Best Ever Series: Why Wilt Chamberlain Has A Great Case As The Greatest Of All Time (Official H-N Article)

Wilt Chamberlain

 

After a really long time, welcome back to the “Best Ever” series in which I present a case for another legend as the greatest player to step on a NBA Hardwood.

 

Wilt Chamberlain, the famous center of the Warriors, 76ers and Lakers, will be the all time great for whom I’ll write in this article.

 

A recognizable and dominant force throughout his entire career, Wilt truly changed the game from the pivot with his one of kind physical gifts and unique skills. Without any further ado, here’s why he can be argued as the best of any time.

 

1. Dominance

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Some players are just able to get theirs on the court easily and change the course of a single game alone with their abilities. Wilt Chamberlain, who’s regarded by many as arguably the most dominant player of all time, was certainly in that group of players.

 

Wilt had the perfect tools to dominate at will like an unmatched physicality, outstanding skill set and very high basketball high to maximize his advantages out there. With all of those freakish gifts, Chamberlain didn’t just dominate players. He dominated the teams and entire league.

 

This can be said only for few more players. However, arguably none of them was more superior in this facet than the Big Dipper, who’s strongly supported by few things like: numbers and records.

 

From the moment when the Stilt came in the league, he broke at least half of the previous records alone in his very first season and continued to consistently rewrite the record books when ever he wanted.

 

In the process, he put stats that despite being inflated due to the pace, are within players’ era overall far away on the top, revolutionized the game and forced the NBA to change the rules so they can stop his dominance somehow.

 

Even so, he had a 100 point performance, 55 rebounds in a match, multiple triple doubles, won an assist title among the other phenomenal feats. To sum it up, Chamberlain was truly dominant and his legacy is tied up to this term with reasonable facts.

2. Peak

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Wilt Chamberlain dominated the league from the moment he stepped on a NBA court until he left it. From all of those seasons, he stood out most in the course of the 1966-67 season, where he was just on a level that no other player has ever been.

 

Coach Alex Hannum asked from Wilt to cut down his scoring and to pass more and play aggressive defense more. In other words, he was asked to use his skills, physicality and intelligence in a way that would make him dominant on both sides and make damage to opposing teams in a team way. The result?

 

He didn’t win the scoring title after seven years of dominance, but instead led the league in two several categories, made excellent impact, led Philly to the best record and easily won his second consecutive MVP award in a row.

 

However, it was really in the playoffs and finals where he showcased why his peak was arguably the greatest of any time. Here’re some numbers:

 

’67 Eastern Division Semifinals (vs Oscar’s Cincinnati)

28.0 points, 26.5 rebounds, 11.3 assists on 61% field goal percentage

 

’67 Eastern Division Finals (vs Bill Russell)

21.6 points, 32.0 rebounds, 10.0 assists on 56% field goal percentage

 

’67 Finals (vs Nate Thurmond)

17.6 points, 28.5 rebounds, 6.8 assists on 56% field goal percentage

 

These are indeed quite impressive efforts by the Big Dipper and a truly legendary peak which is still discussed even after all those years.

 

3. Physical Gifts

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Once in awhile in the NBA’s history, there’s a player who comes in the league and dominates it based on his incredible physical advantages alone. Wilt Chamberlain, who was noted for his all-around physicality, was one of those of players and among the very first as well.

 

Wilt arguably had the best physical gifts of all time. He was 7’1, weighted from 258 lbs to 320 lbs at some point of his illustrated career, had a reported vertical of 40 inches at least, reportedly weighted at least 450 lbs in the gym, had 7’8 wingspan and so on.

 

In other words, he had a combination of size, strength, athleticism and leaping ability which very few have ever had. On top of that, Chamberlain had a fantastic mobility, stamina that allowed him to play consistently high minutes and was said to be the fastest player of all his pro teams.

 

For a seven foot center, the last one is a pretty impressive feat. Now, if you have read something about Wilt, you’d probably get the idea that some of his physical talents such as the reported vertical and lifted weights are overblown and are sort of “myths” because of the credibility of the sources they come from.

 

Whether you believe in these things, it’s a totally different subject which opens a new debate. However, as of lately, more video footage has came up from the Big Dipper. In it, he displays to some extent all those gifts and some of those stories are now more believable than before.

 

One fact remains for sure: The Stilt was a very physically gifted basketball player.

 

4. Individual Superstar

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A 7’1 center who had all the needed physical tools, skills and high basketball intelligence which gave him the ability to cause havoc on the court, Wilt Chamberlain’s individual class was not just arguably in a class of his own during his career, but through the league’s history as well.

 

Before Wilt arrived into the NBA, the highest scoring average was at 29.2 points, the rebounding mark was at 23.0, the highest field goal percentage was at 49.0 etc. After he became a pro in the 1959-60 season, he changed half of those records in his rookie season alone and consistently rewrote the basketball books when ever he wanted to.

 

Chamberlain went on to established himself as a dominant scorer who’d win the scoring crown seven times in a row. In the process, he added 11 rebounding, nine field goal percentage tiles and became the only center to ever lead all in assists.

 

The Big Dipper’s abilities made him one of the most all-around players (with a solid case for No.1) which is best seen from the incredible stat lines he posted. He put on display his versatility and full excellence in the years when he was coached by Alex Hannum, under whom he enjoyed his career success.

 

The Stilt ultimately won his peers full respect when he won his first championship in 1967 in a dominant title run that very few have had and by beating the Boston Celtics with a healthy Bill Russell which no one else succeeded to do.

 

To sum it up, he was individually as good as a player can be.

 

5. Skills

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There was no doubt at all that Wilt Chamberlain was a physical freak. He could have dominated based on his physicality alone. Although he was thought of as a power player, he wanted to prove people wrong and  went on to display his amazing skills instead.
The thought of someone as physically imposing as O’Neal would want to play finesse instead of playing powerful sounds ridiculous. Although it leaves quite a desire on this move which Wilt opted for and that was maybe caused by something else, No.13 still dominated the game with the best of them.

 

To show his incredible versatility, I will point out several stat lines:

 

1959-66: 39.6 points, 24.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists on 51.1% field goal percent, 54.8% free throw percent, 52.9% true shooting percent in 47.0 minutes a game.

 

1966-68: 24.2 points, 24.0 rebounds, 6.6 assists on 59.0% field goal percent, 41.0% free throw percent, 59.4% true shooting percent in 46.1 minutes a game

 

1969-73: 16.7 points, 16.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists on 61.7% field goal percent, 48.9% free throw percent, 60.1% true shooting percentage in 43.2 minutes a game.

 

Throughout his career, Chamberlain had three roles on three different teams: a high volume scorer (similar to Kobe), triple double machine (similar to Magic, Oscar etc) and a defensive anchor (similar to Russell). In this way, he showcased his full basketball abilities like arguably no ever else has and literally did it all out there.

 

Granted, you can say that those stats are inflated due to fast pace, but when the fact that Wilt faced a Hall of Fame opponent nearly 60% percentage of the time is taken in consideration, they still look very impressive to say the least.

 

Additionally, it’s worthy to mention that the Big Dipper went on to do consistently amazing feats like having multiple triple doubles in a row, high scoring performances which may not be approached and so on. To sum it, regardless of the role he was asked to full fill, Wilt produced and did more than the needed.

 

6. Rebounding

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Wilt Chamberlain excelled at variety aspects in basketball, but the one in which he kept his consistency at a really high level throughout his entire career was rebounding. He was arguably the greatest rebounder to step on a NBA Hardwood.

 

Wilt established himself as a dominant presence on the glass due to many things. He was incredibly physically gifted (athleticism, length, strength, leaping ability), was quite big, had instinct for the ball and knew how to get a good position down low.

 

Chamberlain is the NBA’s all time leader in total (23,924) and average (22.9) rebounds. Of course, topping the 20 boards mark in a single season is now an impossible mission due to slow pace. However, numbers can’t be used well against him because he dominated them like no one else.

 

The Big Dipper won record of 11 rebounding crowns, and led eight times in the postseason too. He kept his dominance consistently despite playing in an era with the likes of Russell, Thurmond, Lucas, Unseld and so who are regarded high in this facet of the game. Impressive feat for sure.

 

Additionally, The Stilt outrebounded all of the above named rivals in head to head match ups. He set new records and was always at the top when it came to most grabbed boards in a game, per game etc while being superior to his peers.

 

To sum it up, Wilt had all the tools to dominate on the glass and did so better than anyone else.

7. Defense

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It wasn’t really after the 1963-64 season that Wilt Chamberlain started playing elite defense which earned him a place among the league’s top defensive players of all time. It was his lack of focus and inconsistency that prevented him from being right with the likes of Russell for the honor of best ever.

 

Nonetheless, the talented Wilt dominated on this end of the court too. He established himself as a dominant presence defensively thanks to his incredible physical tools (such as size, athleticism, vertical, length etc), his excellent instincts and skills.

 

Chamberlain used his advantages to intimate players on defense, and he consistently did that with his amazing shot blocking. He was arguably the greatest shot blocker of any time. The Big Dipper timed his swats and had great awareness to find himself in the right moment.

 

Had the NBA kept track of blocked shots, The Stilt would have most likely been the all time leader. There are many articles on the Internet such as this one by SI, in which the 7’1 center swatted ton of shots. Harvey Pollack, the 76ers official stat keeper, claimed that Wilt averaged 10 blocks for his career.

 

The Big Dipper was also an outstanding one on one defender. He showcased his defensive skills at their best when he guarded the likes of Russell, Reed, Kareem and so who he usually kept below their efficiency. His defense also played large role in Philadelphia and LA’s title winning season in 1967 and 1972 respectably as well.

 

In his absolute peak, very few were arguably as goodas him defensively. Regardless of his lack of focus and inconsistency at the beginning, Chamberlain still has to be considered as one of the top defensive stoppers to step on a NBA hardwood.

8. Clutch

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Despite having a reputation today as a choker and loser, Wilt Chamberlain was one of the greatest clutch players in NBA History. What makes people think that the 7’1 giant shrunk when it mattered are actually his statistics.

 

However, that’s not the case. As I mentioned in the article previously, Wilt had three different roles through his career. The majority of his playoff games happened to be when either he was a triple double machine or a defensive anchor which explains his scoring drop compared to his regular season.

 

So, based on this, Chamberlain stats look this:

 

- Volume Scorer: 32.8 points, 26.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists on 50.5% field goal percent, 52.3% free throw percent and 52.0% true shooting percent in 47.8 minutes

 

-Triple Double Machine: 22.6 points, 27.1 rebounds, 7.9 assists on 55.7% field goal percent, 38.4% free throw percent and 53% true shooting percent in 48.2 minutes.

 

-Defensive Anchor: 15.8 points, 22.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists on 53.1% field goal percent, 44.8% free throw percent and 53.0% true shooting percent in 46.8 minutes.

 

For a note is the fact that Wilt during his years as a high scorer was asked to play more from the high post after 1963 up to the 1966. Chamberlain additionally played most playoff games as a defensive minded player which explains his overall scoring drop.

 

These stats are pretty outstanding considering the competition he faced every year. He had several dominant playoff runs, such as ’67 where he played on a whole new level.

9. Scoring

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A 7’1 center who weighted at least 250 lbs with elite athleticism, strength and a terrific offensive arsenal of moves, Wilt Chamberlain had all the needed tools to be an amazing scorer. And he was. He was actually one of the greatest scorers in NBA History.

 

He was tough to stop in one on one situations due to his physicality, skills and footwork. Wilt led the league seven consecutive years in a row in scoring, a feat only matched by Jordan before he was asked to do other things too. During that period, he set some unbreakable feats such as the 50 points in average, 100 points in a single game etc.

 

Quite amazing, isn’t it? Chamberlain, for a player that was pounded by teams like no one else, was incredibly efficient. He led all four times in efficiency while he was leading all in scoring. The Big Dipper’s efficiency was on pair with anyone’s overall.

 

The Stilt consistently rewrote the records books, as he set numerous new feats including some which might not be surpassed. All of the above made Wilt one of the most unstoppable scorers to step on a basketball hardwood. And this quote really sums it up just how great this legend’s ability to score really was.

 

He can score anything he wants. There is no way to stop him. How can you defense him? The only way I know is to lock the door to the dressing room before he comes out.” —— ‘Easy’ Ed MacAuley

10. Achievements

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Wilt Chamberlain has achieved quite a lot in his illustrated career of basketball, a thing which only helps his case.

 

  • 2× NBA champion (1967, 1972)
  • NBA Finals MVP (1972)
  • 4× NBA Most Valuable Player (1960, 1966–1968)
  • 13× NBA All-Star (1960–1969, 1971–1973)
  • NBA All-Star Game MVP (1960)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (1960)
  • 7× NBA scoring champion (1960–1966)
  • 11× NBA rebounding champion (1960–1963, 1966–1969, 1971–1973)
  • 7× All-NBA First Team (1960–1962, 1964, 1965–1968)
  • 3× All-NBA Second Team (1963, 1966, 1972)
  • 2× NBA All-Defensive First Team (1972–1973)
  • Golden State Warriors all-time leading scorer
  • NBA 35th Anniversary Team
  • NBA 50th Anniversary Team
  • #13 Retired by Golden State Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers

When this list of achievements is added, the resume is even more impressive.

11. Ability To Play In Any Era

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Usually in this part of the article, I should talk about how this legend would translate in a different era. When you have a 7’1 big man who was arguably the most physically gifted player of all time with a skill set that was as good as any other triple double machine and really high basketball IQ, there’s no doubt that he’s one of those players whose game would translate beyond well in any decade.

12. Quotes

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Wilt is playing better than I used to–passing off, coming out to set up screens, picking up guys outside and sacrificing himself for team play.” ——–Bill Russell

 

Once Wilt got upset with me and dunked the ball so hard it went through the rim with such force that it broke my toe as it hit the floor.” ——-Johnny Kerr
He can score anything he wants. There is no way to stop him. How can you defense him? The only way I know is to lock the door to the dressing room before he comes out.” —— ‘Easy’ Ed MacAuley

 

 

He (Wilt) stopped me dead in my tracks with his arm, hugged me and lifted me off the floor with my feet dangling. \It scared the hell out of me. When I went to the free throw line, my legs were still shaking. Wilt was the strongest guy and best athlete to ever play the game.“—– KC Jones

 

 

I said ‘Wilt isn’t such a tough guy. I can guard him.’ He backed me down and dunked the ball. And I was so far under the basket, and he dunked it so hard, that the ball came through the net and hit me in the forehead twice. Bang! So I said, ‘You know, I think he is great.’ “——–Spencer Haywood

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