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.
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.