Nov. 21, 2017

Oscar Robertson first made a name for himself in the 1950s when he helped Crispus Attucks High School secure the State Basketball Championship win in 1955. It was the first time an all-African American school had achieved this feat in the United States.

In 1956, Robertson was named Mr. Basketball. He later became an Olympic gold medalist and led the University of Cincinnati Bearcats’ basketball team to the Final Four tournament in both 1959 and 1960. He also had a successful career in the NBA, last playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Oscar Robertson

Known as the “Big O,” Robertson hasn’t just made moves on the basketball court. For the past 20 years he has been at the helm of his namesake company, Oscar Robertson Solutions — based in Cincinnati.

Robertson recently sat down to talk about that historic Attucks win, his IPS education and what he’s been up to lately.

Early life in Indianapolis …         

I was born in Charlotte, Tennessee, and moved to Indianapolis at the age of 4. I have two older brothers and am the youngest out of the three children.

I went to school in Indianapolis starting in the 1940s and ­attended School 24.

The guys I grew up with were important to my development.

Your experience at Crispus Attucks High School …

My teachers were excellent, and most had advanced degrees. They understood what a young black student needed to succeed, and they enforced the importance of education.

My oldest brother, Bailey Robertson, hit the shot that propelled Crispus Attucks into the Final Four for the first time. This event influenced and motivated me to take basketball more seriously. Basketball at Attucks opened the door for the great academics to be experienced.  

Fondest IPS memory as a student …

I enjoyed the friendships made at Attucks, and I have remained friends with many classmates throughout my life. Additionally, winning the first State Championship as a team from Indianapolis was a fond memory. We were the first all-African American team to win a State Championship in the country.

Moreover, the education at Attucks was second to none. I remember Dr. White as my math teacher. I took one of his college preparatory courses. Every time I took a college math test I would thank Dr. White. Math was a breeze in college because of what Dr. White taught me.  

Thoughts about the first Attucks Championship …

Being the first all-black team to win the State Champion in Indiana, we didn’t feel like we were blacks that won, we were kids that won the championship. Then we learned that we could not celebrate on Monument Circle as other winning teams did. We weren’t given the opportunity. It didn’t bother me at first, but looking back as an adult it has bothered me. I learned that people can be drawn into false security about things. 

Thoughts about the 2017 Crispus Attucks Championship …

Regarding Attucks’ State Championship win last year, I thought it was wonderful for them. It was an honor being there on the field with them. Attucks winning made me think about how I felt when I shared the same excitement in 1955. I felt sorry for the team they beat, but glad Attucks won.

My advice to the young students today would be…

Learn how to speak a foreign language. Learn technology and how to compete globally. Don’t believe everything you read online or on social media, and do take the time to check it out. Go to school and get a good education.

My IPS education prepared me for ….

College, life afterward, how to do interviews, and how to appreciate fine arts. Overall, my education has brought me great friends and teachers. It was excellent, fun and a useful experience going to school.

Higher Education …

I graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. I played basketball while there as well. I am very proud to be the first college graduate in my family.

My life since graduating …

Everything changed. I went from being a boy to becoming a man. Life has taught me how to know people, some are bad and some good. …

I continued to play basketball. I also played in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and our team won a gold medal. Right after the Olympics, I began my professional career in the NBA, playing for the Cincinnati Royals for 10 years and then the Milwaukee Bucks for four years.

After my basketball career, I went into business. Currently, I own an electronic content management company, Oscar Robertson Solutions, which uses technology to help modernize businesses with their systems and processes. I’ve had the company for 20 years. We help businesses become more efficient with their document and data life-cycle management services. 

Proudest accomplishments …

I am happy about everything.

I am proud of being named Mr. Basketball, which is big being from Indiana. I am also proud of graduating high school. At first, graduating from high school didn’t mean anything to me, but as I look back, I realize how proud it made me to graduate and succeed.

Carrying the flag in the Pan-American Games was a proud moment for me. My father shared that watching me carry the flag in the Pan American Games was the proudest day of his life.

Winning the gold medal in the 1960 Olympics was another proud moment. To be born in Tennessee, grow up in Indianapolis and go to college in Cincinnati, and then win the gold medal in the Olympics in Rome was big. I thought I was the luckiest person in the world.

Aside from being proud of my family, I am proud of the many local and national public service campaigns that my wife and I have been involved in — such as the National Kidney Foundation. We also established and support three scholarships at the University of Cincinnati.

Family…

I am one of three boys and am also the youngest. The oldest out of the three passed away from cancer. My mother and middle brother followed me to Cincinnati.  

I married my wife, Yvonne, in 1960, and we have three daughters and one grandson. I am very proud of my daughters and grandson. All three daughters live and work in Cincinnati.

I recently had a DNA completed on my family’s ancestry to see where my family is from.  It was interesting to learn that some were born into slavery, as well as how they came out of slavery. The ancestry findings were both interesting and informative. It showed me how the way of life has changed. I used to go to my family reunion every year – it was so big that not everyone could fit into one room. Today, I know only my closest relatives, as the rest are scattered all around the world; it’s unbelievable!

Interests/ Hobbies …

I played sports throughout my life. Today, football and basketball are my favorite sports to watch.

Vision/Dreams …

I want to be able to see a colorless America. …

People have taken our democracy for granted. As we look around the world, we should be reminded that it is worth fighting for, and it is needed for our society to progress.

Final Quote …

“As you grow older, every day you learn something new.”