Tuesday, March 19, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Big O by Oscar Robertson, excerpt nine)

from The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game by Oscar Robertson:

A reporter from Time visited Cincinnati and scheduled interviews with me. When we met, he told me that his magazine was planning to do a cover story on the NBA. They’d commissioned an artist to do a painting of me and were planning to use it for the cover. He was shocked when I didn’t react, or show any excitement, but dealt with him in the usual staid manner I used on the other dozen or so reporters who, every so often, flew in out of nowhere and bothered me.

The publication date was February 17, 1961, four years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first made the cover, two after Harry Belafonte, and a little less than two years before Dr. King was declared Time’s Man of the Year. It was the first time a basketball player made the cover of Time. The February 17 cover indeed featured a painting of me. Russell Hoban, a noted African-American artist, painted the portrait, and I assume he used a still photo of me as his model. It’s a beautiful painting, one of dancing colors. I am in action during a game, underneath the basket, shooting the ball. Around me abstract players are leaping. The air seems to swirl. I’ve been told that as he worked on the painting, the artist told a friend that it was curious; if you took the basketball out of my hand and replace it with a sword, you’d have the classic stance for a soldier. I’ve always appreciated that.

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