The NBA vs. Hollywood: And the Oscar Robertson Goes To...

Peter ImberContributor IIIFebruary 25, 2012

The guy on the right would destroy the guy on the left one on one!
The guy on the right would destroy the guy on the left one on one!

It will be interesting to learn if reports of domestic violence spike Sunday night in America.

If you haven't heard, the NBA All Star Game and the Academy Awards will overlap for much of the evening and the question is will the battles for the TV remote and who gets to watch ABC or TNT be won by the Mouse or with dynamite?

My son, Gil Imber, laid all this out already on b/r in his article on the scheduling conflict:

I must confess right here and now that I don't intend to watch either. It was a bad year for movies in my opinion and All-Star games pretty much suck. End of story.

But I am curious to learn if the Oscars' host, Billy Crystal, will mention the NBA All-Star game in any of his shtick. He's been a Clippers fan for years and of course half of Hollywood jostled for court-side seats when the Lakers were riding high.

Basketball seems to be the spectator sport of choice for many movie people. It's a city game after all, and the movie business is not run by farmers.

Celebrity fans get more attention in a smaller venue and teams like to oblige them. I think the Lakers would actually be faced with postponing a game if Jack Nicholson called and told them he couldn't make it.

When directing movies, Woody Allen has said he sometimes encouraged his actors to speed it up so he wouldn't miss the Knicks. And Spike Lee has sort of become the Super Fan of the NBA. He's everywhere. 

James Caan in my favorite basketball movie-- The Gambler
James Caan in my favorite basketball movie-- The Gambler


Indeed, there have been some good films using basketball as the subject... Hoosiers is perhaps the most heralded. Hoop Dreams wins for Best Documentary.

And my personal favorite, which was made in 1974, is The Gambler. It features an amazing James Caan performance in the lead role, playing a professor with a gambling addiction who gets a college player to shave points. If you've never seen it, try to.

But back to the Oscars and if you don't already know, the NBA has its own Oscar who shines as brightly as any that will handed out on stage.

Oscar Robertson was considered the best all-around player the game had ever seen before the discussion turned to Magic and Larry and Michael.

And today The Big O's name still shouldn't be left out of that conversation. No way! He led the country in scoring for three straight years when he played for the University of Cincinnati back in the days when freshmen couldn't play for the varsity and then indisputably was one of the greatest pros in history.

In his first nine NBA seasons, Robertson was a first team All Star and in the 14 seasons he wound up playing, he averaged over 25 points, set the record for most assists in a career, and he still ranks third behind John Stockton and Magic in that category.

But that's hardly the whole story. Before there was even a term for it, exactly 40 years ago this winter, Oscar Robertson had a triple-double nearly every night.

"The Big O" is arguably the greatest player in basketball history
"The Big O" is arguably the greatest player in basketball history

He averaged over 30 points, had over 12 rebounds, and 11 assists per game for an entire season. That's right! Neither Magic Johnson nor Larry Bird ever did that.


At 6-foot-5, Robertson played like a big man when he had to and a little man when he wanted to.

After he retired as a player, Robertson served as president of the players union and filed suit against the NBA, contending that the league's rules restricting player movement were violations of antitrust laws.

When the suit was settled years later, NBA players were on the road to the free agency that exists today.  

Robertson made news again 15years ago when he donated a kidney to his daughter and explained the gesture this way: "Hey, I've had a dull life. Been married to the same woman for a long time."

I guess they don't give Oscars for that. Maybe they should!