Tip-Off Timer: Oscar's Triple-Double Season in '62 Still Shines
Oscar Robertson never knew how big a feat he accomplished until his playing days were long gone.
If a player today did what he did during that 1961-62 season -- averaged a triple-double -- he would be hailed as unquestionably the most versatile player in the history of the game.
Robertson didn't think too much about it back then. Yet in reality, that '62 season marked him as the player that all the great ones still are measured against. And everyone else has come up short compared to the all-around game that Robertson had.
Statistics don't lie.
Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists that season -- just his second year in the league -- with the Cincinnati Royals. He remains the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double, even though they didn't even have a name for the feat when he did it.
He was fifth in the league in scoring, first in assists and 10th in rebounding. A triple-double is defined as recording double figures in three of the five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocked shots or steals) in a game. It's the most accurate measure of versatility.
"If I had known it meant so much, I would have tried to do it more,'' Robertson once remarked when asked about his triple-doubles during an NBA old-timers gathering.
The phrase triple-double wasn't even recognized in NBA speak until the Lakers PR department coined it as a way to illustrated the wonderful versatility of Magic Johnson, who entered the league in 1979. Johnson finished his career with 138 triple-doubles, second only to Robertson, who had 181.
Recording even a single-game triple-double is an accomplishment worth celebrating. Doing it through the course of a season is near impossible. LeBron James, for example, led the NBA with seven triple-doubles last season. The NBA one-season record is 41, set by Robertson during that 1961-62 season.
"It (Roberton's triple-double average over a season) is a record that will probably never be broken,'' Dallas guard Jason Kidd, the active career leader with 103, said a few years ago. "Everything would have to go your way -- every night.''
A lot of things went right for Robertson in his career. He was an NBA All-Star in his first 12 seasons. He won his Olympic Gold Medal in 1960 just before entering the NBA. He won a scoring title (which was no small feat in the Wilt Chamberlain era), and led the league in assists eight times. He averaged more than 30 points in six different seasons. He won a championship in Milwaukee in 1971.
Even the greatest players in the game never have threatened his exclusivity of 1961-62. The closest anyone has come was Robertson himself two years later when he averaged 31.4 points, 11 assists and 9.9 rebounds.
Those numbers don't lie.