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NBA – Special – Great Sports Legends – Wilt Chamberlain


Throughout sports history….there have been exceptional athletes….and then, there have been exceptional exceptional athletes….and Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain was one of the latter…..cuz when you stand 7′ 2″ tall….it is really difficult to be an exceptional exceptional athlete…..but Wilt was….having set numerous all-time NBA records that still stand….but being “exceptional exceptional”….Wilt the Stilt was considered by many volleyball affectionardos….to be the best spiker who ever played the game of volleyball….as it has been said that his “snyper accuracy from a significantly elevated position” was unheard of around the volleyball campfires of California.

Chamberlain is regarded as one of the most extraordinary and dominant basketball players in the history of the NBA. The winner of four (4) NBA MVP’s and the 1972 NBA Finals MVP is holder of numerous official NBA all-time records establishing himself as the all-time points scored in a game record holder at 100 pts…..can you imagine someone scoring 100 points in a game….the all-time top rebounder in NBA history….and the all-time best field goal shooting accuracy.  He led the NBA in scoring seven times….field goal percentage nine times….minutes played eight times…. rebounding eleven times….and assists once.  There have been several rule changes as a result of The Stilt….including widening the lane from 12 to 16 feet….as well as changes to rules regarding inbounding the ball….and shooting free throws.

 Most remembered for his 100-point game….which is widely considered one of basketball’s greatest records.…when decades after his record, many NBA teams did not even average 100 points as fewer field goals per game were being attempted. The closest any player has gotten to 100 points was the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant….who scored 81 in 2006….for Bryant afterwards said Chamberlain’s record was “unthinkable … It’s pretty exhausting to think about it.”

 When it came to basketball….Chamberlain’s main weakness was his notoriously poor free throw shooting….where he has the third lowest career free throw percentage in NBA history with 51.1% (based on a minimum of 1,200 attempts)….as Chamberlain claimed that he intentionally missed free throws so a teammate could get the rebound and score two points instead of one….but later acknowledged that he was a “psycho case” at the free throw line….but if you stop to think about it….that has nothing to do with being an exceptional exceptional athlete.  On the other hand, he committed surprisingly few fouls during his NBA career, despite his rugged play in the post….as The Stilt never fouled out of a regular season or playoff game in his 14-year NBA career….with a career average of only two fouls per game….despite having averaged 45.8 minutes per game over his career. He had five seasons where he committed less than two fouls per game….with a career low of 1.5 fouls during the 1962 season….in which he also averaged 50.4 points per game. His fouls per 36 minutes was a remarkable 1.6 per game. “First he was a scorer. Then he was a rebounder and assist man. Then with our great Laker team in 1972, he concentrated on the defensive end”, said Sharman. In his two championship seasons, Chamberlain led the league in rebounding….while his scoring decreased to 24 and 15 points per game. By 1971–72 at age 35 and running less….his game had transformed to averaging only nine shots per game….compared to the 40 in his record-setting 1961–62 season. He also has a signature ‘Dipper’ move, whereby he would fake a hook shot, and extends his arm to a short-range finger roll to shoot under a block attempt.  For his feats, Chamberlain was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978….named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History….ranking #2 in SLAM Magazines Top 50 NBA Players of All-Time….and #13 in the ESPN list “Top North American athletes of the century”and voted the second best center of All-Time by ESPN behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on March 6, 2007.  During his career, Chamberlain competed against future Hall of Famers including Russell, Thurmond, Lucas, and Walt Bellamy….he later faced Unseld, Abdul-Jabbar, Dave Cowens, and Elvin Hayes.

From a historical NBA perspective….the rivalry between Chamberlain and his perennial nemesis Bill Russell is cited as the greatest on-court rivalry of all time.   There were three NBA Finals matchups in the rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson….but they played different positions and did not guard each other….whereas Russell’s Celtics won seven of eight playoff series against Chamberlain’s Warriors, 76ers, and Lakers teams….and went 57–37 against them in the regular season and 29–20 in the playoffs.  Russell’s teams won all four seventh games against Chamberlain’s teams…..by the combined margin was nine points….in which Chamberlain outscored Russell 30 to 14.2 per game and outrebounded him 28.2 to 22.9 in the regular season and in the playoffs….where he outscored him 25.7 to 14.9 and outrebounded him 28 to 24.7.  The comparison between the two is often summed-up by saying that Chamberlain was an exceptional exceptionalLy great player versus a player who makes his team great in Russell who was an exceptional exccptional winner….so, an individualist against a team player.  When Wilt the Stilt averaged 50.4 points per game in the 1961 – 1962 season….it is duely noted that Boston did not rely on Russell’s scoring….thus allowing him to concentrate on defense and rebounding…..for Chamberlain wished people could understand that their roles were different. saying, “I’ve got to hit forty points or so, or this team is in trouble. I must score—understand? After that I play defense and get the ball off the boards. I try to do them all, best I can, but scoring comes first.”  Russell won 11 NBA titles in his career while Chamberlain won two….while Chamberlain was named All-NBA first team seven times to Russell’s three….but Russell was named league MVP….which was then selected by players and not the press….five times against Chamberlain’s four.

Bill Russell disclosed after his and Chamberlains’ careers were over that the two were very close friends in private life…..for Russell never considered Chamberlain his rival and disliked the term….instead pointing out that they rarely talked about basketball when they were alone. When Chamberlain died in 1999, Chamberlain’s nephew stated that Russell was the second person he was ordered to break the news to….as the all-time winningest athlete in sports history…..as no athlete or player has ever come close to 11 World Championship rings like Bill Russell has….but all those wins could not in any way diminish the exceptional exceptional athlete that Wilt Chamberlain was….and will forever be….for the life and artistry of The Stilt is something worth watching over and over again.

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