In his first N.B.A. recreation, in October 1960, Oscar Robertson registered 21 factors, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cincinnati Royals in opposition to the Los Angeles Lakers. In his second N.B.A. season, Robertson averaged 30.eight factors, 12.5 rebounds and 11.four assists per recreation for Cincinnati.
Such numerical assemblages — reaching double figures in these three classes — are identified in basketball parlance as triple-doubles. But Robertson established a league file, together with his 181 triple-doubles throughout 14 seasons, with none fanfare. The time period was not coined till the early 1980s, when the Lakers’ Magic Johnson started routinely posting Oscar-esque traces in field scores.
“Truthfully, I used to be completely unaware of it,” Robertson mentioned this week.
Almost 50 years faraway from Robertson’s closing season with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1973-74, there’s a hyperawareness of triple-doubles, thanks largely to Russell Westbrook of the Washington Wizards. In 2016-17 with the Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder, Westbrook turned the primary participant since Robertson to common a triple-double for a full season, prompting Robertson to journey to Oklahoma to personally congratulate Westbrook.
Westbrook has amassed 178 triple-doubles in his profession and, with seven video games left on Washington’s schedule coming into Wednesday’s play, has an opportunity to surpass Robertson this season. In a telephone interview with The New York Instances, Robertson, 82, mentioned he was rooting for Westbrook to take action and mentioned the criticism that he, like Westbrook, confronted in his Royals days till he teamed up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee to guide the Bucks to their solely championship, in 1971.
This interview has been condensed and calmly edited for readability.
So in the event that they didn’t name them triple-doubles, what did folks say about your huge statistical performances?
Not very a lot. In these days, they targeted on scoring and the blocking of pictures. There wasn’t a lot publicity related to it. It wasn’t considered till they went again into the archives and noticed what I had carried out. I used to be even stunned myself.
Over the primary 5 seasons of your N.B.A. profession, you averaged a triple-double (30.Three factors, 10.four rebounds, 10.6 assists). Did you personally take a look at these numbers with any added reverence?
I by no means thought of scoring. I by no means thought of rebounding. I by no means thought of assists. I solely thought of successful. And we didn’t have such an important basketball workforce at Cincinnati, so we struggled slightly bit. They have been ready on me to, I suppose, save the franchise. However you want a workforce to do these issues.
What was the key to being an excellent rebounder at 6-foot-5?
In highschool, I performed inside and out of doors. So after I acquired into the school ranks, I went to the ahead place. I simply had the basics to have the ability to play in or out. I all the time thank my coaches from highschool for serving to me construct these attributes. I simply knew the best way to field out. For me, it was simply enjoying basketball.
Westbrook will get a whole lot of criticism as a result of he hasn’t been a part of a championship workforce within the N.B.A., and I think about you confronted one thing comparable throughout your time in Cincinnati. What do you keep in mind in regards to the years earlier than you received a championship with Milwaukee?
I believe this occurs with nice basketball gamers, like Westbrook and myself. I used to be with Cincinnati for a few years, however we by no means made any notable trades to get higher gamers. If you happen to look again by the historical past of basketball — and I all the time inform folks this — each workforce that’s received a championship has made key trades. Boston acquired Invoice Russell. Crimson Auerbach was very astute at getting older starters from different groups to play off the bench for him. Loads of the groups I performed for, they didn’t wish to try this.
Whenever you look again, how jarring was it to be traded from Cincinnati to Milwaukee in 1970?
It was nice. I simply resented the truth that the Cincinnati basketball household felt that I hadn’t carried out something in 10 years, and all I had carried out was make All-Professional 10 straight years. However they wished to commerce Oscar Robertson. I simply didn’t need them to attempt to destroy my credibility and what I had carried out for town of Cincinnati. Once I went to Milwaukee, I assessed my state of affairs, and I’ll always remember, I advised my spouse, “I’m not going to be the scorer I used to be in Cincinnati.” And he or she mentioned, “Why?” I advised her I’ve to get these different gamers concerned within the recreation. For us to win, we’ve acquired to get the opposite gamers to make a contribution offensively.
Is it correct to categorise you as a Russell Westbrook fan?
I completely get pleasure from the way in which Westbrook performs. He’s a dynamic particular person. They’ve moved him round to completely different groups and I don’t know why, as a result of I believe he’s one of many star guards in basketball. I suppose they thought that when he went to Washington that he wouldn’t be that efficient, however, man, he’s carried out an amazing job.
And also you’re rooting for him to interrupt your file for profession triple-doubles?
There’s little question about it. I hope he will get it. I believe he’s one of many elite guards in basketball, and I believe it’s ridiculous that some sportswriters criticize him as a result of he has not received a championship. Gamers don’t win championships by themselves. You’ve acquired to have good administration. You might want to get with the correct group of gamers.
Have a look at Brooklyn: Who might have carried out this years in the past? How issues have modified. It appears now that what’s occurring in basketball, and I haven’t seen it occur in soccer but, is gamers will get collectively and say, “Let’s go and play for this workforce so we are able to win.” Years in the past, you wouldn’t have considered doing that.
Who else do you get pleasure from watching in as we speak’s N.B.A.?
I like to look at a whole lot of gamers, actually. LeBron [James], in fact. [Stephen] Curry. I like [James] Harden. There are such a lot of nice basketball gamers — together with the child out of Portland: [Damian] Lillard. Curry might be one of many most interesting shooters ever, however so is Lillard. He can actually shoot the basketball from far out. It’s virtually easy.
Lengthy-distance capturing has taken over the fashionable recreation. You’re OK with that?
It’s a distinct sort of basketball. It’s a gamers’ recreation. And it’s a followers’ recreation — they love this. I’ve all the time mentioned this: 3-point pictures are like 7-footers was — they will get a coach fired. When you have 3-point shooters they usually don’t make these pictures, “That’s it, Coach.” The secret is to outscore your opponents. That’s what it’s about. If you happen to can shoot 3-point pictures and you may win the basketball recreation, it’s nice. If you happen to begin lacking these pictures and also you don’t make the adjustment and begin doing another issues, you’re going to be in bother.