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Hall of Fame basketball guard Oscar Robertson played 14 NBA seasons. He averaged more than 25 points per game and retired as the league’s all-time assist leader.
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Oscar Robertson was born on November 24, 1938, in Charlotte, Tennessee. He grew up in Indianapolis and in 1956 became one of the first African-Americans to play basketball at the University of Cincinnati, having been the fifth African-American to play for the team overall. In 1960, he led the U.S. Olympic men's team to the gold medal. The Cincinnati Royals drafted him that same year. Robertson played 14 NBA seasons, retiring in 1974 as the league's all-time assist leader.
"I've accomplished everything I could have hoped for. It was fun while it lasted."
Widely considered one of the greatest guards in NBA history, Oscar Palmer Robertson was born November 24, 1938, in Charlotte, Tennessee.
At the age of 4, Robertson moved with his family to Indianapolis. Just two years later he began playing basketball, honing his game on dirt courts against his two older brothers, Henry and Bailey. In 1955 he led Crispus Attucks High School to the state title, the first time an all-African-American team had won a state championship. The club won a second crown the following season.
Nationally recruited, Robertson settled on the University of Cincinnati, becoming a three-time All-American guard at the school and averaging well over 30 points a game for three consecutive seasons.
While a national championship eluded the star guard, Robertson co-captained the 1960 Olympic team, teaming up with future NBA rival Jerry West to lead the men’s squad to a gold medal.
That same year, the Cincinnati Royals selected Robertson in the NBA draft. For the 6-5 guard there was little adjustment to the pro game. During the 1961 season, Robertson was named the All-Star MVP and Rookie of the Year.
The following year, Robertson turned in one of the all-time great individual seasons when he became the first player in league history to average double digits in points (30.8), rebounds (12.5) and assists (11.4). No player since has matched the accomplishment, known as a triple-double.
Over the next several seasons, outside of Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers, no guard came close to matching his play. His quick moves and ability to score, pass and rebound greatly redefined the guard position. Off the court, Robertson proved a valuable member of the players’ union, eventually heading up the organization for several seasons. Under his direction, the union championed the successful movement to bring player free agency to the league.
But an NBA title stayed out of reach for Robertson during his time Cincinnati. Over the course of his last few seasons there, strains developed between the guard and the Royals franchise. Finally, on April 21, 1970, Robertson was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks, an up-and-coming club anchored by its young center, Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
For the Bucks, Robertson proved to be the final piece needed for the building of a championship season. In the spring of 1971, Milwaukee finished off a magical year by sweeping the Washington Bullets in the NBA Finals. Robertson was finally a champion.
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