In only his second season in the NBA, Cincinnati Royals guard Oscar Robertson set a record which ranks as one of the greatest individual achievements in basketball or any other sport, and which is unlikely ever to be surpassed.
The Big O averaged a triple double for the entire 1961-62 season: 30.8 points per game, 11.4 assists per game and 12.5 rebounds per game. More than half his games (41 of 79) were triple-doubles, and in seven of those games he topped 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the same game! Those 41 triple-double games represent the NBA single season record. He went on to set the NBA record for career triple-double games as well with 181.
In 1961-62, the NBA had only nine teams. Following is an idea of the level of competition against which Robertson and his teammates (Jack Twyman, Wayne Embry, Bob Boozer, Adrian Smith, Arlen Bockhorn) played night after night as he compiled this record:
In the process of averaging a triple-double, The Big O also became the only guard in NBA history ever to lead his team in rebounding, and the only player ever to total 900 assists and 900 rebounds in the same season.
Over his first five years, the 6-5, 210-pound Robertson cumulatively averaged a triple-double: 30.3 points per game, 10.6 assists per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. Over six years: 30.4 ppg, 10.7 apg, 9.95 rpg. Seven years: 30.4 ppg, 10.7 apg, 9.4 rpg.
Robertson is the NBA's alltime career leader in triple-double games, 181 to Magic Johnson's 138. They along with Jason Kidd are the only players to top 100. Wilt Chamberlain is fourth on the list with 78.
Over his NBA career, The Big O accounted for almost as many points through assists (19,774) as he did through scoring (26,710). His career averages: 25.7 ppg, 9.5 apg, 7.5 rpg. His record of 9887 career assists stood for 17 years until broken by Magic Johnson and later by John Stockton. He led the league in assists six times, free throw percentage twice and scoring once (29.2 average in 1967-68).
You need to spend a lot of time on the floor to have a shot at a triple double, and, along with Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain from that era, The Big O was an iron man in terms of minutes played. With the Royals, he averaged 43.9 minutes per game, and for his 14-year career, 42.1 minutes per game. In nine of those seasons, he played over 3000 minutes.
Another measure of The Big O's impact was his teams' winning percentage. In the year he averaged the triple-double, he also led the Royals to their first playoff appearance in four years and their first winning season (43-37) in six years, a 221% turnaround from 19 wins in each of the two seasons prior to Robertson's arrival. The Royals won .545 of their games his first seven years and .522 over his ten years. In his four years at Milwaukee, the Bucks won 248 of 328 games for a .756 percentage, averaging 62 wins per season. In 1970-71, their NBA championship season, the Bucks were 66-16 in the regular season and 12-2 in the playoffs.
Last updated: 6/10/2008.