Mills to be celebrated at Native American Heritage Night

Posted on Jan 15, 2015 in Alumni News and News

Billy Mills | Kansas Alumni magazine |
KU alumnus and Olympic Gold medalist Billy Mills will be honored at Native American Heritage Night with the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Jan. 21. The Kings, featuring former KU standout Ben McLemore, take on the Brooklyn Nets, the home of Jayhawk legend Paul Pierce.

Special group pricing is available for the game: $25 for upper-level tickets and $54 for lower-level seats, a discount of up to 40% off regular prices. The first 300 fans will receive a Kings T-shirt.

Sacramento Jayhawks, purchase your tickets online at and use the passcode Kings.

Mills was the subject of the most recent cover story in Kansas Alumni magazine. Read an excerpt of the feature, written by Steven Hill, below.

A 26-year-old Marine Corps lieutenant and three-time All-American climbed aboard a shuttle bus in the Olympic Village in Tokyo, Japan. He was a relative unknown at the games, a dark-horse distance runner whom most track-and-field pundits gave zero chance of winning the day’s event, the 10,000-meter run. So when he sat down beside a young athlete from Poland, it was no surprise that she’d never heard of him.

“She asked me what event I was in, and I told her,” he recalls. “And then she asks, ‘Who do you think will win?’”

Fifty years later he can laugh—a deep, generous laugh that says, can you believe it?—but at the time the question unnerved him. “You don’t ask people that,” he says, grinning. As he sat in silence, the young woman pressed on, thrilled by the potential drama of the 6.2-mile race. Would it be Australian Ron Clarke, the world record holder, she wondered breathlessly, or Russian Pyotr Bolotnikov, the defending champion?

“Now she’s giving me a choice,” he says, “a choice that doesn’t include me!”

So he smiled his easy smile and said, very quietly, “I’m going to win.”


“And who are you?”

“Billy Mills.”

Running on cinders beneath the National Stadium lights later that rain-darkened afternoon of Oct. 14, 1964, the young Marine came from third place to blow past Clarke and Mohamed Gammoudi of Tunisia in the final 30 meters; Dick Bank, color commentator on the CBS race telecast, cut off play-by-play man Bud Palmer, who seemed oblivious to the unfolding spectacle, and screamed “Look at Mills! Look at Mills!” The runner felt the tape break across his chest and thrust both hands high before dropping them to cover his face, stunned that he’d just pulled off what many still consider one of the greatest Olympic upsets ever. When a race official grabbed him and asked, “Who are you?” Mills felt a moment of panic, fearing he’d miscounted. “Do I still have a lap to go?” he asked.

“No, no,” came the response. “Finished. Olympic champion.”

Read the full story online.

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