Bob Burrow’s legacy lives on through family


bob burrow

Jake Maynard

Big Blue Nation lost one of its brightest stars.

On January 3rd, 2019, Robert “Bob” Brantley Burrow passed away at the age of 84.

Burrow was born in Malvern, Arkansas but played high school basketball in Wells, Texas. In 1952, Burrow enrolled at a nearby junior college called Lon Morris, where his well-known basketball legacy would begin. He scored a whopping 2,191 points in his two years with the Lon Morris Bearcats. After a highly successful JUCO career, Adolph Rupp reportedly offered Burrow a spot with the Kentucky Wildcats without ever seeing him play.  

In Burrow’s two-year career with the Wildcats, beginning in 1954, he quickly established himself as one of the best players in the nation, and perhaps the greatest rebounder in Kentucky’s history. In his first season with Kentucky, Burrow recorded 459 rebounds, the third highest in school history. The 6’7 center did this in only 26 games, averaging a school record 17.7 rebounds that season.  

On December 10thof the next year, Burrow pulled down 34 rebounds against Temple, tying Bill Spivey’s school rebounding record. The 34 rebounds also tie him for the 26thhighest rebounding game in NCAA history.  

Burrow’s rebounding prowess alone would earn him a place in Wildcat lore, but he was also a an efficient scorer. He averaged 20.1 points throughout his career– the fourth best in Kentucky history. In his senior year, Burrow had 50, 40 and 34-point games. Upon leaving UK, Burrow ended his career with 1,023 points in just two years and 51 games. 

For his efforts, Burrow was selected as an All-American both of his years with Kentucky. He was a consensus second-team All-American his first year with the Wildcats but made the first-team his senior year. 

In his lifetime, Burrow earned himself some of the most prestigious awards a Kentucky player can obtain. In 2005, Burrow was inducted into the Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame.

Burrow played two years in the NBA. He was drafted in 1956 by the Rochester Royals, the franchise that would one day become the Sacramento Kings. He played for the Royals in the 1956-1957 season and for the Minneapolis Lakers the next year.  

Becoming one of the best basketball players in the history of one of the storied basketball schools in the NCAA constitutes a successful life, but Burrow was meant to excel in other areas of life as well. During the 1970’s, he served as the principal of Fort Knox High School where, along with his wife Lee Ann, he would impact hundreds of young lives. 

One of Burrow’s students gave a eulogy at his funeral, where he said, “Bob Burrow inspired everyone he met… Best of all, Bob Burrow made every student feel good about simply being young.”

There is a movement currently underway amongst the alumni of Fort Knox High School to name a gym after Burrow.

Family was extremely important to Burrow, a theme well expressed by his younger son Grant’s eulogy, “Although Dad raised us to have integrity, be honest and ethical, and do our best at whatever we did, the most important lesson Dad (and Mom) taught us was how important family is.” 

Burrow’s son recalled many poker games with his father and older brother Brett. On one such occasion, Burrow remembers his father saying to him, “My enjoyment is not about the game, although I enjoy playing.  It is about spending time with you and Brett and your friends.” 

The importance of family was imparted through basketball as well. Burrow coached his sons and when the time came, he taught them a bit about coaching their own children. Grant Burrow remembers him saying, “You don’t have to know the game backwards and forwards to teach your kids and create memories.  You just have to be there.” 

Burrow’s memory is being carried on by his family in an incredibly special way- for over 65 years a Burrow has worn number 50. Burrow’s eldest son, Brett, wore number 50 throughout his successful career at North Hardin High School and later with the Vanderbilt Commodores. A third generation of number 50’s came when Brett Burrow’s son wore it at Brentwood High School. Today, Grant Burrow’s daughter wears number 50 for her middle school travel team, Mid TN Elite.

Look up at the ceiling of Rupp Arena, a building with as much basketball history as any other, and you will see number 50 hanging in the rafters to honor one of Kentucky’s all-time greats.