In his first N.B.A. recreation, in October 1960, Oscar Robertson registered 21 factors, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the Cincinnati Royals towards 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 recognized in basketball parlance as triple-doubles. Yet Robertson established a league document, along 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 strains in field scores.
“Honestly, I was totally unaware of it,” Robertson stated this week.
Nearly 50 years faraway from Robertson’s ultimate 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 City 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 Times, Robertson, 82, stated he was rooting for Westbrook to accomplish that and mentioned the criticism that he, like Westbrook, confronted in his Royals days till he teamed up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Milwaukee to lead 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 individuals say about your huge statistical performances?
Not very a lot. In these days, they targeted on scoring and the blocking of photographs. 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 accomplished. I used to be even shocked 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 have 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 profitable. And we didn’t have such an amazing basketball workforce at Cincinnati, so we struggled somewhat bit. They had been ready on me to, I suppose, save the franchise. But you want a workforce to do these issues.
What was the key to being a very good rebounder at 6-foot-5?
In highschool, I performed inside and out of doors. So once I obtained into the faculty ranks, I went to the ahead place. I simply had the basics to give you the chance to play in or out. I at all times thank my coaches from highschool for serving to me construct these attributes. I simply knew how to field out. For me, it was simply enjoying basketball.
Westbrook will get lots 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 bear in mind concerning the years earlier than you received a championship with Milwaukee?
I feel 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 look again by means of the historical past of basketball — and I at all times inform individuals this — each workforce that’s received a championship has made key trades. Boston obtained Bill Russell. Red Auerbach was very astute at getting older starters from different groups to play off the bench for him. A whole lot of the groups I performed for, they didn’t need to do this.
When you look again, how jarring was it to be traded from Cincinnati to Milwaukee in 1970?
It was tremendous. I simply resented the truth that the Cincinnati basketball household felt that I hadn’t accomplished something in 10 years, and all I had accomplished was make All-Pro 10 straight years. But they needed to commerce Oscar Robertson. I simply didn’t need them to strive to destroy my credibility and what I had accomplished for town of Cincinnati. When 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 was in Cincinnati.” And she stated, “Why?” I advised her I’ve to get these different gamers concerned within the recreation. For us to win, we’ve obtained to get the opposite gamers to make a contribution offensively.
Is it correct to classify you as a Russell Westbrook fan?
I completely get pleasure from the best way 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 feel 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 accomplished an incredible job.
And you’re rooting for him to break your document for profession triple-doubles?
There’s little question about it. I hope he will get it. I feel he’s one of many elite guards in basketball, and I feel it’s ridiculous that some sportswriters criticize him as a result of he has not received a championship. Players don’t win championships by themselves. You’ve obtained to have good administration. You want to get with the fitting group of gamers.
Look at Brooklyn: Who might have accomplished 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 team so we can win.” Years in the past, you wouldn’t have considered doing that.
Who else do you get pleasure from watching in right this moment’s N.B.A.?
I like to watch lots of gamers, actually. LeBron [James], after all. [Stephen] Curry. I like [James] Harden. There are so many 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.
Long-distance capturing has taken over the fashionable recreation. You’re OK with that?
It’s a distinct kind of basketball. It’s a gamers’ recreation. And it’s a followers’ recreation — they love this. I’ve at all times stated this: Three-point photographs are like 7-footers used to be — they will get a coach fired. If you’ve Three-point shooters they usually don’t make these photographs, “That’s it, Coach.” The identify of the sport is to outscore your opponents. That’s what it’s about. If you possibly can shoot Three-point photographs and you may win the basketball recreation, it’s nice. If you begin lacking these photographs and also you don’t make the adjustment and begin doing another issues, you’re going to be in hassle.