Collected Wisdom: Oscar Robertson, NBA legend

Oscar Robertson was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Robertson was a 10-time all-star with the NBA's Cincinnati Royals and remains the only player ever to average a triple double, with his monster 1961-62 season.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 20, 2013
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photo - Oscar Robertson speaks with the media at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards banquet at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo By David McDaniel/The Oklahoman
Oscar Robertson speaks with the media at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards banquet at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Monday, April 15, 2013. Photo By David McDaniel/The Oklahoman

Oscar Robertson was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was an Indiana High School basketball legend, leading Crispus Attucks High School to state championships in 1955 and 1956, after his team lost to Milan (of “Hoosiers” fame) in the 1954 state quarterfinals. Robertson went on to lead the University of Cincinnati to two Final Fours, and play on the great 1960 U.S. Olympic gold medal team.

Robertson was a 10-time all-star with the NBA's Cincinnati Royals and remains the only player ever to average a triple double, with his monster 1961-62 season. Robertson was traded to Milwaukee in 1970 and helped Lew Alcindor lead the Bucks to the 1971 NBA title.

No doubt about it, Indiana is a basketball crazy state, and where I grew up, Indianapolis, is a basketball crazy city. Had the opportunity to go out and hone my skills out on the parks outdoors. Had no money, so all we could do was play sports. Baseball, football, basketball. We also ran track. That's all we had.

I went to high school in Crispus Attucks in Indianapolis. It was great. All over the state, when the tournament started, sectionals, regionals, semifinals, finals. Everything stopped. People just came out to see those games, all over Indiana. It's truly amazing, how a sport can grab you up in a situation where you go crazy for the team you want to win. We beat Gary Roosevelt for the finals in 1955 and Lafayette Jeff(erson) in 1956.

Coaches let you play. They saw what you could do, put you in a setting where you could get the most out of your ability. You remember high school coaches more so than college coaches. And eighth-grade coaches more so than high school coaches. When you first got started, that's the coach you look back to, because he taught you the fundamentals. How to pass, how to dribble. Taught you about shooting. How to play together as a team.

Recruiting wasn't what it was today. There were no airplanes to take you across the country. I wanted to get a business degree. Cincinnati had a very good business college. So therefore, I chose the University of Cincinnati.

I like to see some games. I don't like to see them all. Some are just not worth watching, until you see some good athletes. When they pass the ball around, and do the things that good basketball teams should be fundamentally, I like to see that.

I think when you see a Final Four, you see the ultimate in college basketball. Very good players. Glad to see them there. They achieve. Ending of a long season. Successful for some and not for many others. But it's a good game. A few changes they should make, but I'm sure they'll get around to that. Six fouls, 30-second clock. Something like that.

I don't think those players leaving (early) are going to hurt. It looks like it's going to hurt. But you never know, because I think you can get other great players. There's always great players in America. Whether or not they're going to make the pros is a different situation.

The game has evolved to where colleges don't produce centers. They don't teach 'em how to hook the ball into the basket. They don't teach them how to pass off the pivot. They don't teach them to do all the things that a center does. Protect the basket, play good defense. They don't teach those things down low. Maybe they can't do it. Maybe the coaches would like to teach it, if they had someone to teach it to.

The game is slower today than it was years ago. You've got these elaborate zones. And coaches like to control the flow of the game. Which is fine if you win. If you don't win, it's not so good.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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