Best Ever Letter to Sports Illustrated

Today is a perfect time to post my favorite ever letter to Sports Illustrated magazine, which appeared on April 7, 1986.

Sir:

The article As Nearly Perfect As You Can Get (March 3) by Jack McCallum compared Larry Bird with six basketball superstars, one of them Oscar Robertson. Comparing Bird with Robertson is like comparing apples and oranges. Bird’s role on the court is completely different from the one Robertson played, and when one realizes that, one is then able to see clearly who should be called the superior player. Robertson’s role was to shoot, pass, steal, play tenacious defense and—the most vital aspect of the game—run the offense. McCallum mentioned that Bird’s shooting range and rebounding ability surpassed Robertson’s. Why would the Big O make a 30-foot jumper when he could maneuver his way through opponents and take a better percentage shot? And if I am not mistaken, he always did just that. Rebounding is another story, because the job of a play maker is not to rebound, but to run the plays, and the job of a forward is to get the rebounds.

When a game was on the line, when the team needed two points, when there was no one else to turn to, the Big O was there. People who had the privilege of watching him in action viewed his basketball heroics as “common” phenomena. I guess that is why some people have forgotten how superior he was. I, of course, will never forget.

You will always be No. 1 in my heart, Dad!
MARI ROBERTSON
Cincinnati

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College Lonon. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over ten thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.