Since 2015 the NBA has seen a revolution. What was initially called Small Ball and attributed to the Golden State Warriors using Power Forward Draymond Green at Center to win NBA titles, sent defense coaches and GMs alike scrambling to nullify and replicate respectively. But really the explosion should have been called “Skill Ball”. The notion of size dictating position and role in a team has been trampled upon by big men like Davis, Towns and Jokic knocking down shots, dishing out dimes and locking down elite wing scorers. It’s also been set on fire by smaller players like Bruce Brown, Rustle Westbrook and Draymond Green playing up positions and totally changing the dynamic of offenses around the league. Decades before all of this happened there was one man, a 6ft4 Point Guard who could do it all and do it all he did.
Did Oscar Robertson average a Triple Double? In the 1961-62 NBA season, in just his second year in the NBA, Oscar Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game for the Cincinnati Royals. Making him the first player ever to average Triple-Double for a whole season. The “Big O” stood alone as the only NBA player to average a Triple-Double for an entire season for 55 years, until Russell Westbrook matched his feat in the 2016-17 NBA season.
A Triple-Double is the feat of recording double-digit figures in at least three of the five major statistical categories: Points, Rebounds, Assists, Blocks, or Steals. The vast majority of triple doubles do not include Steals or Blocks. Russell Westbrook, has now averaged a Triple Double in 4 separate seasons during his career. Through the 2022-23 season no other player has joined Robertson & Westbrook in achieving this feat.
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Did Oscar Robertson Average a Triple-Double for his whole career?
Oscar Robertson was an NBA player for the Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) and the Milwaukee Bucks for 14 seasons between 1960 and 1974.
Robertson came close to averaging a Triple-Double in each of his first 5 seasons in the NBA. Between 1960 and 1965. In fact, despite only achieving it within a single season once, in 1961-62, he averaged a triple double across his first 6 seasons in the NBA. In 1965-66 his rebounding “fell off” to 7.7 per game (remember he’s a point guard!), but he still managed to maintain his triple double career average.
|Ave First 5 Years||30.27||10.4||10.6||77|
Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double across his first 5 seasons in the NBA
It wasn’t until the end of the 1966-67 season when his rebounding dropped to 6.6 that his career averages sunk below the triple double mark; 30.4, 9.4 and 10.7.
Robertson’s total career averages fell short of a Triple-Double due to less usage in the latter part of his career with the Milwaukee Bucks. Robertsons final stats tally is still impressive nonetheless: he averaged 25.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game in his 14-season career.
What was Oscar Robertson’s career like?
On the back of an elite high school and collegiate basketball career, Oscar Robertson hit the ground running as the first overall pick of the 1960 NBA Draft. As a member of the Cincinnati Royals, Robertson showed an elite mixture of dominance and versatility, as he could do virtually everything on the court, and better than everyone else too. While he racked up individual awards, Robertson’s team success only came when he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1970. In his first season, “Big O” was able to win an NBA title with the Bucks, and retired shortly afterwards in 1974. Alongside his title, Robertson’s resume includes 1x regular season MVP award, 12x NBA All-Star Game selections, 9x All-NBA First Team honors, 2x All-NBA Second Team honors, NBA Rookie of the Year award, and 6 assists titles. Robertson was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1980.
One of Robertson’s biggest contributions as an NBA player came not on the court, but as the president of the NBA Players Association (NBAPA). In 1970, the NBAPA led by Robertson filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA and the team owners. At the time, the NBA was discussing a major merger with the American Basketball Association (ABA), the other major professional basketball league. The aim of the lawsuit by the NBAPA was to block the merger until the NBA addressed some of the issues surrounding player salaries and player movement.
During that era, once a player was signed to a team, they were essentially stuck unless their team no longer wanted them, due to the existence of the “option” clause in the NBA uniform player contract. The only time a player would change teams was if the team decided to trade them or release them. When contracts expired, players would have to negotiate new terms with the team, and due to the option clause, the teams had all the power (they could offer less favorable terms and players would have to accept if they wanted to stay in the NBA). Robertson and the NBAPA chose to challenge that and give some of the agency back to the players.
The lawsuit was controversial, with the NBA and even some of the players fearing that it would pose serious harm to the NBA as a whole. But after 6 years, the already-retired Robertson’s antitrust lawsuit was settled in favor of the NBAPA. The option clause was removed as part of the “Oscar Robertson Rule” and led to the birth of free agency for players. What followed was an increased sense of player empowerment in terms of both salary and movement, but this also had an even bigger, positive impact on the NBA and the team owners’ pockets. Player empowerment has continued to increase and salaries have ballooned since then, thanks to the seeds planted by Robertson, and the NBA is also hitting record levels of revenue.
Who holds the record for the most triple-doubles in NBA history?
Oscar Robertson ended his career with 181 triple-doubles, setting a record that many thought would never be broken. Jumbo do it all Point Guard Magic Johnson came the closest with 138, while Jason Kidd finished at #3 by the time of his retirement in 2013 with 107 Triple Doubles; both of them were similar to Robertson in their profiles as big, athletic guards with generational playmaking abilities and rebounding skill.
However, Robertson’s record was eventually broken by Russell Westbrook, who currently has 198 triple-doubles and is still active in the NBA. Westbrook, like Robertson and the others who occupy the top of the list, is a Point Guard blessed with exceptional athleticism as well as being able to score at the rim and make plays with the best.
Westbrook has had triple-double average in a single season a record 4 times, including one season where he also grabbed 30-points a game. Westbrook also has the record for most triple-doubles in one season, 42. Currently as a player for the Los Angeles Clippers, Westbrook has an opportunity to truly set an unbreakable record for career triple-doubles by the time he hangs it up.
Oscar Robertson is living proof that despite playing 50 to 60 years ago, many NBA greats who came after him could not even come close to the type of versatile dominance he displayed in his prime. Every era of the NBA is different, and some players would be well-suited to certain eras over the other, but when seeing what a player like Robertson was able to achieve in his career, being so good at so many facets of the game, it would be disingenuous to try to claim that he could not be a star in today’s game.