It happened before his second season in the NBA. The cartilage around Clark Kellogg’s knee began to wear away, leading to the first of three surgeries in four years.
In August 1987, Kellogg announced he was retiring from the NBA. His career lasted five years, the last two shortened by knee injuries.
At the promising age of 26, his dream was ending, a career vanishing in the wind.
“I was disheartened and disappointed at the time that my basketball-playing days were over,” Kellogg said in an interview with The Lantern.
Kellogg’s wife Rosy had to witness her husband go through one knee surgery after another. Then she watched as her husband lost a career.
“It was difficult because it was something that he truly loved,” Rosy said.
Former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela once wrote, “The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” Kellogg’s uncompromising knees forced him to fall, but he refused to stay down for long.
Kellogg was born and raised in Cleveland by his father, Clark, and his mother, Mattie. His father was a police officer, and his mom worked part-time at a local hospital.
Although he played a number of sports as a child, Kellogg determined his favorite at a young age.
“I loved all sports, but I really kind of locked into hoops when I was about 11,” Kellogg said. “And that became my real passion, that’s what I enjoyed doing more than anything else.”
After growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood, Kellogg was advised by his elementary school principal to attend St. Joe’s (now known as Villa Angela-St. Joseph), an “all-white high school.” While it was challenging at times, he is grateful for the guidance he received at the school.
“It was good because it broadened my horizons,” Kellogg said. “It prepared me for college and in many ways prepared me for the life I’m enjoying right now.”
Special K, as he was nicknamed in high school, was a highly touted recruit coming out of St. Joe’s. During his final high school game in 1979, he dropped an Ohio high school tournament-record 51 points on Columbus East. The record still stands 31 years later.
With his high school career coming to a close, Kellogg had to make an important choice: Which college would he be playing for by the end of the year?
“I really wanted to stay fairly close to Cleveland. I wanted my parents to be able to come to my games,” Kellogg said. “It came down to Ohio State and Michigan. And then Ohio — the whole state — kind of recruited me. People are really passionate and rabid about the Ohio State athletic teams in particular, so being recruited by the whole state was hard to turn down.”
Kellogg played for three years at OSU, averaging a double-double with 14.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Yet, his most significant moment in college happened away from the basketball court.
“We met at a concert when Clark was a freshman at Ohio State in 1979 and we’ve been married for 27 years this past July,” Rosy said.
After what was considered a disappointing year for the team by the Buckeye faithful, Kellogg left after his junior year to pursue his dream of playing professional basketball.
He was selected eighth overall by the Indiana Pacers in the 1982 NBA Draft. In his rookie year, Kellogg again averaged a double-double, scoring 20.1 points and hauling in 10.6 rebounds per game. He was named to the All-Rookie team and finished second in the Rookie of the Year race.
After a knee operation and two more years of solid basketball, Kellogg had a second knee operation. He played in only 19 games in his fourth season and would play in only four more before his career came to an abrupt end.
With his playing days in the past, Clark began a new career as a basketball commentator. He broadcast Pacers games on the radio and did the same for Cleveland State University games on its television network. A few years later, while providing analysis for Atlantic Ten regional games, Dick Vitale put him on ESPN’s radar.
“He had covered me as a player and knew I was doing some broadcasting, so he recommended me to the network,” Kellogg said.
While working for ESPN, Kellogg was blinded by another unimaginable loss. His mother passed away in 1994 because complications that arose during surgery.
In the face of adversity for a second time, he beat it back with a broom. In 1997, he left ESPN and joined CBS as a full-time studio/game analyst. But not before settling some unfinished business.
When Kellogg left OSU in 1982, he was 44 hours away from obtaining a degree. In 1996, he graduated from OSU. He likes to joke that he was on the “circuitous 17-year plan.”
In 2008, Kellogg was named the lead college basketball analyst for CBS Sports, replacing Billy Packer.
“He has a really good handle on what takes place on the court and he uses terminology that really grabs the viewer,” said Harold Bryant, executive producer and vice president of production for CBS Sports. “We discussed (promoting him) and we felt like he had earned the spot.”
Being the leading college basketball analyst for a major television network would satisfy most, but Kellogg continues to take advantage of other opportunities. In July 2010, the Indiana Pacers named Kellogg vice president of player relations.
Kellogg’s new role on the team is to be a mentor of sorts to the players on the Pacers roster, nine of which are 26 years old or younger.
“Because I’ve been on the court, I can speak about some areas of basketball development to our guys personally,” Kellogg said. “But primarily it’s a position of … guiding our guys with programs and services so that they can be champions on and off the court.”
Kellogg’s responsibilities don’t end there. He’s also one of the play-by-play announcers for the NBA 2K video game franchise. In June 2010, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland announced that Kellogg was being appointed to OSU’s Board of Trustees. Before the appointment, he served for five years on the board of directors for the Alumni Association.
“It’s an exciting honor. I try to stay engaged in the university since I’m here in Columbus,” Kellogg said. “I try to keep abreast of all OSU athletics. I’m Scarlet and Gray through and through.”
In April, CBS organized a game of horse between Kellogg and President Barack Obama. When the president beat him five letters to three, some viewers thought Kellogg threw the game.
“I didn’t actually throw it,” Kellogg said. “I was up pretty comfortably, the president was struggling and I was knocking down everything.”
“So I created a situation where I wouldn’t close things out as quickly as I possibly could have,” Kellogg said. “When I did that, he found his legs and momentum and beat me to the finish line.”
Kellogg went on to show some respect for our nation’s leader, all the while revealing a stinging truth.
“He’s got a pretty nice-looking shot,” Kellogg said. “And he also doesn’t lack in the trash-talking department either.”
Kellogg resides in Westerville with his wife and three children, a daughter and two sons, both of whom play basketball at Ohio University.
Lloyd Brewton, one of Clark’s local golfing buddies, had only positive things to say about the man who routinely “takes his money” on the golf course.
“He’s the kind of guy who, if he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it,” Brewton said. “Clark is a man who is bounded by his faith and bounded by his commitment to friendship.”
His wife, realizing that she could sound biased given that they’re married, was also quick to dole out the praise.
“He’s honest, caring, loyal and a good listener,” Rosy said. “I feel like he’s a gentle giant.”
At 6-feet-7-inches, referring to Kellogg as a giant isn’t too far off base. Perhaps it’s only fitting that his career trajectory continues to grow.