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You often hear - generally derisively - when someone scores a "triple-double" (10+ points, rebounds, and assists) in the NBA these days, an old-timer (like me!) say, "Big deal. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for an *entire season*!"

Well, that's true, he did, in the 1961-1962 season, but while looking at his statistics, I noticed something else: he averaged a triple-double for his first FIVE seasons. All it took was a little simple arithmetic - click here and you can see for yourself. And, he came a gnat's eyelash away from averaging a triple-double for his first SIX seasons (after his sixth season, his rebounds per game average went down to 9.95+ ... if he had gotten just 4 more rebounds per season, he would have done it for six years).

All this, *and* he averaged over 30 points per game during those seasons - his first six in the NBA!

That's unbelievable. "The Big O" has got to be on the short list of greatest basketball players ever, with serious consideration as *the best* guard in history. People talk about how tall Magic was, but Robertson was 6'5" fully fifty-five years ago and playing point guard!

"Kareem Says Oscar Robertson Better Than Jordan Or LeBron" by Kurt Helin on nba.nbcsports.com

Google "How good was Oscar Robertson?" There's a lot of interesting reading.

You know, even I've gotten sucked into thinking "Jordan's the greatest ever," but you can't say that if you didn't see Robertson, Chamberlain, Russell, Baylor, and Abdul-Jabbar in their primes. You just can't!

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Google "How good was Oscar Robertson?" There's a lot of interesting reading.

You know, even I've gotten sucked into thinking "Jordan's the greatest ever," but you can't say that if you didn't see Robertson, Chamberlain, Russell, Baylor, and Abdul-Jabbar in their primes. You just can't!

One catch on this is that unless one has unusual access to old films you couldn't or wouldn't see Oscar Robertson in his prime, let alone Chamberlain, Russell, or Baylor....and somewhat less easy access to Abdul-Jabbar.  The NBA wasn't televised until the mid 60's and at that it was limited.  And then to have seen them in person...well one has to be old.

I am!   ;)...and I did see Robertson although I didn't start watching him until after his statistics started to drop.  I didn't see him in those earlier years as you referenced above, Don, when he was a statistical machine, basically averaging 30 points, 10+ rebounds and 10+ assists per game for pretty much 5 or 6 years.  Must have been amazing.

Anyway I saw Robertson at the old Madison Square Garden and later in Baltimore during which time he was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.   While playing for the Bucks he played a critical but lesser role than in those earlier years.  He was considerably older (in basketball years) and he was no longer the center of everything...the then Lew Alcindor (to become Kareem) was the toast of the team and the toast of the league.

In a way Robertson was Magic before Magic.  It was in the context of size.  He was considerably bigger than any guard that covered him, both taller but significantly broader/stronger.  I recall seeing him play Walt Frazier in NY, when Frazier was in his prime.  Frazier was a "big guard".  Robertson was bigger and noticeably broader/stronger.  Frazier was absolutely quicker at that time.

The basketball old timers rave about Robertson.  He was sort of the Michael Jordan, Lebron of his day; dominant.  Not spectacular in an explosive athletic way, but simply dominant, possibly like nobody else.

All those triple doubles.  The very phrase didn't get publicity or notice until Magic started racking them up.  But the Big O has lots more than Magic or anyone else and his were "different".  He would get his 10+ assists and 10+ rebounds but he would regularly get 25, 30, 35 or up in points.  Magic didn't consistently score like Robertson.  Michael Jordan probably scored similarly to Robertson, but Robertson has probably 5 or 6 times as many triple doubles as Jordan and probably in less games.

With those points, assists, and rebounds in those early years he MUST have been uniquely dominant in ways we can only guess at now.    One other little point is that starting in the mid 60's he added Jerry Lucas as a teammate.  Lucas was one of the all time best rebounders in the league.  Once Lucas joined the Royals Robinson's rebounds dipped... a little but not a lot.  He was a great guard/rebounder, possibly the best of all time.

But...you have to get access to old tapes to watch him.   I suppose its up to the old timers such as Jabbar as referenced above to remind us of how great Oscar Robertson was.

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One thing's for sure: He had an amazing physique.

BigO1.jpg

BigO2.jpg

Obviously, none of this is definitive, but:

I'd be very interested in getting George Mikan's perspective, because he's about the only one who has seen it all, and he was far-enough removed from the game by the time Wilt-Elgin-Russell-Alcindor-Oscar got to the league, where he might be more objective.

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Coincidentally with Oscar Robertson being the all time leader in triple doubles, having over 180 for his career (Magic is second with less than 140)...just the other day there were triple doubles in one day  Per the article that is only the 2nd time its occurred in the last 13 years.  Triple doubles are rare.  They reflect performing well in at least 3 statistical categories.

Again, per the article, these 3 each had a unique characteristic and similarly none were similar to the way Oscar Robertson accumulated them.

Russell Westbrook landed a triple double in less than 30 minutes of play.  BTW:  per the article he is the all time leader in this "category" of quick triple doubles with 5.  I guess when he is on he "does a lot" in a relatively short period of time.

The Big O, is ranked 3rd in all time minutes per game, at over 40 minutes/game for a career.  Oh my, the man played a lot.  In the course of his career and the history and commentary it has garnered he reflected on the volume of minutes he played and how it possibly or probably added to his totals of triple doubles...heck he had more time to get that 10th assist or rebound.   Alternatively per the Big O, when he was playing, statisticians were stingier with assists than they are now and for years.  In Oscars's time if he passed the ball to a player who had scored BUT had taken a dribble or 2, NO ASSIST.  In later years that rule was changed.  Hmmm.  Interesting.  If Magic Johnson fed a streaking James Worthy on the fast break and Worthy dribbled once or twice before dunking, Magic landed an assist.  Per Oscar that wouldn't have counted for an assist in his time period.

I'll have to take him for his word on that one.  I wouldn't know.

Substitute Triple Double:  Marcus Smart of the Celtics accumulated a triple double off the bench, per the article only the second Celtic to ever do so.

Triple Double with Blocked Shots:   Hassan Whiteside, the center for the Miami team got a triple double with points, rebounds, and blocks.  He has several of these and is the lead leader in that regard.  hmmm.   Lots of rebounds and blocks.  That guy is quite a jumper!!!!!   (My guess is if they ran stats on blocks back when Chamberlain was playing he, probably along with Bill Russell would have had a lot of these.)

All that aside, none of these fellows or most of the triple double "leaders" after Robertson did it the way he did it.  He'd get those triple doubles with 10+ assists and rebounds, and then get 30 points.  So even Magic Johnson, who accumulated the 2nd most triple doubles didn't do it quite like Oscar Robertson.

But, unless we get access to NBA game archives we won't see Oscar at his prime.  He wasn't on TV in those years, and frankly if you did see him in person you are realistically over 70 years old.

As to all those NBA superstars and their opinions, Dr J, might have seen Oscar around his prime or possible earlier or mid 60's.  Dr J was already a high school phenom wowing people in Harlem pick up games.  NBA players would play in those games.  Its also possible that Dr J and the others referenced above have access and have seen those archived films of games from the 60's.  But all those other ex players are younger than Dr. J, and they simply didn't see Oscar Robertson doing things that nobody else has matched.  So unless they've seen the archived films they are opinions, opinions from guys who bumped and grinded and shot and rebounded, but opinions, none the less and in fact they all acknowledge that.

About those archives:  I found this article referencing these old NBA game archives interesting on two levels. The article is from a Portland media source.  The picture is sort  of amazing.  Its two former Portland centers, probably the definition of "what could have been".  Bill Walton and Arvidas Sabonis, two players who played center for Portland are pictured.  My goodness Sabonis is HUGE.  Walton is about 7 ft.  Sabonis towers over Walton and his infinitely bulkier.  Sabonis, so talented and enormous, and was hampered in his NBA career by very bad legs, and he still was a quality player.

The substance of the article references about 500,000 hours of old NBA games being digitized probably way more than half way done at this time.  That is where we could watch Oscar Robertson in his prime.  Bill Simmons had access to this volume of film when he wrote his opus on the NBA history and ranked players.  He places the Big O 10th all time, one spot behind Jerry West. Of course its Simmons' opinion and Simmons admits to favoring the Celtics.  But at least he saw that film, something I'd enjoy doing.

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You know what I find interesting (as well as vexing)?

Think about this for a moment: Michael Jordan's luster has begun to fade, mainly because of LeBron James

I'm not saying Jordan has been forgotten, or disrespected; merely that he's not as famous as he was 5-10 years ago. 

This is what has bugged me endlessly about Oscar Robertson (and others from that era) - their star has faded in the public eye, but in reality, their accomplishments are exactly the same as they've always been.

The Big O averaged a triple-double for *six* years (1960-1961 through 1965-1966).

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7 hours ago, DaveO said:

Btw. Harden is big.  He is solid and it shows.  He is the size of Oscar Robertson and can overpower players shorter or not as heavy as him. 

If you had asked me before I read this, I would have guessed Harden was three-inches taller than Oscar Robertson. Wow, I had no idea both were 6'5".

Maybe it's the beard? (cf: Bryce Harper, Abraham Lincoln, Paul Bunyan, etc.)

I just can't get over those top-two pictures of Robertson up above - and at 6'5"!

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