The 2015-2016 has left me mystified, surprised, disappointed, intrigued and slightly shocked. I feel that there has been a “tug-of-war” between older generations and the current one. Hall of Famer’s like Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley and Oscar Robertson have led a full offensive of slights aimed at the history chasing Golden State Warriors and their best player Steph Curry. However I also feel that it’s time to start “taking the posters off the wall.” What do I mean when I say that? I’m simply saying that it’s time to start appreciating the greatness of the players that are currently in the NBA. If you’re in the barbershop and some old head starts waxing poetically about the “old days”, please take it with a grain of salt. It’s usually some old guy telling you how LeBron just isn’t a winner and Oscar Robertson was better in every way, but will conveniently leave out the fact that Robertson only won one championship and wasn’t even the best player on his team when he did win. However, people LOVE bringing up the fact that Oscar Robertson is the only player in NBA history to average a triple double for an entire season. Even though I LOATHE the triple double because I feel like most players who get them do so by stealing rebounds from their own teammates and chasing assists, some people feel like this stat is the holy grail.
Traditional Game Stats
Oscar Robertson 1961-1962- 30.8 PPG/12.5 RPG/11.4 APG
LeBron James 2008-2009 – 28.4 PPG/7.6 RPG/ 7.2 APG
Russell Westbrook 2015-2016 – 23.5 PPG/7.8 RPG/ 10.4 APG
To put in in simple terms Oscar Robertson averaged a triple double during the 1961-1962 seasons because there was a lot of mediocre basketball being played. Not saying that there wasn’t talent in the NBA at the time, but in terms of style of play, coaches and players didn’t value possessions and good shots the way they do in today’s modern era. How can we tell? Robertson’s team, the 1961-1962 Cincinnati Royals averaged 124.9 Possessions per game, but what exactly does this number mean? In comparison, LeBron James’ best statistical season (2008-2009) the Cleveland Cavaliers averaged 88.7 possessions per game and this season Russell Westbrook’s OKC Thunder have averaged 96.8 possessions per game. Also during these 3 individual seasons Oscar Robertson averaged 44.2 Minutes per game, while James and Westbrook averaged 37.7 MPG and 34.4 MPG respectively. Imagine what Russell Westbrook’s numbers would look like if he played 10 more minutes per game!
PER 100 Possessions
Oscar Robertson 1961-1962 – 26.7 PPG/10.8 RPG/ 9.9 APG
LeBron James 2008-2009 – 40.8 PPG/10.9 RPG/ 10.4 APG
Russell Westbrook 2015-2016 – 33.9 PPG/ 11.3 RPG/ 15 APG
In the table above I used the metric “Per 100 possessions” because it’s the only way to truly and fairly assess performance in the NBA when comparing players and teams. Why should LeBron and Westbrook be penalized because they are playing in an era where coaches value possessions more and the opposition can devise schemes that will make you use a large chunk of the 24 second clock? These numbers show you that everything being equal, Oscar Robertson’s 1961-1962 campaign while great, measures up a lot differently once you factor in the differences in the modern game. Basketball fans love to hold onto the stars of their generation and cling to their greatness by marginalizing the current generation’s current luminaries. It seems like stars like Westbrook and LeBron get ripped to shreds in the media, and I think we should all take a step back and appreciate the greatness that we are watching before these guys are gone.