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Olympic medal record
Men's Basketball
Gold 1948 London Team Competition

Clifford "Cliff" Eugene Barker (January 15, 1921 – March 17, 1998) was a basketball player from the United States, who won the gold medal with the USA national basketball team at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom.

Barker helped the University of Kentucky win two National Collegiate Athletic Association titles and afterwards coached and played in the National Basketball Association. He died on a Tuesday at his winter home in Satsuma, Florida at age 77. In the last years of his life, because of problems stemming from diabetic neuropathy with his feet and his legs, Barker used a cane or a wheelchair.

Barker, a native of Yorktown, Indiana, was a burly 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) forward on the 1948 Kentucky team that finished the season with a 36-3 record, the national title and the nickname of the Fab Five. The other starters were Wah Wah Jones at forward, Kenny Rollins at guard and two all-Americans: Alex Groza at center and Ralph Beard at guard. Their coach was Adolph Rupp.

After that remarkable season, the Kentucky team played in the trials to select the United States team for the 1948 Summer Olympics. In the final game, Kentucky lost by four points to the Phillips Oilers, a semiprofessional team. The five Kentucky starters joined Phillips players on the Olympic team roster and won the gold medal.

In 1949, Kentucky, with a 32-2 record, won the NCAA championship again. Then the team of Barker, Groza, Beard, Jones and Joe Holland turned professional and became the nucleus and part-owners of the Indianapolis Olympians of the NBA.

Barker was player-coach for the first year and a half, and a player only for another year and a half. The team was jolted in 1951 when Groza, Beard and the former college player Dale Barnstable were arrested and charged with having roles in a gambling scheme that involved 90 college games. The three were charged with accepting $500 bribes to control the score of a 1949 Kentucky game in Madison Square Garden.

When all three admitted their part, their pro careers were over. They received suspended sentences, and Groza and Beard were suspended by the NBA. Barker was not involved, but the Indianapolis franchise disbanded after its fourth season.

Barker was older than his college teammates at Kentucky because he left school after his freshman year to serve in the Army Air Forces. A gunner in a B-17 bomber, he was shot down over Germany during World War II, and was held as a prison of war there for sixteen months. He filled idle time in prison camp by bouncing and passing a volleyball, the only ball he could find. When he returned to college, his ball-handling skills were remarkable.

After his pro career, Barker taught and coached at high schools in Indiana, Kentucky and Florida.

References

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