The O in wow
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

"Every game you had this anger out there. He was just such a machine. He'd just come up -- clear out. And frown. You would see that frown. You know, 'Oh, God, here he goes,' " says former Celtics forward Satch Sanders about Oscar Robertson on ESPN's SportsCentury show. Robertson, the only player to ever average a triple double in an NBA season, was voted No. 36 among North American athletes of the 20th century by SportsCentury's distinguished 48-person panel.


April 30, 1971 -- In his 10 seasons with the Cincinnati Royals, Robertson had never come close to an NBA championship. But now, playing his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks and Lew Alcindor, Robertson gained the elusive crown.

 Oscar Robertson
 Oscar Robertson is the only NBA player to average a triple double in a season.

The Bucks became just the second team to sweep the Finals, with the series ending in an 118-106 victory in Game 4 in Baltimore. At the age of 32, playing in his 886th NBA game, Robertson controlled the clincher, scoring 21 of his game-high 30 points in the first half when the Bucks built a 60-47 lead.

He finished 11-of-15 from the field, 8-of-9 from the foul line and had nine assists. "Oscar Robertson?" said Bucks coach Larry Costello. "You can't describe him. I can't. He was unbelievable."

Though Alcindor was named the MVP in both the regular season and Finals, guard Jon McGlocklin said, "Oscar was the key for us. He comes to play, he runs the team. He's it."

As the Bucks celebrated in the locker room, Robertson said, "This is the first champagne I've ever had, and it tastes mighty sweet. We won the title in high school, but it was soft drinks then. This is the big leagues, man."


Not only did "The Big O" average a triple double in 1961-62, he averaged a triple double over his first five NBA seasons. In 384 games, he averaged 30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 10.6 assists.

At Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, Robertson averaged 12 points as a sophomore in 1953-54, 21.7 as a junior and 26 as a senior. His 805 points in his last season were an Indianapolis city record. His high game was 62. He won Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" award in 1956.

Robertson's boyhood dream was to play for Indiana, but that changed when he visited the Bloomington campus.

The University of Cincinnati went 79-9 in Robertson's three seasons (25-3, 26-4 and 28-2).

In his first appearance at Madison Square Garden, Robertson, a sophomore, broke the arena scoring record with 56 points against Seton Hall on Jan. 9, 1958. His highest scoring game was 62 against North Texas State on Feb. 8, 1960.

Besides serving as president of the National Basketball Players Association from 1963 to 1974, Robertson has also served on the executive committee of the National Basketball Retired Players Association as well as the boards of both the Naismith Memorial and Indiana basketball halls of fame.

Robertson never won an NCAA title at his alma mater, though Cincinnati reached the Final Four twice. But Cincinnati won the first two seasons after he left. Playing for the first time under more defensive-minded coach Ed Jucker, the "No-O" Bearcats won the national championship in 1961, scoring a 70-65 overtime victory over a previously undefeated Ohio State team that included Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek.

The Royals made Robertson their territorial draft choice in 1960.

During Robertson's tenure with the Royals, in which time the team never had an outstanding center, they advanced as far as the Eastern Division finals just twice (1963 and '64). They lost both series to the eventual NBA champion Celtics.

With 22,009 points and 7,731 assists for the Royals, Robertson set team records that still stand -- even though the team does not. The franchise moved to Kansas City-Omaha in 1972-73 and settled in its current home, Sacramento, in 1985.

After never averaging less than 24.7 points with the Royals, Robertson never averaged 20 with the Bucks.

When Robertson retired at age 35, after averaging a career-low 12.7 points in 1973-74, he was the NBA's all-time assists leader and No. 2 scorer (behind Wilt Chamberlain).

In 86 playoff games, Robertson averaged 22.2 points, 8.9 assists and 6.7 rebounds.

Robertson started 10 of the 12 All-Star Games he played in. He averaged 20.5 points, 6.8 assists and 5.8 rebounds in 32 minutes a game.

Robertson has been married to the former Yvonne Crittenden since June 1960.