The Big O(verlooked) No More …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — When the elders speak the rest of us need to listen.

Don’t always assume that what they are saying is lecturing rather than enlightening. Sometimes they are just trying to school us, as best they know how, on the things we might have missed or may not completely understand.

So when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a man whose list of accomplishments in basketball from adolescence to the highest level rank at the very top (right alongside Bill Russell‘s as far as I’m concerned), insists that Oscar Robertson is being overlooked, it’s worth investigating.

Kareem went all-in for his former teammate — they won a title together in Milwaukee — ranking him right up there with Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the greatest players the pro game has seen (courtesy of ESPN’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd and

“LeBron is awesome, MJ was awesome — but I think Oscar Robinson would have kicked them both in the behind,” said Abdul-Jabbar when asked about James and Jordan. “Absolutely. Oscar was awesome. He had brains. […] He had all the skills.

“He could rebound and box out guys four and six inches taller than him. He was ruggedly built. He had fluid, quickness, and just understood the game. No flair, he just got the job done every night. Who’s going to average double figures in points, assists and rebounds?”

I placed a call to one my most trusted sources, a man who has watched and studied the game since the 1950s and has a keen eye for the evolution of the game throughout the ages. And he concurred with what Kareem said on the television and radio airwaves Thursday. The Big O has long been overlooked, overshadowed even by guys like Kareem, Russell and Wilt Chamberlain during that era. Never mind that he was ahead of his time in every way.

“All things considered, the Big O was a 6-foot-5 guard that changed the game,” my source said. “I don’t go along with that, ‘Who is the greatest?’ conversation and all of that sort of stuff, but he helped change the game. The Big O was the man, but like anything you have to take every guy in his time and place him in the proper context. You can’t deny what anyone has done but the Big O was the Jordan and LeBron of his time.”

An oversized point guard or undersized power forward, and perhaps just a cosmic blend of two of the greatest players we’ve ever seen …, a walking triple double (during the 1961-62 season and almost did it four other times during his Hall of Fame career)!


  1. Keith says:

    I think the point that gets ignored is that the best player in a given generation would have had access to the same training, nutrition, competition etc if “dropped” into a different era. Lebron would still be 6-8, but likely built more like pre-HIV Magic, for example. Or he’s 260 lbs, and gets stuck in the post. Or Oscar Robertson would have trained more and differently in order ot develop his ball-handling and 3 point shot in this era, because it is what is now required. That’s why it is impossible to compare.

  2. PS. I’ve make an argument for putting Oscar Robertson 7th on my All-Time list. I could be wrong, but if so, not by much, he’s easily amongst the top 10.

  3. Wilt Chamberlain was once quoted as saying in a private conversation: “If you’re in a trivia game and don’t know the answer to a question, just say ‘Oscar Robertson’ – you’ll probably be right.”

    This alone speaks volumes. People who know the game and the history of the game do not overlook The Big O.

  4. Jake says:

    1.) There are too many variables to take into account and 2.) You don’t get to simply write somebody off just because you feel the competition wasn’t at it’s peak. Which you’re all speaking from a position of ignorance anyway, considering none of you guys played in the league during that period of time… or this period, for that matter. You guys talk about players being more athletic these days, but what you don’t talk about are the new rule changes that have benefited scorers that didn’t exist during Big O’s time. The game is a faster paced game these days too, so statistically there is going to be more opportunities for an offensive player. Also, if the level of talent is so far superior these days as claimed… wouldn’t that benefit modern stars as well? Because a higher level of competition also means a higher quality teammate. Which means if this was the 70’s, Kobe Bryant couldn’t just wait around and get a top 10 star player handed to him every other off season like currently. The Lakers would have to actually build a team through the draft like it still took talent and skill to build a championship team….scary prospect huh, Laker fans?

  5. Kal says:


    we need the footage!

    to back it up.

    NBA TV … hook us up!

    there has got to be more Greatest Games in the archives somewhere… more stuff from in his prime when he played for the Royals and there has got to be plenty more Bucks games that aren’t out there on YouTube right now…

    i repeat: NBA TV… hook us up!

  6. Joe Gallagher says:

    Any time you or I step to the free throw line and make the shot we are for one millisecond the best player in the world, so give your self some props and enjoy the game!

  7. Bball Freak says:

    Goof for his time….not as good as MJ, Lebron, Kobe, Melo..Big O had a great mid reange shot…no use of his left hand…one on one he would never have beaten any of these guys…Just not the same physically…But great for his era

  8. celentano says:

    to jb, you followed nba from ’61 and still you ain’t understanding no b.ball knowledge today?!!?james or lefake shouldn’t be mentioned at all with the hof-players ever until he got 5 new rings “uncheated ones”!!! lebron got pamper’d from the moment he enterd the league,heck even before he enter’d he was already big hype!
    its time for change about officiating,theyr odd way to swallow wisthles is to ridicuolus, a big shame! it’s obvious the heat got a lot help from the ref’s last 2 championschips!
    leave lefake (mister extra steps) out of the hof conversations until he’s retired.

    • jorgie says:

      Kobe bryant is better than all these guys but yall dont wanna talk abt him like he mean nothing to the game….

    • Knowledge says:

      My IQ dropped 7 points when I read this comment. I thought people were done crying like little babies about LeBron, but I guess some people just never grow up.

  9. tanibanana says:

    The sport & players will continue to evolve until it reached the peak..
    And comparing one player of a particular era from another is absurd & unfair.
    If not for the 60’s players the 80’s & 90’s player will be less better,
    and that goes to today’s players as well, if not for the 80’s & 90’s players,
    LeBron & Durant would be less of they are today.. and so on.
    Look at High School players today, they are already doing what MJ was doing
    in NBA, even these High School players are aged 14~17.

  10. Colacola says:

    You guys fail to realize that if Big O was around today, he would be trained like today’s players from birth. So his skill set would be updated, and his raw basketball IQ is what will be carried over.

  11. jb says:

    I’m 61, and I’ve seen just about everyone since ’61. I don’t think it is possible to name the GOAT, but to leave Robertson–or Baylor, for that matter–out of the conversation is unconscionable. We tend to glorify what we’re familiar with. I’ve been lucky to see so many amazing talents, and Jordan, James, and Robertson all shine as brightly as any, and more brightly than most. Thanks to Abdul-Jabbar for bringing this to our attention.

    • Bigmatta23 says:

      JB you are the only person that made any sense. Cheers.

    • Schemer21 says:

      There is no real way of comparing guys from different eras – the game evolves and therefore the game Robertson played is very different to the game Jordan played.
      What can’t be argued is greatness. There are players who are just destined for greatness, who stand head and shoulders above their peers. Big O was one such player, and in order to compare him to the more recent greats you have to imaging him as part of that era.
      I think that if he was a similar age to Lebron for example, and grew up playing basketball as it’s played today, his style of play would be completely different but he would still be one of the greats because that’s who he is – he is one of those people who rise above their peers.

  12. vinsanefan says:

    Okay, I’m getting really kind of fed up with this “who’s the greatest player of all time debate.” I just want to make a few quick points though
    1. Did any of who are commenting about Oscar Robertson being the best player of all time actually watch his highlight reel? I know that highlights don’t tell the whole story, but whenever I watch NBA high lights further back than the 80’s I just can’t get over the fact that the players generally look really slow. Also, Oscar in that video didn’t look overly comfortable handling the ball. From what I saw he was really good at hitting turn around mid-range jump shots over smaller guards who didn’t seem to have a desire to touch him while guarding him. Other than that, he didn’t show a whole lot of ability.
    2, If you look at virtually any sport (not just basketball) over the last several decades the level of competition has increased dramatically. It’s only natural that as new training, nutrition, and playing techniques are developed that players will overall get better. In addition the are simply a lot more people playing basketball nowadays around the world. More players = more better players as well. To be sure there are some “phenoms” (such as Michael Jordan) who were beyond their time and who had incredible talent, but in general players today are considerably better than in the 1960’s. The league is more competitive; Wilt Chamberlain regularly played against opposing centers who were 6’6 6’7. Imagine what Shaq would have done playing against defenders that size…
    3. I believe that today’s players are much better because of players like Big O that came before them and helped take the game to new heights. Big O will always have his place in NBA history and he certainly inspired many who watched him play.

  13. robbfrazier says:

    I am a year older than Kareem and just like him I have seen alot of players come and go. I saw Oscar average tiple doubles for a whole season back in the sixties, and in three or four other years come close to it. To me Oscar is the best point guard, and as much as a love Magic Johnson I would give Oscar the node over him. Kareem played with both Oscar and Magic so he would know. As far as Micheal Jordan and Lebron are concerned, I would still take Oscar. Micheal is retired like Oscar, I do not think it is fair to put Lebron in this yet because he has still got a great deal of basketball to play before it is all over. Depending on what he does for the rest of his career both Kareem and I may change our opinions. When you start putting Wilt and Bill Russell into the conversation then that is off because we are measuring players by position. And I think that is where Kareem was coming from because guards control the pace and tempo of the game more than any other position.

  14. Alex says:

    If we directly took MJ and LBJ as we know them today, and played them 1 on 1 with Oscar, MJ and LBJ would win no doubt. But in terms of dominant player in his era, Oscar is up there. Comparing era to era is impossible because LBJ learned from MJ, MJ learned from Erving and Magic, Erving and Magic learned from Oscar.

  15. Overjam 1 says:

    Keep in mind, the players before 85 or so were much, much smarter than today’s players. The skill discrepancy is debatable, so the only advantage would be athleticsim, which is neutralized by intelligence. Oscar, Baylor, West, Russell and Chamberlain and the crew would smash ANY current players.

  16. Gillsy says:

    I still think its unfair to compare players would the Big O have a triple double season, or Wilt a 100 point game now who knows. But you can tell they were special players cause those numbers what ever era don’t get put up every game.

  17. Gillsy says:

    I agree with Unkle daddy players of today don’t have the fundamentals. When you look at the players everyone wants to watch other than a few younger players like Durant and James. Everyone still talks about Kobe, Ray Ray, The Truth, KG and Timmy as the players to watch cause they came into the league when you had to have skills during the 90’s. The same can be said for guys like Oscar and MJ you had to have game. Now its do my one year of college and hope for the best. Look at Charlotte they are still trying to get their no 2 pick to be able to shoot a jump shot.

    • His Airness says:

      NBA players are only less skilled in some respects, but mostly because players are younger now. Mj played 3 years at college and joined the NBA at age 21. Nowadays he might play 1 year and enter the league at 19.
      A 19 year old would have less skills than a 21 year old. That is why David stern always wanted to increase the age-limit.
      On the other hand, a 21 year old Jordan with 2 years of NBA experience would have been better than a 21 year old Jordan with only 3 years of college experience.

  18. Shin Dung Fha says:

    The biggest thing that everyone missed when comparing great players are the exclusion of the group of defenders that used to defend these great players. How good and how many good defenders did each has to face during their era.. by doing so, one can at least raise some player up and lower some on the standings. I believed today’s or younger generations of players faced tougher defender compared to the 70 players, that is why they have to dribble or handle the ball better, on the other hand older era dont have that great defender as evidence of dribbler fronting the opponent a lot. Most of the great players of the 70 or older does not have to protect the ball so much as todays.. so my opinion is that todays players are way better players that yesteryears… my cut off line…The magic Johnson onward.

  19. Mattymo says:

    The sport of Basketball has evolved – but it wouldn’t be where it is without the great ones who went before. Guys like the Big O dominated the game. Its a bit unfair saying they couldn’t do it now as they did all that was asked of them back then (i.e dominate what was infront of them on the court). Saying they wouldn’t be able to do it in todays game might be true, but todays game is at the level it is now due to these past greats that elevated it. “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

  20. sherwin says:

    there must not be a comparison. players games are different because of the circumstances they were in at their era. take for example jordans 3-point shots. they are fewer than lebron’s because in the 80’s 3’s were new. it was not yet “in” while lebron is already accustomed to it even in his high school years. he knew that he must also practice it so he is more prepared. i think nba players were built to integrate their skills in their particular era.

  21. Unkle Daddy says:

    It makes me laugh when people say o’ well they couldn’t handle the athletes of today, well look at two of the best athletes in the game today (the clippers front line) so athletic, but no real game. Back in the day you had to have real game to play in this league, I’ll take the old guys, they could at least do the fundamentals.

  22. This guy was the real deal, I do think he was the best sg of all time yes over Kobe and Jordan. He had the best all around game.

  23. freal says:

    All this greatest of all-time talk is getting really, REALLY corny. Why is there such an obsession with selecting ONLY ONE?? We could choose AT THE VERY LEAST FIVE different players in the history of the game and have great and convincing grounds upon which to single them out as the GOAT; and all cases would be equally credible as well. Perhaps with that kind of approach we might even be able to appreciate the game better as a whole.

  24. he is the only player to actual average a triple doube in a single season (Oscar Robertson)

  25. Rick says:

    He averaged a triple double FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR. No one else has even come close to that.

    • Magic Johnson came very close with 16.8 PPG, 10.5 APG, and 8.6 RPG. He also averaged 18.6 PPG, 9.5 APG, and 9.6 RPG in the 1981-82 season.

    • Witness says:

      Come on Rick. What this guy said. But its TRUE most people dont realize just how close Magic was. Obviously ROUNDED UP he averaged it, which I think should be talked about more. That is part of the reason I have Magic currently as second greatest ever after MJ.

  26. Kareem was one of the best ( ) and I appreciate him giving Big O his props, but the 60’s were different from the 80’s and 90’s.

    In my opinion the best NBA basketball was played between 1984 – 2000. The athletes were superb and even better than the athletes today.

    If Big O would have played against MJ in the 80’s and 90’s, MJ would have scored 40 on him every time. The only player of the 60’s who may have been good in the 80’s and 90’s were Russell, Wilt and Kareem (as he proved in the 80’s) Notice how they are all centers.

    Guard and forwards of the 60’s would not have had a chance against the athletic players of the mid 80’s to late 90’s.

    • His Airness says:

      The old guards wouldn’t have a chance? Training and conditioning is better now but it wouldn’t take that long for them to adjust. Think of college players who need time to adjust to the nba game. Oscar would be great now of course though he wouldn’t average a triple double.

  27. ene be a says:

    Do people overlook MJ ? . Was mj really the best? Is jordan the most overated player of all time? .

  28. Klynester says:

    I believe Kareem had a point when it comes to the Big O being overlooked, but comparing the players (even on each of their prime) is a very long and I mean looonnnngggg debate!! But again when it’s about great guards of the sport, definitely Oscar Robertson is one of my top 5! I mean who has averaged a triple double in 1 season?? (I cant think of any except him, but of course I just a fan, dunno all the stats from the past)

  29. ene be a says:

    The big big biigg O was anything but great.

  30. Bob says:

    I met the Big O at the Maurice Stokes Charity game one year when I was a teenager. It was like meeting royalty. Some people have a “presence of greatness” that surrounds them; he is one of them. He had to be in his late 40’s, but you knew he was a special person.

  31. Ro says:

    Does anyone really care that Kareem said his teammate was one of the best? It’s all opinion anyway. There are no ‘rules’ when it comes to who was the best.
    In my opinion, Oscar cant be considered close to as good as Jordan. Obviously i havent seen much of him. But from what i have seen from the older guys, they just dont have the moves that the more modern players have. Yeah 6’5 was a big guard then, but kick MJ’s behind? Come on Kareem. MJ literally had every offensive move that has ever been seen. Nothing has been created since he retired, that he hadnt done.
    I dont know correct me if im wrong and i know people my age never saw Oscar other than some highlight vids, but i just cant see him having a skill set anything close to Michael

    • Gman says:

      i agree with Ro…. Big O was great for his ERA, but he struggled bringing the ball up, and in today’s generation(no-handcheck) he would have a lot of trouble bringing the ball with that ball handling. I think one great way to talk about G.O.A.T status is to think and say….. Hey! If we dropped *player name* in this ERA, would they still be great considering what we have seen said player do?

      • Erasmus says:

        The game has evolved too such a degree comparisons are difficult. Oscar, MJ and LeBron each would struggle if they played in a different era. Once adjusted to a different era, I think each would be a dominating force. I saw each of these players play MANY times live. Just happy to have had the opportunity. As for the Big O struggling to bring the ball up court, that is not true. He was a tremendous ball handler and was the key guy used to break a press (both in college and in the pros).

    • “Every offensive move that has ever been seen?” Except the 3 pointer, one of the biggest parts of the game today.

      • Fatner says:

        6 threes in a half. Game 1 92 Finals

      • Yes, MJ did have the occasional game where he would hit threes, but so does everyone. That doesn’t mean the three pointer was part of his arsenal. For God’s sake, Manute Bol had six three in a half once.

      • miguelamor22 says:

        Please Dont compare MJ to manute Bol. MJ has hit some ultra clutch 3s in his career. He shot almost %47 in the 96 finals. Granted he only took 15 for the whole series, he hit 7 of em and they were all pretty huge. No it wasn’t one of his regular weapons but he could hit em when they really counted. Mike has shot over %42 from 3 point range in a season, has Manute?? No. Not unless you count the season that he took one three pointer… C’mon son. Don’t be ridiculous. And come up with an original name. One self obsessed goof nobody likes on these message boards is enough.

    • His Airness says:

      Well there is the Euro step. Mj didn’t do that.

  32. Kobe Fan says:

    What’s his real name? Oscar Robertson or Oscar Robinson? Thanks for your help.

  33. Turk says:

    For me the biggest misunderstanding about the topic is the comparison of stats or athleticism of past/present. In the times of bill, wilt or Big O, rest of the league was inferior to them in terms of skill and power. So that, although they were skilled and good, they seem much more transcendent then they should be in present. I think, today’s average Nba player is much more skillful then the 40 years ago. Thus, comparing them is not appropriate.

    • I agree…comparing is not appropriate at all

    • Big O would have still killed the average NBA player of today and be among the best if he played today. Even with the changes in basketball, a player like that wouldn’t just become trash in a new era. I mean watch some videos of him playing, he would be able to do the same moves just as easily on todays’ players. With that being said, Jordan and Lebron are far superior to Big O.

      • Witness says:

        Please. The same moves like what. Dribbling at an average pace and mostly jab steppin and pullin up with a pretty awkward lookin jumper for a shooting guard. Yea ok. This guy benefited from a far inferior league just as the guy said above. Jordan and LBJ are superior to him period.

    • Truth Teller! says:

      This is a moot point, 10 years from now you will be able to say that Lebron, Durant, and Dwight played in a time where the rest of the league was inferior to them in terms of skill and/or power. Why will their accomplishments mean any more than his?