Weeks after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NBA, legendary trailblazer Oscar Robertson has decided to put a whole bunch of rare mementos on the auction block … including the lone NBA championship ring he won during his legendary career.
Oscar Robertson’s 1971 NBA championship ring is on the auction block
The Lelands.com 2018 Invitational Auction, which opened on Sunday and runs through Aug. 17, includes 51 items from the Hall of Fame point guard’s playing days. The memorabilia stretches back to Robertson’s teenage years, with an Indiana state high school championship ring — earned for leading the Crispus Attucks High School team to becoming the first all-black squad ever to win the crown in the Hoosier State — available at a starting bid of $5,000. Some of the items come from his remarkable run at the University of Cincinnati, including a pair of game-worn jerseys, several National Player of the Year awards, and this handsome silver pitcher “given to the Big O for leading the Cincinnati Bearcats in free-throw percentage in 1959-60.”
The most eye-catching item on the menu, though, is the 1971 NBA championship ring that Robertson received after partnering with Lew Alcindor (who’d later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the title in his first season in Wisconsin. It’s not nearly as sparkly as the jewelry NBA champions receive these days, but it’s a 10-karat gold ring with a diamond set in a basketball in the middle with “NBA WORLD CHAMPIONS” inscribed around it, a full-fledged piece of NBA history.
“This is the one and only ring Oscar received for that magical season and has been in his possession ever since,” the listing reads. And now, it can be yours, provided you’ve got the high bid in 31 days’ time. (As of 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon, it’s up to $24,200.)
The Big O has auctioned his stuff off before
This isn’t the first time that Robertson, 79, has chosen to part with some of the trophies and accolades he’s accrued over the years. Back in 2012, he auctioned off a collection that included the 1964 NBA Most Valuable Player award that he won with the Cincinnati Royals, making him just the third MVP — along with Bob Cousy and Julius Erving — to put his hardware on the auction block in pursuit of a big number. (In Oscar’s case, it brought in $177,632.)
Back in 2012, Robertson explained his decision to sell off his memorabilia in direct, unsentimental fashion:
“I don’t feel that I need to keep [the MVP trophy], to be honest. I haven’t seen it for 40 years. It was sitting in the attic. […] “I know what I did in basketball,” Robertson said. “I don’t need that to remind me. If there’s an opportunity for somebody out there to get more enjoyment from it, that’s fine.” […]
When a former athlete puts up memorabilia for sale, there often is a perception the athlete is in financial trouble. Robertson has been a successful businessman, but he doesn’t deny money is a factor.
“Everybody has financial problems,” Robertson said. “This is America. These aren’t the best of times. One of my companies is doing well and the other not so well. The money is important. Money is always important. Let’s just get real. People get sick, people retire. Money is important in the country we live in.”
Other bits of hoops history up for bidding include the ring and trophy that Robertson received upon his induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980, and a lithograph featuring photos of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players as named by the league in 1996, signed by 49 of the 50 players selected (all save the late Pete Maravich). According to Lelands.com, each item in the lot “will include a letter of authenticity signed by Robertson.”
The Lelands auction isn’t the only one this summer that’ll feature a rare Robertson-related item. Heritage Auctions’ August 2018 collection will include the blue jersey that Oscar wore as part of the 1960 U.S. men’s national basketball team at the Summer Olympics, when he teamed with fellow Hall of Famers Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy to win gold in Rome; this jersey, according to the auction house, is the one “Robertson was wearing this jersey as the Gold Medal was draped around his neck.” How much that jersey — consigned not by Robertson, but “by a gentleman whose mother’s first cousin was covering the Olympics for the Indianapolis Times newspaper,” and who sought out the shirt years ago as a souvenir — will go for remains to be seen. but Robertson’s white 1960 Team USA jersey sold for $121,324 back in 2012, so the price figures to be steep.
Whatever the circumstances surrounding the submission of these items to auction, it’s always a bit sad when such hallmarks of history head off to the open market rather than, say, the Hall of Fame in which their sellers have been enshrined, or the home arenas of the teams for whom they starred. Still, though, it’s the prerogative of the folks who own them to determine what they do with them; if they want to sell ’em off, for one reason or another, that’s their business. Weep not for the memories … and if you’re a well-heeled super fan, get to bidding.
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