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Groundbreaking Hall-of-Fame big man Bob Kurland dead at 88

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Basketball lost a Hall of Famer over the weekend. According to multiple reports, Bob Kurland has died at 88. Kurland played -- and was the first star -- at Oklahoma State. But back then, in the mid-'40s, the Cowboys were Oklahoma A&M, and Kurland took the team to back-to-back national titles, in 1945 and 1946. Some call it college hoops' first dynasty.

He was almost 7 feet tall, a beast in his day, the first real dominating big man in college basketball history -- along with DePaul's George Mikan, who wasn't as good in college as he would go on to be in the pros (with the Lakers).

Kurland was the better big man at the collegiate level. He won back-to-back Final Four MOPs. Was a two-time national player of the year. A three-time All-American. His biggest game came in February 1946, when he put up 58 points against Saint Louis, beating the team from the city in which he was born. Kurland also went on to play in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, winning gold both times. Kurland is believed to be the man responsible for colllege basketball instituting goaltending, as his shot-blocking style was so dominant. In 1961, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of the greatest college basketball players to ever play the game," Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said in a statement. "Bob Kurland was instrumental in putting Oklahoma State on the college basketball map, and was someone who greatly affected this University and the Cowboy Basketball program, an impact that is still felt today. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and former teammates."

Most shocking thing? Kurland never played in the NBA. Once his college/Olympic careers were through, he worked for Phillips Petroleum and played for that company's AAU team for six years. Different world? No, a different universe back then.

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