Kurland with the Phillips 66ers.
December 23, 1924|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died||September 29, 2013
Sanibel Island, Florida
|Listed height||7 ft 0 in (2.13 m)|
|Listed weight||220 lb (100 kg)|
|High school||Jennings (Jennings, Missouri)|
|College||Oklahoma State (1942–1946)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Basketball Hall of Fame as player|
|College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006
Robert Albert "Bob" Kurland (December 23, 1924 – September 29, 2013) was a 7 feet (2.1 m) American basketball center, who played for the two-time NCAA champion Oklahoma A&M Aggies (now Oklahoma State Cowboys) basketball team. He led the U.S. basketball team to gold medals in two Summer Olympics, and led his AAU team to three national titles. He is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Kurland, a Missouri native, considered attending the University of Missouri. But when Oklahoma A&M played a game at Saint Louis University, A&M coach Henry Iba invited Kurland to dinner and offered him a scholarship. Missouri could only offer Kurland a job. Many of Kurland's family members had not finished high school, and Kurland was the first in his family to attend college at any level.
Kurland was an integral part of the team's consecutive NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946, and was named the NCAA Basketball Tournament Most Outstanding Player both times. In the 1945-46 season, he scored a then-season record 643 points, including 58 in a game against Saint Louis University, which featured 6-8 freshman Ed Macauley. Kurland was voted Helms Foundation College Basketball Player of the Year.
Kurland was known to leap above the rim to grab opponents' shots. This lead to the NCAA banning defensive goaltending in 1945. Kurland was also the first person to regularly dunk during games. The rivalry between him and De Paul's George Mikan would foreshadow similar matchups, especially those of basketball's "big men."
In college, Kurland was active in many campus activities, including the student council, for which he served as president in 1945 and 1946. He graduated with a bachelor of science in education.
Kurland never played professional basketball, passing up the newly formed Basketball Association of America and National Basketball League (which would merge, forming the National Basketball Association), to play for Phillips Petroleum's A.A.U. team, the Oilers. Kurland played for six years with Phillips, winning three championships.
Since Kurland never played professionally, he was eligible as an amateur for the Olympic Games. In the 1948 Summer Oympics in London, England, he led the U.S. basketball team to the gold medal. He was second on the team in scoring (behind Alex Groza) as the U.S. defeated France in the gold medal game, 65-21. In the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, Kurland carried the U.S. flag in the opening ceremony. He was again a dominant force at center as the U.S. defeated the Soviet Union in the gold medal game, 36-25.
Kurland received post-graduate management training at Stanford University. He became a salesman for Phillips Petroleum Company, where he played AAU basketball, and later served as a senior marketing executive. He held a variety of positions, including ones responsible for the development of the self-service gas station concept, growth of the agricultural and plastics divisions, and management of marketing initiatives. His corporate responsibilities took his family to Denver, Wichita, Memphis, Cincinnati and Atlanta. Ultimately, the family returned to the home of Phillips Petroleum, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where Kurland served as vice mayor and as a member of the city commission for several years. He retired from Phillips in 1985.
After retirement, Kurland and his wife, Barbara, divided time between their homes in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and Sanibel Island, Florida.
Kurland died at his Florida home on September 29, 2013 at age 88. He was survived by his wife of 62 years, Barbara, their four children Alex, Ross, Dana, and Barbara, and seven grandchildren.
- "Oral History Interview With Robert A. Kurland" (PDF). O-State Stories. April 7, 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- Goldstein, Richard (September 30, 2013), "Bob Kurland, 88, Pioneer for Basketball’s Big Men, Dies", The New York Times
- Kerkhoff, Blair (September 30, 2013). "Bob Kurland, credited as first player to dunk in a basketball game, dies at 88". The Kansas City Star. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
- National Polish-American Sports HOF profile
- Voices of Oklahoma interview with Bob Kurland. First person interview conducted on January 27, 2011 with Bob Kurland. Original audio and transcript archived with Voices of Oklahoma oral history project.