Oscar Robertson used to walk to school. Uphill both ways, probably. As time goes, we, too, tend to tell less stories of our failures while somehow preserving the memories of our successes. Maybe even enhancing them.
It’s hard for me to imagine Oscar running Steph Curry off the three-point line and into trouble. Containing his live dribble while close enough to smother his quick release. For one, he’s 77. And if he and his would have handled Steph, wouldn’t he have better handled Bobby Plump in the 1954 Indiana Semi-State?
But it’s not an Oscar thing. There seems to be something romantic about players from an era gone by dismissing the accomplishments of their youthful brethren. It’s irresponsible to expect someone’s accomplishments to imply success in a future environment that they did not yet know. I won’t dismiss Bill Russell for his 44FG% in an era where the guys he scored over often looked like a barbershop quartet.
If it were easy to do, Russell would’ve had company.
Babe Ruth didn’t look much like Giancarlo Stanton. I’ll never know if Babe could turn on a Matt Harvey fastball. But it’s evident that he could on the Matt Harveys of his time. Rather than retroactively penalizing Babe, I can only comfortably define him by what he did do, when he did play.
Oscar should at least do the same for Curry.
The environment that Curry is putting over his knee is inarguably advanced. A global player pool. A motion detecting, video-enhanced continuing education. Health, science, and evolution.
And far more people who look like Bill Russell.
In theory, Oscar should be an ambassador Curry can learn from. Hopefully Curry has filed away what he learned from Big O this week: when it becomes someone else’s time, step away from the flux capacitor.