Defying The Odds
Growing up in Indianapolis, where his family moved when Robertson was four years old, Robertson learned the game of basketball at a run-down neighborhood court known as the "dust bowl." Robertson's father worked for the city sanitation department and his mother worked as a maid. Their salaries were small and they could not afford a basketball for their son, so he threw tin cans and old tennis balls through the hoop at the dust bowl. When he was eleven his mother gave him a basketball that one of her employers had planned to throw away, and his career began in earnest.
Robertson joined the basketball team at Crispus Attucks High School and found he still had to improvise—the all-African American school had no gym. His self-taught skills and ability to adapt, coupled with sound lessons in the basics from coach Ray Crowe, set Robertson up as a team leader early on. In his junior and senior years, he led the team through a 45-game winning streak and two state championships, making Crispus Attucks the first African American high school to capture that honor. In 1956 Robertson was named Indiana's "Mr. Basketball" and he was recruited by more than thirty colleges.