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Oscar Robertson

An incredibly gifted and versatile athlete, Oscar Robertson is a legendary basketball player whose career statistics clearly demonstrate what an immensely talented and all-around player he was.

 

When it came to scoring – few could match his output.

 

Measuring 6-foot-5, his rebounding abilities and statistics match up favorably with any of the game’s most heralded rebounders.

 

And playmaking? He led the NBA in assists in six seasons, and when he retired from the league, he did so as the career leader having amassed 9,887 assists (9.5 apg.).

 

He compiled 181 triple-doubles during his 14 NBA seasons. Heading into the 2020-21 season, the next closest player for triple-doubles was Russell Westbrook with 144.

 

‘The Big O’ became the first player to average a triple-double during an NBA season, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game in 1961-62. He in fact averaged a triple-double over his first five NBA seasons, averaging 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game.

 

Selected for the 1960 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team, he and Jerry Lucas led the American squad to the gold medal and an 8-0 record, averaging 17.0 points per game. In 1959, Robertson led the U.S. Pan American Basketball Team to a gold medal finish averaging a team-high 16.5 points per game.

 

In three varsity seasons (1957-58 to 1959-60) at the University of Cincinnati, Robertson established himself as a legendary scorer and winner. Leading the Bearcats to back-to-back NCAA Final Fours, he compiled 2,973 points in his three seasons and averaged over his collegiate career 33.8 points a game. He led the NCAA in scoring in all three seasons becoming one of just three players to accomplish that feat.

 

Named in 2000 'Player of the Century' by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, he racked up one NBA championship, NBA MVP honors once, All-NBA first or second team honors 11 times, was named an NBA All-Star 12-straight years, selected MVP of the NBA All-Star Game three times and was tagged the NBA’s 1961 Rookie of the Year.

 

As notable as all those accomplishments are, they pale in comparison to what he accomplished off the court.

 

Serving as the president of the NBA Players Association from 1965-74, he was the first African American president of any national sports or entertainment labor union.

 

And as president of the NBPA, he made an impact on all sports with a class action anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA. A 1976 settlement, known as the "Oscar Robertson Rule," helped NBA players become the first major professional athletes to achieve free agency.

 

How good was he?

 

“He is so great he scares me,” legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach once said.

 

Lucas told the Indianapolis Star: “He obviously was unbelievable, way ahead of his time. There is no more complete player than Oscar.”

 

“Oscar paved the way for free agency as we know it in the NBA,” commissioner Adam Silver told The Athletic not long ago. “There is a long tradition in our league going back to Oscar and others, including Bill Russell, who spoke out about civil rights issues. It’s a culture that’s been passed down from generation to generation, and Oscar led the fight.”

 

“LeBron is awesome, MJ was awesome—but I think Oscar Robertson would have kicked them both in the behind absolutely,” said all-time great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. “Oscar was awesome. He had brains. [...] He had all the skills.

 

“He could rebound and box out guys four and six inches taller than him. He was ruggedly built. He had fluid, quickness and just understood the game. No flair, he just got the job done every night. Who’s going to average double figures in points, assists and rebounds?”

 

 

Halls of Fame:

  • Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980.

  • Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team in 2010.

  • Inducted into the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Hall of Fame as a member of the 1960 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team in 1984.

  • Inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame inaugural class in 2009.

  • Inducted into the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and was one of five individuals (John Wooden, Bill Russell, Dean Smith and Dr. James Naismith) selected to the inaugural class.

  • Inducted into the University of Cincinnati James P. Kelly Athletics Hall of Fame in 1976.

  • Inducted into the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.

 

Honors:

  • The United States Basketball Writers Association renamed their College Player of the Year Award the Oscar Robertson Trophy in his honor in 1998.

  • Named in 2000 'Player of the Century' by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

  • Voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.

  • Named in 1980 to the NBA 35th Anniversary Team that featured the 11 best players in the NBA's 35 years of existence regardless of their position.

  • Was ranked as the 36th best American athlete of the 20th century by ESPN.

  • Named by ESPN in 2006 the second greatest point guard of all time behind Magic Johnson.

  • His No. 14 jersey was retired by the Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City Kings/Sacramento Kings and his No. 1 jersey was also retired by the Milwaukee Bucks.

  • His No. 12 jersey was retired at the completion of his senior season, the first retired number in University of Cincinnati history.

  • In 1994, a nine-foot bronze statue of Robertson was erected outside the Cincinnati Bearcats arena. In 2006, the statue was relocated to the entrance of the Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center at the University of Cincinnati.

 

USA Basketball Notes:

  • Gold Medals: 1960 Olympics, 1959 Pan American Games.

  • Wore No. 6 with the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team.

  • Member of the gold medalist 1960 U.S. Olympic Team that finished with a perfect 8-0 record. Named as the team’s co-captain with Jerry West, he played in all eight of the team's games, tied for the team-high in scoring averaging 17.0 ppg.

  • Member 1959 U.S. Pan American Games Team that won gold and finished with a perfect 6-0 record. Played in all six of the USA's games, recorded a team-high 16.5 ppg. and shot 57.6% from the field and 69.7% from the foul line.

  • In its closest encounter at the Pan Ams, a 93-79 victory over Brazil, Robertson led the U.S. with 29 points, tied for the third-highest single-game scoring by a USA player, and played just three quarters.

NBA Notes:

  • Played 14 seasons in the NBA, 10 years with the Cincinnati Royals (1960-1970) and four seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks (1970-1974).

  • Played in 1,040 NBA regular season games, compiled 26,710 points (25.7 ppg.), 7,804 rebounds (7.5 rpg.) and 9,887 assists (9.5 apg.). Shot 48.5% from the field and 83.8% from the foul line.

  • Ranks first all-time in the NBA in career triple-doubles (181), 12th in scoring (9,508), third in minutes averaged (42.2 mpg.), 22nd in minutes played (19,620), 18th for field goals made (9,508), 19th in field goals attempted (19,620), fourth in free throws made (7,694), eighth in free throws attempted (9,185), 75th in rebounds (7,804), sixth in assists (9,887), third in assists per game (9.5), and 99th in free throw percentage (.838%).

  • Led the NBA in assists six times, and at the time of his retirement was the NBA's all-time leader in career assists and free throws made and was the second all-time leading scorer behind Wilt Chamberlain.

  • Became the first of only two players in NBA history to lead the league in both scoring average and assists per game in the same season (Nate Archibald).

  • Became the first of only two players to average a triple-double during an NBA season, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game for the 1961-62 season.

  • Averaged a triple-double over his first five NBA seasons, averaging 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists per game.

  • Entered the NBA in 1960, averaged 30.5 points, 10.1 rebounds and 9.7 assists a game to earn Rookie of the Year and All-NBA first team honors.

  • Named MVP of the NBA in 1964 after averaging 31.4 points per game, 9.9 rebounds and 11.0 assists per game.

  • Member of nine All-NBA first teams (1961-1969) and two All-NBA second teams (1970 and 1971).

  • Selected as an NBA All-Star 12 times (1961-1972),

  • Named MVP of the NBA All-Star Game three times (1961, 1964 and 1969).

  • Led the NBA in scoring once (29.2 ppg. in 1967-68).

  • Led the NBA in assists six times (1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1969).

  • Won one NBA championship (1971).

  • Played 86 career NBA playoff games, averaged 42.7 minutes, 22.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game. Shot 46.0% from the field and 85.5% from the foul line.

  • Played in 12 NBA All-Star Games, started 10 games, compiled 380 minutes (31.6 mpg.), 246 points (20.5 ppg.), 69 rebounds (5.8 rpg.) and 81 assists (6.8 apg.). Shot 51.2% from the field and 71.4% from the foul line.

  • Traded on April 21, 1970, by the Cincinnati Royals to the Milwaukee Bucks for Charlie Paulk and Flynn Robinson.

  • Milwaukee in 1970-71 with a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Robertson to a league-best 66–16 regular season record and a dominating 12–2 playoff record, including a 4-0 sweep of the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals.

  • Was named in July 2004 the interim head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats men's basketball team for approximately a month while head coach Bob Huggins served a suspension.

  • Served as the president of the NBA Players Association from 1965-74 becoming became the first African American president of any national sports or entertainment labor union.

  • As president of the NBPA, he made an impact on all sports with a class action anti-trust lawsuit against the NBA. A 1976 settlement, known as the "Oscar Robertson Rule," eliminated the "option" or "reserve" clause in the NBA's uniform player contract (which bound a player to one team for life at the team's option) and helped NBA players become the first major professional athletes to achieve free agency.

 

Collegiate Notes:

  • Played three varsity collegiate seasons (1957-58 to 1959-60) at the University of Cincinnati.

  • Led the Bearcats to a 79-9 record and two-straight NCAA Final Fours in 1959 and 1960.

  • Named the Helms College Player of the Year (1959 and 1960), UPI College Player of the Year (1958, 1959 and 1960), USBWA College Player of the Year (1959 and 1960), The Sporting News College Player of the Year (1958, 1959 and 1960), was a three-time consensus All-American, and three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference selection.

  • In three seasons, played in 88 games, compiled 2,973 points (33.8 ppg.), 1,338 rebounds (14.1 rpg.), and over his final two seasons 425 assists (7.1 apg). Shot 53.5% (1,052-1,968 FGs) from the field and 78.0% (869-1,114 FTs) from the foul line.

  • Left Cincinnati as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer, and averaged 33.8 points per game during his three seasons, which currently (as of Jan. 2021) ranks as the third-highest in NCAA history.

  • Won the national scoring title in each of his three years to become the first player to ever do so.

  • Established 19 school and 14 NCAA records during his career.

  • Ranks as Cincinnati’s all-time career leader for scoring (2,973), scoring average (33.8 ppg.), field goals made (1,052), field goals attempted (1,968), free throws made (869), free throws attempted (1,114), rebounds (1,338) and rebounds averaged (15.2 rpg.); ranks third in assists (425); fifth in field goal percentage (.535%) and fifth in free throw percentage (.780%).

  • Holds Bearcat records for most points in a game (62 vs. North Texas State in 1959-60) and in facts owns Cincinnati’s top six single game scoring marks, all 50 or more points.

  • Holds Cincinnati single-game records for field goals made (23 vs. North Texas State in 1959-60), field goals attempted (36 vs. Arkansas 1957-58), free throws made (22 vs. North Texas State in 1958-59), free throws attempted (25 vs. North Texas State in 1958-59 and vs. St. Bonaventure in 1959-60), tied for first in free throw percentage (100%, 14-14 vs. Xavier in 1957-58) and third for most assists (13 vs. Kansas State in 1958-59).

  • Holds Cincinnati single-season records for points scored (1,011 in 1959-60), scoring average (35.1 ppg. in 1957-58), field goals made (369 in 1959-60), field goals attempted (701 in 1959-60), free throws made (316 in 1958-59), free throws attempted (398 in 1958-59), rebounds (489 in 1958-59) and assists (219 in 1959-60).

  • Recorded a school-record 10 triple-doubles.

  • Drafted as a territorial pick by the Cincinnati Royals in 1960, he was No. 1 and 1960 Olympic teammate Jerry West was No. 2.

 

Personal Notes:

  • Born in Charlotte, Tennessee.

  • Full name is Oscar Palmer Robertson, earned the nickname “The Big O.”

  • Attended Crispus Attucks High School (Ind.). Starred as a sophomore in 1954 and led team to the state quarterfinals where it lost to eventual state champions Milan High School, whose story would later be the basis of the classic 1986 movie “Hoosiers.” As a junior, helped Crispus Attucks to a 31–1 record and the 1955 state championship, the first for any all-black school in the nation. The following year, the team finished with a perfect 31–0 record and won a second-straight Indiana state title, becoming the first team in Indiana to secure a perfect season and compile a state-record 45 straight victories. Averaged 24.0 points per game as a senior and was named Indiana "Mr. Basketball" in 1956.

USA Basketball Statistics

TEAM FGM-A PCT

FTM-A PCT REB/AVG PTS/AVG AST BLK STL
1960 OLY 8 51-     


34-  50 .680
136/ 17.0


1959 PAG 6 38-  66 .576

23-  33 .697
  99/ 16.5


Totals 14 89-     


57-  83 .687
235/ 16.8


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