Oscar Robertson is a former NBA player who won a NBA championship in 1971 and won the leagues Most Valuable Player award in 1964. He was a twelve time All-Star and was voted to the All-NBA First team nine times.
Oscar was the Rookie of the Year in 1961 and led the league in assists six different times. He also won a gold medal with the U.S. in 1960.
In this interview Oscar and I discuss Russell Westbrook’s triple-double accomplishments, regrets from his career and the Milwaukee Bucks 1971 championship run.
SHAFIN KHAN: Did you have any basketball mentors?
OSCAR ROBERTSON: Actually, my basketball mentors were some high school players that played before me at my high school, Crispus Attucks in Indianapolis and then some guys on the Harlem Globetrotters. Goose Tatum. Marques Haynes. Those were my idols.
KHAN: Who was the best teammate you ever had?
ROBERTSON: That’s impossible to answer. There were just different guys that I had different relationships with. Some you played ball with, some you went out and socialized with. Now, I talk to some guys that I didn’t have such a relationship with when I was playing.
KHAN: Who were a couple of the toughest guys you had to guard in your career?
ROBERTSON: Jerry West, Elgin Baylor. Some guys I played in high school. There were some college guys I played against. There were several of them. Walt Frazier. Dave Bing was another one.
KHAN: Is it true when you were a child you learned to shoot by shooting tennis balls in baskets?
ROBERTSON: Oh sure. I think almost everyone did that when they were growing up. I sure did.
KHAN: Do you have any regrets from you career?
ROBERTSON: I should have shot more. I regret that because it seems like that’s all people care about in this day and age. It’s how many shots you take and how many points you make. They don’t care about the other parts of the game at all.
KHAN: You were the first person in history to average a triple-double for an entire season. Russell Westbrook has now done it for three consecutive seasons. What are your thoughts on that accomplishment?
ROBERTSON: It’s a different game now. The assists have changed. Everything has changed. Everything is an assist now when someone scores. When I played it was not that way. It was just different. I’m glad he’s got it but to go back to that game and do that its unbelievable.
KHAN: So, you think it was harder to do it back in your era?
KHAN: Talk to me about your 1971 Championship run, what it took to get there.
ROBERTSON: A lot of teamwork. A lot of sacrifices on everybody’s part. It was a good run. We made a lot of sacrifices as players. A lot of them didn’t realize it but some of them did. The ones who made the most sacrifices were able to help us win basketball games.
KHAN: Who do you think were some of the keys players to that championship besides you and Kareem?
ROBERTSON: Everybody was key. Kareem of course was a big shot. Jon McGlocklin. Lucius Allen. Bob Dandridge. Greg Smith. We all made contributions.
KHAN: You played through the civil rights movement. What was a moment during your career that you felt ostracized because of the color of your skin?
ROBERTSON: All throughout my career. It was all throughout. Some of that stuff is still going on now. There were so many things that happened it was unbelievable. It’s been to long to even worry about it now.
KHAN: What was your favorite memory from your playing career?
ROBERTSON: Playing in the Olympics. Winning a gold medal at the Olympics.
KHAN: Do you think college players should be paid?
ROBERTSON: Yes. Why do coaches make millions of dollars? Why do they pay athletic directors? Yes, I do.
KHAN: Do you wish you could have played with a three point line?
ROBERTSON: No. Not at all. I never thought about it. It doesn’t matter to me at all.
KHAN: What coaches did you learn from the most?
ROBERTSON: The first coach I had taught me more than anyone. Tom Sleet, my eight grade coach.
KHAN: What life advice would you give to a young guy?
ROBERTSON: Be honest to your own self and do the best you can. Don’t try to sidestep the game.