10 months ago

He must've been incredible in the Final Four, getting MVP without being on the winning team. That's a very rare occurrence. Too bad we can't enjoy those moments on screen. LLJ's idea of a patch is a great idea. Hope the team does it. Rock Chalk Mr. Born & thank you!

Ludwig Supraphonic 7 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the great article. I can only imagine how dominant Mr. Born would have been at Medicine Lodge. Odd to note Medicine Lodge is currently a school in search of a league to join. Years ago they were a southwestern Kansas football power.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 10 months ago

Give Wilt a hug from all of us. God Bless.

Kimistry 7 years, 10 months ago

B. H. Born's jersey was retired at Medicine Lodge High School and the street in front of the school where he played basketball during high school was renamed B. H. Born Blvd. Just a little more information on a great person.

nostradavid 7 years, 9 months ago

Thank you for being a Jayhawk, B.H.Born.

Tom Richmond 7 years, 9 months ago

I watched B.H. play in 1952-1953. We won it all in '52 with Clyde and were not expected to be that good in 1953. B.H. took us all the way to the final and we almost won back to back titles.

Historical note:

Until Feb. 1955 we played our home games in Hoch Auditorium which was more of a theater than a basketball venue. The game was played on a stage and fans watched mainly from one side, although there were seats on the far side. (see photo)

Phoghorn 7 years, 9 months ago

Yes, I can remember attending a few events in Hoch, although never a basketball game. I am amazed how they actually managed to fit a basketball court in there.

I wonder what KU would have eventually done with that place had it not burned. They were always so concerned about the place being a firetrap. The Lied Center was in the process of being built, though not completed when Hoch burned.

RIP Mr. Born. Wish I could have had the opportunity to see you play in person!

bob81 7 years, 9 months ago

My first job after KU was as a Mechanical Engineer at Caterpillar. On my first day in 1981 the person who did my orientation and welcomed me to the company was Bert Born. He towered over me and joked that his height was "Five foot twenty-two." He was a really nice person and was excited that there was another Jayhawk joining the company. We talked about KU and his time playing for the Peoria Caterpillars. Every time I see his jersey at the fieldhouse I remember that day. Rest in peace Mr. Born and Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

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