NBRPA Members Oscar Robertson and Dr. Dick Barnett (both pictured) are headed to Gary, Ind. this Thanksgiving weekend for a historic ceremony honoring members of the 1955 Gary Roosevelt and Indianapolis Attucks basketball teams, The Times of Northwest Indiana reported.
Those were the first two African-American high schools in the United States to play head-to-head for a state championship.
Robertson, a founding member of the NBRPA, led Attucks to a 97-74 win over Barnett’s Roosevelt squad in the groundbreaking state championship game played at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The event is being organized to allow local young people in Gary to learn more about the legends of the NBA.
Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes hopes to use the Nov. 29-30 CN Lakeshore Classic as a “teachable moment” for those who lack a sense of history regarding their city’s rich athletic past.
“Today’s youth should know the significance of that historic meeting. But they haven’t a clue,” Hughes said.
“It is a shame because there’s (young) people in the NBA who may not know who Oscar Robertson and Dick Barnett are,” Hughes said. “When I was talking to TNT and some of our sponsors, I was telling them our kids need to know the NBA didn’t start with Kobe and LeBron.”
“Kobe and LeBron are making these huge salaries because there were others who were in hostile arenas, there were others who were victims of a quota system.”
Robertson and Barnett are scheduled to speak at the Nov. 29 corporate luncheon at Genesis Convention Center. Each had legendary NBA careers and later became successful in life, which young fans have little or no knowledge of.
Barnett spent 14 seasons in the NBA, playing for Syracuse Nationals, LA Lakers and NY Knicks. He was a 1968 NBA All-Star and won two NBA titles with the NY Knicks (1970, 1973). He played a total of 971 NBA games, averaging 15.8 ppg in 29.8 mpg. Barnett is now a professor and author.
Robertson, a Hall of Famer, is the only player in NBA history to average a triple double the entire season, as he did with the Cincinnati Royals in 1961-62. Robertson was an NBA All-Star 12 times, and won the NBA title in 1971 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor then) in Milwaukee.
Robertson holds career averages of 25.7 ppg, 9.5 apg and 7.5 rpg in 42.2 mpg, playing in 1040 NBA games. Robertson now owns a chemical company, Orchem, in Cincinnati.
“It’s a good learning tool. Youngsters today think of history as when their lives began,” Barnett said of the Roosevelt-Attucks angle, as he anxiously awaits the CN Lakeshore Classic.
Those same fans might be surprised to learn Attucks High School was built with funds provided by the Ku Klux Klan to keep black students out of the Indianapolis public school system.
Or that Roosevelt was built in midtown because all the other Gary high schools were predominantly white.
Hughes said many NBA legends like Robertson and Barnett feel unappreciated by today’s fandom.
“At this point, it’s unforgivable with the internet being available,” Barnett said. “It’s not only the coaches’ responsibility to talk about their (sports) history, but the schools during their orientation sessions.”Follow @exnbadotcom
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