Closer Look: Big O’s Remarkable Record
On the 50th anniversary of Oscar Robertson’s triple-double season, learn more about the franchise legend’s stat-stuffing production and lasting off-court impact.
Fifty years ago, franchise legend Oscar Robertson had one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of sports, averaging 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists for the Cincinnati Royals, while playing 79 of 80 games in the 1961-62 season. To date, he is the only player in NBA annals to average a triple-double in a single season, a feat that only an elite few have even come remotely close to attaining.
In addition to compiling three double-digit statistical averages during his momentous 1961-62 campaign, Robertson, whose No. 14 is retired by the Kings, led the League in assists, ranked fourth in field goal percentage, fifth in points per game, third in minutes played and fourth in PER.
How incredible was Robertson’s season?
While on his way to earning First Team All-NBA honors, “Big O” recorded 41 triple-doubles – since the 1999-00 season, the NBA as a whole has averaged 34.5 triple-doubles per season, and Sacramento players alone have notched just 36 triple-doubles since the team moved to the Capital City in 1985.
The dynamic Robertson was a player who was truly ahead of his time.
The 6-foot-5 guard was one of the first players of his size to play at the guard position, and his quickness and athleticism were rare before he arrived on the NBA scene. No. 14’s unique ability is still admired by today’s generation of NBA players, including Kings guard Tyreke Evans.
“I’ve watched him a little bit because I watch NBA TV a lot and they show a lot of his games,” says Evans. “(He’s) definitely a Top 10 (all-time player). He could do it all.”
The University of Cincinnati product had the unique ability to be a floor general as well as an aggressive rebounder. In his extraordinary 1961-62 crusade, he was the first-ever player to average more than 10 assists in a season and became the first and, to-date, only guard to average more than 12 rebounds in a season. The 985 boards hauled in by Robertson in ’61-62 are 206 greater than the next best season total for an NBA guard.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Robertson’s famous season was that it was only his second year in the NBA – after concluding a successful career at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a three-time All-American, led the Bearcats to two Final Four appearances and became one of three players to twice record a triple-double in the NCAA Tournament.
The significant feats of the Royals guard’s career still stand strong amongst several generations of NBA legends. Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain are the only players who have come relatively close to repeating the former Cincinnati standout’s mark. Along with Johnson and Jordan, Robertson is also one of just three players who have averaged at least 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in a season.
“It’s unbelievable. It’ll probably never happen again,” says Kings guard Isaiah Thomas of Robertson’s improbable season. “I almost had a triple-double a couple of weeks ago and it was the hardest thing ever. I don’t know how you can average that. But that just shows how great of a player he was.”
Robertson retired in 1974 after 14 seasons with the Royals and the Milwaukee Bucks, respectively. Along with being named NBA MVP in 1964 and winning an NBA Championship in 1971 with the Bucks, he still maintains the all-time career-record for triple-doubles (181), which stands 43 ahead of Johnson.
Though he is most often recognized for his on-court achievement, the lifelong contribution Robertson has made off the court is just as notable.
Following his playing days, the 12-time All-Star and three-time All-Star Game MVP worked to help build low-cost living environments for African-Americans in his native Indianapolis, while also advocating for African-American social issues.
In honor of his lasting impact on the court and in the community, the Kings established the Oscar Robertson Triple-Double Award. Since the annual prize’s inception in 2003, a Kings player who has displayed outstanding on-court success, leadership and commitment to community service and family has been recognized for their efforts. Past recipients include Francisco Garcia, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Peja Stojakovic and Corliss Williamson.