Thursday, March 21, 2013

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

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

When I played, games were won from inside the foul line. You played to get fouled and to get people in foul trouble. Even now you can shoot all the three-pointers in the world and make a lot of them, but it’s fool’s gold; if you don’t get to the foul line and inside the paint, you’re simply not going to win. I square up on my defender and start toward my right. I’ve got my hip between the defender and the ball and have my head up. As I dribble, I read the court, maneuvering my way toward the paint. I dribble harder—giving one head and shoulder fake to my defender, then another. I feel his position with my body, and bump against his hip. His wrist and elbow are in my lower back. All this helps to determine my next move, the next bump. Two dribbles. A third. As I grind him down, I wait for him to commit himself in one way or another. If he’s taller than me, he probably isn’t as strong, fast, or as coordinated, so I take it for granted that when necessary I’ll be able to spin past him. Smaller guys I’ll simply wear down, using my strength and height on them, just backing them down, jumping over them, then crashing the offensive glass.

Dick Barnett made a statement that received national circulation and became the catchphrase description of my game: “If you give Oscar a twelve-foot shot, he’ll work on you until he’s got a ten-foot shot. Give him a ten and he wants eight. Give him eight and he wants six. Give him six, he wants four, he wants two. Give him two, you know what he wants? That’s right, baby. He wants a layup.”

It may not be flashy, but it’s true. One of my favorite tricks was to spin by my guy with my arm out so fast he didn’t know what happened. It used to piss off Alex Hannum, who was a Hall of Famer. “Someone is going to grab that arm someday and throw Robertson into the third row.” Bill Russell was more philosophical. He called the move my free foul, saying, “I knew that whenever I guarded him on a switch, Oscar would be dribbling with one hand and trying to club me to death with the other. Oscar’s free foul was in keeping with his attitude toward the game. He’d gobble his way up your arm if he could. He always wanted something extra.”

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