Ralph ‘Buckshot’ O’Brien

  • Butler basketball
  • I first met O’Brien at his ocean-side condo in Clearwater, Fla. in 2008. I was in Orlando, and drove over to talk with him about his time with the Indianapolis Olympians. Knowing his story fairly well, I wanted him for the show to talk about basketball in a distant era.

    The 1950 Butler grad comes from a huge family, and had a rich upbringing in Indianapolis. Not financially rich, but in all other ways. He was a star player for the Bulldogs, a standout outside shooter whose ups and downs would parallel those of great shooters to follow, such as Jimmy Rayl and Rick Mount.

    O’Brien played for the Olympians after their brief hey-day, which means after Ralph Beard and Alex Groza were banned from the NBA. His time there wasn’t happy, just as Rayl and Mount had frustrating professional careers, and his career was brief. He was only 5-foot-9, so was likely to struggle in the professional game, even then. He averaged about 7 points per game with the Olympians and, briefly, Baltimore.

    His life after basketball could hardly be better. He was the television analyst for state college basketball games in the Sixties, and a successful insurance salesman, too. His daughter, Kyle, was an Indiana All-Star basketball player and a professional golfer – the LPGA Rookie of the Year in 1981, in fact.

    O’Brien was the only Butler player to have played in the NBA until Gordon Hayward came along. Hayward will make a lot more money than “Buckshot,” but he should hope to wind up with as good a life.

    First aired 2013

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