Get off my lawn, Part 2,121

Oscar Robertson - Cincinnati Bearcats - File Photos

Oscar Robertson

Another week, another crusty old veteran lamenting how absolutely everything sucks nowadays and how absolutely everything was sixty billion thousand times better “back in the day.” This week, it was the Big O, Oscar Robertson, on Mike and Mike, trashing everything about today’s NBA, including insisting that coaches today have no understanding of the game of basketball. His “evidence?” Steph Curry is self-evidently not that great a player, and yet he hits three pointers all the time. Which can’t have anything to do with him being an historically great shooter, because nothing and nobody in today’s NBA could possibly be remotely as good as when Robertson played.

Ipso Facto…

The Big O, who retired in 1974 and is now 77, was an irrefutably awesome player, one of the all time greats. But his views on the game today are to be taken with a boulder-sized unit of salt. They reflect little more than the fact that he is, as someone recently described, an “ornery guy.” And that former athletes, and human beings more generally, have been lamenting how much worse everything is today since time immemorial (my favorite remains the former baseball player, Bill Joyce, whining in 1916 about how the “modern” ballplayer only wants to hit home runs. This during the “deadball” era when *no one* hit home runs).

I did want to mention one (unintentional) funny that the Big O made in his rant. Shockingly (not), the Big O is disdainful of analytics. After all, the Big O noted, the only stat that matters is wins and losses (good one, Oscar. We’ve only heard that one about 3.7 million times before). Here’s the punchline, though. Robertson said he was discussing how dumb analytics were because only winning matters with the former player and coach, Quinn Buckner, who heartily agreed.

Speaking of Quinn Buckner and the one acceptable stat, Buckner spent one season as an NBA coach, piloting the 1993-94 Dallas Mavericks. Their record that year – 13-69.

Not surprisingly Buckner, who was generally regarded as a disaster, was canned and never coached again.

So, that’s definitely the guy you want to invoke as your comrade-in-arms when you’re trashing analytics and every single contemporary NBA coach.

However, I am sincerely sorry I never got to see Robertson play. He hung up the high tops just before I started watching the NBA.

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4 comments

  1. I don’t really understand why it is so hard for former players to admit that modern players are probably better. I mean, those in philosophy have been using some variation of “standing/perching on the shoulders of giants” since the 1100’s. I think it is pretty irrefutable that science has advanced over those years and a person with an undergraduate degree in physics understands their field better than any human alive in the 1800’s. In the same way I think a modern athlete under almost any evidence-based test you can come up with is superior to pretty much everyone from the 60’s because they train earlier and longer, eat better, and we are starting to understand the science of exercise for a particular purpose better. There is no shame in just admitting that.

    It is like people who came of age in the 60’s and 70’s saying kids nowadays shouldn’t complain even though wages have remained stagnant for 30 years while costs have not. Yeah, it is a ton of a lot harder to get your footing financially today than it was in the 60’s or 70’s so those who want to complain do have a valid reason to.

    Also, it is strange that he would say the only analytics that matter are wins vs. losses… was he ever on a team with a winning percentage similar to this year’s GSW? I know he wasn’t. By Oscar’s own logic, wouldn’t that make Curry a great player? It is just weird to me.

    1. Jon,
      Agree on all points. With guys like Big O, we’re beyond reason and logic. It’s just self-evident that things were better in their day. ESPN’s Ryen Rusillo had a good point about this – he noted that athletes are hyper-competitive people, and this extends well past their playing days. They always think they’d win.

  2. http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=14892914

    I didn’t see a contact link but thought this was a pretty interesting clip. I have been a bit disengaged from sports recently so I missed this story but am starting to look into it now. As you have mentioned before, Le Batard talks about things that other commentators just gloss over.

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