Editor’s Note: Welcome to Hall of Thread. Logan Meyer has collected sports jerseys since middle school and has more than 250 to his name. Thrift stores across the world, trades and scouring online deals have helped him build his jersey empire, and in this series, he will explain some of his most prized basketball jerseys, how he got them, background on the player and teams and more. With a collection like his, you’re bound to find something unique.
As the United States navigates through a very tumultuous and challenging time in 2020, this next jersey allows for a window into the past; 60 years into the past, to be exact.
In 1960, a lot was different in the U.S., but some aspects have not changed. This includes the United States’ constant domination and victory in Olympic basketball competitions. Successfully rolling through its Olympic competition en route to a gold medal on 15 out of 18 total appearances is a pretty solid track record, to say the least.
The American team that participated in the 1960 installment in Rome constitutes one of those 15 gold medals. The 1960 Americans consisted of 10 future NBA participants, including future Hall-of-Famers Jerry West, Jerry Lucas, and Walt Bellamy. However, the team’s co-captain, leader in points, and fourth Hall-of-Famer is arguably one of basketball’s greatest triple-double machines of all-time.
As one of the sports most prolific all-around options, Oscar Robertson dominated the hardwood at every level of the game. His accolades are as vast as any other of basketball’s premier players, but this jersey in particular highlights his successes representing our nation.
Searching through the clothing racks of the Arc Thrift Store in Loveland, Colorado, the first feature of the jersey that caught my eye was the all-white base color contrasted by the red and blue “U.S.A.” in huge lettering across the front. Not until the second, third, and fourth glances at the jersey did I realize what a special find it truly was.
The details on it are as impressive as any I’ve ever found. While the unique tags on the bottom commemorate Robertson and the 17th Olympic Games and the “USA Basketball” embroidered finely into the neckline on the interior are incredibly special, one characteristic of the jersey very clearly stands out. Just under that embroidered neckline, in gold writing surrounded by a gold shield and the Olympic olive branches, are the opponents and results of each game the 1960 USA team played en route to its gold medal.
More than likely my personal favorite detail on any jersey I own, this touch that Nike and USA Basketball decided to include in this commemorative top is something I’ve only seen on the backs of t-shirts advertised by Fanatics on TV directly after a team wins a title. The opponents and results list found on the jersey illustrates the dominance of this team. The team not only won but steamrolled its way to the gold, winning all eight games by at least a 24-point margin.
A throwback jersey to conquer them all, this 1960 Oscar Robertson USA kit is undoubtedly one of my most prized finds.
The Rundown on Oscar Robertson
After he was a member of the high school team that lost in the semi-finals to the team that would later be immortalized into the movie “Hoosiers”, Robertson went on to win two straight state titles. Robertson was a game changer throughout his career, including in this instance as these were the first high school state titles won by an all-black school in American history.
After being named Indiana’s Mr. Basketball, Robertson signed to play for the University of Cincinnati. His time in college was where his domination of the sport became wildly apparent. In each of his three years with the Bearcats, Robertson led the NCAA in scoring, earned first-team All-American honors, and was credited with the National Player of the Year Award. Practically unguardable, Robertson scored over 50 points on six different occasions during his college career. In fact, as the NCAA’s leading point scorer in history when he left Cincinnati, he set 14 individual NCAA records.
After his previously mentioned success in the 1960 Olympics, Robertson’s talents graced the court in the pros. As expected, he did not disappoint. A pick of the Cincinnati Royals in the 1960 NBA Draft, Robertson immediately changed the league’s landscape. In his rookie season, he averaged an unreal 30.5-10.1-9.7 points, rebounds, and assists stat line. This earned him the NBA Rookie of the Year award, as well as an appearance in the All-Star Game and first-team All-NBA honors.
In his second season, Oscar Robertson became the first NBA player in history to average a triple-double throughout the season. As one of only two players in the league’s current history to ever accomplish this feat, with the other being Russell Westbrook in his 2016-17 campaign, Robertson recorded 41 triple-doubles that season for the Royals.
Robertson was recognized throughout his career as one of the absolute greats. In his 14-season professional career, he earned nine All-NBA First Team honors and 12 All-Star Game appearances. He was the only player between 1960 and 1968 to win an NBA MVP Award not named Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell with his 1964 MVP Award victory. And after a trade to the Milwaukee Bucks franchise in 1970, Robertson finally won his very deserved NBA championship in the 1971 Finals.
A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Robertson was part of the five-person inaugural class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame alongside legends of the sport Dr. James Naismith, Bill Russell, Dean Smith, and John Wooden. In 2000, Robertson was named “Player of the Century” by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
A pioneer of his craft, at 6-foot-5 his legacy paved the way for the rest of the NBA’s “big man” point guards such as legends Magic Johnson and Penny Hardaway.