The best way to describe Oscar Robertson’s playing style is inexorable.
Inexorably he would wear down and beat up opposing guards with his sheer size. Standing 6’5″ tall and weighing a good 220 lbs, Oscar was easily the biggest point guard the NBA had yet seen. He was certainly the most physically imposing one too. Other guards simply couldn’t handle the Big O as he backed them down for easy post shots.
Inexorably he tore up the entire opponent, not just his own defender. His passing was pinpoint accurate. Seven times Robertson led the NBA in assists per game. He could rebound with the big boys, too, averaging 10.4 rebounds over his first five seasons. His assists per game over the first five seasons? 10.6. And he was of course delivering 30 points a night.
Yep, the Big O averaged a triple double over the course of his first five seasons.
Inexorably, though, team success was rough to come by for Robertson. He surely had great teammates with the Cincinnati Royals like Jack Twyman, Bob Boozer, Wayne Embry, and Jerry Lucas over the years, but the team never quite coalesced into a serial title contender. By 1968, Robertson led the NBA in PPG and APG in the same season, but the Royals finished 39-43 and out of the playoffs.
Two more losing seasons followed and Oscar seemed doomed to his career ending in a whimper. Luckily for him, though, a trade to Milwaukee in 1970 rejuvenated his career. Playing alongside the towering Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the quicksilver Bob Dandridge, Oscar finally achieved titanic team success. In Oscar’s first season with the Bucks, Milwaukee finished with a 66-16 regular season record and smoked the postseason. They endured just two losses en route to the title. Another Finals appearance came in 1974, but the Boston Celtics thwarted the Bucks in seven games.
By that point Oscar had inexorably come to the end of the line. He was stomped, beat, and whooped up. There was nothing left in the Big O’s tank. But for so many years he had made opponents feel that kind of exhaustion and desperation. Off the court, Oscar amazingly had an even bigger impact by helping to create vibrant players union and instigating free agency. But that’s a story for another day. For now Oscar’s on-court game is more than enough to seal a place forever in this or any basketball Hall of Fame.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecgwZVnvPIc]
Years Played: 1960 – 1974
Rookie of the Year (1961)
9x All-NBA 1st Team (1961-’69)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1970-’71)
3x All-Star Game MVP (1961, 1964, 1969)
12x All-Star (1961-’72)
NBA – 1040 Games
25.7 PPG, 9.5 APG, 7.5 RPG, 48.5% FG, 83.8% FT
7x APG Leader (1961-’62, 1964-’66, 1968-’69)
2x FT% Leader (1964, 1968), PPG Leader (1968)
Contemporary NBA Ranks (1961 – 1974)
1st Assists, 1st APG
2nd Points, 7th PPG
1st FTs Made, 8th FT%
2nd FGs Made, 15th FG%
2nd Games Played, 2nd Minutes Played