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Wilt Is the Best Basketball Player Ever

4 Jan

basketball - wilt chamberlain03

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.

9 Responses to “Wilt Is the Best Basketball Player Ever”

  1. kileer7 October 5, 2011 at 7:32 AM #

    Scoring titles, win shares, playoff win shares, win shares per 48 minutes, playoff win shares per 48 minutes, player efficiency rating, playoff player efficiency rating, playoff scoring average, finals scoring average, career scoring average, conversion in the clutch–it is statistically verifiable that MJ has the highest rate of conversion in the clutch in NBA history, Finals MVPs, league MVPs, and cultural impact DICTATE that Michael Jordan is the greatest to ever play the game.

    Wilt is in my top 3 behind Michael and Kareem.

    • AFM October 6, 2011 at 10:06 AM #

      Michael was the one of the flashiest players in NBA history with real talent. He was the best guard in the league at finishing plays, but he was not the best player in league history. Did Michael Jordan change the culture of basketball? Absolutely. He was great in the clutch, has one more MVP than Wilt, and 3 more scoring titles, but that does not tell the whole story. Some of those stats are how baseball geeks try to quantify hidden talent in another sport. For instance, Jason Collins is a fairly coveted free agent despite never averaging ten points because of his plus/minus ratio. Wilt played in an era where there were no illegal defense calls and at a position where he had to count on someone else to deliver him the basketball. Defenses put three guys around him at all times and he put up the most audacious numbers that the NBA has seen with them hanging on him. Wilt scored 50.4 points per game on 61.3 FG% in a season. He averaged 22.9 rebounds for his entire career and even led the league in assists one year. If you want to see what dominant scoring looks like look at the list of single game scoring records. Wilt Chamberlain’s name litters the page. Jordan was the most prolific scoring guard, so he was more visible to fans and his game was more attractive. People mistake the aesthetic beauty of his game for pure efficiency. Kareem played ball until he was fifty and was consistent, so he should be considered, but Chamberlain was the best.

      • kileer7 October 6, 2011 at 3:17 PM #

        I appreciate that you would take the time out of your schedule to respond to my comment, considering you published the article some time ago – thank you.

        Wilt played in harsh environments, rules stacked against him, and very good competition. However, one could make the case that Michael played better competition and dominated an era of very good centers as wing player: Shaq, Hakeem, Ewing, D-Rob, et. al

        The advanced APBRmetrics are close between MJ and Wilt:

        Total games played:

        Michael Jordan – 1,039
        Wilt Chamberlain – 1,045

        Total Playoff games played:

        Michael Jordan – 179
        Wilt Chamberlain – 160

        Total minutes played:

        Michael Jordan – 41,010
        Wilt Chamberlain – 47,859

        Career Records for Win Shares Per 48 Minutes:

        1. Michael Jordan – 0.2505
        3. Wilt Chamberlain – 0.2480

        Career Playoff Leaders and Records for Win Shares Per 48 Minutes:

        1. Michael Jordan – 0.2553
        7. Wilt Chamberlain – 0.1998

        Number of years leading the league in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes:

        Michael Jordan – 8
        Wilt Chamberlain – 8

        Number of years leading the Playoffs in Win Shares Per 48 Minutes:

        Michael Jordan – 5
        Wilt Chamberlain – 3

        Career Leaders and Records for Win Shares:

        2. Wilt Chamberlain – 247.26
        4. Michael Jordan – 214.02

        Career Playoff Leaders and Records for Win Shares:

        1. Michael Jordan – 39.76
        4. Wilt Chamberlain – 31.46

        Number of years leading the league in Win Shares:

        Michael Jordan – 9
        Wilt Chamberlain – 8

        Number of years leading the Playoffs in Win Shares:

        Michael Jordan – 7
        Wilt Chamberlain – 2

        Career Leaders and Records for Player Efficiency Rating:

        1. Michael Jordan – 27.91
        5. Wilt Chamberlain – 26.13

        Career Playoff Leaders and Records for Player Efficiency Rating:

        1. Michael Jordan – 28.59
        18. Wilt Chamberlain – 22.77

        Wilt completely dominants rebounding (100% probability in blocks), peak total points per season, and regular season scoring records:

        Most 40 point games: Wilt 271
        Most 50 point games: Wilt 118
        Most 60 point games: Wilt 32
        Most consecutive 20 point games: Wilt 126
        Most consecutive 30 point games: Wilt 65
        Most consecutive 35 point games: Wilt 33
        Most consecutive 40 point games: Wilt 14
        Most consecutive 45 point games: Wilt 7
        Most consecutive 50 point games: Wilt 7
        Most consecutive 60 point games: Wilt 4
        Most points in one half: Wilt 59
        Most points in 3 quarters: Wilt 69
        Highest scoring game rookie: Wilt 58
        Highest scoring game: Wilt 100
        Most Total Points in a Season: Wilt 4029
        Highest single season scoring average: Wilt 50.4

        Michael dominants playoff scoring, playoff win shares, playoff series averages, and playoff win shares:

        Most seasons leading league in scoring: MJ 10
        Most seasons leading league in total points: MJ 11
        Most consecutive seasons leading the NBA in scoring: MJ & Wilt are tied at 7
        Highest career scoring average: MJ 30.12
        Most consecutive games scoring in double figures: MJ 866
        Most 30 point games: MJ 563
        Most Total Playoff Points: MJ 5987
        Most consecutive 20 point Playoff games: MJ 60
        Most 30 point Playoff games: MJ 109
        Most 40 point Playoff games: MJ 38
        Most consecutive 45 point Playoffs games: MJ 3
        Most 50 point Playoff games: MJ 8
        Highest scoring Playoff game: MJ 63
        Most consecutive 50 point Playoff games: MJ 2
        Highest career Playoff scoring average: MJ 33.4
        Highest single season Playoff scoring average: MJ 43.7
        Highest career Finals scoring average: MJ 33.6 (minimum of 15 games)

        The only reason I have Michael Jordan ranked over Wilt is because of his consistency in the playoffs, had Wilt been the playoff performer that Michael Jordan was he would be the greatest player of all time – regardless if MJ has him beat in certain per minute metrics.

        I’ve put countless hours into my top 10 players of all time, I’m not a guy who will come on a website and shit on the all time greats. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Wilt Chamberlain.

        • AFM October 6, 2011 at 4:42 PM #

          Okay first, I like the comment about the timeliness of the response. You know, life keeps going even when I’m not babysitting the website. Second, I appreciate the time you put into your argument, but stats do not tell everything. Michael had Pippen, a Hall of Famer who was more athletic and possibly a better finisher at the rim than he was. He also had the basketball. Jordan could bring the ball down the court and start the offense himself or just shoot the ball wherever he caught it as he often did. The basketball touched his hands on every possession. I’m not sure that you are getting the full impact of the zone in the seventies. On every defensive play, teams put their biggest player behind Wilt, their most athletic player in front of him, and had a player cheating over on the entry pass. On some, they left the cheating player on Wilt too, meaning that he did not get the ball on those possessions. By your stats, he scored 31 points per game despite that. Jordan never saw that type of defense, and Chamberlain also played against the best defensive center that ever lived, Bill Russell. Wilt was the most dominant force that ever hit the NBA. You can’t just leave out the impact that blocks and rebounds have on games and he was one of the most prolific rebounders ever. A lot of player efficiency ratings exclude the older players because they think that their numbers are inflated due to poorer competition. Dude, 100 points in a game is 100 points. No one else has done that. No one has reached 90. Wilt is better.

        • Norman August 1, 2012 at 6:10 PM #

          you player efficienty numbers are misleading because Wilt simply had better endurance than Jordan and was athletic enough to play nearly the entire game, Jordan was not able to do that, Jordan was the second best in one category, scoring, Chamberlain was the best scorer, rebounder, blocker, one of the greatest big men passers ever, Wilt was stronger, faster, could leap higher and had better endurance than Jordan, Jordan was not even the best in one category of the game, Chamberlain is the greatest player in basketbal history in multiple aspects of the game

          and Jordan does not dominate playoff scoring when both are at their peak, Jordan played on better teams for more years, and there were more games in the playoffs, but the season when both were in their prime Wilt’ and Jordan’s average points per playoff game were about the same

          by the way Wilt had the greatest playoff game in history, 24 points, 29 rebounds, 8 blocks, 8 assists with a broken right hand in game 5 of the ’72 finals to lead the Lakers to their winningest championship team in history

        • PBinLosAngeles December 15, 2013 at 4:50 PM #

          You forgot something, there Mr. Numbers guy: The NBA didn’t even COUNT blocked shots until after Wilt had retired!
          Playoffs! Please! Chamberlain’s team losses to Celtic teams were an aggregate of less than 25 points, including a last second miracle shot by Sam Jones in 1962 to beat the Sixers by one point!
          Forty years after he retired at the age of 37, Chamberlain’s name appears in the NBA’s record book 97 times; when he retired following the 1972-73 season, it was 128 times. Wilt and Bill Russell played against each other 142 times throughout their careers. In those head-to-head match-ups, Wilt averaged 28.7 points and 28.7 rebounds while Russell posted averages of 14.5 and 23.7. Russell was distraught in the game when Wilt grabbed 55 – FIFTY-Five – rebounds against him; Wilt dominated the paint, taking everything in sight. That 55 rebound record still stands today and no one will come near it.
          And lets deduce your stale argument that “Michael played better competition and dominated an era of very good centers as wing player”. How would MJ have done in a league with but 9 teams? Consider reducing the talent pool against whom Jordan played, or even move him into the Western Conference during the peak of his career(?) – Look at who he would have been facing night in and night out. Certainly not Craig Ehlo!
          Further, Jordan was in the league 5 years before advancing to the Eastern Conf. finals, and only did so after the Bulls had acquired a center; Bill Cartwright. Jordan wasn’t even the best at his position, much less the G.O.A.T. Pete Maravich would have lit that guy up, and if Pete had a three point line? Forget about it!
          Wilt scored 135 points in a 24 hour span – 73 against the Bulls and 62 points against the Celtics. It took 22 years for someone to score 50 or more points on consecutive nights. Bernard King did it – back to back 50’s – versus San Antonio and Dallas in 1984.
          Everyone makes a big fuss out of a triple double. How about a triple double-double, which Wilt did against the Pistons in 1968! Wilt’s line from that game – 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists.
          Lets look deeper into your “talent pool” and “tougher competition” fallacy, by comparing rebounding; lets use the top 3 regular season rebounders for the 2012/2013 season compared to the top 3 regular season rebounders from Wilt’s last season before blowing his knee out, 71/72. Then, you tell ME where the “tougher competition” was:
          Dwight Howard – 12.4 RPG
          Nikola Vucevic – 11.9 RPG
          Omer Asik – 11.7 RPB
          !971/72 top 3 regular season rebounders:
          Wilt Chamberlain (36 years of age) – 19.2 RPG
          Wes Unsold – 17.6 RPG
          Kareem – 16.6 RPG

          • AFM December 16, 2013 at 12:48 PM #

            Wow…you could write for us.

  2. Nikko November 17, 2011 at 12:08 PM #

    When Wilt was putting up those giant numbers his team wasn’t necessarily winning. When he won , he played a lesser role. Those rebounding numbers are also very misleading, sure he’s a better rebounder than MJ, but that probably translates to about 14-15 rpg in today’s pace. I always thought it was kinda neat that Mj comes out statistically superior to anyone in NBA history, I never thought of him as a stat guy. If there was a close game in the last 2 minutes, there’s no question which one of these guys would anyone would rather have. It’s a real possibility,and good strategy to not even have Wilt out there in certain situations. Mj is so much more of a versatile and unstoppable scorer too. All you have to look at is their playoff scoring, Wilt can have all the reg season accolades.

    • AFM November 21, 2011 at 9:31 PM #

      Actually, Wilt’s rebounding numbers would translate to something closer to 17-19 rebs. per game. Who in today’s game is putting up numbers close to that? People erroneously think that Wilt didn’t have a big impact on his team’s wins and losses, but he won two of nearly every three games that he played over his career. He has a 64.5% winning percentage in 1,045 games. Wilt is similar to Shaq in that, every team that he was on became an instant contender, and if they did not win, then he was blamed. Wilt AVERAGED 50.4 ppg. The closest guy to him is Jordan…15 points under him. Wilt is often undervalued because his playoff numbers were lower, but he played in an era when guys could put you on the ground and not get called for a foul. The rules were changed to inhibit Wilt. They were changed to help Jordan. You couldn’t touch him in the playoffs. Jordan is an amazing player, but Wilt was better.

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