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. 


By: nayfel
On: 2/2/2012 7:23:00 AM
How can you not mention averaging 50 points and 25 rebounds? I don't care what era, who played, what kind of arena/ball whatever, that's the funnest record/stat in the NBA. 50 and 25? Imagine if a player did that ONCE right now? The internet would explode, haha.
I know PER is an efficiency metric, taking minutes, pace, turnovers and other secondary stats into consideration but it is incredible that a guy who averaged 50-25 has a 31 PER. It shows that his 50-25 wasn't that amazing then when you consider the secondary factors as PER is the one transcendent stat. I mean it was amazing, led the league, but was equal to other all-time seasons of top players but not head and shoulders better.
By: Zenguerrilla
On: 2/2/2012 9:29:00 AM
I thought his safest record was the 10,000 babes he allegedly snookered??? :) Wilt is the greatest player in simulated fantasy, no doubt!
By: Dalton Del Don
On: 2/2/2012 9:37:00 AM
Zenguerrilla - It's 20,000.
By: The Professor
On: 2/2/2012 10:35:00 AM
Nayfel, I agree, we're not seeing 50 and 25 again. Like I said, Wilt had quite a few of those untouchable records. The minutes one is just always the one that stands out to me, for some reason.
By: The Professor
On: 2/2/2012 10:35:00 AM
And Zenguerrilla, I didn't want to be the one to bring it up. But yeah, that's an obvious conversation-starter on Wilt, that's for sure
By: nayfel
On: 2/2/2012 12:12:00 PM
Not sure if the requisite coaches types are reading this but how would the recent elite centers have played if they were Wilt? Could Shaq have put up the same numbers in that exact role as he did? Granted Shaq is one of the most physically gifted humans beings to ever walk the earth but for his era and in his role, what would Shaq, Olajuwon, Ewing or Robinson have been able to do? Would they have been able to put up 40-20 type years?
Most people try and play the game of discussing what Wilt and other earlier era superstars would be able to do if they played today but i think it would be easier to reverse it. If Patrick Ewing switched places (like in some vice versa type of movie role) with Wilt and he played for Wilt from the first day of his NBA career to the last, what type of production could we assume? Would he have been head and shoulders the creates scorer of his era?

I really think this is a better way of determining how superior, if at all, Wilt was to the modern elite big men of the NBA. I tend to think of those days as one big clack adult holding the ball above his head while a bunch of little white kids try and jump to reach it yet never even approach his chest in height. I know I am exaggerating it but that's my visualization.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/2/2012 2:05:00 PM
It doesn't matter what era you put him in. While Wilt's stats are eye-popping, (including the fact that no one else's best year in all time season averages for points, rebounds, and field goal % equals Wilt's SECOND best seasons in those categories, and that's not excelling at one of those 3, but ALL 3) if you're old enough to have seen him play before the knee surgery, there is no argument who was the best of all time. The surgery didn't stop him, but he wasn't as fluid afterwards. You have to wonder if he had the knee worked on with today's technology, and they actually fixed it, where his career stats would have ended. He still was probably the best player of his day after the surgery, but was definitely was the best of all time prior to it.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/2/2012 9:39:00 PM
I have the advantage of being old enough to actually compare all of these players you're considering. The ones who don't believe that Wilt was the best didn't see him. George Mikan was before my time. And I had a friend who at one time, swore Mikan was the best of all time. I really couldn't argue I hadn't seen him. When Wilt came along my friend never again brought up Mikan when discussing the best player. When my friend passed away, Mikan was no longer top 10 for him. But Wilt was still #1. Put your top 5 on a team together, and Wilt would be the star.
By: The Professor
On: 2/3/2012 1:29:00 AM
I definitely appreciate the perspective of people that got to see these guys play live action...actually, that was one of the strengths of the top players project that prompted these blogs. We got a lot of historical input from folks that watched these guys play, and there was also a huge effort made to gather interviews and news clippings from the time. And while your opinion that Wilt is the GOAT certainly isn't an isolated one, the general consensus we came to in the project was that while Wilt had limitless abilities this didn't always translate to maximum impact on the court. If you haven't already, check out my Hoops Lab for this week where I detail an example of Wilt's 1965 season, and how little his presence/absence seemed to affect the records of the two teams he played for that season. As someone touting Wilt as the GOAT, how would you explain something like that?
By: nayfel
On: 2/3/2012 5:27:00 AM
So, Mr. thepearl-673, if Shaquille O'neal was in place of Wilt back then, you don't think he would have put up those crazy numbers and had a similar impact?
By: nayfel
On: 2/3/2012 5:46:00 AM
For clarification, I am not challenging you, I am asking your opinion.
By: Chris Liss
On: 2/3/2012 2:17:00 PM
I actually met Wilt in person, btw, at a "gentleman's club" on Hollywood Blvd. in 1999 around 6 months before he died. He was doing tequila shots with six strippers. I was playing pool (don't ask why I was playing pool at a strip club). He was sitting with his back to the table and blocking me from drawing the cue back. He noticed, apologized and stood up to get out of the way. As I drew the cue back to shoot, it dawned on me it was Wilt Chamberlain. I got starstruck and flubbed the shot, and Wilt blamed himself for being in the way. He died a few months after that, which was surprising on the one hand because he looked like he could still go out and play, but not on the other given that he was about 64 and partying his ass off.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/3/2012 2:25:00 PM
Nayfel- I did see them both play. And I know that Shaq was a tremendous force. But, honestly, Wilt played on a higher level. Shaq, too, would have been dominant then, but not to the extent of Wilt, I believe.
Professor- I have not read your Hoops Lab. I will try to. But if Wilt's "limitless abilities" didn't always transfer to the court, I must have under-estimated him. Because what did transfer to the court was the most dominate play to date in the NBA. And, if there is one area that truly doesn't transfer from that era to now, it's the media coverage, and accessibility of footage (or news clippings). I'm afraid that I can read your Lab several times, and would not be able to provide enough rebuttal to overcome the project's rankings based on news clippings. There will simply never be enough news clippings from that era to compete with the media coverage that the younger players have enjoyed. I recognize that you have no doubt tried extremely hard to be fair, but news clippings and interviews (although admittedly all that you have available) are not an accurate way to evaluate players. I would submit that instead of pulling a small sample size in 1965 to try and minimize Wilt's impact, go back to the stats over season's that no one has approached.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/3/2012 3:20:00 PM
I have now read your Hoops Lab. While I do understand the point, it seems that you're holding Chamberlain accountable for the system that the coach chose to use. When asked to score, Wilt scored. Better than anyone else before or after. When asked to change, he led the league in assists. At the end of his career, he was asked to change his game again. And he adapted. It seems more impressive that he was able to excel at whatever the coach asked.
Look, I am no fan of Chamberlain, the man. No one reading this despises the Jayhawks more than I. (For those too young to know, Wilt went to Kansas) But, fair is fair, and having watched him, and all of those since, I have a strong (if it hasn't shone yet) opinion that he was the best that I've ever watched.
By: The Professor
On: 2/4/2012 7:59:00 AM
It's not so much that I'm holding Wilt responsible for the coach, as I'm holding Wilt responsible for his effect on the team and the game. More and more, I'm finding that I don't care so much about a particular skill or skill set. That Wilt could do whatever he wanted on the court was to his ultimate credit...but that he couldn't consistently figure out how to do the most impactful things, and that only certain coaches (particularly Hannum) could figure out how to get him to play that way is to his detriment. We've talked about Shaq...Shaq wasn't as versatile in what he could do as Wilt was. This should be to Wilt's advantage. But what Shaq DID do was take the areas that he was unstoppable at and do them repeatedly...whereas Wilt was focused on trying to show off all of the things that he could do, whether they were maximally effective or not. In Wilt's words, from an interview with Roy Firestone in 1993:

Firestone: Wait a minute, I, I gotta stop you here, Wilt, hold the phone here. You’re tellin’ me—Wilt Chamberlain is tellin’ me—that he thinks someone is gonna be better than he is,

Chamberlain: Mmm. (nods)

Firestone: Right now you think that he’s got all the potential to be better than you.

Chamberlain: Yeah.

Firestone: You’re saying that?

Chamberlain: Yeah. I’m sayin’ that because he already has a drive in an area that I didn’t have.

Firestone: Which is?

Chamberlain: Goin’ to the basket. Uh, durin’ my career—and mainly in my early days when I was scorin’ all those points—I-I had this thing in my head that I wanted to show people I was a complete basketball player. Y’ understand? And by doing that I developed the fadeaway jump shot, and the fingerroll and the hook shot, and all the tools that on offense basketball players had. When maybe... Wilt Chamberlain should’ve been goin’ to the basket and breaking guys’ hands off, y’ understand? And that would’ve made me... even more devastating. He’s doin’ that already.

That's just one example, but I hope it illustrates the point that I'm trying to get across. Wilt could do anything on the court, his abilities were endless...but in having that palatte of possibilities, he didn't always choose the parts of his game that could maximize his impact. Which lets a few players in history, such as Russell for example, impact the game at a higher level more consistently even without having as much raw ability.
By: P.B.inLosAngeles
On: 2/4/2012 12:54:00 PM
Try and factor in death threats on a daily basis....What many people don't realize about Wilt's athletisism, was just how coordinated and agile he was; additionally, he was a 10.2 second 100 yard dash man at Kansas; go to youtube and type in WiltatKansas and look at some college film. Any doubters should think about this: Wilt got 55 rebounds - fifty-five - one night against RUSSELL when both were in their primes. Another thing, the NBA didn't even count offensive rebounds until the year after Wilt retired. They created the 3 second rule, defensive goal tending, lengthened and widened not only the entire court, but completely redid the free throw lane because of Wilt. Know where the "Over-and out" rule for shots hitting the top of the backboard came from? When he was at Kansas, for an inbounds play under the hoop, they'd just throw it up through the basket supports and Wilt would go get it and ram it home; nope, can't have him doing THAT anymore. Also, know why you can't go into the lane on a free-throw till the ball hits the rim? That's right, he'd step back to the top of the key, and either drop it or dunk the ball from the free-throw line. Both guys 27 years old, 1 on 1, Jordan wouldn't even get a shot off!
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/4/2012 2:28:00 PM
Thanks for the support, P.B. While I wouldn't go so far as to say that Jordan wouldn't get a shot off, Wilt would've dominated MJ given your parameters. But try to convince youngsters covering the NBA of that. I suppose that everyone believes that the best player that they have witnessed is the GOAT. For most, nowadays, that's Jordan because he's the best that they've seen. I watched them both, and Wilt was better at playing basketball. Period. I understand their inability to compare the two. They watched Jordan, and rate Chamberlain based on interviews and newspaper clippings.
You bring up another good point. The NBA wanted to limit Chamberlain. It didn't want a player dominating the way that he did, so they employed rules that were designed to retard his dominance. When Jordan came along, the marketing gurus had figured out that to make the NBA more popular, it needed to get the public exited about a superstar. Rules were overlooked to enhance Jordan's game. They tried to bring Wilt back to the norm, and they tried to raise Jordan more above the norm. If Wilt pushed off, traveled, or fouled, they couldn't wait to make a call. Jordan got by with all of this. I witnessed it.
And Professor- I might not have a problem with you saying that Wilt could have used his abilities to have been even better. I imagine that anyone who can dominate a sport at it's highest level as he did would have trouble getting motivated to play his best 100% of the time. When you can dominate going 95% I can see it happening. But saying that Russell impacted the game at a higher level more consistently, I can't go along with. Russell's TEAM was more consistent, but HE didn't impact the game the way that Wilt did. Switch those two players and leave the rest of the teams intact, and Boston has no competition. Russell was not the player that Wilt was.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/4/2012 3:08:00 PM
A few years ago, I heard two men arguing over whether Tom Brady or Joe Montana was the GOAT. The Montana supporter stated that there is more to being the greatest than the strongest arm, there is leadership, poise, and NFL championships. Of course, true to my shy nature, I interjected that Bart Starr was credited with being a fantastic leader, the most poised QB ever, and had more NFL championships than Montana. Not to argue the GOAT, but to add a perspective. They both said "who?". Afterwards an elderly gentleman said to me "You're right about Starr, I'd take him over either, but he was no Otto Graham." So, I recognize that perhaps we all appreciate our first experiences with greatness more than the more recent ones, but my God, Wilt could play the game. Better than any I've seen since.
BTW, here is a site about under appreciating older stars in sports. It happens to concentrate on Bart Starr, but at the beginning the information pertains to any star in any sport. I think it's informative.
By: nayfel
On: 2/4/2012 3:42:00 PM
I respected the Wilt guys on this until I read that "Jordan wouldn't have gotten a shot off" in a arbitrary and hypothetical 1-1 between 27 year old MJ and Wilt. First off, that's a completely baseless exercise anyways, as it means nothing about someone being a better basketball player if they can beat someone in a 1-1. Second of all, Jordan was the greatest pure scorer who ever lived from the perimeter and midrange game and probably would have dominated anyone in history because of his quickness.
I hate to hijack this blog and turn it into MJ but how can you complain and compare how the league treated Wilt compared to MJ. Give us all a little more reedit for understanding history, as you have been very condescending this entire conversation. Not sure if you're aware but while pace wa sup in the 80s, the 90s drew top a near still and those Knicks teams were crushing anyone who went into the lane. Never before had the game been as physical.
Wilt played against a MUCH weaker class of player and that's why he accumulated all those numbers. It wasn't that he was superman, it was because he played a lot of games against 5 white guys under 6 foot 9. This is what everyone is thinking but nobody is saying; Wilt didn't play against the best of the best. We all know that for many documented reasons, such as pampering, air travel, technological advances etc, today's average player is HEAD AND SHOULDERS more athletic than the players from Wilt's era. HEAD AND SHOULDERS> Witness those very same clips of Wilt and you can't not notice this.
So, while I respect your opinion, you need to be a little bit more diplomatic and less condescending. In addition, making blank statements which come out of affection for your era aren't going to gather you many admirers or more importantly, believers.
By: nayfel
On: 2/4/2012 3:42:00 PM
Professor, I think we can say this blog has been a success :)
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/4/2012 4:37:00 PM
One of the "wilt guys" didn't bring up 1 on 1, nor say that MJ wouldn't get a shot off. Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, and Willis Reed are going to be disappointed to learn they're under 6-9 white boys, while you're mentioning ludicrous comments. If you believe there is that large of a disparity in the competition between then and now, you're proving my point about youngsters not being able to objectively compare things that they haven't witnessed. Football has changed tremendously from then until now. Basketball not nearly as much.
By: The Professor
On: 2/4/2012 7:01:00 PM
He is right about the condescension, though, as every one of your posts in this thread has come in with the assumption that anyone not siding with Wilt is either ignorant or trying to put down the old in favor of the new. I mention that we did a lot of work to put together as complete of a picture of the past as we could, including many people like yourself that were speaking from memory as well as going through news clippings and books in addition to the many cases uncovering information in those clippings that allowed us to put together stats that aren't even publicly available. I'd never disrespect anyone who was watching the games at the time, but let's keep it you said, the 60s wasn't now. The games were rarely if ever televised, the stats and coverage were's not like even a witness was really in position to give an expert scouting report on Wilt.

But that said, even your the analogy you gave with the Montana/Brady/Starr argument doesn't fit because my vote for #1 went to Bill Russell, a guy who's even older than Wilt. And for reasons that were at most tangential to the 11 championships. I don't know if you read my Hoops Lab when I made the case for Russell, but the reason I vote for him is that his defensive impact was so ridiculously off the charts that it dwarfed anyone else's offensive + defensive contributions. That the Celtics won entirely based on the fact that their defense was stupidly dominant, and that this defensive dominance could be traced exactly and almost entirely to Russell. This wasn't a case of his teammates pulling Russell to titles...just the opposite, Russell's defense allowed a lot of his teammates to make the Hall of Fame because they had a lot of championship hardware that they wouldn't have otherwise had.

Frankly, Wilt enjoyed his best team success exactly when his game most emulated Russell's. I really could care less about Wilt's ability to put up comic book box score numbers...I want to know whose contributions showed up most in helping their teams. And for players whose careers overlapped to such a large degree, it certainly looked like Russell with his defense was consistently having a lot more impact on the outcome of the game than Wilt with his limitless ability.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/4/2012 11:44:00 PM
Prof- If I came off as condescending, I apologize. And after reading some of my posts, they seem harsher than I remembered. However, not as off the wall as the other "Wilt guy". You are correct, I do believe that those who don't agree about Wilt are ignorant. Not in the way the word is used commonly (i.e. Stupid) but as it is intended, (not exposed to the information). I respect your diligence to gather information, but I am not swayed that those methods will not let you appreciate the player. And, I admit that I still believe if you had witnessed him, you would not come to the same conclusion.
Humor me, and let me make one last argument. Russell's defense was great. We agree. But in the regular season, in all the games that they played against each other, Wilt averaged 30.0 points per game. (Russell averaged 14.2) So against Russell's great defense that won all of those championships, Wilt's abilities still let him more than double Russell's output. (Wilt must've played a little defense, also, eh? They guarded each other) You're twisting my words when you infer that I said Russell's team pulled him to championships. I simply said that Russell's team was better than Wilt's. I stand by that. Russell played for two coaches (one was himself) while Wilt played for eight, none for more than two seasons in a row. And his teammates changed much more often than Russell's. With each change (coach or cast) his role changed. He was asked to score, and he did. Then asked to be a playmaker and he was. He was asked to play defense and rebound, and again, he adapted.
And, yes, he did put up cartoonish stats. That no one has matched. We should throw them out because they're cartoonish compared to everyone else? His stats were out of place with other players because HE was out of place with the other players. They shouldn't be discounted because they lead away from the conclusion that is desired.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/4/2012 11:58:00 PM
After reading t"not" in there. And also, I realized that the next question will be why I only talked about regular season stats with Russell. So, in the playoffs, Wilt averaged 25.7 points when being guarded by Russell. And 28.0 rebounds (playoffs against Russell) Russell in the playoffs against Wilt? 14.9 points, and 24.7 rebounds. While those stats can be used to compare the two, my main point is that Wilt did a darn good job translating his abilities to the court against the person who got the nod as #1 because of his defense. hat post, I see I added an extra
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/5/2012 12:00:00 AM
Wow, that was odd, I lost some words when I hit submit. It was supposed to say: After reading that last post I realized that I inserted an extra "not" in there.
By: The Professor
On: 2/5/2012 12:19:00 PM
The problem with the "a vote not for Wilt must be due to not having seen him" premise is that there are plenty of people that witnessed Wilt and don't think he's the GOAT. A lot of people that witnessed both find Russell to be better. So your premise, on its face, just can't be true.

Also, you raise a good point by posting Wilt's and Russell's head-to-head isn't a 1-on-1 game. 1-on-1, yeah, I'd probably take Wilt. But if Russell's presence means that the opposing team is scoring appreciably fewer points than they would have otherwise, that is more important to me (and to my team's success) than the details of the box score. And against Wilt's teams, limiting him to much lower volumes and efficiencies than he scored against everyone else while also playing his normal role as a ridiculous help defender translated into a much less successful team offense for the opponent. Which, in the end, was what the Celtics needed in order to thrive.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/5/2012 2:23:00 PM
I guess I'm slow to realize what you were looking for. You were talking the greatest teammate of all time, as opposed to the greatest player. The player who helped his team the most of all time rather than the player who had the most skills of any player of any era. I have not spent a lot of time accessing that, so I'll give you that for now, because I really wasn't attentive to that. I still believe, though, that the difference in the rest of the teams made the difference, and not a larger team contribution from Russell than Wilt. Give me Wilt and the balance of the Celtic lineup anytime over Russell with chamberlain's teammates.
By: The Professor
On: 2/5/2012 4:58:00 PM
I guess that leads to the question...the way you use the term "greatest teammate"..."the player who helped his team the most of all time"...shouldn't that BE the same as the greatest player of all time? What could be more important in a team game than the ability to help the team succeed?
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/5/2012 7:37:00 PM
I thought about this during the SB. I'm not ready to concede that Russell helped his team win more than Wilt did. He simply played on a better team I believe. The only way I could rectify myself to agree with your premise is if you include his contributions as coach while being a player-coach. If your argument is that as a coach he motivated and pushed his teammates, it's possible that he "helped" his team more than Wilt did.
But I (perhaps I've mentioned this) watched the two teams play. And, Boston would've been a better team with Wilt as opposed to Russell. While it's romantic to root for the less talented player, Wilt would've improved that team. With Russell transferred to Wilt's team, they don't make the finals.
I know that I have made you dig your heels in against Wilt, and you will forever be more inclined to minimize his greatness. That's a shame. I really wish that you could have watched him. We'd be supporting the same viewpoint, I believe. I respect you and your opinion. I just feel that without seeing him, you aren't appreciating him enough. Therefore he unjustly gets moved lower in your all-time rankings. BTW, I think Russell was a much better person. But, that wasn't the topic. I wish I could agree, but having witnessed them, alas, I can't.
By: thepearl-673
On: 2/7/2012 5:42:00 PM
And, one last point. The stats from Wilt vs. Russell weren't from a 1-on-1 game. They were taken from real games where the whole team was playing. Right during the time that Russell was "helping" his team more than Wilt did his, by scoring half the points, fewer rebounds, assists, etc. So, no, I can't go along with Russell being more important than Wilt.
Wilt was always the best player on the floor. Followed by the 5 Celtics, then his 4 teammates. That's why Wilt is the GOAT while the Celtics usually won. Not because one of the Celtics helped more.
I'm going now to find some newspaper clippings and determine definitively if Otto Graham was better than Brady.
By: The Professor
On: 2/7/2012 9:11:00 PM
Lol. I tried to leave well enough alone, let you get the last word in, but you couldn't let it go. OK, that's cool. But in the words of Sam Jackson, allow me to retort.

1) First, you never have to apologize for a good debate. That is entirely what I hope for with everything I write, so I thank you for obliging. And you didn't affect at all how I look at Wilt, so don't worry that you made me dig my heels in or some such. Going into the summer of 2010 I probably would have had Wilt over Russell. But after participating in two of these long-term in which we went season-by-season and laid out all the details from each year, and then this one where we studied whole careers, I just can't see any way Wilt had anywhere near Russell's impact consistently on the court. Wilt had individual brilliant peaks (note: NOT the years of gaudiest stats) that competed with the best of Russell, but on the whole there were too many times when his numbers weren't translating. Note: I don't blame Wilt for not winning titles when his team wasn't strong enough...but there were plenty of times when his team was stronger than Russell's, and he still came up short. To whit...

2) Your quote "Wilt was always the best player on the floor. Followed by the 5 Celtics, then his 4 teammates. That's why Wilt is the GOAT while the Celtics usually won. " is just flat false. In 1969 Wilt played with West and Baylor and the Lakers had the best record in the Western Conference, yet they lost to the 48-win Celtics the year Russell was to retire. In both 1966 and 1968 Wilt played next to 10-time All Star Hal Greer and 7-time All Star Chet Walker with lots of other talent on the team, sported the best records in the NBA, and lost to Russell's Celtics. So don't give me that it was always Russ on the more talented team and that's why he won, it's just flat not true.

3) I can't find the actual quote, but Wilt himself said in (I believe) 1978 that he couldn't have won as much with those Celtics as Russell did, that Russell's talent on defense, leadership, and outright focus on winning were things that he couldn't have replicated. Wilt wasn't exactly what you would call a humble man, so that statement holds a lot more weight for me than your assertions do about what Wilt would or wouldn't have done (no offense).

4) In 1980 the NBA voted on the Greatest of All Time, and Bill Russell was voted the GOAT. While I may not have personally lived through the Russell/Wilt era, MANY of the voters here DID. So again, I appreciate that you saw them play. But it's really getting ridiculous that you keep hammering that as your trump card for why Wilt is really the GOAT...many, MANY people saw both of them and disagree with you. It's an opinion question, so that's not to say that you're wrong. But just "I saw them play" isn't nearly enough to definitively say that Wilt was the best.

5) Re: 1-on-1 vs team impact. Again, every number that you've quoted to me about Wilt and Russell has been individual box score stuff. As I've said many times, in cases where team impact can be identified I care about that much more than I do what the boxes say. And in my Russell write-up (I may have to eventually make it a blog outside of just the Hoops Lab), I laid out the pretty clear evidence of Russell's ridiculous defensive impact on the TEAM defense. Here is a quick snippet of that case:

a. In 1956, the year before Russell arrived, the Celtics fielded one of the worst defenses in the league, about 1.5 points BELOW league average. In 1970, the year that Russell left, the Celtics defense again fell back to the middle of the pack, right at league average.

b. From Russell's arrival in 1957 until his departure after 1969, the Celtics were No. 1 in the league in team defense in 12 of 13 seasons (No. 2 in the other season). Not only were they the best, but they were by FAR the best, including a five year stretch from 1961 - 1965 in which they were on average about 10 points better than league average and more than 6 points better than the second best defense.

Meanwhile, as I pointed out in this week's Hoops Lab, Wilt may have been averaging 30+ points on good percentages, but when he switched teams in 1965 the Warriors didn't get any worse and the Sixers didn't get any better. When he left the Sixers for the Lakers in 1968, neither team changed that much again. He could overflow the box scores, but he just didn't have the impact on teams that Russell did.

And again, that's NOT just because of the ring count. If you continue to follow me on here (or if you've ever really read my stuff), you'll know that I loathe the practice of counting rings to determine a player's greatness. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. And prior to 2010, for that reason, I tended to think that Russell was a bit overrated and Wilt probably was better. But when I really dug into it and studied their careers, Russell's was characterized by making huge impacts on his team's fortunes...while Wilt...wasn't. And ultimately, that's the difference between them to me.

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