Kentucky great Bob Burrow, holder of records that might never be broken, dies at 84

Bob Burrow played just two seasons for Kentucky (1954-56), but averaged more than 20 points per game and earned All-America honors in both. Burrow died Thursday at age 84 in Franklin, Tenn.
Bob Burrow played just two seasons for Kentucky (1954-56), but averaged more than 20 points per game and earned All-America honors in both. Burrow died Thursday at age 84 in Franklin, Tenn. UK Athletics

Bob Burrow, a college transfer who became one of the greatest players ever to put on a Kentucky uniform, died Thursday, according to UK. He was 84.

“Bob Burrow occupies a special place in Kentucky basketball history,” UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a press release. “In two short years, he left an incredible legacy and set records that stand six decades later. As a UK Athletics family, we offer our condolences to his family and friends.”

Burrow had his No. 50 retired to the rafters in Rupp Arena in 1999.

Burrow played for Adolph Rupp for two seasons beginning in 1954, quickly establishing himself as a star after transferring from Lon Morris Junior College in Texas.

Averaging 20.1 points per game at UK, Burrow became the eighth member of the 1,000-point club and remains the third-fastest player to reach that milestone. His career scoring average remains fourth on UK’s all-time list. His 50 points in a single game against LSU in 1956 ranks fifth. Burrow’s 1,023 points ranks 56th in UK history

Kentucky great Bob Burrow smiled as he had his jersey retired to the rafters of Rupp Arena before UK’s game against South Carolina on Feb. 13, 1999. Mark Cornelison Herald-Leader file photo

In an age when the term double-double probably wasn’t in the basketball lexicon yet, Burrow racked them up with ease, averaging a double-double each season. In 1954-55, he averaged 17.7 rebounds per game, still the best single-season average in school history. His 14.6 average the next year ranks fourth all-time.

He’s also co-holder of the record for most rebounds in a game at UK, a feat the Herald-Leader’s Mark Story listed among the 10 UK basketball records that will likely never be broken in a 2018 column. Burrow grabbed 34 boards against Temple on Dec. 10, 1955. Bill Spivey did the same against Xavier on Feb. 13, 1951.

Former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall on Friday called Burrow a “great, great rebounder. One of the best.”

What made Burrow so effective in Hall’s estimation?

“Well, he was bigger than everybody. He was a big kid,” Hall said of Burrow, who was listed at 6-foot-7, 215 pounds. “And he was strong and aggressive. And he knew how to play. I remember him being a very smart-type player. He knew how to present himself for the ball, get himself open, pin his man.

“He was the ultimate post man.”

Burrow’s career average of 16.1 rebounds per game is almost three rebounds higher than Cliff Hagan, the official record holder of the mark because Hagan played the required 60 games to have it. Burrow played only 51 games.

Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp, left, posed for a photo with, from left, Bob Burrow, Billy Evans and assistant coach Harry Lancaster on Nov. 2, 1954. It was Burrow’s first season with the Cats. Herald-Leader file photo

Burrow was named a Second Team All-American by the Helms Foundation and Third Team All-American by the Associated Press in 1955. In 1956, he earned NCAA Consensus Second Team All-America honors with first-team nods from the National Association of Basketball Coaches and Look Magazine.

Burrow led the Cats to the 1955 Southeastern Conference title and was a two-time All-SEC honoree and two-time NCAA All-Regional Team member in 1955 and 1956.

He was named to the UK Athletics Hall of Fame as a member of the 2005 charter class.

Burrow was selected by the Rochester Royals in the 1956 NBA Draft and played two seasons in the NBA.

After his playing career, he coached boys’ basketball and taught at Fort Knox High School from 1958-67 before becoming assistant principal in 1967. He took over as principal in 1968 and remained in the post until 1980. He served as the assistant superintendent of business of the Fort Knox Community Schools from 1980 until 1993 and finished his career as the superintendent from 1993 to 1994.

Burrow is survived by his wife, Lee Ann Burrow; sons Brett (wife, Diane) and Grant (wife, Susan); and his grandchildren, Reed, Paige, Blanne and Brooklin.

Visitation will be Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. CST at the Williamson Memorial Funeral Home in Franklin, Tenn. The service will begin at 3 p.m. CST at the same location. Both are open to the public.

In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to the Room In The Inn program at Oak Valley Baptist Church at 1161 Lewisburg Pike, Franklin, TN 37064.

Staff writer Jerry Tipton contributed to this article.

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