Bill Lienhard was born in Slaton, Texas. He went to college at the University of Kansas, where he was a member of the 1952 NCAA Champion basketball team. He was then part of the American Olympic basketball team, which won the gold medal. He played a total of five matches during the Summer Games in Helsinki. After the Olympics, he joined the Air Force, where he continued to play basketball. Upon leaving the Air Force, he retired from the sport and lived as a banker in Kansas.