Article by: Pete Caceci
As time moves on with the NBA, players that helped shape the game become nothing more than a distant memory. It truly is a shame, since without these key influences, such all-stars like LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Steph Curry, or even Joel Embiid would not be as prevalent as they currently are. With the ignorance comes the thought that such players back in the day would never be as successful with newer rules and regulations. One legend that is a part of those conversations is the great Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt Chamberlain was the cornerstone of what a dominant athlete should be. His 7’1” stature did not stop him from accomplishing nearly everything that he set himself to. For example, aside from playing basketball, he heavily participated in track and field. While attending the University of Kansas, he was reported to have high jumped 6’6” and obtaining such ridiculous broad jump numbers like 22 feet. Almost all high school athletes, even if they are remotely close to the same build as Chamberlain, cannot replicate this achievement. As a center for the Jayhawks team, he scored 52 points and grabbed 31 rebounds, breaking both all-time records in his very first game. Teammates would admire his ability to move through the opposition like a hot knife through butter. He was so strong that while he was dunking a shot, he broke an opposing player’s toe when the ball went through the basket.
Although Wilt would not spend his entire college career in Kansas, he would continue to change the game by going to the esteemed Harlem Globetrotters for a large sum of $50,000 (equal to about $434,000 in today’s economy). He would conduct several amazing acts like throwing a fellow 210-pound teammate and catching him with little to no effort. Acts like this even gained the attention of the Soviet Union, where the team was invited to play in 1959. The NBA was blown away by this, as he would later be recruited by the Philadelphia Warriors that same year. America was waiting for a super-star, and Wilt was ready and willing to change everything.
In his first six years with the Warriors, Chamberlain would put up record numbers as a center, like the famous 100-point game in Hershey against the New York Knicks. In the 1962 season, he averaged 50.4 points and grabbed 25.7 rebounds a game. He became the first player to break the 4,000-point barrier, which would not be done until by Michael Jordan in the 86-87 NBA season. He was known to rebuild the team in his own way, as he was able to take the losing 31-49 Warriors and push them to the Finals the following year. By now, Wilt Chamberlain was a household name, and many wanted to play because of him.
Wilt would later be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965 with a promising supporting cast like Hall-of-Famers Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham, as well as other talented players Larry Costello, Chet Walker, and Lucious Jackson. In a new environment, Wilt would continue to dominate the game by posting 34.7 PPG and 22.9 RPG for the second half of the season. As the team would struggle with internal problems, he would instill confidence with his success and would earn a rightfully deserved MVP. In the 1966-67 NBA season, Chamberlain and the Sixers would defeat the 11-time Champion Boston Celtics, where Chamberlain posted an unofficial quadruple double. In a six-game series against his former team, the now-San Francisco Warriors, Wilt would finally obtain his first NBA Championship title, solidifying his status to the world as a playing-legend.
In the year following his great achievement, Chamberlain continued his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Again the centerpiece of a new up-and-coming contender, he found it increasingly difficult to adapt to his new coach and supporting cast. Nevertheless, he found himself still scoring over 20.5 PPG and 21.1 RPG in the 1969-70 NBA season. Fellow teammate and Hall-of-Famer Jerry West considered Wilt as “The unstoppable force that kept pushing us to newer limits”. The following seasons saw Chamberlain lead the Lakers to several Finals appearances, an act the Lakers organization had never seen before. Finally in the 1971-72 season, Wilt led his team to a 33-game win streak en route to a record 69 wins in the regular season. Deep in the playoffs, Wilt would come across Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a player whom he mentored since he was 17. After a debilitating six games, Wilt would yet again prove his worth by scoring 24 points and 22 rebounds, while playing all 48 minutes of the game. Facing the New York Knicks super team, Chamberlain would destroy the opposition in five games, while scoring 24 points and 29 rebounds in the game 5 finish, earning him a second Finals title.
Following the 1972-73 season, the man whom everyone would travel to see would finally hang up his career. Even though he was not on the court, his legacy still carries on to this day. No one has ever been able to reach the 100-point record, and Chamberlain’s career point statistics are in the top 10. Believe me when I tell you that is only the tip of the iceberg. He still holds the record for most points in a season (4,029), most 50-point games in a season (45), most points by a rookie (58); he never fouled out of and played every single game in his entire career. The list still keeps going after this my fellow readers. His talent has influenced such players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and even Dennis Rodman, who would come in and change the league again as well.
Call me crazy, but in my opinion without Wilt Chamberlain the NBA would not have the entertainment and enjoyment factor as it does today. He is the Babe Ruth of basketball, a man who could set his mind to something and conquer in no time. If the guy wanted to lead the league in assists, rebounds, points or even time played, he would do it. His number 13 should not be retired by just the Warriors, Lakers, and Sixers; it should be retired by all teams present. I also believe that he would still be just as dominant if not more in today’s game just by his sheer strength and ferocity. He was a mountain and most definitely someone who was way before his time, but nonetheless someone who should never be forgotten in basketball.
Thanks for reading and feel free to share your opinions on other all time great players!