A couple weeks ago we asked you to vote for the top ten Bucks of all time. Last Monday we began by revealing our first nominee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with each of our nominations eligible for the forthcoming SBN Wisconsin Hall of Fame ballot that will also include nominees from Brew Crew Ball, Acme Packing Company, Bucky's 5th Quarter and Anonymous Eagle.
Ask any NBA fan to succinctly summarize Oscar Robertson's NBA resume, and you'll inevitably hear one term over and over.
Yes, Robertson remains the only NBA player to average a triple-double over an entire season, though in isolation his incredible line from the 61/62 season--30.8 ppg, 11.4 apg and 12.5 rpg--is a bit misleading. For one, the ridiculous pace of the NBA game at the time meant that everyone's stats were inflated relative to today's game by around 30%. That helps explain Robertson's triple-double and Wilt's 50.4 ppg the same year, and how Oscar was only fifth in the league in scoring and third in win shares despite numbers that are jaw-dropping by today's standards.
Still, pace doesn't explain Robertson's incredible assist rate, which is even more impressive when you consider a) the less generous scorekeeping for assists at the time and b) the fact that Oscar averaged 3.4 more apg than anyone else in the league. And perhaps most amazingly, the focus on single-season stats glosses over the fact that Oscar averaged a career cumulative triple-double through his first six seasons in the league. He was a better rebounder early and a more prolific passer later, otherwise he'd have had more than just one triple-double season. Through his first 460 career games: 30.4 ppg, 10.7 apg, 10.0 rpg. Not too shabby.
Yet The Big O's statistically stupefying legacy in Cincinnati has in many ways overshadowed his evolution as a player and the team success he had later on with the Bucks. Robertson won 50 games just once as a Royal, in the process garnering a reputation as a lone gunner never able to translate personal accolades into team success. Was it fair? Perhaps not. For those who haven't seen or heard much about Robertson aside from the numbers, ESPN's SportsCentury feature on him is a must watch (part III is above), as it paints a more complete portrait of Robertson the man, not just the player. Growing up an NBA fan in the '90s and '00s, it's easy to forget the segregation and prejudice which players like Oscar dealt with on a daily basis.
Fortunately for Oscar and the Bucks, he eventually got his chance to show he was a winner. Following a tumultuous relationship with then-coach Bob Cousy, Robertson was dealt to the Bucks in April 1970, joining a 56 win team that already featured Kareem, Jon McGlocklin and Bobby Dandridge. We all know what happened next. The Bucks steamrolled their way to a league-best 66-16 record and dropped just two games in three playoff series, culminated by a 4-0 sweep of the Bullets in the Finals.
And while he sacrificed some of his prodigious scoring, the 31-year-old Robertson was hardly just riding Kareem's coattails. He scored 19.4 ppg on 50% shooting while leading the Bucks in assists (8.2 apg, third in the league), grabbing nearly six boards per game, and garnering his 11th straight all-star selection and an All-NBA second team berth. And he saved his best for last, dominating Earl Monroe in the finals with 23.5 ppg and 9.5 apg on 52%, compared to just 16.3 ppg on 35% shooting for The Pearl.
And while Oscar's tenure in Milwaukee peaked in the incredible '71 season, he didn't just ride off in the sunset, averaging 16.0 ppg and 7.5 apg in 288 career games in Milwaukee. He was an all-star again in 71/72 (17.4 ppg, 7.7 apg, 5.0 rpg) and was still a productive starter even in his 14th and final season (12.4 ppg, 6.4 apg). Oscar was a winner, too, helping the Bucks win 59 or more games in each of his four seasons in Milwaukee. Unfortunately his final game was a game seven loss to the Celtics in the '74 Finals, but by that time his legacy was secured.