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.
I like certain (NBA) teams. I don't like watching all teams. Some teams are just not that colorful to watch. Some don't do much for me. But some do very well. I like to see them play. San Antonio, New York now. Miami, of course. Chicago. Cleveland, sometimes, with the (Kyrie) Irving kid. Those kinds of teams. I missed the Thunder. I like to see the Thunder also. They've got a great basketball team.
You've got a lot more players who dunk the ball a lot. Years ago, guys weren't taught to dunk it. They were taught to shoot it in the basket. Everybody dunks now and makes the highlights. Lot more gifted athletes. Especially 6-10 and on up. Years ago, you didn't have very many guys over 6-8, very few that were good athletes.
Kevin (Durant) is an outstanding player. I was with Kevin in Atlanta when I gave him the Oscar Robertson player of the year trophy. Told his coach he only is going to get better. “Sorry you can't keep him.” And it was a shame, because, boy, he'd have put Texas right in the Final Four and probably won the championship.
Russell Westbrook is playing very well with Kevin Durant. He's extremely difficult to guard. He's capable. He's confident. Gets a lot of criticism for doing certain things. But man, if I were him, I'd keep on doing what he's doing. I think he's playing great.
People cannot rank me. It doesn't matter. I know what I did. The people I care about in the game of basketball, they know what I did. What you're going to find today in television and the media, they're going to rank everybody. They're going to rank a squirrel or a horse or a dog. Because they don't understand the game of basketball.
Unless you've been around the game of basketball to see different players and different ages, it's tough to say, oh, this guy is the best. For instance, who says Elgin Baylor was a great player anymore? Elgin Baylor was one of the greatest basketball players I've ever seen. But look at ESPN news and Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine. They don't say hardly anything about Elgin Baylor. And I wonder why. They don't talk about some of the great players. Like Bob Pettitt, who averaged 20something points, 17 rebounds. Those guys go unheard of. Now if you get 13 rebounds and 13 points, you're the second coming. You can walk on water. Better than sliced bread.
If you want to judge a player (on championships), if he didn't do it, it's fair to judge him. I have no problem with it when they say I didn't win. Of course I didn't win. You don't win when you come out of a draft and you're put with the worst team, one of the worst teams, and they don't make key trades. Look at every team that has won a championship over the last 30 or 40 years. What is the one thing they've done? They've made a key trade. Boston got Bill Russell from St. Louis because they didn't want blacks playing down there. Look what happened to Boston.
Winning a championship is great. If you get with the right management, the right people around you who understand basketball. But if you go to a boonduck team, you're not going to win anything.
I don't care for the draft. When you're drafted in the NBA today, it is a disadvantage for great players. What they'll do is put you with a team that hasn't won anything. I'll give you a good example. Darrell Griffith. Great college basketball player. Went to Utah, you never heard from him. If you don't go to the right team, you're never going to be heard of again.