In only his second pro season, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then called Lew Alcindor) was already established as the game's premier center. He would lead the league in scoring at 31.7 ppg, rank second in field goal percentage at .577 and fourth in rebounding at 16.0 rpg. But to become a championship team the Milwaukee Bucks needed more than a dominating center, and they got exactly what they needed on April 21, 1970 when they traded two young players, Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk, to the Cincinnati Royals for 10-year veteran guard Oscar Robertson.
Robertson, an All-American at Cincinnati and star of the great 1960 U.S. Olympic team that also included Jerry West, Walt Bellamy and Jerry Lucas, was the game's most complete player when he was in his prime. There was nothing he couldn't do-shoot, drive, pass, dribble, rebound, defend. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, he was a big guard whose trademark was a soft, one-handed push shot that came after he backed his opponent into shooting range. Long before the term triple-double was invented during the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era, "The Big O" became the only player in NBA history to average a triple-double for an entire season, getting 30.8 ppg, 12.5 rpg and 11.4 apg in 1961-62.
Robertson, who turned 32 early in the 1970-71 season, was past his prime when he came to Milwaukee, but his versatile skills and experience were enough to help the Bucks realize their potential. He burned for the championship he had never won, his Cincinnati teams usually having played third fiddle in the East behind Boston and Philadelphia, and his intensity seemed to inspire Abdul-Jabbar and unite the rest of the Bucks. Robertson ranked third in the league in assists at 8.3 apg and was the Bucks' No. 2 scorer at 19.4 ppg. With Bob Dandridge (18.4 ppg) and Jon McGlocklin (15.8 ppg), power forward Greg Smith and key reserves Lucius Allen, Bob Boozer and Dick Cunningham completing the nucleus, Milwaukee posted a 66-16 record in only its third year of existence, and its second since getting Abdul-Jabbar.
Coached by Larry Costello, who had been a fine NBA guard during the 1950s and `60s, the Bucks developed a machine-like efficiency that no other team could match. The Bucks lost just one game apiece in playoff series against San Francisco and Los Angeles, then blitzed the Baltimore Bullets 4-0 in the NBA Finals. Robertson finally had his championship, and Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA Finals MVP, had the first of his six crowns.