Oscar Robertson and Dick Barnett headed to Gary, Ind. for historic tribute

November 25, 2013

NBRPA Members Oscar Robertson and Dr. Dick Barnett (pictured above) are headed to Gary, Ind. this Thanksgiving weekend for a historic ceremony honoring members of the 1955 Gary Roosevelt and Indianapolis Attucks basketball teams that 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 NBRPA will cover this historic reunion between members Roberts, Barnett and their teammates here at LegendsofBasketball.com. TNT, one of the NBA's home networks, will also send a crew to cover the reunion.

The following article appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times and can be found in it's entirety at: http://www.nwitimes.com/sports/high-school/boys-basketball/cn-lakeshore-classic-to-be-a-basketball-blast-from-the/article_9ad2b54a-c9d3-55f2-910b-09bccaef49e0.html

By Al Hamnik
Northwest Indiana Times

GARY – Ask any youngster in Gary who Oscar Robertson was, or Dick Barnett, and you'll get the same response.

Who?

Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes hopes to change that answer by using 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.

The Classic is a series of high school and college games, plus other events. Highlighting the weekend is a tribute to members of the 1955 Gary Roosevelt and Indianapolis Attucks basketball teams that were the first two black high schools in the United States to play for a state title.

Attucks, led by junior Oscar Robertson, beat Barnett's Roosevelt Panthers 97-74 at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

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.

Hughes announced Wednesday that TNT has come aboard and is sending a five-person crew to cover the entire Lakeshore Classic for a "special" or "feature" to air during the NBA season.

Robertson 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.

For his 14-year career, 'The Big O' averaged 25.7 points, 9.5 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

He teamed with a young Lew Alcindor and helped lead the Milwaukee Bucks to their only NBA title in 1971.

Robertson now owns a chemical company, Orchem, in Cincinnati.

Nicknamed "Fall Back, Baby," southpaw Barnett starred on the New York Knicks' only two NBA championship teams (1970, '73) and is a professor and author.

Barnett anxiously awaits the CN Lakeshore Classic.

"It's a good learning tool," he said of the Roosevelt-Attucks angle. "Youngsters today think of history as when their lives began."

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."