Before we begin – a note from Alleighoops: This is the first thing I’d ever written. It was done in response to a request put out by journalist David Aldridge of NBA.com. It was published by him on the NBA’s website, under his Morning Tip banner. Needless to say I was totally blown away.
Thus began my writing journey
David Aldridge gave me a homework assignment the other day. One I was all too eager to commence while I was sitting at my office desk on a dreary summers day.
Look at this picture:
“and tell me who the man dribbling is and why he is important to the History of the NBA on and off the court he requested”.
You start with the obvious I thought: the supremely chiselled yet svelte rock of pure muscle as born Oscar Palmer Robertson and just a few weeks ago he turned 76.
Oscar, or The BIG O as he came to be known, is and most likely will forever be, the ONLY man in NBA history to average a triple double over the course of an entire season.
What truly blows my mind though? If you take his career averages from his first 5 seasons…he’s still averaging a triple double.
Over 5 seasons!!!!
Nowadays, we celebrate and go crazy when someone has a triple double game. To me, this is in the pantheon. It’s on the podium of records that won’t be broken – along with a couple of others like: ‘50.4’, ‘181’ and ‘100’.
It’s been over 50 years since Oscar averaged 30.8-12.5-11.4 and no one else has done it. I think his record is safe. The GOAT has come and gone, the new age – 2.0 Big O resides in Cleveland now, but his best chance has probably passed.
Grant Hill actually came close while in Detroit, then he couldn’t walk without breaking for 5 years.
The Magic Man – Earvin Johnson came closest of all comers. As a 22 year old smiling assassin – in the 20th anniversary season of the BIG O doing it funnily enough –
Magic averaged 18.6-9.6-9.5.
But that’s not the real reason DA assigned this homework task to his on line, fan club, students. No, there is another motive here I thought to myself, surely?
DA wants his young pup readers (and probably some older ones too) to learn more about the great history of our game and the forefathers to who WE ALL OWE a great debt.
With all the money being printed by the league at the moment: it may be time for a little perspective for these young whippersnappers with no sense of what it used to be like.
That’s why sensei Aldridge, just a few weeks after this all-time great turned 76, wants us to revisit, read, learn and write about him.
So, why is Oscar truly important?
Well, it all centres on the landmark Oscar Robertson Suit. No, it’s not a 3-Piece “got to co-ordinate” with vest and tie number. This was an ‘in court battle’, not on court, and it may have been his toughest fight given the times.
In 1970-71, the NBA players association filed an antitrust suit against the league. With Oscar as President of the players association at the time, the suit bore his name.
Essentially: free agency as it is now; the high salaries of today; all of it – started in earnest because of this suit.
Back then, as a player, you were forbidden to talk to other teams even if your contract was up.
My oh my, how things have changed.
If you were to ask Tia Robertson, Oscar’s daughter, why he is important, you would undoubtedly get a much different answer than expected.
Tia won’t talk to you about the 181 triple doubles, the 6 assist crowns, numerous scoring achievements or winning championships with Lew Alcindor. No.
In the late 90’s as Tia suffered from lupus related kidney failure, her proud Dad gave perhaps his greatest and certainly most meaningful assist – one of his kidneys to help save her life.
Tia is now Executive Vice President of Oscar Robertson Solutions.
We’ve all heard the greats like Magic, Michael, Larry and Lebron talk about being respectful to the past, understanding that the game owes so much to so many. Oscar Robertson is a major reason for that way of thinking.
He was more than the Big O: walking triple double machine; NBA and Cincinnati legend; the man who took the league to court – on behalf of his brethren – and won a landmark court case that changed the NBA landscape forever.
He was Tia’s Dad.
Mission Accomplished DA.