Wilt Chamberlain is the most dominant, most domineering, and most impactful big man ever. Sorry Bill Russell. Sorry Shaq. The feats he accomplished working in the paint in the game of basketball have never been matched, and may never be repeated. Chamberlain stands as the purest, most unstoppable force that the league has seen. Sorry Jordan, Kobe, and LeBron. Wilt Chamberlain is the best basketball player in the history of the National Basketball Association, and despite popular belief about Michael Jordan and his contributions to the game, no other basketball player nears his talent and prowess in the sport.
Aside from being the best basketball player in sports history, Wilton Norman Chamberlain may just be the best athlete ever. At 7’1″ he was a giant among men, but he was always as quick and agile as men half his size. Wilt started his high school career as a physically gifted track and field athlete. In the fifties, as a teenager, he could run 400 meters in 49.0 seconds (the current world record in the 400 is 44.3) and 800 meters in under 2 minutes. He high jumped 6’6″, broad jumped 22 feet, and could shot-put well over 50 feet. And since he was almost 6’11″ when he entered high school, he began to pick up the sport of basketball. Almost immediately, he started dominating his peers in the sport. His immense size, speed, and strength gave him a natural advantage over the much smaller players of that era. Chamberlain won at every level. He won two city championships in high school, one Big Seven championship in college along with winning the conference high jump in track 3 years consecutively, and two NBA championships after a year with the Harlem Globetrotters. After playing professional basketball in the National Basketball Association, he played professional volleyball for the next ten years. Wilt was a versatile and dominant athlete at all levels while playing multiple sports.
But, his NBA career was especially magnificent and the highlight of his sports career. As a rookie, he became the highest earner in the NBA, signing a contract for $30,000. The largest earner prior to that contract was Hall of Fame Celtic guard, Bob Cousy with $25,000, and Chamberlain’s team had bought the franchise for $25,000 seven years earlier. Eddie Gottlieb, the owner of the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors franchise knew the rarity and worth of a player like Wilt Chamberlain. With Wilt, he had an incredible arsenal of weapons at his disposal to bully and intimidate his opponents. Besides brutish strength and nimble moves, Wilt was a polished basketball player. He had go-to moves and counter moves. He would throw down thunderous dunks over any opponent, but mastered the bank shot, the finger roll, a fall away shot, and was a diligent shot shot-blocker. The most frightening aspect of his game though was his intellect. Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in major professional sports history, said that when guarding Chamberlain, he had to concede points on shots that he contest so that later in the game he could block them. Russell, who won eleven titles in thirteen years of NBA basketball, said that Wilt was such a dynamic player, so intelligent and physically gifted, that if you blocked his shot, Wilt would counter your attempts consistently after it and play with a grudge for the rest of the game. He said that Wilt Chamberlain was the most talented athlete that he had ever seen.
The NBA record books share the same story of him. Though Wilt Chamberlain only won two NBA championships, he cashed when he had teams as talented as his contemporaries. He was a 4-time NBA Most Valuable Player winning in 1960, and 1966-68. He is the only person to win the NBA MVP, All-Star MVP, and Rookie of the Year in the same year (Wes Unseld is the only other person to win ROY and MVP in the same season). He was the 1972 Finals MVP and made the All-NBA team eleven times. He made the NBA All-Defensive squad twice and was a 13-time All-Star. Chamberlain was a 7-time scoring champion from 1960-66, a 9-time field goal percentage champion, and an 11-time rebounding champion. He even led the league in assists in 1968. No other center has ever done that. He became the 1st person to break the 3,000 point barrier in a single season. Michael Jordan is the other person to score 3,000 points in a season and he did it once. Wilt scored 3,000 points 3 times in his career including one 4,000 point season. He is the only person to break 4,000 point barrier and the only one to reach 2,000 rebounds in a single season. He did so twice. Chamberlain holds the records for highest point total in a game at 100 points and most rebounds in a game with 55. He’s the only guy in the history of the NBA to reach triple digits in points and one of two to reach 50 boards in a game. Wilt Chamberlain’s name litters every record book of the NBA. He holds the record for most consecutive 50 point games (7), the most consecutive 40 point games (14), the most consecutive 30 point games (65), and the most consecutive 20 point games in history (126). He has the most 60, 50, and 40 point games in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain retired as the all-time leader in both scoring and rebounding. And, he still holds the records for highest averages in scoring 50.4, rebounding 27.2, and FG percentage 72.7%.
But, statistics do not do justice to what Chamberlain was in the National Basketball Association. He was the most unstoppable force the NBA has ever seen. Imagine the size and raw power of Shaquille O’Neal, minus about 15 pounds, with the dexterity of Hakeem Olajuwon, and the scoring prowess of Jordan in one body. That was Wilt. And, his accomplishments are even more astounding when you factor in his era. When Wilt played basketball, zone defenses were allowed. So, teams would place one defender in front of him, one behind him, and send a third to help from the weak side. Players could grab him, push, and hover around him on every play. Wilt broke almost every scoring record in the NBA with 3 people hanging on him constantly.
No single player in NBA history has done more individually than Wilt Chamberlain. He destroyed the record books and won basketball games because of it. He is one of the best athletes that has ever competed and is the best basketball to ever live. He was better than Russell. He was better than Jordan. Wilt Chamberlain was the best basketball player that ever lived.