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NBA 75 Series: #14 Oscar Robertson

At #14 of my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is the first “big” guard in NBA history who paved the way for future generations of big point guards and point forwards such as Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Penny Hardaway, and so many others. He was the first man to ever average a triple-double in a season and is one of the true icons of the game, Oscar Robertson. Robertson was born on November 24th, 1938, in Charlotte, Tennessee.

Robertson grew up in poverty and during the segregation era between whites and colored people in America. At just 18 months of age, his parents moved to Indianapolis where he grew up in a segregated household. He loved playing basketball over other sports such as baseball, which had the iconic Jackie Robinson playing at the time.

In the early stages of his life, Robertson would shoot tennis balls and rags wrapped around thick rubber band balls, tossing them in the peach basket for countless hours trying to perfect his shot as if he was shooting on a real hoop. He would continue his basketball antics at Crispus Attucks High School, an all-black school where he would play for the great Ray Crowe, who taught Robertson the fundamentals of the game very early on in his career, which would help him as his career progressed.

As a sophomore in 1954, Robertson helped lead his team to the semi-state finals where they would lose to the eventual state champions that year in Milan with his team later becoming iconic in the 1986 basketball film Hoosiers. When he was a junior in 1955, the Attucks went rampant in all the competition around the state, going 31-1, while also capturing that elusive state championship, becoming the first all-black school in America to achieve such a feat.

That state title also was the first won by an Indianapolis team ever in the Hoosier’s tournament. Robertson would continue his team success and individual dominance by leading the Attucks to an undefeated season of 31-0 while going on to capture their second consecutive IHSAA’s Men’s State Championship. That made them the first team to complete a perfect season, while also setting a record 45 straight victories.

The team would celebrate in a town parade. During his senior season Robertson averaged 24 points per game and went on to be named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball in 1956. He would end up choosing to play college basketball for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Robertson’s game translated seamlessly at the collegiate level, going on to score 33.8 points per game, which is good for third highest in college basketball history.

He would win three consecutive national scoring titles, be named an All-American all three years, was named Player of the Year multiple times, and set numerous school NCAA records. Robertson’s fabolous play helped lead the Bearcats to a 79-9 overall record durig his three seasons as a member of varsity, including two Final Four appearances.

Robertsom never won that coveted title while in college, but he left as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA history until the great “Pistol” Pete Maravich of LSU passed him up a decade later in 1970. He recorded his first triple-double in 1959 against Indiana State when he scored 45 points, snatched 23 rebounds, and dished 10 assists. Talk about 2K numbers!

Decades later, the NCAA named a trophy in his honor called the Oscar Robertson Trophy, which is given to the most outstanding Division I men's basketball player each season. He would co-captain the 1960 U.S. Olympic Team with his future rival in the NBA, Jerry West. It was described as the greatest collection of talent ever on a team at that point in basketball history. Robertson would display his versatility by playing forward and guard alongside West, Purdue’s Terry Dischinger, and other future NBA Hall of Famers such as Walt Bellamy, and Jerry Lucas, among others.

Robertson would go on to be selected territorial pick by the Cincinnati Royals (now Sacramento Kings) and actually put up a triple-double of 21 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, which was a glimpse of what was to come throughout his magnificent career.

He would ultimately become known as the “Big O” as they called him and was an essential figure in NBA lore. He’s the one who got the NBA to accept free agency on April 29,1976, which allows players the freedom to choose wherever they would like to play and give them more power, thank you Oscar! He also was a marvelous player, being one of two players in league history to average a triple-double in a season, the other, Russell Westbrook. He held the triple-double record for 55 years until Westbrook broke it which is absolutely insane.

He’s an NBA MVP (1964), 12-time all-star, three-time All-Star Game MVP, 11-time All-NBA, the 1961 ROTY, led the league in assists six times, and won that elusive championship in 1971 with Kareem after years of losing to the Cincinnati Royals. At 6-foot-5 210 pounds, Robertson was the first big guard, which paved the way for future star big guards such as Magic, Hardaway, Ben Simmons, Luka Doncic, and LaMelo Ball. He is one of the best all-around players in league history and was a big part of the NBA’s story.

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