Oscar Robertson once sued the NBA over them binding players in perpetuity to teams and led the way for guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
The early days of the NBA were all about figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Oscar Robertson was one of the many pioneers in the league at the time along with the likes of Bill Russell and Jerry West. Whether it was standing in solidarity against rampant discrimination or getting players pension plans, the stars of the league made their voices heard.
Looking back at that era shows one very distinct aspect of the league that is completely different from what it is today. Player empowerment was essentially non-existent. There were two paths for a player in the NBA at the time: stay with a team for the entirety of your career because they decree or have no say in where you get traded to.
Wilt Chamberlain, a man widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was traded twice in his career. Oscar Robertson sought to change this and prior to winning his championship in 1971, he would sue the NBA in a now famous lawsuit that is referred to as “Robertson v. National Basketball Association”.
Oscar Robertson filed a lawsuit against the NBA.
Oscar Robertson turned heads after averaging a triple double for an entire season but the biggest mark he made in the realm of basketball came off the court. Being the president of the NBPA, he sued the league in 1970 to help players have more control over their future in the league, bring on higher salaries for players, and much more.
Funnily enough, he filed this antitrust lawsuit the same year that he got traded to the Bucks in a package that featured Flynn Robinson. In his suit, he sought to bring about free agency in the NBA on a wide scale (paving the way for it to properly be incorporated in 1988), refusing to have players bound in perpetuity to teams even after their contract was up.
The Big O was also looking to delay the merger of the NBA with the ABA and he certainly had this done as the lawsuit was settled 6 years later in 1976 when the merger finally took place.
So, superstars of today like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard carving their own destinies as they go on in the league have one man to thank: Oscar Robertson.