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How Many MVPs Does Oscar Robertson Have?

Oscar Robertson won just a single NBA MVP award. Claiming the NBA Regular Season NBA MVP award in 1964. Many NBA historians argue that Robertson would have won multiple regular season MVP awards had he not spent most of his prime in an underachieving franchise, the Cincinnati Royals. He also won three NBA All-Star Game MVP honors (1961, 1964, 1969).

First Out of the Gate

Robertson arrived on the NBA scene via the 1960 NBA draft and immediately proved that he belonged among the elite of the league. Averaging a near triple-double in his rookie season with over slightly over 30 points, 10 rebounds, and just under 10 assists, the former first-overall pick won the 1960-61 Rookie of the Year award by a mile in a class that featured NBA greats like former Los Angeles (LA) Lakers marksman Jerry West and nine-time NBA All-Star and 1970 NBA assists leader Lenny Wilkens.

The 2018 NBA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient also became the third player in NBA history after Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain (in 1959 and 1960 respectively) to earn an All-Star selection in his rookie year – an opportunity he took full advantage of to win the 1961 NBA All-Star Game MVP award by recording 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 14 assists to lead the West to victory.

Among the many notable performances in his rookie campaign included a 44-point, 15-rebound, and 11-assist triple-double against Chamberlain’s Philadelphia Warriors, a 32-point, 21-rebound, and 16-assist demolition of the now-defunct St. Louis Hawks, and a 21-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist routing of the Minneapolis Lakers in his NBA debut.

The Original Triple-Double King

While many young NBA fans associate the triple-double with players like former LA Lakers and 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook and talismanic Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, it was Robertson who popularized it when he became the first player in NBA history when he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in just his second season in the league (1961-62).

Robertson not only averaged a triple-double (30.3 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 10.6 assists per game) over his first five seasons in the NBA but also set the bar by recording 41 triple-doubles in the same campaign – a mark that lasted for well over five decades until Westbrook registered 42 in 2016/17.

His fourth year (1963-64) was arguably the best outing of his career as he went on to average 9.9 rebounds and 11.0 assists along with a career-high 31.4 points per game to win that season’s NBA MVP award. He also won his second All-Star Game MVP crown by leading the East to victory with 26 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists, and received his fourth consecutive All-NBA First Team selection.

Other Personal and Team Accolades

Despite playing on a largely lackluster team, Robertson not only excelled but also elevated his teammates’ play to levels that could only be compared to LeBron James‘ first stint in Cleveland. The two-time Helms College Player of the Year made the NBA All-Star team in his first 12 years in the league.

His 11 consecutive All-NBA Team selections also proved that the three-time UPI College Player of the Year was a force to reckon with in a league that prioritized the post-up game that usually ran through centers and power forwards.

Perhaps his most impressive career achievement was leading the league in assists on six different occasions in his first nine years in the NBA. Robertson broke former Celtics playmaker Bob Cousy’s assist record by dishing out 184 more assists in a season in his sophomore campaign.

Robertson was also quite aggressive on the glass and grabbed more than 900 rebounds in a single season.

To highlight just how exemplary this milestone was, only two other players who were 6 feet 5 inches and below achieved a similar feat in the history of the NBA – LA Lakers legend Elgin Baylor and four-time NBA All-Star “Jumpin Johnny” Green.

The three-time Sporting News College Player of the Year’s third and final NBA All-Star Game MVP award came in 1969 when he led an eastern conference team that included Celtics duo Bill Russell and John Havlicek and 1969 regular season MVP Wes Unseld against a stacked western conference side that featured Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Lenny Wilkens, and that season’s scoring champion, Elvin Hayes.

After 11 heartbreaking seasons with the Royals, Robertson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1970 where he joined a young Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to win the only accolade that had eluded him for his entire career – an NBA World Championship – in 1971.

Testimonials and Modern-Day Comparisons

Put simply, the Big O is arguably the most underrated and underappreciated player in NBA history. The 1980 Hall-of-Fame inductee was a pioneer in the true sense of the world and is often inadequately credited for his contributions to the game.

Before Robertson’s time, point guards were often the smallest players on the field. Good examples to illustrate this point were former Celtics maestro Bob Cousy and former LA Lakers marksman Jerry West at 6’1 and 6’2 respectively. Robertson’s unprecedented success at the position paved the way for larger point guards like five-time NBA champion Magic Jonson.

A number of NBA historians also credit the former Cincinnati Bearcats standout with inventing the potent fadeaway shot was that later adopted by the likes of Michael Jordan and Dirk Nowitzki and the picturesque head fake that inspired moves like the legendary Dream Shake which was two-time NBA champion Hakeem Olajuwon’s bread and butter.

Unlike Westbrook, Robertson was quite efficient in his career and rarely committed turnovers en route to his triple-doubles. NBA legends like Jerry West, John Havlicek, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have gone on record on numerous occasions to reiterate just how great of a basketball play Roberston was.

In past interviews, West admitted that Robertson was “The greatest player he has ever played against” while Havlicek revealed that Robertson “had no weakness”. Abdul Jabbar also caused  quite a stir when he boldly stated that those who call Michael Jordan the greatest player of all time only do so because they have never witnessed Robertson play.