Book Report - "The Big O" by Oscar Robertson

Book Report - "The Big O" by Oscar Robertson
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The Big O, My Times, My Games" is a fascinating first person look at a man who overcame discrimination at nearly every level he participated in, to become perhaps one of the greatest players in the game of basketball.

Before LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, there was Michael Jordan.  Before MJ came along, it was Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Long before Larry and Magic saved the NBA, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson were the best players in the game not named Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell.  
Look at these stats - 14 NBA Seasons 25.7 points per game, 9.5 assist, 7.5 rebounds.  
Look at these accolades - Rookie of the Year, NBA MVP (1964,) 12 consecutive All-Star Game appearances, including three game MVP's. 
However, the Big O's most amazing accomplishment probably came in 1962 when he averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists. That's right, he averaged a triple double for an entire season.
So perhaps you might expect a ghost written tale of NBA excess.  However, one has to remember that this was 1960.  Oscar signed for the princely sum of $33,000, with incentives that brought his rookie salary to around fifty thousand.  His contract was not negotiated by a high powered agent, but rather an attorney friend of his.
Robertson toiled in an era when players were bound to the teams that drafted them. He led the players union in their successful suit to have that unfair policy ended, providing true free agency for players, along with benefits for retired and injured players.
He describes his humble upbringing in a poor section of Indianapolis, going to a predominantly white college, and being unable to stay at the team hotel on road trips to games in the segregated south.  He left college as the sport's all time leading scorer, until his marks were eclipsed by Pete Maravich.
The writing is superb.  The story is compelling, and provides a fascinating look at an era that existed before ESPN and wall to wall sports coverage.  In fact, the NBA's ratings were so bad, that games were often shown on tape delay.  Robertson also covers the years he played for the financially strapped Royals, and finally getting that elusive championship with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Robertson faced so many challenges along the way, it's a testament to his character that he excelled despite many of the obstacles placed in the path of black players. He raised a good family, and became a successful businessman.
He gives a revealing look at his life, his struggles, and how he dealt with the hardships he faced.  The stands he took on behalf of his fellow players, and the color of skin probably prevented him from coaching or team management opportunities.  Robertson doesn't mince words when he talks about that, but he also heaps praise on many of the players who followed in his footsteps.  They should be immensely grateful for what the Big O, and his contemporaries have done to improve things for today's sometimes unappreciative, spoiled athletes.
I can't recommend this book enough - a home run - three and a half stars.  It should be required reading for every college and professional athlete.


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