Greatest Players in NBA History: Wilt Chamberlain

In this blog I pick one of the top players in NBA history as voted on in this project and discuss some of his career accomplishments…in other words, what made him so great that he deserves a spot among the greatest?  This week’s player is Wilt Chamberlain, the most dominant stat sheet stuffer in NBA history. 

As I alluded to in the opening of the Hoops Lab this week, there is a school of thought that Chamberlain’s cartoonish box score exploits may not be indicative of his actual value.  But the really interesting thing about Chamberlain is that he had the ability to change his game to fit almost any style..he could do anything on the court.  And when Coach Alex Hannum tailored Chamberlain’s role into more of a dominant defender/facilitator, Chamberlain’s impact went through the roof as he anchored one of the best teams in history. 

Here is the basketball-reference link for Chamberlain's career, including stats and accolades.  Wilt has almost too many interesting facts to list here, but here are some that stand out for me:

1.  Chamberlain has the four highest scoring average seasons in NBA history, five of the top-six, and seven of the top-17.  Chamberlain also has the three highest rebounding average seasons in NBA history, six of the top-seven, and 10 of the top-20.

2.  Chamberlain led the NBA in assists in 1968, making him the only player in league history to lead the league in points, rebounds, assists, AND field goal percentage at some point in his career.

3. Chamberlain’s 1967 76ers team is widely considered one of the best teams in history.  Chamberlain led them in scoring, rebounds, and assists.  He shot 68% from the field to lead the NBA (second place was 52%), and he anchored a defense that finished a close second (92.9 points allowed /100 possessions) to Bill Russell’s Celtics (91.2 points/100 poss) in defensive ratings estimates.  And this 76ers team was the only squad to beat a healthy Russel-led Celtics team in the playoffs in Russell’s career.

4.  Chamberlain has established several records that will never be broken.  While the 100-point game draws the most attention, his safest record is the 48.5 minutes per game he played in the 1961-62 season.  You might recall that there are only 48 minutes in a regulation NBA game, and Wilt AVERAGED more than 48 minutes played.  That will never come close to being touched again.

Thus, Wilt Chamberlain.  Larger than life both on-and-off the court.  And one of the greatest players in NBA history. 


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