I dedicated last week’s article to Ronald Reagan, duly noting that our former President’s birth date, February 6th, is shared by two other famous Americans, Babe Ruth and myself. I received a phone call from a homeless person named Neil Kessler lamenting the fact that I neglected to include him in the select list of February 6th. birthday celebrants. Actually, Neil is not exactly homeless; he lives in his wife’s house, his wife being my dear friend, Diane. Also, Neil and I have been friends since the 6th. grade of elementary school. Neil is exactly one year older than I; it took him that one full year just to find the 6th. grade. OK, so he's slow, but I love him.
Story of the Week
Oscar Robertson, while at the University of Cincinnati, was the NCAA National Player of the Year three straight years; 1958, 1959 and 1960. He was the first three-time NCAA scoring leader. In but his 11th. collegiate game in 1958, he set a Madison Square Garden collegiate game-high scoring record of 56 points against Seton Hall. So everything to follow in his pro career should have surprised no one.
He’s the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season. That means that he was able to average double-digits in points scored, assists and rebounds over a full NBA season. It remains one of the most amazing feats in sports history, and will probably never be replicated. Oscar Robertson was a truly amazing basketball player.
The highlight of that storied accomplishment is Robertson’s ability to get all those rebounds. Robertson was just 6’-5" in height. He was a point guard, one of the greatest of all time at that position. When you think of rebounding, you think of a center or a forward, unless the guard happens to be Earvin Johnson at 6’-9", and even as great as he was at scoring and dishing the ball off, Magic never accomplished Oscar’s triple-feat over a full season.
If Oscar wasn’t the greatest scorer ever, it is also true that no six-time league assists leader (9.5 career assists per game) ever logged quite so many career points (25.7 career points per game) or garnered quite so many career rebounds (7.5 career rebounds per game). 1961-62 was this Cincinnati Royal’s signature season; his average was 30.8 points scored, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. It still constitutes the single greatest overall one-year performance in pro basketball annals, outstripping even Wilt’s 50+ scoring average that very same year.
The incomparable "Big O" played for two NBA teams, the Cincinnati Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks, over his 14-year career. He was league Rookie of the Year in 1961. He should have been league MVP in that magical 1961-62 season, but he wasn't. He was, however, in 1964. He was the league All-Star Game MVP three times. He owns one championship ring, that in 1971 as a teammate of Kareem at Milwaukee.
Robertson was also destined to play a role in American sports history that would hold far greater impact than the measure of his court prowess. Oscar opened doors for other black players in the NBA, as did other major stars at the time ala Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain.
In 1979, the "Big O" was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He is on the NBA’s 15 All-Time Greatest Players list.
Last Week’s Trivia
Nobody wanted to promote the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston in 1965. Ali had won the heavyweight championship from Liston 15 months earlier in a very questionable performance by the ex-champ. The rematch, won by Ali, took place in a converted high school hockey rink in Lewiston, Maine. The fight drew all of 2,434 spectators. It was a sad day indeed for boxing.
Trivia Question of the Week
Being awarded the NHL All-Star Game MVP honor is a rather ominous distinction. Why? See next week’s Sports Junkie for the answer.