Clyde Lovellette, one of basketball’s preeminent big men of the 1950s, who led the University of Kansas to a national title in 1952 and also played on Olympic and NBA championship teams during his Hall of Fame career, died March 9 at his home in North Manchester, Ind. He was 86.
His family confirmed the death to the Associated Press. The cause was stomach cancer.
The 6-foot-9 Mr. Lovellette (pronounced lo-VELL-ett) was the foremost big player in college basketball in the early 1950s and a three-time all-American.
He led the nation in scoring during his senior year, averaging 28.4 points per game in an age before college basketball adopted the shot clock and the three-point field goal. He remains the only player in NCAA history to win the scoring title and a national championship in the same year.
Mr. Lovellette was a hulking 245 pounds, and his size was considered almost freakish for his era: He was variously nicknamed the Monster, the Beast, the Towering Terror, the Ambling Alp and the Great White Whale.
But he was unusually agile for a big man and often played on the perimeter, where he used a soft shooting touch to score at ease with a one-handed set shot or a sweeping hook shot. On defense, he was an intimidating presence and a strong rebounder who often initiated fast breaks with long, precise outlet passes.
During the 1952 NCAA Tournament, Mr. Lovellette set one record after another, scoring 31, 44 and 33 points in consecutive victories as he led Kansas to the final game in Seattle against St. John’s University of New York.
Mr. Lovellette scored the first basket of the game, and the Jayhawks never trailed. He ended up with 33 points and 17 rebounds as Kansas won its first NCAA title, 80-63. Mr. Lovellette was named the most valuable player and set records for most points scored in the tournament — 141 — and the most in a single game, 44.
The team, which finished with a 28-3 record, was greeted by thousands of students on the campus in Lawrence, Kan. Mr. Lovellette took the wheel of a fire truck driving through town.
After graduating in 1952, Mr. Lovellette resisted offers from the National Basketball Association in order to preserve his amateur status. He and six of his Kansas teammates, along with their coach, Forrest “Phog” Allen, formed the nucleus of the U.S. Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal at the Summer Games in Helsinki.
In 1953, Mr. Lovellette joined the Minneapolis Lakers of the NBA as the backup to 6-foot-10 George Mikan. The Lakers won the NBA title in 1954, and Mr. Lovellette led the team in scoring the next two years. (The franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1960.)
He later played with the Cincinnati Royals, St. Louis Hawks and Boston Celtics, averaging 17 points and 9.5 rebounds a game during his career. He scored a career-best 23.4 points a game with Cincinnati in the 1957-58 season.
In St. Louis from 1958 to 1962, he was part of a high-scoring front line with fellow Hall of Famers Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan. Mr. Lovellette spent his final two seasons with the Celtics, winning NBA championships in 1963 and 1964 under Hall of Fame coach Red Auerbach.
During his 11-year NBA career, Mr. Lovellette acquired a reputation as a rough player adept at such questionable tactics as stepping on opponents’ feet, tugging their shorts and elbowing them in the ribs. One time, Wilt Chamberlain — who broke Mr. Lovellette’s scoring records at Kansas — grew so frustrated that he punched Mr. Lovellette in the jaw, knocking him to the floor.
“My strength was I could shoot, I was strong, I was not going to be intimidated and I was so mean,” Mr. Lovellette told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1987. “I caused a lot of controversy as far as roughness goes. I took my lumps and gave them.”
Clyde Edward Lovellette was born Sept. 7, 1929, in Petersburg, Ind., and grew up in Terre Haute. His father was a railroad engineer.
As a high school freshman, Mr. Lovellette stood an ungainly 6-4 and was put through rigorous drills by his coach to improve his coordination and jumping ability.
Coming out of high school, Mr. Lovellette was recruited by more than 50 colleges — some of which tried to entice him with cars, cash and even a house, he later said. He chose Kansas, where he played for Allen, a Hall of Fame coach who learned basketball from the sport’s inventor, James A. Naismith. (One of Mr. Lovellette’s Kansas teammates was Dean Smith, who went on to become a Hall of Fame coach at the University of North Carolina.)
Mr. Lovellette was a sportscaster, cattle rancher, country-club manager and teacher before finding a niche as a counselor with a program for troubled youths in Terre Haute. He retired in 1995.
He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988 and the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
His first marriage, to Sally Wheeler, ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife of 45 years, the former Judy Wray, of North Manchester; three daughters from his first marriage; a stepson; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
After retiring from the NBA, Mr. Lovellette was elected sheriff of Indiana’s Vigo County, where Terre Haute is located. He cut an imposing figure, with his revolver and sheriff’s hat, but some local officials were angered when he decided to attack the city’s reputation as a haven of vice.
In 1969, Mr. Lovellette and his deputies raided about a dozen houses of prostitution and sent their madams to jail. Several months later, when Mr. Lovellette ran for reelection, he was voted out of office.