Cover image for The Big O : my life, my times, my game
The Big O : my life, my times, my game
Robertson, Oscar, 1938-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
[Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
ix, 342 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV884.R6 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
GV884.R6 A3 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This is the story of perhaps the greatest all-around player in basketball history, told straight from his mouth.

The name Oscar Robertson nowadays gets mentioned in conjunction with one of basketball's seminal accomplishments: the triple-double season. The year was 1962. He was all of twenty-three. No player in basketball history had ever done this. No one has done it since--not Magic Johnson, not Larry Bird, not Michael or Kobe. Throughout the first five years of his career, he averaged a triple-double.

Videotape does not do him justice. The images are washed out, the colors faded and fuzzy in a manner associated with bygone eras, the fashions and style of play not aging well. And yet there is palpable greatness.

He was voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on the first ballot, and the National Association of Basketball Coaches named him their player of the century. ESPN put him among their fifty greatest athletes of the century, the National Basketball Association on their list of the fifty greatest players. On and on. So many accolades that they run into one another.

But the story of Oscar Robertson is about much more than basketball. The story of Oscar Robertson is one of a shy black child growing up in a city so segregated that, until he is ten years old, his only exposure to white people is the distant memory of two Tennessee farm owners whose land his father had worked. It is the story of a poor family, and absent parents working long hours without complaint or reward.

The story of Oscar Robertson is also the story of the basketball-crazed state of Indiana and Crispus Attucks High School, the high school he led to the state championship. He joins the University of Cincinnati's basketball team and handles the ball on the perimeter in a way that has never been seen before.

Oscar Robertson enters the NBA with the Cincinnati Royals, who have been just barely holding on as they wait for the fledgling star. Robertson does not disappoint. Moving to the backcourt, he simply revolutionizes the game.

The story of Oscar Robertson is one of a superstar at the height of his career becoming the president of a union, the National Basketball Players Association, using his fame to try to improve conditions for all basketball players. It is the story of the man who sues the NBA for the right to free agency.

He is thirty-one years old when the Milwaukee Bucks trade for him. And so Oscar Robertson's story is also the story of a veteran player who joins young superstar Lew Alcindor (the future Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and leads Milwaukee to an NBA championship.

It is the story of a man who, at thirty-four years old, is forced to leave the game. Who is blacklisted from coaching and is forced out of broadcasting. Who must face questions not about whether he fought the good fight, but how he fought it.

Two years after he leaves basketball, after six years of legal wrangling, Robertson wins his lawsuit with the NBA. It is the story of a man who revolutionized the game of basketball twice: once on the court, and once in the way that the business of basketball is conducted. It is the story of how the NBA, as we now know it, was built. Of race in America in the second half of the twentieth century. Of a complex hero. An uncompromising man. It is Oscar Robertson's story.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Oscar Robertson was considered basketball's greatest all-around player. He once averaged a triple-double (double-digit totals in points, rebounds, and assists) for an entire season. All that said, statistics do not make a life story, and Robertson dwells on them very little in this fascinating memoir. The grandson of a slave, Robertson grew up poor in segregated Indianapolis. His life was a series of battles: for acceptance as a human being as well as an athlete; for the NBA players as head of their union; for color-blind journalism and on behalf of former players for more significant roles in NBA team management. He discusses these confrontations in detail within the dual context of the game as it was then and as it is today. It's a painful subject for him. His willingness to state the unvarnished truth and to battle the status quo are the primary reasons he has not been part of the NBA since his retirement. And, of course, there are plenty of basketball anecdotes, too, including his frustrating years with the Cincinnati Royals, struggling to overcome the Boston Celtics and Bill Russell.nown as an intelligent player and respected by his peers as an intelligent man, Robertson puts an exclamation point on the accolades with this thoughtful reflection on a life lived without compromise. A well-written, entertaining, and thought-provoking sports autobiography--but would we ever expect less than a triple-double from the Big O? --Wes Lukowsky Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

As one of the NBA's all-time greats, Oscar Robertson has much to pass on to both his old fans and young basketball enthusiasts perhaps unfamiliar with his legacy. Whether it was winning Indiana's famed statewide high school tournament (and playing in the first all-black final, the first time black teams had made the final), winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics or making the NBA all-star team 12 times, the author certainly made his mark on sports history. But while listing his accomplishments and including the testimony of former teammates, coaches and opponents effectively details his greatness, the Big O feels compelled to constantly remind readers of his eminence with statements like, "By all accounts, I was the best all-around player of my era"-though the case has already been clearly stated. He also spends much of the epilogue explaining how no modern player compares to him in his prime. Arrogance aside, Robertson's rise from sharecropper's grandson to world-class athlete and his dealings with overt racism throughout the journey (as a college player, he was told to leave an all-white Houston hotel in the middle of the night) offer wonderful lessons for young athletes. Robertson's experiences playing for the NBA (Cincinnati and Milwaukee) in its bumbling early days, such as the time his team arrived at their arena only to find the circus already set up, are entertaining, too. Still, one may wonder why Robertson, humorless to the final buzzer, came away with so much more bitterness than joy. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Robertson has been labeled "the most complete player in all basketball history" by Peter Bjarkman (Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball). From a poor family and broken home, Robertson began his career in a black Indianapolis high school. After integrating the University of Cincinnati basketball team, he went on to that city's NBA Royals and Milwaukee Bucks, a star player of the first rank for 14 seasons. As head of the NBA Players' Association, he led the fight for union recognition and an end to the reserve clause. But the triumphs are tempered throughout this book by Robertson's bitter recollections of the discrimination and travails with which he and other African Americans had to cope. This outspoken story is good for most public libraries and all sports collections.-Morey Berger, St. Joseph's Hosp. Lib., Tucson, AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Chapter 1 The Crossroads of America - 1938-1951p. 1
Chapter 2 Li'l Flap - 1951-1954p. 19
Chapter 3 "They Don't Want Us" - 1954-1955p. 42
Chapter 4 "Talk Is Cheap" - 1955-1956p. 55
Chapter 5 Collegiate Life - 1956-1958p. 72
Chapter 6 "What They Eat Don't Make Me Fat" - 1958-1959p. 94
Chapter 7 Gold - 1959-1960p. 115
Chapter 8 Rookie Stardom - 1960-1961p. 130
Chapter 9 The Triple-Double - 1961-1963p. 149
Chapter 10 Union President, NBA Royalty - 1963-1968 (Part One)p. 171
Chapter 11 The Sixties Continued - 1963-1968 (Part Two)p. 199
Chapter 12 Moving On - 1969-1970p. 225
Chapter 13 Milwaukee, Lew Alcindor, and the Championship - 1970-1971p. 248
Chapter 14 Do Not Go Gently - 1971-1974p. 275
Chapter 15 Endings - 1974-1976p. 304
Epiloguep. 316
Creditsp. 333
Indexp. 334