When you think of the best of the best legends of the game of basketball, there’s a short list and it goes something like this: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Your mileage may vary, but most of those guys would be on that list.
One guy we didn’t mention there is Oscar Robertson, and that’s because he tends to be overlooked in this conversation.
Well a few reasons. One is that in his era, Russell won every damn thing and Chamberlain was a surreal talent. They overshadowed everyone and everything.
TV wasn’t a dominant factor for basketball in the 1960’s either. We got plenty of the latter day greats on television and pretty good quality TV too.
The Big O’s style, when we do see it, seems very conservative, nearly square if you will. He seems uncertain about using his left hand and, as we saw a lot in the 1960’s, offenses tended to walk the ball up a lot.
That changes when you see this video. All of it is surprisingly crisp. In spots it’s pretty amazing.
And we see what a remarkable player he was. We get a sense of his ahleticism and intelligence, and, somewhat unusually, given the quality of video from that era, we get a very clear sense of Robertson’s passing skills.
He was very unlucky in that he spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Royals. The owners were cheapskates and he rarely had talented teammates and certainly not enough to overcome the Celtics or Chamberlain’s ‘76ers.
But as you’ll see here, Robertson belongs on any short list of NBA greats. He just had a bad draw for most of his career.