It may have been marked as a historical meeting between two National Basketball Association greats, but for Oscar Robertson and Dick Barnett, reuniting in Gary, IN, Thanksgiving weekend was more than historical. Both men were scheduled to speak at the CN Lakeshore Classic that consisted of a series of high school and college games. Gary’s Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes hoped the meeting would also be educational for the cities younger audiences.
“It’s a shame because there’s (young) people in the NBA who may not know who Oscar Robertson and Dick Barnett are,” Hughes told the National Basketball Retired Players Association. “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.”
The two former NBA basketball stars, and current NBRPA members, participated in a ceremony that honored the 1955 Gary Roosevelt and Indianapolis’ Crispus Attucks basketball teams that were the United States’ first two African-American teams to play each other for a state championship title. According to school records, Robertson and the rest of the 1955 Attucks team beat Roosevelt’s team, lead by Barnett, 97-74 at Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“At the time it happened, I was 17-years-old. It was a competitive game and I wanted to win,” Robertson said on Saturday, November 30. “When I got older, it meant a lot more then, because I thought about the game and what it meant.”
The tag-line for the weekend read: The men who played “the game that changed basketball,” and as Robertson and Barnett watched with their respective teammates from 58 years ago, this year’s Roosevelt and Attucks teams played the game both men shared and loved. Attucks again beat Roosevelt 75-54, but not before the 1955 teams posted for pictures at half court prior to the game. Barnett and his teammate, William Eisen, both had their jersey’s retired and presented to them. According to NBRPA and Hughes, the meeting did not fall on round number anniversary date, but rather was coordinated because it was simply time to remember: Time to remember a historical moment in this country and for the basketball community.