TITLE: The Big O AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: May 16, 2017 10:57 AM DESC: ----- BODY: I recently ran across a newspaper column about triple-doubles, a secondary statistic in basketball that tracks when a player reaches "double figures" in three of the major primary stats. The column included this short passage about the great Oscar Robertson:
You probably know that Robertson averaged triple-doubles for an entire season, 1961-62. But did you know that he averaged triple-doubles over the cumulative first five seasons of his NBA career, from 1960-61 through '64-65? In that stretch Robertson averaged 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 10.6 assists.
This is indeed an amazing accomplishment. But it was not news to me. I grew up in Indiana, a hotbed of basketball, with the sort of close personal attachment to Robertson that only a young sports fan can have. Like me, the "Big O" was from Indianapolis. He had led Crispus Attacks High School to two straight state championships in the late 1950s and helped lead the University of Cincinnati to national prominence in the early 1960s. When I first became aware of basketball as a young boy, Robertson was deep into a stellar pro career. He was one of my early sports idols. Later, Robertson and his legacy played an unexpected role in my life. When I interviewed for the scholarship that would pay my way through college, I found that the interviewer, the dean of the Honors College, was a former Division III basketball player from Michigan who had gone on to earn a PhD in history from the University of Maryland. Our conversation quickly turned to basketball and our mutual admiration for the Big O, but it was not all sports talk. Robertson's career as a black player in the 1950s and '60s launched us into a discussion of urban segregation, race relations, and the role of sport in culture. After the interview, I wondered if it had been wise tactially to talk so much about basketball. I guess the conversation went well enough, though. Folks today can have Michael Jordan and LeBron. They are undeniably great players, but Oscar Robertson will always be my standard for all-around play -- and a touchpoint in my own life. -----