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Jerry West is one of the most revered players in NBA history. There’s a reason the league’s logo is the Los Angeles Lakers legend’s silhouette. But despite his remarkable legacy, West does not feel he was the best individual talent of his era. Rather, he bestowed that honor on Oscar Robertson.

Robertson’s all-around excellence made him a triple-double machine on the court, and he drastically altered the complexion of the sport with a 1970 class-action lawsuit that led to the creation of free agency. His brilliance on and off the floor propelled West to call his former rival the best player of their era.

Jerry West and Oscar Robertson defined the guard position for over a decade

In a generation defined mostly by big men, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson managed to stand out from the crop.

West is still regarded as one of the best pure scorers in NBA history. He averaged 27.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 5.8 rebounds for his career, making the Lakers one of the most relevant franchises in the league.

Unfortunately for West, individual success could not prevent. He and the Lakers routinely experienced heartbreak at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Indeed, The Logo is still the only player to win Finals MVP as a member of the losing team.

Robertson’s career arc is fairly similar. He dominated early with the Cincinnati Royals, averaging a triple-double for the first several seasons of his career and finishing with averages of 29.3 points, 10.3 assists, and 8.5 rebounds over the course of 10 seasons However, Robertson and the Royals came up short in the playoffs early in his career and struggled to even make the postseason toward the end of his Cincinnati tenure.

Luckily, both legends got their just due.

Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar helped lead the Bucks to the 1971 championship, beating West and the Celtics in the Conference Finals in the process. West and Co. got their revenge the following season, as The Logo led the NBA in assists and LA got a legendary game from Wilt Chamberlain en route to a title.

West called Robertson the best player of their era

Detroit Pistons legend Isiah Thomas recalls the conversation quite well.

Thomas said on an older edition of NBA TV’s Open Court that he had the privilege of sharing a panel with Jerry West and Oscar Robertson. He explained (h/t YouTube) that West’s appraisals of Robertson solidified the Big O’s greatness that much more.

“To hear Jerry West and to see Jerry West talk about Oscar Robertson… I’ll never forget it. He moved up and he was like, ‘I know I’m The Logo and everything else, but in my era, there was no better basketball player than Oscar Robertson.'”

–Isiah Thomas recalling what Jerry West said about Oscar Robertson, Open Court “Decades”

Fittingly, Thomas remembered the Big O agreeing with West’s assessment.

“Oscar was sitting right there. And, you know, Oscar said, ‘You right, Jerry.'”

–Thomas on Robertson’s response to West

Robertson’s response might seem arrogant. But his all-around excellence was unprecedented for a guard. There’s a reason it took well over 50 years for another player (Russell Westbrook) to average a triple-double over the course of a full season.

Besides, the Big O has quite a bit of respect for The Logo, too. An abundance of admiration, actually.

Robertson named West as one of his favorite players in NBA history

Jerry West shoots over Oscar Robertson during a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks
Jerry West #44 of the Los Angeles Lakers makes a jump shot while Oscar Robertson #1 of the Milwaukee Bucks defends | Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Robertson reciprocated West’s characterization of him earlier this year.

The Big O appeared on the Knuckleheads podcast to discuss his favorite players in league history. Robertson named West among his top five. It’s only fitting he returned the favor. The two go back quite a ways.

Both men won gold medals at the 1959 Pan American Games and led Team USA to a gold medal in the Olympics the following year, forming perhaps the greatest backcourt in the history of basketball. The Royals made Robertson with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1960 NBA Draft, with the Lakers selecting West immediately thereafter.

From college to the pros, Robertson and West shared a unique bond and reverence. It’s one that calls for a mutual appreciation, something that remains to this day.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.