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

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.


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...
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