Robertson first came to national prominence at Indianapolis Crispus Attucks High School, which he led to a 45-game winning streak and two state championships. Attucks was the first Indianapolis school or the first African-American school to win a state championship in basketball and the first African-American school to win a national title in any sport. Robertson was Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball” in 1956 and national high school player of the year. A street adjacent to the Attucks campus was recently renamed Oscar Robertson Boulevard, making him the first living person in Indianapolis history to be so honored.
Robertson earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the UC College of Business in 1960. During his three-year varsity career – freshmen were not then eligible -- The Big O established 19 school records and 14 NCAA records while leading the Bearcats to a 79-9 record and the University’s first two Final Four appearances. He was the first player to be named College Player of the Year three times or to lead the nation in scoring three times, finishing with 2973 points and a 33.8 average. A three-time All-American, he is a member of the UC Hall of Fame and has had his jersey number retired. Robertson was also co-captain of the undefeated 1960 gold-medal U.S. Olympic team.
During his professional basketball career, Robertson played for the Cincinnati Royals (1960-1970, winning Rookie of the Year in 1961 and Most Valuable Player in 1964) and the Milwaukee Bucks (1970-1974), leading that team to its only NBA Championship in 1971. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in triple-double games (points, rebounds and assists) for a single season and a career. In 1962 he set a record unlikely ever to be equaled by averaging a triple-double for an entire season. He appeared in 12 All-Star games and was Most Valuable Player in three.
Robertson has been a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame since 1979, his first year eligible, and was named one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time. He was voted Player of the Century by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and was one of the first inductees into the NABC’s new Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. The NCAA has named him one of the 100 most outstanding student athletes of all time.
The Big O made an equal impact off the court. He was president of the NBA Players Association from 1965-74 and was a founder of the NBA Retired Players Association, serving as its first president from 1992-98. The Oscar Robertson Rule, resulting from the class action antitrust lawsuit he filed against the NBA in 1970 as President of the Players Association, forever changed the balance of power in professional sports as it laid the foundation for NBA players to become the first professional athletes to gain free agency.
One of the nation’s most successful small business owners, Robertson is president of OR Solutions, an information management and staffing company; Orchem Inc., which supplies cleaning chemicals to food-processing plants; and Oscar Robertson Foods, Inc. He is a partner in Oscar Robertson Media Ventures, publisher of “The Art of Basketball” and www.thebigo.com, and has written an autobiography, “The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game.” He also serves on the board of Countrywide Savings and Loan.
Among his many UC honors, Robertson is the 2003 recipient of the William Howard Taft Medal for Notable Achievement, UC’s most distinguished alumni honor; the UC Award for Excellence in 1975 and the UC Alumni Association Distinguished Service Award in 1970. An eight-foot bronze statue of Robertson by nationally acclaimed artist Blair Buswell was unveiled on campus in 1994.
The Big O raised awareness about the need for organ donation after donating a kidney to his daughter, Tia, in 1997, and serves as a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation. Other humanitarian causes in which he is involved include the Boys Club of New York, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the NBA Legends Foundation.
Robertson and his wife, Yvonne, who earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UC, established three scholarships at the university – one for an incoming student to any UC program, one for future teachers who want to work in urban schools and one to be awarded as part of the annual Cincinnatus Scholarship competition at UC. The Oscar and Yvonne Robertson Golf Tournament, held each September, provides partial funding for these scholarships.