“BIG O”USTANDING — Oscar was the big playmaker of the era.
by Matthew Panico
In the past two years, people are amazed at NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russel Westbrook whenever he achieves a basketball ‘triple-double,’ scoring double digits in three statistical categories (typically points, assists and rebounds).
But this accomplishment pales in comparison to the greatness of NBA legend Oscar “The Big O” Robertson.
Oscar Robertson was a Hall of Fame guard for the Cincinnati Royals and Milwaukee Bucks from 1961 to 1975. He was a perennial NBA All-Star and became the top scoring guard of all time before he retired.
This legend is mostly known for averaging a triple-double for an entire season, during a time where there was no three point line in the league. In his first five NBA seasons, he averaged 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, 10.6 assists per game.
This man is one of the greatest of all time, but he didn’t achieve this title over night. He was able to achieve these feats by overcoming the many obstacles in his difficult life.
Oscar grew up in an extremely poor and segregated housing project in Indianapolis.
Despite most boys in the neighborhood wanting to play baseball, Oscar fell in love with the game of basketball because it was a ‘poor kids’ game.
His family couldn’t afford to buy him a basketball, so he learned to shoot by tossing tennis balls and rags wrapped with rubber bands into a peach basket that was behind his house. In his high school, there wasn’t even a court to play on.
Oscar loved to utilize te pump fake shot. He had a deadly baseline fade away jumper and was phenomenal in creating space on the floor. In an interview with Chris Webber in 2014, he explained how he developed such a deadly baseline jumper.
“In the gym we had . . . we had one main court and baskets on the side. So you couldn’t shoot from the front because that was where all the guys were playing, so I shot from the side. I shot so many shots from the side in the gym, it was unbelievable.”
Growing up and playing through college, he had to deal with pre-civil rights racism.
After being an All-American for the University of Cincinnati he won a Gold Medal for the 1960’s USA Olympic team, considered to be the greatest olympic team comprised of college players that there ever was.
He has been forgotten by the NBA analysts due to the fact he played for losing teams in small market Cincinnati, before mass television broadcasted the NBA games.
It wasn’t until he teamed up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee where they won the NBA championship in 1971.
Hubie Brown, assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks during Oscar’s time, said in an interview in 2014 that “ If your gonna pick the top four greatest guards of all time, theres no problem. Magic [Johnson] at the point, backed up by Jerry West and then you got Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson”.
After his NBA career, he aided in helping to improve living conditions among African Americans in Indianapolis.
Due to the tough experiences in his Childhood and in his personal life he chose to step out of the spotlight, some referring to it as “going into seclusion”, which has hurt his legacy.
Among the biggest names that have solidified themselves in the Hall of Fame, Oscar “The Big O” Robertson is one of the foundational building blocks of modern day NBA.