Wilt Chamberlain Really Was Better Than Michael Jordan!

Who was the NBA's best--and why?


I’ve made numerous comments recently concerning who the greatest NBA player of all time was, and I’ve always maintained it was Wilt Chamberlain. It seemed fitting that I bring the discussion to my own hubs and state my case here. Most basketball fans claim the argument is between Wilt and Michael Jordan—two players of undeniable ability. I will make my case for Wilt over Jordan, once and for all.

First and foremost, I am not claiming Wilt would score 50 points per game or get 100 in a modern NBA game (although Kobe Bryant’s flirtation with big numbers suggest that Wilt could get 100 if he were around today, and I believe Chamberlain would lead the NBA in rebounding during any era); I am simply stating that Wilt Chamberlain would be the best player in the NBA, regardless of the era he competed in. Pick a decade and Chamberlain would rule it.

A typical argument against Chamberlain’s dominance of the NBA concerns size—he was so much bigger than his opponents it wasn’t fair. This would imply that Shawn Bradley, Manute Bol, and Gheorghe Muresan should have dominated the modern NBA. They were certainly much taller than other players. If the argument isn’t about size, if Wilt was simply more physically imposing than other players, why didn’t Tito Horford take over the NBA in the ‘80s? That guy was a monster and virtually no one in the league at the time was as powerful, but Horford’s 93 career points and 84 rebounds suggest there was more to Wilt’s accomplishments than can be accounted for by size alone. (Looking at pictures of Chamberlain as a young man, his physique reminds one more of David Robinson than Shaquille O’Neal, so it wasn’t bulk that gave him an edge.) If we examine this from MJ’s perspective, few would argue that Jordan was more athletically gifted than his opponents, but this rationale is never mentioned to discount his greatness. Why then do Chamberlain’s physical gifts count against him? Beats me, so let’s ignore the “Wilt was just bigger” arguments and look at other issues.


Who do you think was best?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wilt pulls down one of his 22.9 rebounds per game!Six championships!Wilt looks more like David Robinson than Shaquille O'Neal.Another poster is born.Wilt defends Kareem.MJ with another 2 points.The Big Dipper on the prowl.Another great performance.Uh... Robert Horry has 7 titles?  Really?Robert Horry, I mean Fresh Prince, I mean Will Smith.  They do look alike.Did Manute have the potential to rival Wilt?
Wilt pulls down one of his 22.9 rebounds per game!
Wilt pulls down one of his 22.9 rebounds per game!
Six championships!
Six championships!
Wilt looks more like David Robinson than Shaquille O'Neal.
Wilt looks more like David Robinson than Shaquille O'Neal.
Another poster is born.
Another poster is born.
Wilt defends Kareem.
Wilt defends Kareem.
MJ with another 2 points.
MJ with another 2 points.
The Big Dipper on the prowl.
The Big Dipper on the prowl.
Another great performance.
Another great performance.
Uh... Robert Horry has 7 titles?  Really?
Uh... Robert Horry has 7 titles? Really?
Robert Horry, I mean Fresh Prince, I mean Will Smith.  They do look alike.
Robert Horry, I mean Fresh Prince, I mean Will Smith. They do look alike.
Did Manute have the potential to rival Wilt?
Did Manute have the potential to rival Wilt?

The Evidence

 

First, we will examine Wilt as a scorer.  Chamberlain scored 31,419 points over the course of 1,045 games during 14 NBA seasons for an average of 30.07 points per game.  While this was an NBA record for points at the time, he has since been surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan.  Of the three, only Jordan has a higher per game average at 30.12.  All three players that passed Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list played more games in their career.

It’s been said that Chamberlain was a selfish player, but his offensive production is almost identical to Michael Jordan’s throughout the course of their career.  Both led the league in scoring many times, but Chamberlain was viewed as selfish while Jordan was not.  Does anyone believe Michael Jordan didn’t want to lead the NBA in scoring?  Would Jordan have been willing to chop ten or more points off his scoring average to defer to his teammates, as Chamberlain did later in his career?  Their statistical similarities on offense should make the notion of Chamberlain’s selfishness a moot point.  It neither defines nor diminishes his accomplishments when compared with Michael Jordan’s.

Wilt was the only center to ever lead the NBA in assists, and his career assists per game average was 4.4—only 0.9 assists per game less than Michael Jordan’s career average.  This statistic is more remarkable if we remember Chamberlain never brought the ball upcourt.  For Wilt to register an assist required someone to throw him the ball first, or for him to get the rebound.  He never initiated the offense.  Conversely, Michael Jordan never played with a pure point guard.  Jordan and Scottie Pippen shared ball-handling duties with John Paxson, Ron Harper, Craig Hodges, B.J. Armstrong etc.  In this circumstance, Jordan frequently brought the ball upcourt himself, leaving open the option of taking a quick shot.  Considering Jordan’s domination of the ball from the guard position, Wilt’s assists per game compared with MJ’s should raise more questions about Jordan’s unselfishness than Chamberlain’s.

Next, let’s examine Wilt the rebounder.  In this department, Chamberlain had no equal except Bill Russell, exemplified by his 23,924 rebounds and 22.9 rebounds per game average.  It has been suggested that fewer rebounds are available in the modern NBA, but Chamberlain’s per game career average is more than twice as high as most of the league’s modern centers.  Cut his rebounds in half and his 11.45 rebounds per game over a career exceeds the averages for Hakeem Olajuwon (11.1), Shaquille O’Neal (11.2), Patrick Ewing (9.8), Robert Parrish (9.1), David Robinson (10.6), Bill Laimbeer (9.7), Dikembe Mutombo (10.3), Kevin Garnett (11.0), Karl Malone (10.1) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (11.2).  Half his average places him statistically near Moses Malone (12.2), Tim Duncan (11.7), and Charles Barkley (11.7), to name a few with higher numbers.   Only Dennis Rodman (13.1) had over one rebound per game more than half Wilt’s total.  This should dispel the argument that there were fewer rebounds to be had in Jordan’s NBA, because the difference was never 50%.  Subtract half of Chamberlain’s rebounds and he still grabbed more each game than modern NBA centers.  By discussing Chamberlain’s rebounding, we are no longer just comparing him to Michael Jordan, but to every center in the history of the NBA.

Wilt's resume

 

What are some other relevant numbers in Chamberlain’s resume?  He played 48.5 minutes per game during the 1962 season, sitting out only 8 minutes of one game when he was ejected.  (Overtime periods account for averaging in excess of an entire 48 game.)  Wilt averaged 43.2 minutes in his final season as a pro, and was on the court an amazing 45.8 minutes per game for his entire career.  Much has been made of Jordan’s participation in playoff games while suffering from the flu.  My friends, Chamberlain played the entire 1972 playoffs with a broken bone in his hand, and he still was voted MVP! 

Chamberlain never fouled out of a basketball game in his career.  It has been suggested that Wilt quit playing defense when he got into foul trouble, but there is no way to substantiate such a claim.  I will assert that it is more difficult for a center to play with fouls than a guard—a center protects the basket from drives and post-up moves, blocks shots and rebounds.  It is more physical inside than on the perimeter, and Wilt was always in the game battling. 

Blocked shots were never tabulated as an official statistic until Chamberlain left the NBA, so there is no official evidence of Wilt’s dominance in this area.  Former NBA coaches and officials claimed Chamberlain likely averaged six blocks per game throughout his career, which would be enough to shatter the current record. 

Jordan fans point to nine selections to the NBA All-Defensive team as a gauge of his superiority on defense, but two issues cloud this.  The introduction of the All-Defensive team was in 1969, after Wilt had already played 10 years in the league.  Jordan also played with teammates who were multiple first and second team selections.  Jordan might conceivably have been only the third best defender on his team, behind Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.  He got a lot of steals and blocked shots for a guard, but who was doing the grunt work of shutting down the other team’s best shooter, MJ or Pippen (or even Rodman)?  I’m not disputing Jordan’s defensive ability—I’m only saying traditional indicators don’t tell the whole story.     

If winning championships is the sign of greatness, the greatest player in the modern era must have been Robert Horry.  Horry won two titles with Houston, three with the Lakers and two with San Antonio.  This Fresh Prince lookalike has one more title than Jordan and the amazing thing is, Horry never played on a team with MJ!  The idea that Horry is better than Jordan is preposterous, of course. While Jordan’s six NBA titles are hardly meaningless, there is more to greatness than the number of rings on your fingers.

For example, Wilt’s two titles equals or surpasses the championships won by outstanding players such as Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Walton, David Robinson, Isiah Thomas, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Patrick Ewing, Dave Cowens, Bob Lanier, Artis Gilmore, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Rick Barry, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Karl Malone, and John Stockton.  For the sake of historical perspective I’ve not included any current NBA player on this list, allowing for the opportunity to surpass Wilt’s two titles if anyone can.  Chamberlain’s team also beat Bill Russell’s Celtics once, and that’s more than anyone else beat them.

Wilt’s 1967 title team had a record of 68-14, unmatched in the history of the league until his 1972 title team bested it with a record of 69-13 while winning 33 games in a row (a feat unequaled in North American professional team sports).  Jordan’s Bulls posted a 72-10 record one season, but expansion watered down the NBA to the extent that it could not be considered a bigger accomplishment.  Why not, you ask? 

It’s been said that Jordan played in an era of better competition, but of the NBA’s Top 50 players, Wilt played against more of them than Jordan.  The Top 50 players who played part or all of their career in Chamberlain’s era are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Archibald, Paul Arizin, Rick Barry, Elgin Baylor, Dave Bing, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Billy Cunningham, Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Hal Greer, John Havlicek, Elvin Hayes, Sam Jones, Jerry Lucas, Pete Maravich, Earl Monroe, Bob Pettit, Willis Reed, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Jerry West, and Lenny Wilkens.  That’s 27 players.  Jordan and Pippen joined 20 others in the Top 50 from his era.  It is usually believed that the smaller NBA of Wilt’s time meant the league was weaker, but there was more talent on each team than in Jordan’s day.  Jordan never played against more than two NBA top 50 players in an NBA Finals and in 1996, the Sonics had no players make the NBA’s Top 50 list.  Chamberlain played against five at once while facing the New York Knicks in 1972 and 1973.  The caliber of team Chamberlain faced in the playoffs was stronger and deeper than those Jordan encountered.  Expansion didn’t strengthen the talent of each NBA team, it diluted it.  Fewer teams in Wilt’s day never meant weaker teams.

My intention was never to dispute Michael Jordan’s greatness.  He was a fabulous player, and I tremendously enjoyed watching him play basketball. He is likely the second-best basketball player ever.  However, IN MY OPINION—Wilt was better. 

 

Stand up and be counted!

Who was the best player in the history of the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan?

See results without voting

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Comments 179 comments

Truth From Truth profile image

Truth From Truth 6 years ago from Michigan

I agree with you on this one.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thank you for your comments, Truth. People sometimes get outraged by suggesting anyone other than MJ could be the best, but Chamberlain was amazing!

Thanks again!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

My friends, I'm commenting about what I just saw on this page because I spoke so much about rebounding in this hub. I just watched the first half of the Celtics/Wizards game, and Washington went the entire second quarter without a rebound!!! No one got a single rebound for the Wizards in 12 minutes! I saw the game and I know there were rebounds to be had, Washington just didn't try to get any of them.

Now, they didn't defend either, so Boston shot over 60% from the field, but someone should have gotten one rebound! Just one!

No matter how many rebounds are "available", effort does play a part in getting some of 'em.


xunlei profile image

xunlei 6 years ago

yeah,great

I'll keep your post


lovegg profile image

lovegg 6 years ago

I'm very like your Hub?

Have a nice day?

??????????


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks for reading, lovegg!


ThomasWMutherJr profile image

ThomasWMutherJr 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

Excellent post! However, you left out perhaps the most important statistic of all regarding the argument: "Who was better--Wilt or Jordan?" That statistic? Jordan had the prettier smile. By that, I don't mean for a minute to demean Jordan's athletic prowess (as I noted on the other hub on this topic, I consider him to be one of the greats of all-time), but as far as public perception is concerned, you can't discount charisma--something Jordan had plenty of (Magic is the only other player I can think of that could equal him in this regard). Chamberlain himself noted that it's hard to love a giant, and it's easy to understand why when children's fairy tales and films depict the giant almost universally as the villain. Combine this fact with Chamberlain's temporal remoteness--few people under 50 have ever seen Chamberlain play a complete game--and the fact that he competed against the greatest team of all-time (the Boston Celtics) which limited his championship rings to 2, and it's clear why most modern commentators give the nod to Jordan. Your post, however, convincingly argues the opposite. Alas, I don't see it convincing many in the under 40 crowd. Cheerio!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Tom, thanks for finding me here on my own page. It made more sense to come here than continue to debate on another writer's page.

You're certainly correct, there's probably not much that's going to convince the "younger" crowd that Chamberlain should be mentioned with today's greatest players, and Jordan's smile does make a difference in public perception. As people debate the merits of Kobe Bryant's game relative to LeBron James' abilities, I suspect the fact that James is more approachable doesn't hurt.

Thanks again. I notice you have a picture by your name now. Have you joined HubPages? I will look for you here.


rml 6 years ago

Michael Jordan was fun to watch, but so was Wilt Chamberlain. He gets my vote, but I am over 40.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

I feel the same way. Like Tom mentioned, the under-40 crowd is not likely to be swayed by our opinions, but I agree with you. Wilt was the best.


ThomasWMutherJr 6 years ago

Some day, I'd like to write an article: KU JAYHAWKS, basketball Champs of 1984! It would reflect an alternate universe of sanity, where Ted Owens WASN'T fired, where all of those "slow" players Larry Brown bad-mouthed all year would have had a coach who respected them, AND knew how to use--a team that would have had the full-year use of Bogney and Aikens. I believe with every fiber of my being that THAT team would have been a final 4 team, Big 8 Champs, and possibly NCAA Champs. Alas, we'll never know.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey, Tom, hope you had a good holiday. That team would have had talent, there's no doubt about it. KerryBoagni was a gifted player and might have been considered a one-and-done if he played in this century instead of drifting into obscurity. Curtis Aikens was a great point guard, as Pitt found out. Imagine if Owens had coached Greg Dreiling, also--he would have been a great scoring center for Ted. You would have had Thompson and Kellogg as the shooters, Boagni as a finesse big man, Dreiling in the middle with Aikens at the point. I'm probably forgetting someone or other, also.

Yeah, those were some good years.

Thanks for commenting.


ThomasWMutherJr profile image

ThomasWMutherJr 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

Yup! You're forgetting one rather prominent individual, a player who continues to make a difference for KU today--albeit indirectly. That player? Carl Henry, Xavier's Dad*. As you may recall, Carl was a very good player. He lacked the quickness one might hope for in a person his size (6'6) but he was strong, a very good rebounder, could make his own shot and was a pretty good defender. He averaged just over 17 points a game in his 2 years at KU (and if memory serves--I can't find a source on-line--he averaged about 7 rebounds a game). So, recall that the Brown coached '84 team had a decent year (22-10, 2nd in Big 8)--in spite of the inept coaching (inept in that he hadn't a clue as to how to handle this talented, but relatively slow, team--bad-mouthing them from the beginning of the year to the last, resulting in one of its most talented players, Boagni, leaving at the semester break)--winning the post season tournament over an Oklahoma team that was a legitimate NCAA title contender, and going on in 1985 with this core team to be one of the best in the nation. So, you take that very same team, add Curtis Aiken (4 year starter for some pretty good Pittsburgh teams), keep Boagni, and give them a coach who knew what to do with them, and you have the makings of a great team, one that would be right up there with Ted Owens' best--the '71 and '78 teams.

*And let's not forget Owen's other recruit for 1984, Jim Pelton!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Jim Pelton! Believe it or not, I was trying to remember that guy's name the other day! I keep getting him mixed up with Nick Proud, even though I think they arrived about ten years apart. Remember Jerry Johnson, who was supposed to be the next Dr. J? There was a guy who was supposed to come to KU named Gary Wright, who was nicknamed Sir Jamalot. It would be interesting to see a list of KU signees, year by year.

Anyway, you're correct, that would have been a great team, and Owens would indeed have known what to do with that type of talent. It would've been fun to watch, but I enjoyed watching Danny Manning, also.


ThomasWMutherJr profile image

ThomasWMutherJr 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

Very odd. I was trying to remember Jerry Johnson's name! Yes, the supposed second coming of Dr. J--whose only resemblance to same was his first initial. Of course, I enjoyed Manning also--likely the second best player ever to play for the Jayhawks (Hmm. A good debate could be had over who was KU's THIRD best). Nontheless, KU had no (good) reason to fire Owens. If I had had any say in that outcome, even if I could've seen the future and known Manning and a national title were on the way, I would have kept Owens. That's probably why I enjoyed our most recent title even more than the one of '88. That one seemed a bit tainted by the axing of Owens.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey, Tom, y'know who we forgot off that '84 team? Kelly Knight! As you look at the roster and remember who was playing, it becomes more clear that you are correct--that team was on the verge of becoming a powerhouse. Was Brian Martin still around, or did he graduate by '84?

3rd best KU player? Hmmm... Bud Stallworth? Paul Pierce? Raef LaFrentz? JoJo White? That's a good question, I'll have to give that more thought.


ThomasWMutherJr profile image

ThomasWMutherJr 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

I had wondered if Kelly might have been on that team. I always liked him--a decent player. His inclusion on the list of players that would have been available to Owens makes their trip to the final four a near certainty. And yes, Brian Martin WAS still around, assuming he played his senior year. Of course, his presence would have added nothing to their on-court prowess. Let's see: I guess you'd have Dreiling (So.) as starting center, Boagni (So.) as starting power forward, with Kelly Knight (Sr.) subbing for each and providing a huge dose of experience and stability. Then you'd have Carl Henry (Sr.) playing both shooting guard and small forward, but undoubtedly starting at the two guard. Then you'd have Ron Kellogg (So.) and Calvin Thompson (So.) at small forward (at that stage of their careers, Thompson would start [He lit up Oklahoma for 30 as a freshman in Owens' next to last game] as Kellogg was too erratic as a Sophomore, though you could see his potential--still the best shooter in KU history by me), and Aiken at point. So far, I haven't been able to find out who his back-up would be (Jeff Guiot?--actually, I'd imagine that Owens would have picked up another guard, possibly from the Jr. college ranks, in the latter days of recruiting) which is a rather critical question. But one thing is for certain, that would have been a dynamite rebounding team with a lot of depth (except possibly at point). Looking over that roster, I can't say that this was a group so talented that they would surely have won the title--but it does look good enough to make a run at it. Could they have upset Georgetown? We'll never know.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

If KU could have acquired a backup point guard to Aikens, I think they could have given the mighty Georgetown a run for their money. This team could score at every position, which is trouble for even the best of defensive teams (which Georgetown was). Interior depth could have allowed KU to at least try to score on Ewing.

So who would you suggest as the third best player in KU history, by the way?


ThomasWMutherJr profile image

ThomasWMutherJr 6 years ago from Topeka, KS

A lot of good choices for the 3 spot. Historically speaking, Clyde Lovellette would be the logical choice, but speaking of ability/talent in the modern game--he probably would just be a decent player now. The ones you mentioned are all possibilities, and we could throw in Hinrich, Collison, Robish, and maybe Valentine. I think I'd pick Jo Jo White--with all due respect to Valentine and Hinrich and Vaughn and Walters--the best guard in KU history.

PS. Just saw Kentucky play. Ugh! They looked too good. The alley-oop to their point guard, who slammed it BACKward over his head, was ridiculous. Ouch!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Hey Tom, I think JoJo could be a good third choice also, although I tend to lean toward Pierce (or maybe LaFrentz). I have a soft spot for Valentine, but not as third best ever.

I saw some of the Kentucky game, also. They do look good, but I'm not sure they could beat Texas--I'm not sure KU could beat Texas, either. The difference between KU and Kentucky right now is Kentucky feasts on the mismatches while KU plays down to that level--a good way to get beat, somewhere along the line.

OK, since I saw you noticed other posts I made (10 best centers), I invite you to go to my post about KU as the deepest team ever and give me your thoughts about which college team had the best depth from top to bottom.

Happy holidays.


mark 6 years ago

In the 1960s, Wilt couldn't win championships even though he had both Jerry West and Elgin Baylor on his team. I mean, how much talent do you need to be surrounded by to win the championship? Of course, you can argue that Rodman and Pippen combined were better than West and Baylor (laugh).


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Mark, thanks for your comment.

Wilt did, in fact, win a championship in the '60s--with the Philadelphia 76ers. His team was the only one to ever beat the Celtics during their dynasty, and his team went 68-14 that year--a pretty impressive feat.

He also won with the Lakers in 1972, winning against a very good Knicks team that won a couple titles themselves. To win his two titles, he beat such great players as Bill Russell, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, and K.C. Jones for Boston, and Bill Bradley, Jerry Lucas, Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe when his Lakers beat the Knicks. To win the title in 67, he beat the Warriors with Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. On his way to winning the title in 72, the Lakers had to beat the Bucks with Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, ten years younger than Wilt.

My point is, the league was dilluted in Jordan's era. A team in the finals might have one or two good players on it. In Wilt's day, you had to beat teams with three or four all-stars.

And Mark, if it's all about titles, why isn't Robert Horry considered a great player? He has seven of 'em.

Thanks again for your comments, Mark. I truly do enjoy debating basketball.


Steve 6 years ago

I have to laugh at this blog! For beginners, what name pops up when the question is asked which player in NBA history had absolutely no weaknesses? It's Michael Jordan's name that comes to mind, not Wilt Chamberlain's. Wilt had a number of short comings to his game. Not a good free throw shooter, not very skilled with the long range shot, only a right handed shooter, etc. There's more to that list too. That right there should silence the M.J. critics and doubters. The part that cracks me up even more about this blog is where this guy Mike Lickteig mentions about a dozen great rebounders that fall short of Wilt's remarkable numbers but he neglects to see is that these guys had to battle each other for the rebounds. No wonder why their numbers were cut in half! Bill Russell was Wilt's greatest adversary in this category and he was only 6ft.9 to Wilt's towering 7ft.1! Take a look at the league stats during that time and notice the average height of centers in Wilt's prime and then ask yourself if there's any reason why he shouldn't have out rebounded those guys! Put him in the era when jordan played from the start of his career until the end and he would have been facing guys like Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Who played against both players), Artis Gilmore, Ralf Sampson, Mark Eaton, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq, Alonzo Mourning, Kevin Garnett, Dikembe Mutombo, Maunute Bol, Bill Lambier, Robert Parish, Tim Duncan, etc. the list goes on and let's see how much he would have dominated! These guys were all somewhere around his height and had a lot more skill and athleticism than the opponents he faced in the prime of his career and this is by a long shot! To argue this point would only make you look very uneducated! The reason why Wilt was so dominant was not only because of his size but also because of his skill. I'll give you that but when the only other superstars in the league at the time that had similar talent to Wilt's were guards and small forwards like Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, etc., it's not some strange phenomenon why Wilt dominated. Where were the star centers beside Bill Russell during that era? That was the position Wilt played wasn't it? Where was his competition? Granted, some better centers came along towards the twilight of his career but that was after he already posted those huge numbers and he was in his declining years. Post him up against guys like Shaq, hakeem, Robinson, etc. and if he still rules the painted area, you'll finally have a point to make! Unfortunately, that will never happen so we'll never know exactly how good he was will we? He just got really lucky to play in an era with smaller players, lesser talent in his position and fewer teams in the league! Jordan on the other hand had no size advantages what so ever. As a matter of fact, even though he was listed a 6ft.6, his true height was 6ft.4 3/4. Yet, he still dominated the league! His dominance was purely because of his superior skill and athleticism physically and his heart and intelligence mentally. That's it in a nutshell. There is no comparison between these two. Wilt was great for his time but he would have been just another star center along with the guys that I mentioned in Jordan's era while Jordan still reigned over the entire NBA!


Steve 6 years ago

I also have to comment on the ridiculous question of why Rober Horry isn't considered to be the greatest of all time because he won one more ring than Michael Jordan. Gee, should we start with Jordan's 6 finals MVP awards? How many does Robert Horry have? Should we mention that M.J. was the leader of his team while Robert Horry wasn't? Should we bring up the facr that Jordan was the only player in the history of the game that proved that a scoring champion could also win titles? Even Chamberlain had to give up a lot of his game to win championships. How about the fact that M.J.'s game was flawless where Robert Horry was known to slack off during the regular season but some how manage to hit clutch shots in major playoff and finals games? I can go on and on but what's the point? You've got to give us a break with this argument. It's just silly!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Steve, thanks for commenting. I love a good debate. Let's take a look at some of your comments and analyze them as you did mine, okay?

First of all, Michael Jordan had no weaknesses? Are you kidding? Average outside shot. Marginal passer. Couldn't defend smaller guards. Too often played one-on-one instead of looking for (or trusting) open teammates. No weaknesses?

As far as the talent of NBA centers during Wilt's era--ever heard of Willis Reed? Nate Thurmond? Dave Cowens? Walt Bellamy? Bob Lanier? Jerry Lucas? Elvin Hayes? Wes Unseld? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Wilt played against all of these guys, as well as Bill Russell. His rebound numbers were fine against them, also. Chamberlain led the NBA in rebounding during his final year as a pro. By the way, are you even aware that when you listed the so-called great centers of Jordan's era you listed Mark Eaton and Manute Bol? MANUTE BOL????

If Wilt's height was the reason he claimed all those rebounds in the 60's and 70's, why didn't the centers in Jordan's era collect more rebounds than Dennis Rodman? The greatest rebounder of Jordan's NBA played small forward. Hmmm.... must've been because the centers were stealing rebounds from each other. Or, it could be that my point about Chambelain as a rebounder compared to "modern" players is valid.

The idea that the great centers of Jordan's era stole rebounds from each other is amusing. How many rebounds did Patrick Ewing take from Hakeem Olajuwon when they played each other twice a year, Rick? Did Shaq play Olajuwon 8-10 times a year, or did he also play guys like Kevin Duckworth, Greg Ostertag, Herb Williams, Greg Dreiling, Rik Smits, Tito Horford, Mark West, Sam Bowie, Yinka Dare and Chris Dudley? You seem to imply that the great centers played each other every night, when in fact there were plenty of weak centers to feast on if the guys you mention were really so good. Chamberlain played in a smaller league and played the dominant centers more often.

Perhaps Jordan played in an era without many great guards, Rick. Could it be there was no one to challenge his dominance because the situation was eerily similar to the one you claim Chamberlain enjoyed? There was no Jerry West or Oscar Robertson or Pete Maravich or Nate Archibald or Magic Johnson (at least after 1991) for Jordan to battle. Isiah Thomas retired before Jordan began winning titles. Whipping it up on guys like John Starks and Jeff Hornacek is not an indication of dominance. Perhaps Jordan would do no better against Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade than you believe Chamberlain would against Shaquille O'Neal.

I also find it interesting that you diminish Chamberlain's accomplishments because of his height and athleticism, but compliment Jordan for his physical athleticism. Why is athletic domination a plus for Jordan but not Chamberlain?

Yeah, Rick, I threw in the comments about Robert Horry as a joke. It was intended to be silly--as silly as a lot of arguments claiming Michael Jordan's superiority over the rest of the basketball world can be. You got it.

Well, believe it or not, I appreciate your comments. I was hoping to get a little discussion going here, and I thank you for participating.

Have a good evening, Rick. You're a true NBA fan!


Steve 6 years ago

First of all, Jordan had an average outside shot? I'm sorry but 33% from behind the arc and 50% from the field overall is not average. He was one of the greatest jump shooters of all time. Maybe you missed game 1 of the 1992 finals. Maybe you missed the 1989 and 1996 seasons where he was shooting around 38% from 3-point range. Maybe he was a very intelligent player who had great 3-point shooters on his team like, Paxson, Hodges, Armstrong, Kerr, etc. and really didn't feel a need to focus on that part of his game. Jordan was a marginal passer? You need to watch some Bulls games and highlights from that era. Jordan was actually an underrated exceptional passer. His passing was sharp, very accurate and most importantly, he knew WHEN to pass. He couldn't defend? Are you kidding me? Michael Jordan was not only the greatest defender of his time but arguably the greatest perimeter defender of all time. Even his worst critics will attest to that. You're in the minority there, buddy! He didn't look for open teammates? Where were you during the 1991 finals when M.J. out assisted Magic Johnson who is the all time post season assist leader to win his first title? He not only kept a 30 point average but was averaging somewhere around 10 assists per game as well! His assists also picked up quite a bit after his introduction in the NBA as his team became more seasoned and the players around him got better. Read the statistics. When he first came into the league, no one on his team could make a shot so it was no mystery why he would decide to take it! All of those points you made regarding his so-called weaknesses are inaccurate and very weak! On to the next subject... most of those star centers you named during Wilt's era other than Bill Russell and maybe one or two others were not in the league during Wilt's prime while he was breaking all of those records. The ones who were actually playing against him at that time were at a big height and weight disadvantage. As I said before, most of the talent in the center position came out during the twilight of his career. When Jabbar entered the league, Wilt himself said that for the first time in his career he was finally matched up with a guy that he actually needed help to guard! Kareem was a guy who might have been Wilt's height but he still had to give away at least 30 lbs. to him! The influx of talented centers that came out during M.J.'s time wouldn't have given up such size advantages and seriously, are you really going to tell me that the centers you named are even in the same league as the centers and power forwards that I named? I would have loved to see Wilt Chamberlain try to stop someone like Shaq! Also for your information, it would have been interesting to see Chamberlain up against a guy like Mark Eaton considering that he has the record in blocked shots. It would have been interesting as well to see Wilt up against a guy like Manute Bol who was 7ft.7 where the major height advantage would go to the other guy for a change! I'm not claiming that these centers are anywhere near the same class as Wilt Chamberlain but what they brought to the table would have either exposed his weaknesses or demonstrated his strengths. Again, we'll never know how that might have played out.

As for Dennis Rodman, He was an incredibly hard working 6ft.7 phenomenon. He won 7 rebounding titles in that era and he would have done it in Wilt's too! In fact, he probably would have done even better considering the opposition in the league at that time. Maybe you should be giving the man some credit rather than showing disregard towards the other players of M.J.'s era.

There's nothing amusing about an entire league full of talented centers and power forwards stealing rebounds from each other. It's called competition. Something Wilt Chamberlain went without during most of his career other than with Bill Russell who was 4 inches shorter! He broke all of those records against one star center and a league full of players with major size disadvantages. These guys that I mentioned had to share the spotlight with many others in their size range and skill range as well, big difference!

This next subject makes me want to give up on this debate entirely because your remark is ridiculous! Jordan never went up against stiff opposition? Huh? What sport were you watching? Let me throw some names out there just for the fun of it. I'll start with players he matched up against beginning from early on in his career until the end. Please forgive me if I miss a few. Lol! Dr.J, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Reggie miller, Gary Payton (defensive player of the year), Grant Hill, Chris Mullen, Penny Hardaway, John Stockton, etc. These are some of the all time greats who at least match up to the players you mentioned only there's a lot more of them! Granted, some of them are small forwards but never the less, he was still matched up with them from time to time. Then he faced Kobe Bryant and burned him badly four or five times in the 1998 allstar game when Kobe was young, with fresh legs and trying to stop him. M.J. was 35! When he came back as a Wizard, he went up against players like Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnet, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, etc. and he still averaged more than 20 points a game while keeping the rest of his all around numbers up as a 39 and 40 year old man! This is not to mention all of the centers and power forwards that I named earlier who were waiting for him at the rim throughout his entire career. I'm sorry but your argument here holds absolutely no water. M.J. went up against the most talent the league has ever seen BY FAR!!!

Last but not least, I'm not trying to diminish Wilt Chamberlain's accomplishments because I do think that he was one of the greatest players of all time reguardless of his size advantages. However, it is definitely worth pointing out that M.J. who didn't have those size advantages dominated the league in the same fashion but with more teams, with stronger and more talented opposition and in a very physical era where hard fouling was rarely called and handchecking was still legal. As I said before, M.J. was only 6ft.4 3/4! He earned everything he got and he did it ONLY by being heads and shoulders above the rest. Chamberlain earned his keep as well but you can't ignore the fact that he was a giant among small men. Even in boxing they say that a good big man will always beat a good little man. The same rules apply in the game of basketball which was one of Chamberlain's major weapons. That's why Air Jordan was better!

I have enjoyed this debate as well!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Steve, welcome back! I want to begin my response by again thanking you--you are a worthy opponent as a debater, have remained respectful in your comments, and I've appreciated our discussion.

Now, back to it.

Michael Jordan was NOT more than an average jump shooter. His 33% from three-point range is substandard in comparison with most players recognized as truly good from behind the arc, where 38-40% is commonly viewed as the standard for being a great 3-point shot. Yes, I saw his game against Portland. Wilt was 28 out of 32 from the free throw line one night--it didn't make him a good free throw shooter. His 2-point field goal percentage is good, but how many of his field goals made were layups or dunks, and not really indicative of whether or not MJ could shoot? When his athleticism faded a bit with age and he was forced to rely on the jumper more, his percentage fell off. He had a decent jump shot--not a great one.

Passing? Do you realize his career assist averages are only 0.9 assists per game more than Wilt's? Granted, Chamberlain was an outstanding passer for a big man, but MJ is 35th on the all-time assist charts, behind guys like Stephon Marbury and Avery Johnson! Even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one spot higher in career assists.

And defense! This is always been an interesting point with MJ. Jordan is lauded as one of the best defenders of all-time, but was likely only the third best defender on his own team for much of his career! Pippen and Rodman did much of the defensive work for the Bulls--Jordan almost NEVER matched up against the other team's top scorer unless it was someone like Reggie Miller, who everyone knew would stay outside, shoot jumpers and never drive. Jordan struggled against smaller, quicker players who could drive to the basket.

Steve, I was watching NBA basketball, just as you were--and I never saw Jordan guard Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, Chris Mullen, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan or the other non-guards you mentioned. Picking someone up on a switch is not guarding them. Jordan didn't guard these guys and they didn't guard him. And, Chamberlain didn't guard Oscar Robertson or Bob Cousy, either. If you subtract the forwards from your list, we're talking about folks like Reggie Miller, Clyde Drexler and Gary Payton. Grant Hill and Penny Hardaway are good in the same way Bill Walton was good--talent mostly unrealized due to injury. In a league dilluted by expansion, there were far more off-nights for Jordan than there were for Wilt in a smaller NBA. I counted the players listed on the NBA's 50 greatest players list, and Chamberlain competed against more players on the list than Jordan did. And, with more teams in the NBA, Wilt would face more good players more often than Jordan did in the larger league.

When you talk about Chamberlain facing most of the best centers toward the end of his career, I have to admit that some of them came along in the late sixties, but I never mentioned anyone who entered the league after 1970. (Unless it was Dave Cowens--it's hard to remember...) The point is, Wilt still led the league in rebounding when these folks were in the game--even as a "past his prime" player. In the first paragraph of this blog, I said I was never claiming Wilt could score fifty in the modern NBA, but I did say he could rebound in any era. If he got most of his rebounding stats early in his career, why did he still outrebound ALL of those other guys, year after year? In a smaller league earlier in his career, Chamberlain played Russell, Nate Thurmond, Walt Bellamy, Jerry Lucas and Willis Reed much more often than players were matched up in the '90s, and no one stole rebounds from Wilt. In Wilt's younger days, power forwards crashed the boards, also. Elgin Baylor, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Pettit and others were great off the boards. Wilt still got his share.

It is also interesting to note that you diminish Wilt's ability to rebound against Russell because Russell was shorter, but do not apply the same criteria to centers failing to outrebound Dennis Rodman. If height rules, guys like Ewing and Olajuwon should be ashamed that Rodman led the league in rebounding.

My point about Rodman as a rebounder was simply that the elite centers were never taking rebounds away from him, as you claim they did to each other. So, what evidence is there to substantiate that they would steal rebounds from Wilt? Rodman demonstrated the rebounds were there to be had--and so did Wilt Chamberlain. If it is all about height, why didn't Olajuwon or Manute Bol steal rebounds from Rodman?

I will compare your statement that Wilt would have trouble against Manute Bol or Mark Eaton to my comments about Robert Horry--that must have been a joke. Chamberlain would have annihilated those guys.

I still find it interesting that you discount Chamberlain's athleticism as simply a matter of size but applaud Jordan's. If it was only about size, Manute Bol should have been the NBA's best player. Or Shawn Bradley.

Well, Steve, I'm going to leave it at that for awhile, but I greatly appreciate your comments and appreciate what you have said. As I said at the beginning of my comment, you are a worthy opponent and it has been much fun debating with you.

By the way, I liked Michael Jordan tremendously as a player.

Thanks, and feel free to come back!


Steve 6 years ago

Okay, enough of the opinionated nonsense here! Here are the facts...

You gave me a list of what you would call star centers that Wilt Chamberlain had to go against in his prime and I did some research on all of them! I'm going to give you some size comparisons based on Wilkapedia stats as well as other stat sites that are very accurate. I'll also demonstrate when these players came into the league during Wilt's career. Keep in mind that when these players were drafted, they were rookies their first year going against a seasoned Wilt Chamberlain in his prime!

We'll start with Wilt. He was listed at 7ft.1 275 lbs in his prime but he eventually surpassed the 300 pound mark by the time he was a Laker! The years that he won 7 straight scoring titles and was dominant over the league went from 1959-1966. That was his prime.

I'm going to start with the earlies players and end with the ones that came into the league last and I will demonstrate how long they played against Wilt during his prime. I will also give you the size comparisons.

1. Bill Russell 1956-1969 He played through all of Wilt's prime years. He was 6ft.9 (4 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 220 lbs (55 lbs less than wilt).

2. Walt Bellamy 1961-1974 He played through 5 years of Wilt's prime with one of them as a rookie. He was 6ft.11 (2 inches shorter than Wilt) and weighed 225 lbs (50 lbs less than Wilt) 3. Nate Thurmond 1963-1977 He played through 3 years of Wilt's prime with one of them as a rookie. He was 6ft.11 (2 inches shorter than wilt) and he weighed approx. 230 lbs (45 lbs less than Wilt).

4. Jerry Lucas 1963-1974 He played through 3 years of Wilt's prime with one of them as a rookie. He was 6ft.8 (5 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 230 lbs (45 lbs less than Wilt).

5. Willis Reed 1964-1974 He played through 2 years of Wilt's prime with one of them as a rookie. He was 6 ft.9 (4 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 240 lbs (35 lbs less than Wilt).

6. Elvin Hayes 1968-1984 He missed Wilt's prime entirely. He was 6 ft.9 (4 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 235 lbs (40 lbs less than Wilt).

7. Wes Unseld 1968-1981 He missed Wilt's prime entirely. He was 6 ft.7 (6 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 245 lbs (30 lbs less than Wilt).

8. Kareem Abdul Jabbar 1969-1989 He missed Wilt's prime entirely. He was 7 ft.2 (1 inch taller than Wilt) and he weighed 225 (50 lbs less than Wilt).

9. Dave Cowens 1970-1983 He missed Wilt's prime entirely. He was 6ft.9 (4 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 230 lbs (45 lbs less than Wilt).

10. Bob Lanier 1970-1984 He missed Wilt's prime entirely. He was 6 ft.10 (3 inches shorter than Wilt) and he weighed 265 lbs (10 lbs less than Wilt).

I think you need to come up with a new list, man! What a ridiculous advantage in size Wilt Chamberlain had over these guys. Never mind being taller, he outweighed all of these players by an average of at least 40 lbs! That's astonishing. Also, Out of the 10 centers you named, only 5 of them played during Wilt's prime! Out of those 5, one of them played for two years against him but with his rookie year included, two of them played for three years against him but with their rookie year included and that only leaves two players who were actually matched up with him throughout most of his prime. Walt Bellamy and Bill Russell. That's astounding isn't it? Take a look at Chamberlain's numbers after the 1966 season. They dramatically dropped and what a coincidence, that just happens to be when the greatest centers out of your list besides Russell joined the NBA! He didn't dominate so much afer that did he? My case rested!


Steve 6 years ago

As for your comments about Michael's shooting... first of all, his percentages did not drop at all going from his original style of driving the lane to a jump shooter later in his career. He still maintained 50% shooting from the field even after changing his game. Look it up. Secondly, I never said that his 3-point shot belonged with the all time greats. I simply told you that it was not a weakness to his game and when he needed it the most, it came through for him. It wasn't just one instance in his career either. There were many times that his long range shot or three pointer would win the game for the Bulls. You were giving me percentages that players like Bird and Miller had who were known for the 3-point shot. As for your comment about Rodman and Pippen being greater defenders than Jordan, you need to look up what defense is. That last I remember, neither of those players ever led the team in steals and blocked shots while Jordan was playing. Granted, they were both great defenders in their own right but to say that they were better than Jordan is ludicrous! He was the NBA steals leader three times, he got the Defensive player of the year award and he consistantly led the team in blocked shots. I'm also shocked that a basketball fan such as yourself would tell me that all of those players I mentioned who were non-guards ever guarded Michael Jordan. How about M.J.'s 55 pointer in the 1993 finals against the Phoenix suns? Who made the game winning shot with Barkley guarding and fouling him? How about in the 1991 finals when Jordan was having to guard Vlade Divac, a 7ft. center? How about the 1998 allstar game when Michael Jordan shot a fade away jumper with Kevin Garnett in his face and guarding him? Guards don't always guard other guards. I shouldn't have to tell you that. I can come up with example after example too but you've watched the game so it's ridiculous for me to continue on with this point. As for Dennis Rodman, no one has to be ashamed that he out rebounded them. They can just appreciate him for his efforts! Hell, he's almost the size of some of those centers that played during Wilt's time so I'm sure he would have out banged them on the boards too! I can keep going on with this debate but I don't want to hog up all the room on this site! We'll let someone else step in. Take it easy.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Steve, why the obsession with size? If size were all that mattered, why didn't Manute Bol lead Jordan's NBA in rebounding instead of Dennis Rodman? Or any of the other great centers of the 90's? If Dennis Rodman or Charles Barkley has the ability to outrebound Hakeem Olajuwon, why is it unfair to pit Nate Thurmond or Jerry Lucas (fine rebounders in their own right) against Wilt? If Wilt's declining stats as he aged was the results of the players I listed entering the NBA, why did he still outrebound them? Why is rebounding a matter of size for Wilt but heart and desire for Dennis Rodman?

If weight were all that mattered, why isn't Shaq higher up on the rebounding charts than he is? If you look at the pictures I posted of Chamberlain, he is not a bulky, massive center in his youth--he was quite slim, in fact. His listed weight in his final year as a pro was 275 pounds, and it was conjecture that he weighed in at over 300.

What does it mean when you say that Wilt didn't dominate "so much" after these other guys joined the league? He led the league in rebounding his final year as a pro! How much does he have to dominate?

If you re-read my blog, never did I say Wilt would average 24 rebounds a game in the modern NBA. I said he would lead the NBA in rebounding in any era. And he would...

My case is rested, as well. Thanks again.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ok, Steve, last time for me, also. We were writing at the same time and I only saw the first part of your response.

Jordan never hit over 50% from the field in the last half of his career. He hit over 50% multiple times in the first half.

Jordan might have had steals and blocks, but defense is also shutting down your man and forcing the bad passes Jordan picked off for dunks. Pippen and Rodman were guarding the other teams best scorers, night in and night out.

There was NEVER a game when Jordan went out and said, "I got Divac." He never guarded Barkley from the opening tip. Switches, screens, drives and the rest are not the same. BAsketball offenses are designed to get those kinds of mismatches, which is why you see them. If Jordan guarded any big man for more than a possession or two, he would have been dunked on repeatedly.

Well, time for some dinner.

Thanks, my friend. It's been fun.


Steve 6 years ago

I do have a couple of more points to make and then I'm done here for real! For beginners, Michael Jordan didn't guard Vlade Divoc for a possession or two, he guarded him throughout a good portion of a couple of games in that series while Pippen was matched with Magic Johnson. I didn't see him getting dunked on repeatedly either so I have no idea what you're talking about there. Secondly, I understand how switches, screens, drives and defenses work but that's not what I'm talking about at all here. Sure, I gave a few examples of that but I've also seen game after game throughout M.J.'s career where the opposing coaches would try practically everyone on their team to guard Michael Jordan at different points in the game. When one player didn't work, they'd put someone else on him and this includes players of all positions, not just guards. He was also double and tripple teamed quite often as well! There's no way that you missed all of that if you claim that you watched him play. One more point I'd like to make on this subject is your outrageous comment that M.J. never guarded the other team's best player. Did you miss the 1996 finals where he was matched against Gary Payton? Did you miss the 1998 Nba allstar game when he guarded Kobe Bryant? Did you miss the 1991 finals where he and Pippen traded off guarding Magic Johnson? I can keep going if you'd like! As for your constant down play on M.J.'s shooting skill, let's do some math here. It's safe to say that he became a jump shooter when he returned to the NBA from his first retirement. So I will show you his shooting stats from 3 point range and from the field for the last three years that he was a Chicago Bull. His percentages dropped off as a Wizard but again, he was 39-40 yeard old! Wilt wasn't even playing then.

1. 1995-96 season - He was .427 from 3 point range and .495 from the field.

2. 1996-97 season - He was .374 from 3 point range and .486 from the field.

3. 1997-98 season - He was .238 from 3 point range and .465 from the field.

That's an average of .346 (35%) from 3 point range and .482 (48%) from the field. Maybe his shooting percentages were a little above 50% when he was in his prime and driving the lane but this is pretty close to the 50% that I was referring to. Also, I don't see where shooting 35% from 3 point land is sub par either so again, I don't know what you're talking about! If M.J.'s weakness was his shooting, that's quite a weakness! He was from 32 to 35 years old at that point when he was putting up these numbers too. We won't even discuss what Wilt was doing by this stage in his career! Perhaps out rebounding guys who were 4 to 5 inches shorter? Lol!

Speaking of that, Wilt Chamberlain was taller than everyone in the league, quite a bit heavier whiched helped him get position in the low post and a former high jumping champion as well. He SHOULD have out rebounded everyone else in the league and as far as I'm concerned, it's not something to marvel at either! It's also doesn't make him the greatest player of all time. If he was matched against Shaq and pushing him all over the paint, he would probably make an instant believer out of me! Unfortunately, he was over powering guys who were smaller AND less skilled. The analogy you came up with and the question you asked about why Rodman could out rebound guys like Bol and Eaton is ridicoulous! Yes, they were bigger than him but no where near as skilled as Rodman was in that department. Rodman lived for rebounding. Their strengths were in other areas of the game so Rodman's dominance in rebounding over them isn't a mystery. A smaller man who is a more skilled rebounder is going to win against a larger man who doesn't specialize in rebounding. This is not the same scenerio with Wilt who was larger than his opponents AND a more skilled rebounder. They could have at least been his size for crying out loud or matched him and skill! They did neither. His opponents never had any advantages over him so he really didn't have any competition throughout his career. On the other hand, Rodman had to not only overcome the size disadvantage he had going against him but he also had to bang against centers and power forwards in the league that were much better than what Wilt had to play against. Rodman would have at least shared domination in rebounding with Wilt and Russel during the time they played if he was around then. I guarantee that. Does this finally answer your question?

One more point of interest I have to bring up is M.J.'s passing vs Wilt's. Sure, his overall assists per game wasn't much higher than Wilt's but Wilt wasn't part of a triangle offense either which was geared for passing. When Wilt passed the ball, it was an assist. Often times when Jordan passed the ball, it was then passed again to a wide open player who was usually John Paxson or later on, Steve Kerr. The Bulls were a passing team. Just because every pass Jordan made didn't turn into an immediate assist, doesn't mean that he wasn't passing more than Wilt Chamberlain. M.J. was under a different offensive structure but he was a great passer who could elevate, see the floor and always get it to the right guy at the right time.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Okay, Steve, I’m going to touch on some of your final points and then get back to other things. I will use your own words to categorize the main points.

1. Michael Jordan didn't guard Vlade Divac for a possession or two, he guarded him throughout a good portion of a couple of games in that series while Pippen was matched with Magic Johnson. I didn't see him getting dunked on repeatedly either so I have no idea what you're talking about there.

You didn’t see Jordan get dunked on by Divac because it didn’t happen. Bill Cartwright guarded Divac. When Pippen was on Johnson, Jordan took Byron Scott or Michael Cooper—jump shooters that were no threat to drive on him.

2. Did you miss the 1996 finals where he was matched against Gary Payton?

Nope, I saw it. Payton scored 13, 13, 19, 21, 23, and 19. Ron Harper spent a lot of time guarding Payton because he was too fast for Jordan, who switched off onto Hersey Hawkins (a jump shooter). That was the pattern. Jordan guarded the guys who wouldn’t drive too much.

3. (About Jordan’s field goal percentage). That's an average of .346 (35%) from 3 point range and .482 (48%) from the field. Maybe his shooting percentages were a little above 50% when he was in his prime and driving the lane but this is pretty close to the 50% that I was referring to. Also, I don't see where shooting 35% from 3 point land is sub par either so again,

Each year you mention shows Jordan’s field goal percentage worsened. He was less able to get to the rim for layups and dunks. Perhaps his shooting even improved as he got older, but the early percentages that fattened his career totals included many layups and dunks. Jordan was an outstanding scorer, not an outstanding shooter. With a 35% three-point percentage, he likely wouldn’t even have had the green light to shoot it if his name weren’t Michael Jordan.

4. Overall assists per game wasn't much higher than Wilt's but Wilt wasn't part of a triangle offense either which was geared for passing.

So, you’re telling me now that Jordan wasn’t allowed to make an assist because he was part of an offense geared for passing??? That he was never in position to make the assist, because that must have been the NEXT pass? That comment defies belief, but I would also assert that Jordan ran the offense more than Chamberlain, and opportunities for assists should have been more prevalent.

5. Wilt SHOULD have out rebounded everyone else in the league and as far as I'm concerned, it's not something to marvel at either! It's also doesn't make him the greatest player of all time. If he was matched against Shaq and pushing him all over the paint, he would probably make an instant believer out of me! Unfortunately, he was over powering guys who were smaller AND less skilled.

A smaller man who is a more skilled rebounder is going to win against a larger man who doesn't specialize in rebounding. This is not the same scenerio with Wilt who was larger than his opponents AND a more skilled rebounder. They could have at least been his size for crying out loud or matched him and skill! They did neither.

By virtue of this reasoning, Jordan should receive no credit for his success against less skilled opponents—he was more talented and should be the best. Often he was taller than his opponent, also. Why do you discredit Wilt’s athleticism and praise Jordan’s? Jordan clearly was more gifted athletically than the players he faced, so using your reasoning, Jordan is also nothing to marvel at—and it doesn’t make him the greatest player of all time. Let Jordan play against Jerry West and Oscar Robertson, or Dwayne Wade or Kobe Bryant or LeBron James. Otherwise, by your rationale, Jordan’s athleticism (or success) doesn’t mean anything.

6. The analogy you came up with and the question you asked about why Rodman could out rebound guys like Bol and Eaton is ridicoulous! Yes, they were bigger than him but no where near as skilled as Rodman was in that department. Rodman lived for rebounding.

You’re the one who claimed height was what mattered, Steve! Now it’s skill? Give it up, my friend. No rebounder in the modern era could compete with Chamberlain.

Well, it’s been fun, but I think neither of us are going to convince the other. But thanks for your interest.


Steve 6 years ago

This is my last go around and then I agree that it is pointless to continue on from here! I'm just going to respond to each of your numbers...

1. When Phil Jackson made the switch from Michael Jordan to Scottie Pippen to guard Magic Johnson in the 1991 finals, M.J. was assigned to guard Vlade Divoc and he guarded him for pretty lengthy periods of time. Go back and watch the series. Yes, before that it was Bill Cartwright guarding Divoc and Jordan did defend against Byron Scott and Michael Cooper during different parts of that series but that switch was made by Phil Jackson on a couple of occasions and in at least two games that I know of, PERIOD!

2. I guess you forgot when Ron Harper got injured during that 1996 finals series and was out? Who do you think was guarding Gary Payton then? I guess I don't remember Payton being "too fast" for Jordan and burning him but I sure do remember Payton guarding Jordan and getting burned badly on several occasions even though he was "defensive player of the year" and was doing a better job on Jordan than most players have in the past. He still couldn't stop him though.

3. Of course, each year that any player after his prime plays in the league, their skills are going to decline. Especially when they're beyond the age of 35. Wilt was no exception to that rule so I don't know what point you were trying to make here. I was merely stating that 48% from the floor was pretty close to the original 50% that I guestimated and that 35% from the 3 point line wasn't poor shooting at all. The funny thing is, M.J. was STILL dominating the league and winning championships even at that time!

4. The statement you made where you thought I was insinuating that Jordan wasn't allowed to make an assist because of the triangle offense is absurd! The real point that I was attempting to make is that because of the way that offense was structured, a lot of M.J.'s great passes that led to scoring were overlooked because you didn't see them in the stats book under where it says assists!

5. To answer your question AGAIN, we're are looking at two totally different situations between Jordan's career and Wilt's. Both players dominated the league but for different reasons. Wilt dominated it not only because his skill was greater than anyone else's at the time but also because of his huge size advantage. Michael dominated it ONLY because of his superior skill and his will to overcome bigger men who were also skilled. When did Wilt Chamberlain ever have to do that? His reputation was established by dominating smaller and less skilled men. You can't make the same claim for Michael Jordan. He was maybe average size in the league. You also have to look at who was more clutch in the playoffs and in the finals. There's not even a comparison there. Jordan owns all of the record books. These things are what make Air Jordan the greatest player EVER!

6. "give it up, Steve"? You didn't make any point here! Lol! I never claimed that height ONLY was what mattered. I said that height AND skill put together was what Wilt had during his prime and that no one else in the league had that combination! How can you call someone the greatest baller ever if they never had to compete against other greats at their size and skill level? That's how greatness is achieved. If nothing else, Rodman had to overcome taller guys but with less rebounding skill. Someone like David Robinson had to overcome smaller guys but with greater rebounding skill like Rodman, Barkley, etc. See, everyone but Wilt had to overcome something whether it was in size or skill. Wilt had no competition. That's my point!

This has been a lot of fun but I've made up my mind that no matter how you respond, I'm going to have to chew my lip regardless of how enticing it might be to respond. Lol! take care my friend.


Glare profile image

Glare 6 years ago from Washington DC area

You have some good pints. Cheers!


Steve 6 years ago

Thank you and you look sexy!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Steve,

In the spirit of debate I will allow you the final word, under the condition that we both understand we haven't convinced each other of anything. I have appreciated the thought behind your arguments, and that you never made our discussion personal.

Thanks again, you are welcome here any time.

Mike


Steve 6 years ago

Thank you Mike! This has been fun. I've joined some Kobe/Jordan debates as well and the best part about this is you learn more about the game as you go on because it forces you to do research in order to validate your points! I'm glad that you have this out here for people to indulge in. Take it easy. P.S. Everyone has a right to have a favorite player and if Wilt Chamberlain is yours, that's not a bad choice!


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks again, Steve. I appreciate the kind words.


thehis profile image

thehis 6 years ago from San Diego

I love it- why stop? It was like watching my son arguing with his friends which is the better game- halo or modern warfare - except no "Nu-uhs"...

I think you're both right and both wrong. It's preposterous to argue. First of all- its a team sport, each offering their own dynamic in their own time, heck- even their own moments of every game on the floor.

Who would win in a game of 1 on 1? Remember that Kareem/Dr J travesty- size kills.

Who would get picked first in a game of pickup? Has anyone on the planet every matched Jordan's insane drive, with even 1/2 as much talent? You mentioned Kobe, Steve, and not to get sidetracked but separates Jordan isn't talent or work-ethic- Kobe has him at least matched- it's his insane will. I don't think he ever let anyone beat him at anything...

Back to the subject- there are so many intangibles its unreasonable to compare a center and a guard, let alone players in 2 completely different eras. Skills aside, I've only seen footage of Wilt, but he doesn't seem nearly as mean or coldblooded as Jordan does every single time down the court. But again- Jordan couldn't win with out complementary players- forget Scottie- how about Armstrong/Longley/Wennington - not all stars- not even starters on lots of teams -but perfect for to complement his style.

Having said all that I'll reverse field on my argument for this point- is there anyone in any sport at any time that you want to have the ball for a final possession than Jordan?


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

thehis, thanks for commenting.

I confess that while I have an admiration for Wilt Chamberlain that originated with seeing him play when I was young, I did write this piece with an eye on seeing what type of debate it could spark. I have in fact wrote a companion article (which I haven't posted yet) claiming Chamberlain was also a better all-round athlete than Michael Jordan. That would probably spark a debate or two, as well.

It is interesting that you mentioned the Kareem vs. Dr. J matchup, by the way--I wasn't sure how many people out there remembered that.

I will concede a major point to you that Wilt was in many ways a "gentle giant." He certainly did not possess Jordan's will to win, and if there is any one category that would type the scales away from Wilt in my eyes, that would be it. As has been demonstrated throughout the comments here, virtually any other argument can be debated away. Even I will give Jordan that one.

In answer to your final question about wanting anyone else to have the ball in a final possession I will say, "probably not," but I will also cop out and say being the best clutch player doesn't necessarily make one the best player. Jerry West was called "Mr. Clutch."

Well, thanks for reading, I have enjoyed all the comments offered here.

Mike


Lou Cappetta profile image

Lou Cappetta 6 years ago from Nazareth, PA

I love this piece. It's a great read, and makes very solid points, however, I'm not sold on Wilt being the best ever, especially since it's arguably that he wasn't even the best player in his own era.

I understand your point about size, but I think your comparison using Shawn Bradley and Manute Bol is off base. Sure those guys were tall, but they were weak, and played in the league with plenty of other 7 foot-plus players.

Wilt was so physically dominant, which I agree shouldn't count against him. But what should count against him is the fact that Chamberlain was continually beaten by the only player close to his stature that played in his era, in Bill Russell.

I'm not sure Jordan is better, but he beat every other great player in his era. He beat Isaiah, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Robinson, Drexler, etc.. In fact, he kept some of the NBA's greatest players from winning titles.

It's so hard to compare players from different eras, and Although I think both Russell and Jordan are ahead of Wilt, I have no problem with someone picking Wilt as the greatest ever.

I'm just not sure it's a shands down as many people think it is.

Great read though.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Lou, thanks for your comments. I appreciate your reading and enjoying the spirit of this post. Regarding Chamberlain versus Russell, I still believe Boston was a better team than Philadelphia when they competed head to head for so long. Usually that ends up being a question of who had the better teammates, which isn't always the same thing. There were some lucky bounces over the years that kept Chamberlain from beating Russell more than once, but that too is a different discussion (for another post, perhaps).

Comparing Wilt to Shawn Bradley and Manute Bol might have been unfair, but I did have someone make the comment that Wilt wouldn't be able to dominate against those guys... I do think my point is made by comparing him to guys like Tito Horford or Yinka Dare--both big, strong men that some folks thought would be great centers but weren't even good ones. If comparing Wilt to those two seems a cheat, well--I would be willing to compare him to any modern day center. Only Shaquille O'Neal has won more titles than Wilt since Kareem's retirement (I view Tim Duncan as a center/forward like Kevin McHale or Elvin Hayes).

That being said, you acknowledged that size should not be a negative and we are in agreement. I wasn't attempting to stir the pot further, I was only justifying my own arguments.

I certainly do not dispute Jordan's greatness, and I loved watching the man play basketball. And, clearly, if the case can be made for Jordan as vigorously as it has been, it is obviously not clear cut who the best is.

I acknowledge your views on Bill Russell as well, and frankly, I'm not sure Kareem Abdul-Jabbar couldn't be in a discussion about who the greatest really is.

Thanks for reading--I appreciate your comments and the sound thinking behind them.

Take care.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

March 2, 2010: 48 years ago today, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was witnessed by less than 5,000 people, and there was no television coverage. It was probably not even considered big news--after all, a few months earlier, Chamberlain scored 78 in a game.

If any player did that today, it would not only be an ESPN Instant Classic, it would be all over Sports Center and probably would make national news. The hype would be unprecedented.

There should be a push to play a game on March 2, 2012 in Hershey Pennsylvania to remember the greatest scoring performance in NBA history.


Playground4ever profile image

Playground4ever 6 years ago

The lack of ESPN in Wilt's era definitely hurts him. Looking at numbers and championships I still feel he falls short of Jordan as the GOAT. Your argument is a good one, but to me there are only two guys Magic Johnson and Bill Russell who I think have a strong argument for GOAT over Jordan. Magic has one less championship and he was probably as dominate an offensive player as Jordan just in a different way. Russell has more championship rings and was the best defensive player of his era.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Playground4ever, thanks for reading. The lack of ESPN certainly hurts the perception of Wilt's game. Thomas Muther suggested in a comment above that most fans under the age of 50 probably never saw Wilt Chamberlain play a complete game.

I think it is completely fair to give credit to Magic and Russell as rivals to Jordan and Wilt, respectively. I think Magic in particular doesn't get enough credit for what he did as a pro. I do think Magic and Russell played with better players than MJ and Wilt, and Russell had a better coach, as well--both factors that contributed to more titles. But their greatness cannot be disputed.

Thanks again for your comments, they are much appreciated.

Mike


Sam 6 years ago

Anyone traded twice in their prime has a tough time justifying himself in the "greatest ever" argument. Not to mention that in individual matchups with Bill Russell, Chamberlain was stymied, maybe not statistically, but in the wins column.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Sam, thanks for reading. I would suggest Chamberlain's trades aren't necessarily indicative of his greatness. The first trade to the 76ers from the Warriors was predicated on the notion that San Fransisco had Nate Thurmond, five years younger than Wilt, and they believed they could get a bunch of good players for Chamberlain and stock their team. They didn't, but it didn't mean Chamberlain wasn't good.

Wilt wanted the trade to the Lakers, much the way Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wished to go there, years later. Jabbar didn't get traded to LA because Milwaukee didn't like his game--he went there because he wanted away from the Bucks, just like Wilt wanted out of Philly.

Shaquille O'Neal has been traded multiple times since signing with Orlando--to LA, Miami, Phoenix and Cleveland. Yao Ming (an all-star in his own right) has never been traded. Who would you rather have on your team?

As for matchups with Boston, it is a whole separate discussion. Many believe Boston had better players, better coaches and better luck than Wilt's teams did. Perhaps down the road I will take a look at Boston versus Wilt's teams. For now I will say that Wilt did fine against Boston, and beat them more than anyone else did.

Sam, obviously my argument doesn't mean what you're saying is incorrect, but I still hold to my opinion regarding Chamberlain's dominance.

And I thank you for leaving a comment. Take care.

Mike


MAMBORD profile image

MAMBORD 6 years ago from spain

Very interesting, Mike. I've never seen Chamberlain's play, but anyway it must be difficult to compare so differents player, differents positions,but on top of playing during differents seasons. Probably at this moment, when centers seem to be not so important as before, Wilt would make better numbers than during the seasons he played.

What do you think about Pau Gasol. No, i'm not crazy, wait for a couple of years.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Mambord, thanks for commenting. You hit the nail on the head with the difficulty in comparing players from different eras--it is a tremendous challenge. Anyone who hasn't seen Chamberlian play in his prime would be amazed at his athleticism. The guy was decades ahead of his time.

Gasol? He is a very skilled big man, reminds me a lot of Bill Walton in his prime. It will be interesting to see how Gasol's career plays out.

Thanks again.

Mike


S.M. 6 years ago

NBA 5 MAJOR CATEGORIES

1. Scoring - Tied. Both ended their careers with a 30.1 ppg.

2. Rebounding - Winner: Wilt Chamberlain. He was the best rebounder of all time.

3. Shot blocking - Tied. Since they didn't have that statistic in Wilt Chamberlain's time, we really don't know how good he was in this category. What we do know was that he was a premier shot blocker. Micheal Jordan was also an exceptional shot blocker for being a shooting guard.

4. Steals - Winner: Michael Jordan He was the steals leader three times during his career and finished second of all time.

5. Assists - Winner: Michael Jordan Although it wasn't by much, he is still the winner.

Notes: 2 categories are tied, Wilt Chamberlain wins 1 and michael Jordan wins two.

OTHER FACETS OF THE GAME

1. Free throw shooting - Winner: Michael Jordan At around 85%, it wasn't close.

2. The three point shot - Winner: Michael Jordan At around 33%, it wasn't close.

3. Dunking - Winner: Michael Jordan A two time slam dunk champion and a player who dominates most of the spectacular highlights in this category.

4. Driving the lane - Winner: Michael Jordan He was the best ever at slicing through the lane and getting to the hole.

5. Defense - Winner: Michael Jordan Wilt chamberlain was an underrated defender based on the fact that a lot of statistical categories didn't exist during his time but you only need to watch both players in their prime to know the answer to this. Michael Jordan was defensive player of the year, was a steal champion 3 times, was the only player in NBA history to get 200 steals and a 100 blocks in the same season and he did it twice, he consistantly led his team in blocked shots over the forwards and centers and he was widely considered as the greatest perimeter defender of all time.

Notes: Michael Jordan wins all 5 categories.

ATHLETICISM

1. Leaping ability - Tied. We really don't know the answer to this. Wilt chamberlain was a high jumping champion and Michael Jordan had anywhere from a 48 to a 50" verticle leap. Both of them had incredible hops.

2. Foot speed - Winner: Michael Jordan Wilt Chamberlain was very fast in the open floor for such a big man but he did not have 4.3 40 speed like Michael Jordan had.

3. Inside quickness - Winner: Michael Jordan Again, Wilt chamberlain was very quick for such a big man but was no where near as quick as Michael Jordan was on the inside.

4. Hang time - Winner: Michael Jordan He rules in this department and it was very pivitol in game situations where he could hang up there long enough to see the floor and make the right pass or take the right shot.

5. Strength - Winner: Wilt Chamberlain You only need to look at the man to have your answer here! However, Michael Jordan was very strong for his size as well.

Notes: 1 category is tied, Wilt Chamberlain wins 1 and Michael Jordan wins 3.

MENTAL CAPABILITIES

1. Competitive drive- Winner: Michael Jordan He was the most determined player ever.

2. Mental toughness - Winner: Michael Jordan We don't know how mentally tough Wilt Chamberlain really was because he wasn't physically challenged the way that Michael Jordan was and that's when you really have to use your mind to conquer your demons. Watching Michael Jordan get physically abused by rough teams like the Detriot Pistons and the New York Knicks, made a believer out of the general public when it came to his mental toughness.

3. Basketball I.Q. Winner: Michael Jordan Wilt Chamberlain was an intelligent player without a doubt but there has never been a player like Michael Jordan who could continually find ways to silence his critics. Examples: "Michael Jordan is a selfish player". Result: he out assisted Magic Johnson in the 1991 finals. "Michael Jordan can't shoot three's like Clyde Drexler can". Result: Michael jordan sets an NBA record in the 1992 finals by hitting 6 three's in a half. "Michael Jordan isn't that good of a defender". Result: Michael Jordan became one of the best defenders in NBA history. "You can't be a scoring champoin and win titles". Result: He won 10 scoring titles and 6 championships, most of which were at the same time. Michael Jordan always found a way to win and do what was considered to be impossible.

Notes: Michael Jordan wins all 3 categories.

OVERALL ACCOMPLISHMENTS

1. Championships - Winner: Micheal Jordan 6 to 2.

2. Scoring titles - Winner: Michael Jordan 10 to 7.

3. Gold metals - Winner: Micheal Jordan 2 to 0.

4. Steals titles - Winner: Michael Jordan 3 to 0.

5. League MVP's - Winner: Michael Jordan 5 to 4.

6. Finals MVP's - Winner: Michael Jordan 6 to 1.

Rebounding leader - Winner: Wilt Chamberlain. He would have won this award year after year.

7. Blocked shots champion - Winner: Wilt Chamberlain. Again, he would have shared the domination in this category with Bill Russellif they had this stat in those days.

8. Slam dunk champion - Winner: Michael Jordan 2 to 0.

9. NBA allstar MVP's - Winner: Michael Jordan 3 to 1.

10. Defensive player of the year - Tied. I think that Wilt Chamberlain would have at least won 1 over Bill Russell.

Notes: 1 category is tied, Wilt Chamberlain wins 1 and Michael Jordan wins 8.

This can go on and on because both players have set numerous NBA records but I do believe that I have covered the most important aspects of the game. There's only one question left... who do you think was the greatest player of all time?


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

S.M. thanks for your comments. You have raised many valid points, and I appreciate the thought given to your observations. I would also like to point out that I consider Michael Jordan a brilliant player—without acknowledging his greatness makes a debate such as this folly. However, taking the comments you have made and declaring yourself as having decided the issue is questionable. To demonstrate, I will take your major categories and supply my own commentary. To wit:

Major categories.

Shot blocking: tied? It has been estimated by teammates, opposing players, coaches and the media that Chamberlain likely blocked 6-8 shots per game throughout the course of a career. Hardly a category Jordan can even aspire to dominance in comparison with Chamberlain.

Assists: Jordan led Wilt in assists per game throughout the course of his career by a mere 0.9 assists per game, a shocking statistic considering Jordan played guard and was given much of the ball handling duties. In light of the circumstances, I would call it a tie or even go with Chamberlain.

What about field goal percentage? Chamberlain averaged 54% from the field for his career, dipping below 50% only twice—his rookie season and 1965, when he hit .499 from the field.

What about durability? Chamberlain averaged almost 46 minutes per game for his career.

In my book, that gives Jordan an edge in only one category—steals. For the sake of argument I’ll give him assists, as well. The count becomes Chamberlain 4, Jordan 2, with 1 tie.

Other facets of the game

You arbitrarily rank Jordan a better defender and dunker than Chamberlain—I would suggest Chamberlain was far better in both categories. As you assert, many categories were not tracked in Chamberlain’s day, and “all-defensive teams” were not created until the latter part of Chamberlain’s career. Chamberlain likely would have been all over them if they were.

If “driving the lane” can be a category, how about posting up in the lane? Perhaps outlet passes should be included? Your categories are skewed to the responsibilities of a guard. If one questions your calling Jordan superior at defense and dunking, then your score card is Jordan 3, Chamberlain 2. If one throws out three-point shooting because it wasn’t even a part of the game in Chamberlain’s day, it is tied, 2-2. Toss in posting up and throwing the outlet pass, and suddenly Jordan trails Wilt, 4-2.

Athleticism

Wilt Chamberlain was a world-class athlete. Among his accomplishments: He ran the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds, the 100 yard dash in 10.9 seconds, and the 440 in 49.0 seconds. Just for the record, Chamberlain broad-jumped 22 feet and triple-jumped 50 feet. Chamberlain had a standing vertical leap of 50 inches (Michael Jordan’s is recorded at 48 inches).

Hang time is a myth. Two people that jump 50 inches into the air will come down at exactly the same time. It is the law of gravity and no one breaks it.

A more practical review of your list puts the tally at 2 for Chamberlain, 2 for Jordan and hang time is thrown out as a comparison—and that is giving Jordan the edge for running the forty by fractions of a second.

Mental Capabilities

I can’t fathom how you would presume to rate what is going through a player’s head, but to give any player an edge in mental capabilities is completely arbitrary, as are your actual definitions for what defines this elusive quality. How do you know Jordan was the most determined player ever? Jordan never had to play against what many would consider the greatest team in NBA history—Russell’s Boston Celtics. Perhaps mental toughness should also consider not how many times Chamberlain lost, but how close he came to winning so many times. How would Jordan’s mental toughness appear if he played against teams considered better than his? Anyone can claim mental toughness if you’re supposed to win. To say Chamberlain wasn’t physically challenged is to say that Jordan is better because “Wilt was bigger.” Wilt was fouled during games in ways no one would ever be allowed in Jordan’s NBA. He had problems in his old age because Clyde Lovellette elbowed Wilt’s teeth into the roof of his mouth! Wilt got 55 rebounds in a game against the great Bill Russell. Basketball I.Q.? He out-assisted Johnson and an aging Lakers team in a single series. Who said Clyde Drexler could ever shoot threes? How do these examples categorically equal basketball I.Q.? You can’t compare mental capabilities, and to say “Jordan wins” is without substance.

Overall Accomplishments

First, let’s check your math. You listed Chamberlain as being superior in blocked shots and rebounding, but only gave him one “point,” so let’s fix that. If you ever saw Chamberlain in his prime, you would know he could dunk in ways Jordan never dreamed of—he could also take off from the foul line, as Jordan did. My vote is Chamberlain or, at worst, tied. If you are going to throw in individual accomplishments, let’s toss in field goal percentage and minutes played—this will give Chamberlain 3. I’m giving the edge to Wilt in dunking, adding field goal percentage and minutes played, and recounting your numbers. Wilt 5, Jordan 5, tied 2. I also take exception to your assertion that Jordan was a better defender than Wilt (or, more specifically, tied), which would make the numbers Chamberlain 6, Jordan 5, tied 1. Gold medals? An irrelevant statistic, skewed by the fact that the Olympics weren’t held when Wilt played college ball and they didn’t then allow pros to participate. Let’s throw that out and make it Chamberlain 6, Jordan 4, tied 1.

Even scoring titles are subjective since coaches asked Wilt to score less—there is nothing to indicate he couldn’t have continued to lead the NBA in scoring. No one ever asked Jordan not to score. And then there are championships. One can’t take Jordan’s titles away from him, but I have always maintained that he played in a watered down NBA, and beating Seattle, Portland and Utah doesn’t define greatness. Neither does whipping an aging Lakers team or Phoenix. But his titles and MVPs are indisputable, even if the quality of competition can be disputed.

My purpose in challenging your various lists is to demonstrate how you subjectively took information and implied it represented the whole picture. Several of your conclusions were arbitrary, as well. Truth be told, while your way of looking at statistics and intangibles might be better than my way, it might be worse, also. It is my considered opinion that Chamberlain really was better than Jordan.

I would like to thank you for your willingness to refrain from personal comments. I respect your opinion a great deal, and I greatly respect your argumentative style. Thanks very much for contributing to this discussion.

Mike


S.M. 6 years ago

If anything is "Scewed, it's everything you just said to try and twist things around in Wilt Chamberlain's favor. You're not arguing with me, you're arguing with pure facts and statistics. That's your choice I suppose. It doesn't make you look very good though. I could go back and rebutt everything you said by making counter statements and we can go on and on but what's the point? The viewers who truly know basketball will see the difference in our arguments here such as the "watered down NBA" during Michael Jordan's championship reign as you put it. How many teams were in the NBA during Wilt Chamberlain's prime? How many allstar caliber players were in the league then? You have a very weak point here. If anything, the league was just starting out and trying to identify itself when Wilt Chamberlain was in his hay day. By the time Michael Jordan rose to the top, the league was well established so I'm not sure what the term "watered down" means to you but I'm quite certain what it means to everyone else. Also, the object of the game of basketball is simple. It's to win. Michael Jordan won multiple championships. Wilt Chamberlain did not. Plain and simple. Michael Jordan also accomplished at least as many individual accolades as Wilt Chamberlain did or more. My guess is if you tallied them all up like I just did, more. Significantly more. That's also a fact. To argue with record books and indisputable numbers seems to be a bit nieve to me. Logic has to raise the question that if winning is the object of the game and Michael Jordan won more than Wilt Chamberlain did (as the leader of his team) both in the framework of a team and in an individual sense, how can Wilt Chamberlain be better or even as good for that matter? I guess I'm confused. I do have to comment on your assessment of two categories that you attempted to manipulate and then I have nothing else to say because the rest of your analogies are too absurd to respond to. How can you possibly admit in one breath that Michael Jordan had a higher overall assists rate and then in the next breath, call Wilt Chamberlain the better passer? A stat is a stat. Go ahead and argue with the stat if you'd like. I guess that's your choice. Also, please submit some proof that Wilt Chamberlain had an average of 7 to 8 blocked shots per game. I can prove that Michael Jordan had 200 steals and 100 blocked shots per season (an NBA record) for two consecutive seasons. I can also prove that he led his team in blocked shots. That's amazing for a man of his position so he deserves his due respect there. Where is your evidence? I might conceed that Wilt Chamberlain probably blocked more shots per game throughout his career than Michael Jordan did but that's just speculation and he was not better than Michael Jordan was in this area considering each players respected positions. Besides, we really don't know what kinds of numbers Wilt Chamberlain really put up in this category so it's a moot argument. One last statement I will make here before I sign off is that there has never been a player like Michael Jordan. Most of his peers, players from Wilt Chamberlain's time and coaches from that era as well, agree that Michael Jordan was the greatest player of all time with Jerry West being a prime example. Are you going to argue with him too even though he played with and against Wilt Chamberlain? He has openly stated time and again even after watching Wilt Chamberlain play in his prime, that Michael Jordan was the greatest player he had ever seen. I'd love to give you his number if I had it so you could argue with him. I'd just hope that you wouldn't mind if I sat in. I would love to see how you would counter his arguments and call his points arbitrary! Another fact is that Michael Jordan's creativity was unmatched by any player in history which is another attribute he had over Wilt Chamberlain that I forgot to mention. Oops! My fault. What else could he have possibly done to cement his legacy? He accomplished everything a basketball player could accomplish and left nothing hanging in the balance by the time his career was concluded. If he left something out, please let me know. There's arguments about who could have been the greatest center of all time but there is no question who the greatest player was.

P.S. Calling my conclusions "arbitrary" and dismissing the facts that I presented is not being a good sport on your part. My conclusions came from the record books. Where did yours come from?


S.M. 6 years ago

I'm sorry but it's too irrestistible not to comment on two other ludicrous points that you tried to make! Hang time is a myth? Well, I'm quite certain you're right. I'm sure that since Wilt Chamberlain supposedly had a 50 inch verticle leap, that would explain why we always saw him making multiple moves in the air! That's why his nickname was "Air Chamberlain"! I can't even believe that comment was made. Talk to anyone in the NBA and ask them about hangtime. How do you explain a player having an alleged 2 inch greater verticle leap who can't stay in the air long enough to make the moves that the other guy can? I'd love to hear this! Secondly, I was at a loss of words when you gave Wilt Chamberlain the nod on dunking over Michael Jordan! You might want to consider taking some medication for this! I was really trying to be objective but after your insults on my observations, I have decided to return the favor. Let me say that I have watched tons of footage that's available on Wilt Chamberlain and have never seen him do leaner dunks, rock the cradle dunks, 360's, reverse slams, windmills, etc. Are you crazy? He might have been able to dunk from the foul line but at 7 ft.1, that's not near as impressive than doing it at just under 6ft. 5. Wilt Chamberlain was no where near as being the creative athlete that Michale Jordan was and everyone except for you knows that!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

S.M. welcome back.

Just a few points about your response:

Of the NBA’s top fifty players (the NBA’s list after the first 50 years, which included Jordan’s era), more of them played in Wilt’s time than Jordan’s, and there were fewer teams. There were more top caliber players on each team, and Wilt played them more often because it was a smaller league. Expansion watered down the league in Jordan’s time, which was my point about Wilt’s titles relative to Jordan’s. Jordan won his titles, but didn't have to play against teams that would be considered among the greatest ever to earn them. If it’s all about rings, I guess my next article should be about how Bill Russell was better than Robert Horry—both of those guys have more rings than Jordan or Chamberlain.

Wilt as a passer: when you were keeping score, you will note I gave Jordan the edge as a passer, but for a guard to average 0.9 assists more per game in a career than a center is nothing to brag about when establishing greatness. Wilt led the NBA in assists one season. Did Jordan?

As you have already pointed out, no statistics were kept for blocked shots until after Chamberlain retired, but to say Jordan was better than Chamberlain at blocking shots just because the statistic wasn’t kept is pretty far-fetched. Because there was no three-point line in Wilt's day, should I claim he was a better three-point shooter than Jordan and challenge you to prove he wasn't?

Maybe you meant he was better as a guard at blocking shots than Chamberlain was as a center. While I still doubt that, it is the same argument that can be made about Chamberlain and assists—Wilt was a better passer for a center than Jordan was for a guard—and Chamberlain led the NBA in assists one year. So Jordan led his team in blocks, do you think Chamberlain never did? Did Jordan ever lead the NBA in blocked shots? For that matter, when did Jordan ever lead the NBA in assists? When we’re having our conversation with Jerry West, shall we ask him who blocked more shots?

Regarding hang time: waving a basketball around in the air is your definition of hang time? Since Chamberlain also was a track star in high school and college where he broad-jumped 22 feet, triple-jumped 50 feet, and high jumped 6’6”, don’t be too quick to say Jordan stayed in the air longer. Chamberlain could jump, whether you call it hang time or something else.

Your premise about hang time is still flawed—no one defies gravity. It takes the same amount of time for everyone who jumps the same height to land, no matter what they do with a basketball while they’re landing. And how does this define greatness? Slam dunk contest champions of note include 3-time winner Nate Robinson, Harold Miner, Spud Webb, Cedric Ceballos, and Brent Barry. All-time greats, right?

As far as Chamberlain’s dunks—he raised the ball to the rim with a guy hanging onto it and dunked it when the other player let go, more than ten feet in the air. Pretty good dunk, and probably would have won him a dunk contest if they held such things back then. He also dunked on a 12-foot goal in college—a half foot higher than Dwight Howard’s feat. He broke Johnny Kerr’s toe when one of Wilt’s dunks came down on it. They created the imaginary plane you could not cross when shooting free throws to keep Chamberlain from dunking from the free throw line. They changed the rules because of Wilt’s dunks, so that should say at least as much about his abilities in this regard as winning a contest or flashy moves do. (What rule did they ever change to keep Jordan from dominating?)

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


S.M. 6 years ago

It's difficult for me to tell if you just enjoy being the devil's advocate or you simply refuse to acknowledge facts!

For beginners, it is a distortion of the truth to say that there were more of the NBA's greatest players who played during Wilt Chamberlain's time than played in Michael Jordan's time considering two key points... #1. A lot of those players who came from Wilt Chamberlain's era were still playing when Michael Jordan came into the league. Kareem, Dr.J, George Gervin, Bill Walton, ect. You can't just give those players to Wilt Chamberlain. #2. Then you have to consider the influx of talent that Michael Jordan had to play against who came into the league after the NBA's 50th anniversary when the top 50 players were established. Allen Iverson, Kobe bryant, Grant Hill, Steve Nash, etc. A number of those players with extraordinary skill and athleticism came into the league at that time and would have easily made the top 50 list while eliminating several of the "lesser gifted" players that were named during Wilt Chamberlain's time. Please don't tell me next that Kobe Bryant wouldn't have taken John Havlicek's place on that list, soforth and so on!

As for Wilt Chamberlain's passing title, even the great Red Auerbach once said that Wilt Chamberlain was all about breaking NBA records. That's what his sites were set on rather than team accomplishments. Would you like to argue with him as well? Without deliberately going out and breaking that assists record, his career APG would have been considerably lower. Do you honestly think that Michael Jordan didn't have the skill to set out and accomplish the same thing if he wanted to? The difference was that Michael Jordan was all about his team winning. The other thing to take into consideration is the effectiveness and the creativity of one's passing. Take John Stockton and Magic Johnson for instance. John Stockton owns the NBA record for assists but most everyone one agrees that Magic Johnson was the greater passer. Why? Because Magic Johnson's passing not only got him to win championships but he also dominated all of the spectacular highlights which put more fans in seats. There's no way that you can convince anyone that Wilt Chamberlain's passing was more effective and had superior creativity over Michael Jordan's unless maybe you're speaking to Stevie Wonder!

I NEVER said that Michael Jordan was a better shot blocker than Wilt Chamberlain was. I simply stated that they should be considered equals in this area since there are no records to refer to in Wilt Chamberlain's case and we know how exceptional Michael Jordan was in this category for a shooting guard. There's no way on earth that Michael Jordan blocked more shots in his career than Wilt Chamberlain did in his but considering the circumstances that I just mentioned, they should be considered tied in this category.

As for hangtime, I was hoping that you would have a better answer than that! If you think that all Michael Jordan did was "wave the ball around", you need to go back and watch some Chicago Bulls videos my friend. What disrespect for such a phenomenal player. Hang time is not a myth. It's a real asset of the game and it consists of a multiplicity of things. Verticle leap, long jumping, vision, creativity and the skill to finish the shot. It's all of these things combined in one leap in the air! Maybe Wilt Chamberlain could jump with Michael Jordan but there's no way you can tell me that he had all of those intangibles that I meantioned to maximize his leaping ability the way that Michael Jordan did.

You mentioned a couple of dunks that Wilt Chamberlain could do, I mentioned several that Michael Jordan could do. It's just a simple fact that you can choose to ignore if you want to, but Michael Jordan's creativity was exceptional to Wilt Chamberlain's and it's almost infantile to argue! I can't even imagine Wilt Chamberlain doing most of Michael Jordan's dunks. Using the example of league's rule changes against Wilt Chamberlain as part of your argument, doesn't prove a thing either. By the time Michael Jordan entered the league, those rules had already been established. Believe me, if Michael Jordan existed in those days instead of Wilt Chamberlain, they would have changed those same exact rules for him!


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

S.M., thanks for returning and offering your comments. I will make a few more points, and leave the final word to you if you wish it.

We could debate whether the standard of using the NBA's Top 50 players is a valid one or not, and we could talk about whether Havlicek was better in Wilt's day than Kobe Bryant was when Jordan played him, so early in Bryant's career. There's also a part of me that would love to debate why a "flashy" assist is somehow better than an ordinary pass if both result in a score, but I'll leave that alone, also. We are on different sides of the fence regarding whether acrobatic moves in the air equals "hang time," and how these things substantiate greatness.

Believe it or not, I respect your opinions about Jordan and his place in basketball history. For me to write this article demonstrates my own admiration for Michael Jordan and his game. I would never write an article comparing Wilt to, say, Kevin Duckworth--there would be no need for such a comparison. While your arguments were well-reasoned, the fact is that mine are, also, and we are unlikely to ever convince the other of our views.

I will be happy to continue to debate, but I will also be content to simply thank you again for commenting on my article--if you are willing to agree that both of us believe a very great player is the best ever. You have added a lot of quality to my page with your comments, and I appreciate your perspective.

Time for dinner.

Mike


Ball2Day 6 years ago from Fort Wasington, Maryland

I think it is totally impossible to compare players from different eras and who played different positions. It was a different game in Wilt's day. In Wilt's day there were fewer games less travel. Jordan had more games to play, better athletes to compete against. What you need to do is appreciate what both contributed to the game of basketball.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ball2Day, I couldn't help but notice that you threw in an argument or two on Jordan's behalf while suggesting comparisons are futile, but that's okay--a little friendly give and take every once in awhile is enjoyable, whether at a game, in a barber shop, or here. When all is said and done, you are correct. It is impossible to compare the two, and we should indeed appreciate what both men gave to the game. Thanks for your comments, my friend.

Mike


S.M. 6 years ago

Hey Mike, to answer your question... "flash" means entertainment which is pivitol to the sport and keeps it alive. Without it, you wouldn't have any airtime, very few tickets would be sold as a result of not capturing the public's interest and there wouldn't be any such thing as evolution of the game. This is one of the main attributes that make a player great. Sure, you can use another star athlete to exemplify their equality in effectiveness but the one who is mesmorizing to watch is the player that's going to keep the sport alive! The other point to make is that "flash" also means creativity. To be more creative makes you unpredictable and increasingly difficult to stop which is one of the major keys to Michael Jordan's success. I agree that we won't deter each other from our original thinking but I do want to wish you the best of luck with this article and I thank you for your time.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

S.M., thanks for your comments. I have appreciated your willingness to debate me here--as I indicated above, you have improved my page with the quality of your comments and opinions.

Thanks again, and feel free to come back any time!

Mike


Matt 6 years ago

This is a debate I've had to take part in 100's of times over the years and let me tell you: as a kid in high school and now in college, I've been in several discussions where I was the only one in Wilt's camp. This post is very good and while I've read many like this and have many points of my own, this post brings up some that I haven't heard before and that really make solid points.

Great post


Matt 6 years ago

Also, I'd like to point out that it can be VERY difficult to compare players from different eras, impossible even, but a nice way to think about it is to question what kind of player they would be if they were born 25-30 years ago instead of 50, 60 or 70. Had Chamberlain and Jordan both been born and played in the modern era, they would have been better players, simply because of the advancements in athletic training and the much larger role that sports play in modern society. I don't think there's any doubt that if Chamberlain were born into this era, he would become something reminiscent of Lebron James (in the way he's so ahead of his time physically) but to the nth degree and translated to the center position. Chamberlain 50 years ago was more athletic than athletes of any decade and had he had the opportunity to compete today, the result would be something we haven't seen yet and may not see for a long time. It truly is a shame that Wilt's genes were never passed on....


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Matt, thanks for reading. Without actually saying it you alluded to being a college student, and it is interesting to find someone from your era with an awareness of Chamberlain's gifts, particularly since Wilt retired from the NBA over 35 years ago. Your comments indicate you are a true student of the game and its history.

You are absolutely correct in pointing out that training and fitness regimens makes it difficult to compare players from different eras. In Chamberlain's time trainers didn't travel with the team on the road, players used the preseason to get into shape for the regular season, and there was simply less information known about caring for one's body. Playing conditions were inferior as well--teams didn't travel by private jet or stay in the finest hotels, either. It was indeed a different era.

I have always felt that if Chamberlain competed in the modern NBA as a young man, fans would be astonished by what they saw.

Thanks very much for your comments, they are greatly appreciated!

Mike


trespass30 profile image

trespass30 6 years ago from Mayberry NC

blasphemy

trespass30 in Chapel Hill NC

I'm sorry we stole your coach, but he was ours first anyway

Our car plates say "first in flight" and we are not talking about Orville and Wilbur. An excellent but flawed article.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

trespass, thanks for reading. I like Wilt and Jordan, but no one has yet convinced me MJ was the better player.

That's okay about stealing Roy away, I am content now with Bill Self. I gotta admit I was pretty upset when it happened, though. Of course, Roy allowed his image to be tarnished somewhat by not figuring out that he didn't have the talent to play the running style he prefers last season. When he slowed the game down a bit toward the end of the season, he started to turn it back around. I am a huge fan of Roy Williams, but he should have figured that out much sooner than he did.

Thanks again for reading. I will accept "excellent but flawed" as a compliment.

Mike


jlip 6 years ago

I've always been of the opinion that there is no way to determine a true GOAT. There are way too many variables to consider including eras, positions, roles, rules, strength of competition, quality of teammates, and the social contexts. (I would imagine being a Black players during the Civil Rights Movement which was an extremely turbulent time was much different from being a Black player in the '90s where you're loved and celebrated by everyone and are the face of the league.) It should be understood that EACH era provided the players of its time with certain advantages and disadvantages that other generations didn’t have.

Then as humans we all suffer from what I have termed, “eracentrism”. I define this term as the tendency to view the game of basketball through the lens of our own favorite era’s norms. What takes place in our era is the model for what the game should look like and how it should be played. Anything apart from that era is instinctively considered an aberration from the model in our unconscious and thusly an inferior brand of basketball.

All of us are guilty of "eracentrism", but I often find younger generations who, despite the fact that we (I'm only 33)have never watched one full season of basketball from the 1960's, to be especially guilty of this. We often have perceptions of the era that are not based upon a true or sufficient understanding of the times and the game, but are based upon an inherent prejudice against that era.

Despite MJ being a player from my era I am often disturbed by the matter -of- fact declaration by some that he's the GOAT as if there is no debate. There is a debate, and until there is some uniform criteria for determining this there will continue to be a debate.

I read a comment previously on this thread that said...

"[MJ] beat Isaiah, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Ewing, Malone, Robinson, Drexler, etc..."

That's misleading. Firstly basketball is a team sport, and no ONE player beats another. Truth be told, MJ's teams were much better than the media has given them credit for.

Finally I would never say that MJ defeated Bird. MJ's teams' records against Bird's is HORRENDOUS. In head to head matchups Bird's Celtics defeated MJ's Bulls 23 out of the 34 times that they met. Bird's Celtics were 6-0 against MJ's Bull's in the playoffs. MJ's Bulls NEVER beat Bird's Celtics in the playoffs.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

jlip, thanks for your comments; your points are very well made. It is extremely difficult to rate players of different eras. The advent of ESPN and 24 hour sports broadcasts further clouds the issue. For example, not much was made in the newspapers when Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks, or pulled down 55 rebounds in a game against Boston. It would be a non-stop topic of conversation if it happened today, no matter who did it. The media certainly affects how we perceive accomplishments in sports, and helps shape our opinions of GOAT players. Add to the equation that MJ was a very charismatic fellow, and he will easily win fans.

To put it in a different context, I can state my opinion that Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time, but I didn't watch boxing before Ali fought or after Mike Tyson, so I don't have much of a historical basis for my assertion. Add to that claim that Ali was extremely charismatic while most other boxers are not, and it is easy to suspect my opinion in this regard is biased--even if I might be correct.

You are also on the money in pointing out that basketball is, in the end, a team sport. In a few weeks, either Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol or Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett will win another title for LA or Boston, but whoever wins will have had much help from other players. Jordan didn't win titles by himself, and neither did Wilt, Bryant, Bird, or Magic Johnson. Neither will Bryant or Pierce.

Thanks again for your comments, I appreciate them a great deal.

Mike


jlip 6 years ago

Thanks for your reply, Mike. Also let me add that I genuinely appreciate the level of respect for opposing views you've maintained as you've presented your arguments even when it appears that it may not have been reciprocated at times.

Allow me to piggyback off a point you made, and that is the impact of the media on our point of view. You're so correct. I really don't think that my generation understands how powerful the constant, repetitive indoctrination of MJ as the untouchable "god of the nba" by the media has influenced how we view him in comparison to other legends. We don't know what it was like before ESPN and 24 hour sports networks were available to bombard us with tales of how great a player is. For that reason, we too often minimize the accomplishments of players who preceded our time, impulsively chalking those feats up to playing in a weaker era when we honestly are not speaking from first hand knowledge but from first hand prejudice.

A few weeks ago I finished reading one of the best sports books I've ever read which happens to be a new biography on Russell. It's entitled, King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution. In it the author mentions how for two years during the 60's the NBA didn't even have a national television contract. We would have a completely different view of MJ if he had played with those media limitations. On the contrary could you imagine if ESPN had existed in 1962 (Wilt's 50ppg and Big O's triple double season)? Imagine a reporter saying:

"Wilt had a pretty poor game tonight against the Celtics. He was held much below his season's averages. He only had 38pts and 21rbs. The Celtics really got to him." LOL

or

"The Lakers definitely had Oscar Robertson's number tonight. Despite avg. 30ppg 11apg 12rpg for the season, the Lakers held him to just 27pts 8ast 9rbs. They've done a really good job on him." LOL


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

jlip, thanks for coming back. Let me say first that I appreciate your noting that I have tried to refrain from being overly combative here. I realize folks are passionate about sports and get carried away, but I try to keep it from sounding like a conversation held at the corner bar; even when I sometimes feel I'm being provoked.

You make a great point about what it would be like if ESPN existed in Wilt's time. What would they say about "holding" Wilt to 38 points and "only" 21 rebounds? I wrote an article about the night Wilt scored 100. In it I noted that the next time they played the Knicks it was reported that the center who started against Wilt the night he got 100 received a standing ovation from the crowd for "holding" Chamberlain to 56 points in the rematch. The numbers were so amazing they almost became an abstraction, and it is difficult to comprehend that a single man scored all those points and grabbed all those rebounds. But, he did. It is interesting to note how ESPN is cautious not to label Bryant or James the "next" Jordan, although they certainly tried earlier in their career. I suspect if Wilt received the media coverage awarded MJ, he would be just as untouchable. Likewise, if modern-day fans saw how amazing Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Rick Barry or Jerry West were, they would not think of the smaller NBA as a "weaker" league.

I will look for the book you mentioned, it sounds like something I would find quite interesting. Thanks again.

Mike


raptormania 6 years ago

before i start off...i'll admit i've never seen wilt play bball,


raptormania 6 years ago

woah my bad, i accidentally clicked on the Post Comment box :P

back to discussion,i did however see some of his videos on youtube, and i must say he does have a pretty good turnaround mid jumper (even though he was known to be a bad freethrow shooter)

on the other hand, i have been a MJ fan all my life and pretty much seen all his videos (tbh, i still see them even to this day); YES, I BELIEVE MJ > WILT

i did some research on the two legends, and one primary reason I believe (and most would too, even u at even a minute extent) MJ was better than wilt was because he excelled at the playoffs, especially at the scoring level where both are usually compared at (the playoffs are what should rly puts a superstar like these two to the test), i'd say MJ beats wilt; yes, like u said somewhere in the earlier posts, that back then the league was smaller which meant most teams were stacked with good players, but that means 'these other stacked teams' should have beaten the also stacked celtics...but they couldn't (btw,one could assume obviously by entering the playoffs among the other stacked teams, the Philadelphia/San Francisco were among the better teams in the nba, and hence should have stopped the celtics 8-9 consecutive runs as champions); how did the celtics achieve success?? through the play of a superstar and EXCEPTIONAL TEAMWORK (which rly wasn't there in chamberlains game until later in the career, and i still find it surprising he won only two rings). Sounds familiar to another team in the 1990s?

now don't get me wrong, i admit chamberlain was a very, and i mean, a very very talented athlete. not every average person like me can even dream of possessing the same skill level as wilt did, even on track and field events. but thats what also makes MJ so special. if u recall, he was cut from the high school basketball because he was 'apparently' too short?!?! at that second, most people would quit, but Jordan didn't; he worked harder and harder and the rest is history; this is excatly why people like myself are fortunate to witness a legend like MJ, who some doubted that he even even make it to the high school bball team, let alone having a better future than sam bovie LOL;

i know i want to talk more, but i'm running late for dinner; this is rly a very good article with very good points from yourself and from the others. like some said, no one can rly pint-point who is better between two good players with rather different playing styles from different eras; everyone is free to choose their own opinion; and i respect yours :)

sorry for my bad English, its not my first language


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Raptormania, thanks for your comments. Your opinions are well-considered and I respect what you have said. I would make a couple points in response. I think there is some validity to the idea that, even though Chamberlain played for many good teams, it was generally accepted that Boston had better players and coaching. Wilt beat Boston once, and that was more than any other team did, and he came close on numerous other occasions.

I also believe Jordan played in an era where the teams he faced for the title were among the weakest in recent memory. Portland or Seattle would never make the Finals in today's NBA, and the Lakers were a shadow of their former selves when Jordan played them in 1991. Utah and Phoenix were good teams but not great. Chamberlain played against what many consider the greatest team of all when facing Boston.

I share your respect for Michael Jordan and consider him among the greatest to ever play the game. Anyone choosing Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time would be making a good choice.

Thanks again. I greatly appreciate your comments.

Mike


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dario415 6 years ago from San Francisco

you put wilt in today's game and he'll get killed out there.wilt did his thing as a player,but the generations are way different.i dont even feel like talking on this cause im not a fan of either,but i do respect what they did.never really liked jordan,lebron is okay.

But who i really like is kevin durant.That boy got ol school game.The game is weak now.players crying about this and that.They wouldn't last in the 80s.But thats what i think about that.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Dario, thanks for commenting. I think Chamberlain would have done fine in today's game--he was a freak athlete like LeBron James and would have held his own, both on a physical level and a skills level.

I agree 100% about Kevin Durant. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players of all time before his career is over. He has amazing skills along with size, speed and quickness. He is a truly great player.

Thanks again for your comments.

Mike


Gemineye profile image

Gemineye 6 years ago

Wilt was a little before my time, but from any highlights I was able to see, in of course my research(I love it) - I think you make an extremely valid point. Personally, I always felt Jordan was a selfish player, he only lost this as he matured. Particularly, as a guard, being selfish is more looked down on, than for a center, in my opinion. So for Wilt to pass the ball the way he did, puts him well over MJ in this particular category.

The game is ALOT softer than it was back in my "heydays" of the 80's, but I think Wilt would have been fine as well. No one is going to avg 20+ boards a game today, but he would have still been a load down low, and 7-2 isn't something you can teach.

As always, great article.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Gemineye, thanks for reading. I was hoping you might stop by sometime and weigh in with an opinion here. I agree that Wilt as a passer was better than Jordan as a passer, as you might have seen from my conversations with others here. Wilt was always seen as going for points or records, but how does anything think Jordan would have reacted if someone asked him to shoot less and pass more? For Jordan to average less than one assist more per game over the course of a career than Wilt should not make MJ proud.

I also believe that Wilt as a young man would lead the league in rebounding in any era he played in. I don't see anyone in today's game keeping Wilt off the boards.

Thanks again for reading. Back to the game for me.

Mike


Walkster profile image

Walkster 6 years ago from Lavergne,tn

Interesting article, not sure i agree but you did support your opinnions well and i really enjoy the debate that filled the comments section. It was as good as the article itself. Having watched both them play it's really hard to compare. They played in different eras and different positions. I can say one thing for sure. Wilt was the most dominant player in the paint and Jordan was the best outside the paint. I know that's a politically correct answer but it's the best i can come up with.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Walkster, thanks for reading. So many folks have never seen Wilt play in a game. Those that have, like you, are usually more willing to at least hedge their bets. Those that crown MJ king as if it were a foregone conclusion tend to have not even seen Chamberlain play ball. I would certainly accept your conclusions--Wilt was the best ever in the paint, and MJ was the best outside the paint. Politically correct it might be, but it is the truth.

Thanks again for reading.

Mike


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dandrews1 6 years ago from Los Angeles

Wow...I used up a lot of my evening reading through all this! Nice Stuff though!

Let me preface what I'm about to say by stating for the record that I grew up a staunch Boston Celtics fan and didn't miss a single Sunday's TV broadcast with Chris Shenklel and Jack Twyman...I'd even pull in a 76er's radio broadcast from WCAU (I think) in Philadelphia when conditions were right in my Indiana home...I couldn't get enough basketball period!

For a time I darn near hated Wilt Chamberlain.

Then slowly, without me even knowing it, I began to appreciate his abilities...in the end I was able to accept him as the truly great player he was.

I watched him over the course of his career do literally everything his coaches and teammates asked him to do, and more...and I watched him carry himself like a gentleman through it all

I remember one particular Sunday game between the Celtics and the 76er's, an intense, near the end of the year regular season game (the kind I don't see much of anymore)...Russell got his 5th foul and Chamberlain got his 5th foul...the game was on the line, it might even have been overtime...I'm thinking "Chamberlain's never fouled out of a game, he's going to play soft"...Wilt goes up for a two-handed stuff on Russell and WHAM, Russel smacks it out of Wilt's hands...the Celtics feed Russell, he wheels and goes up for a dunk on Wilt and WHAM Wilt smacks it out of Russell's hands...5 fouls and all, neither gave an inch...these were titans and it was a privilege to learn how the game should be played by watching them play it!

Wilt and Russell may have gotten a few more rebounds in their day because of the rules, but not their competition...in those days a center could park himself in the paint and play a one-man zone...can't do that today...but they never got more rebounds because of lack of competition - they dominated because these were two-sport athletes who had terrific eye-hand coordination, great leaping ability, uncanny timing, a superb sense of where the ball was going to go after it left a shooter's hands, and a determination that allowed them to play nearly 48 minutes every game, 81 or so times a year while getting thumped the entire time.

Just because an athlete is from another era doesn't mean he or she couldn't excel in some other time...MJ would have excelled in the 60's...but I'm also thinking that Ted Williams could probably hit today's pitching, Pele could probably make a play or two in today's World Cup...and I'm thinking that if Wilt had started his career in 1980, 1990, or 2000 he would still have ended up as one of the top 50 players of all-time


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

dandrews, thanks for stopping by. It is nice to get some perspective from someone who actually saw Chamberlain play basketball in his prime. Most of the folks who are so quick to hail Jordan as the best ever never saw more than a few random YouTube clips, or maybe an ESPN special somewhere along the way. The folks that actually saw Wilt as a young man can attest to how great a player he truly was.

Your recollections of Chamberlain's battles with Bill Russell were enjoyable to read, and I am glad to see someone point out that Wilt didn't stop playing when he got a fourth or fifth foul. He was still rebounding, blocking shots, and defending the lane.

Thanks very much for stopping by, and I salute you for reading all the comments that have been offered over the months. It takes quite a bit of time to read all this!

Thanks again.

Mike


snames 6 years ago

Michael Jordan > Wilt

The article is retarded.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

snames, I can't say you did a lot to convince me you're correct, but thanks for stopping by.

Mike


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

I voted for Larry Bird and it's because of his work ethic, teamwork, and crazy talent. He's definitely been the most fun for me to watch. Michael Jordan is the best. Why- just ask him!


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Micky, Larry Bird was certainly among the greatest players of all time, and he was a remarkable talent. I considered Bird, Russell and Bill Walton to have perhaps the highest "basketball I.Q." of anyone I've seen play.

I am sure you're correct about whom Jordan would label the greatest of all time.....

Thanks for your comments.

Mike


nbadave 6 years ago

Wilt was the most gifted NBA player. Jordan does not stand a chance. Wilt was both greatest offensive and defensive player.Sorry russell and jordan.No one gives credit to the other celtics 7 HOFers who also played with russell.Russell one on one did not stand a chance against Wilt.In his prime wilt could outrun most the NBA players on the floor. I have seen all the great centers play from the 1960's til today 2010.Strength and ability unmatched.You can arg


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

nbadave, thanks for reading. You made two important points worth emphasizing: one is thatyou actually saw Chamberlain play. Most people that are quick to say Jordan was better never even watched him play in an NBA game. I always find it amazing that so many will rush to judgments based on 15 or 30 second film clips.

Your other excellent point is that the teams Wilt competed against had multiple Hall of Fame players on their roster. No one believes that a smaller NBA meant more good players on each team, and that many current players might not have even made the league in Wilt's day.

I agree completely that Wilt was the most dominant offensive and defensive player in history.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments and insights.

Mike


freddie freeloader 6 years ago

It's real obvious looking around the internet that those people who saw both Chamberlain and Jordan play invariably say Chamberlain was the more dominating player.

I saw both of them (and just about all of the greats of the 60s-90s) play on TV and from the stands.... and I certainly agree that it's not even close. Chamberlain was overwhelmingly powerful and amazingly skilled at every part of the game. People bash his ball handling skills - but only those people who didn't see him live. I saw him dribble behind his back to beat Jerry West from the top of the key. Saw him dribble between his legs to get past Russell, saw him pull some Globetrotter-esque passes out of his historical hat. With little or no TV in those days, those kinds of things are "forgotten" by the media.

There's no doubt Jordan was a spectacular performer. He reminded me over and over of the greats Elgin Baylor and David Thompson. I'd bet big money he watched a lot of film of those guys.

But when you look at the whole package, Mike goes head to head against Chamberlain in scoring, but in no other category.

Chamberlain doesn't just hold the vast majority of the NBA scoring records; he holds virtually every rebounding record too. And would rate 1st or 2nd in blocked shots if that stat was kept in those days. Overwhelming domination in every category. No question that he was a far more complete player.

There has been no one - ever - who could rocket a blocked shot off a bleacher the way Chamberlain could. I will never forget standing out in the hall and hearing a ball slam into the bleachers, over the roar of the crowd.

His late-career skillset, as a Laker - after he'd had a ruined knee- would utterly destroy today's centers. People that watch 2 or 3 minutes of footage on Youtube just don't see how he took over entire games from the tipoff to last whistle. I love to watch Pau Gasol play - monster - but he would be completely cowed by a late-career Chamberlain. I firmly believe if the Chamberlain that I saw, 1967-1974, played in today's game, even the all time great Kobe Bryant would be little more than a subliminal message on ESPN.

I loved watching MJ throughout his career, but it always bothered me to see him cheat, game after game, and not get a whistle. I don't know of any other player who could push off his defender to get the open shot without a foul call. Of course there have always been bad calls; but I remember over and over watching a ref standing right next to Jordan while he shoved his defender off and not blow a whistle.

Jerry West, Magic, Larry Bird, Artis Gilmore - they got whistled down when they shoved off like that.

To me that is a gigantic - sign hanging over Jordan and it will always be there. Anyone can win if they're allowed to cheat.

The other thing I see more and more of, is jogging from set to set - - half court ball. The stamina we saw in the 60s is missing from the game. Chamberlain gets Iron Man kudos for his 45 minute playing time average. But what's astounding is that he did it at the pace of those days. Today we see 8 or 10 fast breaks in a game... but those old players STAYED in a sprinting transition game sometimes for 2 or 3 minutes at a time. Just FAST like soccer.

* * *

The only problem I have with your well written monograph is that it's not fair to MJ to compare him with Wilt Chamberlain. Compare him to someone he has a chance to shine against!


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Freddie Freeloader, thanks for stopping by. You hit the nail on the head: most everyone who is so quick to hail Jordan as the best ever has likely never seen more than a few minutes or seconds of Wilt's play on YouTube. They never saw him play a real game. Folks who saw Chamberlain play in a game understand just what an amazing athlete and dominant player he was. Your point about Chamberlain's stamina relative to the pace of the game then is a good one. With so many teams in Jordan's era walking the ball upcourt and dribbling the shot clock down before even attempting a shot, fans would be forced to wonder why NBA teams then even needed to sub out a player. There were plenty of opportunities for players in the 90's to catch their breath on the court.

You raise a great point about referees allowing Jordan to push off to get open for his shot, and it leads to another aspect of MJ the player: Michael Jordan was allowed to intimidate refs. If a player tried to face-guard Jordan and really play hard defense on him, he was quickly in foul trouble and perhaps he had also picked up a flagrant foul for his trouble. If this didn't happen, Jordan ripped into officials with an intensity that should never have been tolerated. No one was going to throw Jordan out of the game on technical fouls, so MJ was free to intimidate the refs as he saw fit. As a result, you will find that Jordan shot many uncontested shots during his career. Fans should watch Jordan's Bulls on ESPN Classic and see how often Jordan was simply unguarded. When a guy did try to cover him, he drew the foul or Jordan pushed off, as you suggested. There definitely seemed to be a hands-off rule covering Jordan that didn't apply to other players.

Freddie, thanks again for stopping by and offering your opinions. You raised many valid points, and I have appreciated your insights very much.

Mike


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Godwin Nwando 6 years ago from San Diego

I have written an article to dispute your claim that Wilt was better than Jordan.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Godwin, thank you for coming to my hub comparing Wilt Chamberlain with Michael Jordan and inviting me to read your article in return. Your arguments clearly demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the game and its history. I read your article comparing Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan and would like to summarize your arguments here. You major point in comparing the two players was that Michael Jordan’s playoff success, both on an individual and team level, was superior to Wilt’s accomplishments. You noted that Jordan won six times while Wilt won twice, and you pointed out that Michael Jordan’s statistics actually increased in the playoffs, while Wilt Chamberlain’s did not. This was my response:

I am in agreement that Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan are among the two greatest players ever, and their accomplishments may never be rivaled. While your arguments are well-reasoned, I do take exception to the conclusions you reached, however.

Jordan's NBA titles occurred during a particularly weak period in NBA basketball. An aging Lakers team, Portland, Seattle, Phoenix and Utah were hardly on a level with the teams that played for championships during the 1960’s, 1980's or 2000's. They could not compare to the Boston teams featuring Bill Russell, Sam Jones and John Havlicek or the New York teams with Willis Reed, Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier. Perhaps they would be comparable to teams from Wilt's era like the Cincinnati Royals, featuring two great players in Oscar Robertson and Jerry Lucas, but not enough firepower to compete with the best. The Royals could never crack the NBA finals, even with the great Oscar Robertson. Had Jordan played against the Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal or the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan and David Robinson, his task would have been far greater. The same could be said if he played in an earlier era and faced the Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers or Lakers in the 1980's. When he played these teams earlier in his career he lost. His breakthrough didn't come until the Celtics and Pistons aged.

Many fans equate a smaller NBA with a weaker league, and it simply was not the case. No one in Jordan’s NBA was good enough to test him every time he played, as Willis Reed, Bill Russell or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tested Wilt. Jordan was playing against teams with perhaps 2 players that could be considered good or great, while Wilt battled teams with 4 or 5 great players. When Wilt's title runs are analyzed, it shouldn't be so much a question of why Wilt didn't win more, but how great he was to come as close to winning so often against the best of the best.

Even the playoff statistics are slightly misleading. It is of course indisputable that Wilt's career playoff scoring didn't match his regular season averages. However, he played more playoff games in the second half of his career, when he was asked to score less. Jordan was never asked to shoot or score less at any stage in his career. As you note, Wilt's rebounding increased in the playoffs. Wilt was asked not to shoot as much, but no one would ever ask a player not to rebound the ball. This is not the entire picture, of course, but neither is it completely accurate to simply assert that Wilt didn't score as much in the playoffs as he did in the regular season. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Godwin, I would gladly recommend anyone visit your hub to read your very well-stated arguments in greater detail. My comments in response can be found there, as well.

Mike


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Godwin Nwando 6 years ago from San Diego

Your article was simply amazing, Although I didn't use your article as a template of my article, I see many points in which you break down scientifically the strengths in Wits game. You argue that the players

a couple note however

in the 2010 NBA, the average rebounding per game is 42

in the 1990 NBA, the average rebounding per game was 43

in the 1970 NBA, the average rebounding per game was 53

in the 1960 NBA, the average rebound per game was 77

so the rebound is approximately 45 percent less when Wilt was a rookie that it is now. Also, a rebound isn't counted after a block as it was then when blocks were not counted as stats back then. This means relatively little and Wilt would rebound at a 112-15 rebound clip in the NBA throughout his career, but of course this would not stun people as 22 rebounds a game does.

This also meant more possessions and field goal attempts and to compare

2010 saw an averages of 82 shots per game per team

1990 was 87

1970 was 98

and 1960 was over 108 shots per game, this mean that players back in the day had more possessions per game than current players and therefore, better stats.

Still your article has moved me to put Wilt a few notches up in my top ten rankings. Great read and you have yourself a new follower.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Godwin, thanks for your comments. I do agree that if Wilt played in today's NBA, he would not average 25 rebounds a game. I do think he would lead the league in rebounding in any era. He was truly a magnificent player.

Thanks for your comments and insights, they are greatly appreciated.

Mike


Bill 6 years ago

Wilt, hands down. Some reporters discredit Wilt because he wasn't cordial toward them, whereas, jordan maintained a likable personality around reporters. Nevertheless, there is no question as to the best player of all time-its Wilt.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Bill, thanks for your comments. A comment Tom Muther made early on in these posts expressed things well--Jordan had the prettier smile. I certainly do not discredit Jordan's greatness, but one wonders how wilt would have been perceived if he was cordial to all the reporters--AND if he had ESPN coverage of his exploits 24 hours a day. In fact, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could be viewed the same way. If he was more personable and received the media attention awarded Jordan, would he be included in best-of-all-time discussions?

Wilt was a world class athlete, and I still believe anyone who saw Chamberlain in his prime would have little difficulty calling him the best ever.

Thanks again for your comments--i agree with them completely.

Mike


LT Jaeger 6 years ago

Just noticed this debate, and haven't spent the required 8 hours to read the full thread :-)

MJ was awesome, but as I've stated on other sites, Wit in his prime was surreal. Sure he was taller than most centers, but MJ was taller than most guards. Wilt had to play against Russell and Thurmond 10-12 times per year, which goes a long way towards destroying the "weaker league" myth that people like to quote these days.

Steve made some good arguments for Jordan earlier in the debates, but I have to take exception to his claim that MJ was one of the greatest jump shooters of all time. That's just pure fallacy; its like saying Magic was a great shooter because he shot 50% for his career.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

LT, thanks for stopping by. I think I saw your comments on a similar HubPages thread that was written awhile ago. I decided to take my arguments to my own page rather than debate on someone else's. You are correct, this has become a long thread with many impassioned arguments, but I agree with you--Chamberlain in his prime was unbelievable. To claim he was simply taller or played against less skilled players is ignoring Wilt's accomplishments.

You hit the nail on the head about Jordan as a shooter--his lofty field goal percentage was fattened by layups and dunks. He was a great scorer but hardly a great shooter. Because he hit some dramatic, game-winning shots, that is what a lot of folks remember.

In my opinion, no statistical argument exists that proves Jordan was superior to Wilt as a player, and only someone who watched Wilt play ball could comprehend his dominance; 20 second clips on YouTube hardly tell the story.

I appreciate your stopping by and offering your insights. Take care.

Mike


Wilt_Casanova 6 years ago

Excellent article, Mike.

I have questions for the Wilt detractors.

If you attribute Wilt's dominance to his "size," then how do you explain him leading the league in assists?

Why do you hold Wilt's size against him, but you don't hold Magic Johnson's size against him? Wasn't Magic the tallest PG in NBA history? Didn't he present matchup problems for the smaller guards against whom he played?

Why is it that in one breath you say, "you can't compare eras," but in another breath you say, "Jordan is the greatest player of all time?" Aren't you essentially comparing Jordan to players from present and previous ERAS and still concluding that he is the best out of everyone? I see a contradiction.

Mike, another thing I should pinpoint about Wilt's assists is that the assist category was regulated on a stricter scale during the 1960s when compared to the 1980s. In the 1960s, a pass had to lead to an immediate basket. If the receiver of the pass dribbled the ball once, then the passer would not be accredited with the assist. In the 1980s, the assists ruling was much looser. Along with "scorekeeper's discretion", this guideline was given: if a player receives a pass and makes a direct line to the basket, without altering his course due to a defender, then the passer receives an assists. Despite playing in an era of looser rules governing assists, Jordan only finished with a career apg average of less than one more apg than Wilt. If we put Wilt in the 1980s, he could possibly have more assists than Jordan.

Wilt could fulfill more roles than Jordan. Earlier in his career, he was asked to score at all costs. Even Frank McGuire asked him to score 50 ppg, and Wilt responded with the most dominant scoring performance the NBA has ever seen, or will see. He posted more 50 point games in 1962 than Jordan scored in his entire career. Put Jordan's seven best scoring seasons against Wilt's first seven seasons, and there is no comparison.

I will add more to this post later. I'm at work. lol


Boone 6 years ago

I have a simple question for you. When do the greatest players step up their level of play? I think most people would agree with me that the greatest players step it up in the big games (i.e. the playoffs). Yes, Wilt's regular season statistics are impressive. However, compare the playoff statistics of Jordan and Wilt. Quite frankly, Wilt's playoff statistics pale in comparison with Jordan's (with the exception of rebounds).

Also, your comment about Wilt playing against more of the 50 Greatest is an insanely skewed statistic. Jordan was still playing at the time the 50 greatest were chosen. Therefore, many of the people Jordan was playing against had not been playing long enough to even be considered in the top 50, even though they could very well be ranked in the top 50 at the ends of their careers.

You brought up how dominant Wilt was at rebounding. you are correct, he was very dominant against the competition he had at that time. However, his rebounding average could easily be at least cut in half, for a couple of reasons: (1) the size of the players in today's game would take away the size advantage Wilt had during his time; and (2) the key has been widened since Wilt's time, which would prevent him from camping so close to the rim. These two factors could easily cut his rebounds in half.

Yet another reason that Jordan is greater than Wilt is the fact that Jordan carried his team to 6 NBA Championships, something Wilt failed to do. In the 2 championships that Wilt one, he had 2 hall of famers playing with him on each of those teams (Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham; and Jerry West and Gail Goodrich). Jordan had 1 (Scottie Pippen). He also had Robert Parrish for one year, but that was far after Robert Parrish's prime. Jordan had to carry the team himself.

If your defense for Wilt's stats dropping because he became more of a team player, that's just ridiculous. Why would the greatest player of all time (or so you claim) sit by and allow his teammates try and fail to win 4 NBA Championships? If he was truly the greatest ever, wouldn't he have stepped up his game and carried his team when they needed him? Do you really think the greatest player of all time (so you claim) was content with losing 4 NBA Championships because he was more concerned with being an unselfish player than winning? That is the most selfish thing you could possibly do as a teammate (allowing your team to lose 4 championships because you do not want to step up your game to win it for them). If you really think that is the reason Wilt lost those four championships, and not that he simply did not have the ability to carry his team, there is no point in arguing with you, because you aren't using any logic. If you do agree with me, then it proves my point that Jordan is truly the greatest ever to step foot on a basketball court.

If you would like to try to defend Wilt more, I am glad to shoot down your points time after time. Thank you for your time.


Boone 6 years ago

Also, regarding your comment that in your opinion, no statistical argument exists that proves Jordan was superior to Wilt as a player, please take a look at these career playoff statistics for each player. Please note again that the greatest players step up their level of play during the big games (i.e. playoffs).

Here is your statistical proof, the career playoff statistics, with Wilt's stats first: PPG - 22.5; RPG - 24.5; APG - 4.2; Total points - 3,607; Total rebounds - 3,913; Total assists - 673; Most points in a playoff game - 56; Most points in a NBA Finals Game - 45.

Here are Jordan's: PPG - 33.4; RBP - 6.4; APG - 5.7; Total points - 5,987; Total rebounds - 1,152; Total assists - 1,022; Most points in a playoff game - 63; Most points in a NBA Finals Game - 55.

This doesn't even mention the fact that Jordan won 6 out of 6 NBA Finals that he was in, and Wilt won 2 of 6.

There is your statistical proof.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Casanova, thanks for stopping by. Hope you didn't get in trouble commenting on this from work. You are absolutely correct about assists--the standard for awarding an assist is far less stringent than it was in Wilt's time. Wilt could easily have averaged more assists than Jordan if the standard for awarding an assist was the same.

I also agree with your point about Wilt's size, and your comparison with Magic Johnson is appropriate. No one diminishes Johnson for being a tall point guard--if he posted up Danny Ainge, no one said, "Well, he should score on Ainge--he's taller." Yet detractors always believe Wilt should not be considered great because he was "taller than everyone else." Jordan was taller than a lot of the guards he faced, as well. No one made a big deal of it.

And, your point about comparing eras is profound. To claim Jordan is the greatest of all time (or Wilt, for that matter) is to compare eras. I have always maintained that Michael Jordan won his titles in one of the weakest eras in the history of the NBA, and that he would have found a greater challenge trying to win his titles in another time. Beating teams like Seattle and Utah doesn't really define greatness.

Thanks again for making some excellent points, particularly regarding the difference in awarding assists. I appreciate your comments and insights.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Boone, thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed reading your comments comparing Jordan to Wilt. I will admit you haven't convinced me, but I am sure you didn't expect to. Yes, Jordan won six NBA titles and that cannot be disputed. I have said on numerous occasions, however, that beating Utah, Seattle and an aging Lakers team doesn't define greatness. Jordan didn't win a title against a single team that could be considered truly great. There were no "all-time" teams in the era Jordan played in, and that's the fallacy of the statistical "proof" that Jordan's playoff performances defined his greatness. Phoenix was a good team with Barkley but hardly a great one. Jordan played in a weak era, and yes, he was good enough to beat the teams that were matched up against his. Utah, Portland and Seattle would probably never make the finals in another era. Wilt played against great teams in Boston and New York. When he played a team comparable to those Jordan faced (Golden State in 1967) he destroyed them. He also had to play Milwaukee with a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Jordan faced off against guys like Jeff Hornacek and an aging Byron Scott.

That also relates to the argument about the NBA's top players. The 50 Players was simply a standard and another would work, also. However, if Jordan played against Kobe Bryant before he became a dominant player, what does that prove? Just as important was that teams like the Knicks and Celtics had more top players on their rosters than teams Jordan faced. In a smaller league, Wilt played better teams more often, as well.

Wilt's stats dropped because he played more playoff games in the latter half of his career, when he was asked to score less. He didn't decide to quit scoring, his coaches asked him to in order to concentrate on rebounding and defense. He defended, rebounded the ball and pitched outlet passes to create fast-break scoring opportunities for others. That was the style of ball his team played when he scored less. A guard might decide he's going to shoot five or ten times more in a game because he has the ball and is running the offense. For a center to do that, someone has to throw him the ball. It wasn't a matter of being selfish or unselfish--he was playing the style of ball he was asked to play. Did that style of play provide the best opportunities to win? Who knows? But that was how they played. That was how they played, and no coach is going to get to the NBA Finals and say, "okay, boys, let's do something completely different than what got us here." It doesn't happen that way, regardless of the situation.

By the way, no one asked Wilt to stop rebounding and those numbers were fine throughout his career. When you said we could cut Wilt's rebounding numbers in half when you compare eras, well--I did. Half his career rebound averages is still better than the career average of nearly every great NBA center. Doesn't matter what era Wilt played in, he would have rebounded with anyone. And, regarding Wilt's size advantage as a factor in rebounding--if the players in Jordan's era would limit Wilt's rebounding because they are taller, why didn't they keep Dennis Rodman off the boards?

And, with that I will sign off for now. I would like to reiterate that I do consider Jordan a great player. This article is not intended to diminish his talents.

Thanks again for stopping by.

Mike


Boone 6 years ago

I think it's funny that you choose to state that Jordan was playing against Jeff Hornacek and Byron Scott, but you fail to mention that the Utah Jazz also had 2 of the 50 greatest on their team (John Stockton and Karl Malone). Also, to say that Jordan never faced difficult competition is preposterous. In his second year in the league, he faced the 1985-86 Boston Celtics in the playoffs (a team generally considered to be the best of Larry Bird's career and one of the best in the history of the NBA). He scored 63 points against one of the greatest teams in the history of the NBA.

Also, your statement that Wilt was asked by his coach to score less, if true, proves that Wilt had much better teammates than Jordan did. And if he was the greatest ever, why would his coach say, "Look, I know you're the greatest to ever play the game, but let's go ahead and give these other guys a chance at winning us a championship. I know they couldn't do it the last three times we asked them to, but it would be really nice if they could do this without you." That must have been the dumbest coach ever. Personally, if I had the greatest player in the history of the NBA, I would take advantage of that and let him go out there and destroy the other team, just as Phil Jackson allowed Jordan to do.

Regarding rebounds, if you cut his rebounds in half, his playoff stats are almost identical to Kevin Garnett's. Would you say Kevin Garnett is the greatest to ever play the game? Also, the reason people couldn't keep Dennis Rodman from getting rebounds is because he was a great rebounder. I don't see your point of comparing the two. They both were great rebounders, but a huge reason Wilt was so dominant at rebounding was because of the size advantage he had during his time. Put him in today's NBA and his numbers would be much closer to that of Kevin Garnett, who is a great player, but absolutely not the greatest.

This is a good article, but the only proof that Wilt supporters have in him being the greatest ever are his stats during his first few years in the league. Even some of the greatest players ever recognized Jordan as the greatest. Magic Johnson said, "There's Michael Jordan and then there is the rest of us."

After Jordan scored 63 against the great 1985-86 Celtics team in the playoffs, Larry Bird described Jordan as "God disguised as Michael Jordan.", and this was in Jordan's 2nd year in the league. His is quite obviously the greatest ever, and the other great players recognized this.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Boone, thanks for stopping back by. I would like to make another point or two in our discussion before moving on. You made some comments I found very interesting and quite telling. You mentioned the Utah Jazz with Stockton and Malone, two of the 50 greatest players. That was my entire point about Jordan's NBA being a weaker league. When Wilt played San Fransisco in the playoffs with ONLY two of the top 50 (Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond), his team won handily. Boston had Russell, Havlicek, and Sam Jones for nearly their entire run of championships. Earlier, they had Bob Cousy. New York had Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, and Earl Monroe. A smaller league meant deeper, stronger teams.

Your point about Jordan scoring 63 against the great Celtics team in 1986 is also telling. Wilt grabbed 55 rebounds in a playoff game against Boston and the great Bill Russell. Like Wilt did so often, Jordan played against a team considered better than his and lost, even though he played brilliantly. He lost several times to the dominant Pistons teams in the late 1980's. Why give Jordan credit for playing well in defeat and not Wilt? As far as flattery from Bird and Magic Johnson, Bill Russell frequently complimented Wilt's game when they were both players, obviously recognizing Wilt's greatness. The players that didn't compliment him still warned others never to make Wilt angry. Besides that, while I'm not saying Bird was insincere, Bird certainly wasn't going to say Jordan was a bad player after he got all those points.

As far as coaching goes, well--you're right. Chamberlain played for some very weak coaches including Joe Mullaney, Butch Van Breda Koff and Dolph Schayes. Some might call these coaches ROTTEN and among the worst of all time. Van Bredda Koff even refused to play Chamberlain at the end of game seven in the 1969 playoffs. He was never an NBA coach again after that, which should say something about his coaching abilities. When Wilt had a decent coach (Bill Sharman or Alex Hannum) his team won the title. It might be telling to note that Wilt's teams did so well with such poor coaching. Conversely, Jordan won his titles playing for one of the best coaches of all time. It's hard to believe that didn't make a difference. As you pointed out, Jackson knew how to take advantage of Jordan's skills. Wilt's coaches usually didn't.

My point in mentioning Rodman as a rebounder was that the size of NBA players didn't keep Rodman from leading the NBA in rebounds, so why assume size would stop Wilt? Chamberlain rebounded well against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when Kareem was a young man, so why should we assume Patrick Ewing would keep him off the boards?

There are two points to be made about Wilt's dominance as a rebounder: cut Wilt's rebounds in half and his career per game average is still BETTER than Kevin Garnett's. It's also better than the per game average of Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson, Robert Parrish, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Also, there is no concrete reason to assume Wilt would only get half the rebounds he got in his own era, and since size didn't keep Rodman from outrebounding the centers of Jordan's era, it probably wouldn't have kept Wilt from doing the same thing. It is likely he would have led the NBA in rebounding in any era.

Thanks again for stopping by. While I disagree with the assertion that Jordan was the best player ever, I certainly believe he was right up there. He was incredible and I miss watching him play. Thanks again, Boone.

Mike


Boone 6 years ago

Mike, do you honestly think Wilt's rebounding numbers would not drop drastically in today's game with the size of the players and the new rules? Yes, Wilt may have played against Kareem and out-rebounded him, but Kareem was not a dominant rebounder. Larry Bird averaged nearly as many rebounds as Kareem. The rules back in Wilt's era made it very easy for big players to rack up rebounds. First, the key is wider now than it was during the beginning of Wilt's career, plus the three-point line has been added. Both of these factors would reduce Wilt's rebounds and points drastically. The wider key would not allow Wilt to camp so close to the basket, reducing both points and rebounds. The 3-point line makes for longer rebounds (allowing guards a chance to get the rebounds) reducing the number of rebounds Wilt would get. Also, the 3-point line would significantly reduce Wilt's scoring, as there is now a point to taking longer shots.

Obviously rebounding was much easier for big players back in Wilt's era, as Bill Russell (who stood only 6'9") averaged 22.5 RPG throughout his career.

If you put Jordan with all of the players in Wilt's era, Jordan's athleticism would make them look like fools. Yes, even in Jordan's era, Wilt would out-rebound and out-block Jordan, but those are the only stats he would have over Jordan, and that would only be because of his size. Jordan's basketball skills are WAY better than Wilt's Wilt was a man among boys more because of his size than his skill. Jordan was a man among boys because of his skill. Jordan is the better basketball player.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Boone, I don't believe Wilt would average 23 rebounds a game in the contemporary NBA and have never claimed that. I do think he would lead the league in rebounding in any era he played in. If that meant 20, 15 or 12 rebounds a game, I still think he would outrebound any modern player. Wilt was more than tall, he was a freak athlete like LeBron James is now--ahead of his time. He was also a true basketball player, with skills no one gave him credit for because he was tall. Give him the advantages current players enjoy with training and diet, and no one would be talking about anyone else.

Boone, I have enjoyed the discussion. We knew we would not convince each other we were right, but you debated in a first class manner (without derision or name-calling). I will give you the final word if you wish it, and I thank you again for stopping by. Take care.

Mike


Luke 6 years ago

You really make some great points and take some perspectives that i did not consider before. I think you're also missing the point that Wilt was a flat out amazing athelete. A track and field star... So those that use Wilt's size against him imagine someone being Shawn Bradley's size (or the tallest in the NBA) having Dwight Howard's strength (the strongest) and being an agile, atheletic force that can average 48.5 mpg over a season.

A common rebutle i get when saying that Wilt was the greatest was people say that Wilt had 'weak' defenders and it was just easy for him. However with fewer teams that meant wilt would play russell 14 times in a season some years and try telling me that Russell was a 'weak' defender.

Also the fact that wilt had such a superior offensive effeciency, one year averaging 73% from the field.

Always, always people say that Jordan was great because he "won" Jordan never beat Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Isiah Thomas... Jordan started winning when they were done, Jordan beat Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone...? Wilt was still able to beat amazing teams to win his titles, Jordan's era was one of the weakest in NBA history other than just prior to the Bucks championships with Jabbar and Oscar.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Luke, thanks for your comments. You are absolutely correct--Wilt was a world class athlete who not only excelled at basketball, but also track and field and volleyball. Wilt also continued to dominate the NBA after wrecking a knee in the 1969-70 season. His injury wouldn't be a big deal in today's world of sports medicine, but it was considered potentially career-ending back then. Wilt returned and continued to lead the NBA in rebounding, which he even did his final year in the league.

You are also correct in pointing out that Jordan didn't win his titles until after the Celtics, Lakers and Pistons great teams aged. His career and legacy might have been quite different if he played when Bird and Magic were young. He would still be seen as a great player, but the argument that he is great because he won all those titles might not have been valid.

I appreciate your stopping by and offering your insights. Thanks again.

Mike


Wilt_Casanova 6 years ago

The "size" argument is still, in my opinion, the weakest argument of all time when putting into context Wilt's abilities.

Is anyone familiar with Walter Dukes? He was the first seven footer in NBA history, yet he never led the league in rebounding or scoring; why is that? He enjoyed a size advantage over all his opponents.

Is anyone familier with Harvey "Swede" Halbrook? He was a 7'3 giant, even towering over Wilt Chamberlain, but he never came close to leading the league in any major statistical category. His career high was 7 rpg. How can this be given his size advantage?

Some previous poster acknowledged that it was not only Wilt's size that made him great but also his skill. Ok, Kareem had a size advantage over many of his opponents, as well as skills, but still never dominated as thoroughly as Wilt, and I believe he has only ONE rebounding title on his resume.

You can use the "size," as well as the "size AND skill," rationale to detract from Wilt's accomplishments, but those arguments will not hold up as there are many examples of players who had a size advantage as well as a "size and skill" advantage over their counterparts, but they STILL could not dominate like Wilt.

Why is it that among the top 15 rebounders in NBA history, only four (Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Parish, & O'Neal) were 7 feet tall?

If rebounding is primarily a product of size, then how come Charles Barkley (6'5) led the NBA in rpg in 1987?

Even if we compare the rebounding prowess of Wilt and Rodman, relative to their peers, Wilt would still come out on top because Wilt led the NBA in rebounding 11 times, but Rodman only led the NBA 7 times.

It does not matter how many rebounders there were to be had in Wilt's era because he almost always led the league anyway.

One last factor to consider is that Wilt played an insane amount of minutes, which helped him tally such astronomical statistics. He averaged roughly 46 mpg. Playing those kinds of minutes, many players could be more productive. Dwight Howard is the best rebounder in the game today. In his career season, he averaged 14.2 rpg while only playing 38 mpg. Imagine how many more rebounds he could grab if he played 46+ mpg like Wilt.

If Wilt played in today's era, I don't think he would quite average 23 rpg, but I think 18 rpg would be a reasonable number when we take into account his skills as well as the number of minutes his body would allow him to play. He had AMAZING stamina, and he could pace himself quite well.

What next? Are Wilt detractors now going to hold his stamina against him? lol


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Casanova, thanks for coming back. I agree that size as an argument for discounting Wilt's abilities is one of the worst that can be made. As you suggest, there were plenty of big AND skilled men in every era who did not dominate as Wilt did. And, even if Wilt did dominate just because of his size, so what???? Shall we say LeBron James is no good because he's more athletic than other players? Larry Bird was a 6'10" small forward and Magic Johnson was a 6'9" point guard. Shall we discount their greatness? They usually had a height advantage over their opponents every night. Does that invalidate their accomplishments? Jordan himself was a 6'6" guard, taller than many of the players matched up against him.

Rodman demonstrated that the rebounds were there to be had for someone willing to get them, and he dispelled the notion that size makes you a good rebounder. As you pointed out, Wilt played a lot of minutes but that should contribute to his legacy, not diminish it. You're right, someone will probably decide that is a reason to discount Wilt's abilities.....

Thanks for your insights, your arguments are very valid. I appreciate your stopping by.

Mike


ryan 6 years ago

If I make little sense, sorry its 5am and have yet to go to sleep. However, this statistical who is better is borderline absurd. Someone pointed out the astronomical rate that shots were jacked up in Wilt's era which aided his rebounding totals, I have not seen anyone mention the fact that there was not a rule against offensive goaltending while Wilt was throwing up 55 rebounds either. Taking that in to consideration, you can scratch a HUGE number of points and rebounds from him. Wilt was great, but was he as great as Jordan? no, wilt was compared to shaq several times in this and they should be. Both players never touched their potential in their era despite the gaudy stats. Had wilt care as much about winning as say russell (whom id also rank above wilt) would have have won more titles? Id venture to say yes. This is not a debate on who would be the best had they fully understood the game of basketball, its who was the best player. Wilt never would die to win a game, Jordan, Russell, Bird these guys would refuse to lose, Wilt stated in his book he almost preferred to lose because it was easier the next night as opposed to winning streaks. That is not a man I want playing for me. Ranking Wilt over the likes of those men would be like ranking Marino over Montana because of his stats. The west/baylor/Chamberlain trio never worked, sadly Baylor retired the year they won, but before then had you subtracted Wilt and inserted Russell would they have won more titles? Im leaning toward yes. Wilt was driven simply by stats, his assist years? he would CONSTANTLY pass up wide open layups to pass the ball off for the assist, watch clips, he did it more often than youd think. His streak without fouling out, should that be something to be proud of? Wilt would get his fourth foul and simply stop playing defense, as a coach I would rather see my player foul out playing smothering defense than do it for three quarters then become a Magic Johnson like defensive liability (for those throwing Magic in with the best ever debate, dont.... I could score on magic. For all that Wilt did was quite impressive, but by no means is he top two even of all time. I personally think hakeem olajuwon would have dominated that era to an extent that Wilt would have been an afterthought. It was also stated that Wilt would lead any era in rebounding, I very much see Moses Malone giving him fits in the late 70's early 80's this may be silly but I take the rebounding numbers from that era with a grain of salt, look at the top 100 single season rebounding totals...finding a person not from that era is harder than finding waldo. Wilt may have statistically dominated his era more than Jordan, but Jordan has the rings and like it or not, Wilt historically had better teams, he just couldnt beat russell. He would not dominate the current era either, he couldnt block Hakeem's fadeaway and most centers now can play 10-15 feet away from the basket, which wilt was not strong at doing it, he would either see a huge dip in rebounds or leave opposing centers open in hopes that they would miss in order to pad his stat fixation. Wilt was more or less the perfect storm, the right style of player in the right era, his career would not come close to replicating that had he started his career even 15 years later. Jordan on the other hand would have dominated any area. As much as people hate to admit it he would have a field day with jones, west, cooz, oscar, archibald, etc. the sheer athleticism difference would be enough. its not sheer luck that the average high jump is a foot higher now than it was in wilts era and that he had retired for nearly 10 years before someone broke a 10 second 100 meter, it is simply different eras. I am sure someone will simply start throwing stats at me again and thats fine, but if you honestly dont think shaq, or Hakeem would drop 40 every night if they played against a bunch of slow white guys, then I dont know that God himself could change your mind.


ryan 6 years ago

oh and since in threw in more names than just wilt and jordan... ill just throw in my top 5:

Jordan

Russell (knock his offense, but the man more or less played point guard from the center position, think John Stockton playing center)

Bird

olajuwon (knock this all you want, but the man did things that hasnt been done or will be done at the center position)

Kareem/Wilt hard to pick on this, kareem was a much better passer, but Wilt was better defensively. toss up to me.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ryan, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your comments while respectfully continuing to disagree. The pattern of most arguments comparing Jordan, Russell or other players to Chamberlain is simply to cast Wilt's accomplishments in a negative light. It is just as easy to cast that negative light on Jordan, Russell and the others.

For example, you have remarked that Chamberlain played in an era where more shots were taken and offensive goal-tending was permitted, and suggested Chamberlain would never get those numbers in another era. Chamberlain still led the NBA in rebounding in his final years as a player, where shots were fewer and offensive-goal-tending outlawed. I never said he would average 24 rebounds a game in the modern NBA, only that he would lead the NBA in any era he played in.

Since you claimed Russell was a better player than Wilt, why didn't Russell score more points in the shot-happy NBA he and Wilt shared? Why is Russell "John Stockton playing center" and Wilt "passing up open shots" if they both have high assist totals? Would Russell have been a better player if he looked for his shot more? Should he be looked at negatively for not scoring more points?

When I compared Wilt's assists to Jordan's I was looking at their assists per game for a career, by the way--not just the year Wilt led the league. Wilt had 0.9 assists per game less than Jordan. If Wilt was passing up open shots, was Jordan passing up open teammates? Even in Jordan's ill-fated comeback with the Washington Wizards, he was near the top of the league in field-goal attempts. Why would a player so far past his prime insist on hoisting up more shots than anyone in the league instead of trying to make his teammates better? Could it be that "winning" wasn't the only agenda?

If Wilt and Jordan both averaged 30 points a game for their career but Wilt did it in a shot-happy NBA and Jordan did it in a slow-down period, what does that say about Jordan's team play? It suggests he never even wanted to pass. When Jordan was asked once why he shot the ball when tripled-teamed, his response was, "Yeah, but one of the defenders was Frank Brickowski." Should he still have shot it? He had two open teammates somewhere, right?

For Jordan and Wilt to both average 30 points a game when Jordan played in a slow-down era suggests Jordan had little regard for anything other than shooting.

See how easy it is to take someone's accomplishments and cast them in a negative light, especially when comparing what he did to someone else?

Your list of players demonstrates that much of your arguments are based on who you like as players, not necessarily who was greatest. Olajuwon was a fine player, but can't really be compared to Wilt, Kareem or Shaq--or Russell, for that matter. You can't even throw championships in my face when mentioning Olajuwon--they both earned two. To say the Lakers would have won if Russell teamed up with West and Baylor when Wilt didn't is arbitrary, and it ignores the fact that Wilt won when Baylor was gone. It suggests you liked Baylor and Russell, but not Chamberlain. It doesn't suggest much else.

And, sure, Jordan probably would have done fine against West, Archibald, etc. But consider this--at 6'6", he might have been a small forward in Wilt's NBA and spent his career trying to keep Elgin Baylor or other rebounding forwards off the boards. How good would he be muscling under the basket and moving without the ball to get open instead of dominating the ball? Wilt's skills might transcend eras far more easily than Jordan's when you consider all scenarios.

Wilt would have done fine against any modern center. If he could excel against Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Lanier, Cowens, Thurmond and Willis Reed as an older player, he would have done fine against Olajuwon, Shaq and the rest--despite your admiration for them.

Well, I'm out of time. It is Thanksgiving Day, and there is a holiday to prepare for. Thanks again for stopping by, Ryan.

Mike


Ryan 6 years ago

It has nothing to do with any levels of admiration for shaq, he is by no means on my list for elite centers, but to me he is most like wilt. Wilt was athletic for his time, but I mentioned the comparison to Hakeem simply because there never has been a center with his athletic ability, wilt included. You can argue this all you want to, but Hakeem was a soccer player before basketball, not many people have the footspeed and coordination required for soccer and oh yea happen to be 6'10. I use him as the example because he could DOMINATE games on offense or defense and could do it for four quarters. He always did what was best for his team, whether it be take the shot or pass the ball. Wilt never understood this... im sorry you can say he is the greatest all you want, but if im making a team, im taking hakeem, ill take russell, ill take a healthy walton becaue they all understood what was best to win, all wilt understood was what was best for himself. I dont hate or dislike the man, but all the talk about him being the best ever or better than russell, jordan need to stop. Wilt never willed his team to win, he never accepted responsibility for a loss and never cared enough to beat russell. You're running too much with stats man, if there are 2 minutes left in the game you can not tell me youd take Wilt over Russell, Bird, Jordan, Walton etc. Basketball was always a 5v5 game, not 1v1. Sure Wilt out scored russell, but was he a better player as for his team. You keep bringing up stats, assist, etc, the way they score assist has changed a million times and depending on the era depends on numbers, so the wilt assist numbers could very well just be again incorrect by todays standards much like his rebounding numbers. You mention jordans lack of passing, several of his defining moments were passing the ball, look at careers of players with versus without jordan, all of them experienced more success with jordan. Rodman went from being simply rebounding obsessed to once again committing to complete defense. And again, list all the stats you want but russell and jordan simply won. Wilt one A championship as the main guy, the lakers were west team. Much how a baseball player generally doesnt win mvp on a losing team, I cant say Wilt is the best when Russells Celtics beat his teams head in year after year after year. you can say Boston had more talent etc but look, of the 11 years, boston was better 5 times, 1-2 were a coinflip and wilt had the better team 5 times. It was always close, Russell just wanted it more. That being said, I can not put Wilt in the same boat as your birds, russells, jordans. they would win and want more wilt would win and wonder how many flight attendants the title trophy would bring him in. To be the best you have to win, and Wilt never had it in him.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ryan, I will make a point or two in response to your comments. Wilt didn't play soccer like Olajuwon but was a world class athlete. He lettered in track and basketball in college, and played volleyball at a very high level after retiring from the NBA. I will pit his athleticism against any player of any era. In fact, if you read some of the comments above, Wilt's physical dominance is a reason folks use to dispute his greatness as a basketball player--he was so physically dominant, he was supposed to do all the things he did. It is interesting that you claim it's all about winning but then mention Olajuwon, who won the same number of titles as Wilt and only competed for the title once more, when his team got beat by Boston in 1986. Why wasn't he challenging Jordan year in and year out?

When you mention assists being tallied differently in the modern game, you are correct. They are far more liberal in defining what an assist is now. If the same criteria were applied in Wilt's time, he likely would have had far more assists than he did. All things considered, he was probably a better passer than MJ and also more willing to pass.

Yes, Jordan won more championships than Wilt, but he never beat the Celtics in the playoffs and he didn't beat the Pistons until they got older. Jordan won his titles in a watered-down league. I have argued this point several times in the comments above. Jordan's titles came in a particularly weak era, and the teams he competed against probably wouldn't have made the Finals in another time. That isn't Jordan's fault, of course--all he could do is play whoever was there to challenge him. Jordan never won titles against what would be considered a great team, however.

I appreciate your admiration for Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon--I liked them, also. I am convinced Bird and Bill Walton understood the game perhaps better than any other player from any era. I am not convinced Jordan understood the game more than Wilt Chamberlain did, however. I am also uncertain what it means to say that Jordan is better because Bird understood the game better than Chamberlain.

I also find it very telling that the arguments against Chamberlain as a better player than Jordan include mentioning Bird, Olajuwon, Russell, etc. When it becomes difficult to compare MJ to Wilt, then next step is to say, "What about Russell?" "What about Bird?"

That is fair since I'm calling Wilt the best ever, but there was never a need in response to invoke Kobe Bryant or Oscar Robertson when discussing Jordan's merits, relative to Wilt's. If I were to invoke such arguments, should I suggest that perhaps John Havlicek was better than Jordan? He scored a ton of points himself and won more titles than MJ. Should I compare him to Oscar Robertson and claim that when MJ averages a triple-double for a season, he can call himself the greatest? Kobe Bryant is one title away from matching Jordan, and he could possibly get his sixth this year. Like Jordan, Bryant is a dominant scorer and a determined player. Is Bryant better, also? Since you say it is all about winning, if Bryant gets seven titles, will he then be better than Jordan? LeBron James is a freak athlete and an overpowering player. Maybe James would also fare well against Jordan if they went head-to-head.

If you're starting a team, I'll still take Wilt in his prime.

Well, thanks for your comments. I have enjoyed discussing these great players. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one.

Mike


Ryam 6 years ago

I think the entire idea of this is that you arent going to change your mind nor is many of those posting. While I never say wilt play (Im 29, huge shocker) I actually had my father read this post who watched both players throughout their careers. Oddly he did not agree with me on the Jordan being the best ever, (he did rank him above wilt by a HUGE margin) He considered Russell the best ever for the same reasons I rank him above wilt. He made his teammates better. I am sure you will disagree with this to the end as from what I saw you are a die hard Kansas fan, so big shocker there youre going to pull for wilt being that he was a Jayhawk, but if you are going to insist he was the best ever, explain why there is not a single player from that era that would pick wilt over russell as a teammate. This is not stretching things, this is fact. If you read quotes from his peers wilt was thought of as a loser, a whiner, and selfish player who was unwelcome in many cities as a player. If you can explain why someone would pass up the "greatest player to lace up shoes" to play with a great defender with no offensive skills as you put it, then please enlighten me. As far as your comparing wilt to several players, my reasoning for that is wilt barely if at all breaks the top five. You can have all the skills in the world, but if you dont have the drive and desire, youre just another talented ball player. Your need to use stats as your motivation. Fact was, where was wilt when they needed him to win? He was hiding, he was terrified to have the ball when it mattered and to me that alone removes him from the top spot. And lastly, your assist comment, totally wrong, were assist given more freely in 1970 than say the mid 90's where mark jackson of all people were throwing up assist at a record rate, well no. it was easier but jordan played just as many seasons in the 80's as the 90's where they were far more strict with the rule. With your arguements, Tiny Archibald is the best ever as he lead the league in points AND assist in the same season, so might as well hand him the crown. Fact is Wilt had more than enough supporting cast to win it all and with the exception of one year could not beat russell. You can claim better teammates, but first, if wilt was THAT great, they still would have won, if you both made the finals, the team with the better BEST player generally wins, but MJ had one other top 50 player and with the exception of seattle he always played the team with just as many on the list. You claim detroit was too old, but come on man, they were just removed from a title then got straight swept out of the playoffs, NO ONE declines that fast. Jordan just beat them, this happened several times when it counted, knicks, pacers, pistons lakers, Jordan simply played out of his mind to get the win. Wilt simply hid in the stands because he did not want the loss to fall on his shoulders, jordan embraced it, russell wanted it, bird, thrived off of it. That is why wilt is not in my starting five nor in anyone who understands how to win a basketball game.


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Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Ryan, you're absolutely correct, I'm a Jayhawk fan and if that constitutes a bias on my part, so be it. I do think I have defended my position credibly for almost a year, regardless of where I come from. You will note from the comments above that most of the people who saw both Wilt and MJ play will say that Wilt was better, so I am hardly alone in my opinion, even if you do not share it.

I believe Wilt was better than Jordan. That was the title and point of this article. If Bill Russell was better than both, then once again-- so be it. That is a different discussion, as is whether Russell had better teammates and coaches.

But, I will offer you the final word here in respect for your opinion. I enjoyed the discussion a great deal, and I appreciate your stopping by. Thanks for the discussion.

Mike


freddie freeloader 6 years ago

This fellow Ryan seems to be saying Bill Russell's teammates were not better than Wilt Chamberlain's. He obviously did not watch those teams.

I copied this from an Inside Hoops blog, but it is readily available all over the internet for anyone willing to do a little research.

Unfortunately, Ryan's point of view about the respective merits of Russell's teammates vs. Wilt's, is false.

I have shown only the complete top 20 NBA players for the first season, 59-60... other years focus only on Wilt & Russell's teams.

1959-60 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHW 28.0

2. Elgin Baylor*-MNL 25.2

3. Bob Pettit*-STL 23.7

4. Clyde Lovellette*-STL 23.3

5. Cliff Hagan*-STL 22.0

6. Kenny Sears-NYK 21.8

7. Richie Guerin-NYK 21.4

8. Jack Twyman*-CIN 21.1

9. Dolph Schayes*-SYR 20.5

10. Bill Russell*-BOS 20.1

11. Willie Naulls-NYK 20.0

12. Bob Cousy*-BOS 18.7

13. Bill Sharman*-BOS 18.5

14. Tom Heinsohn*-BOS 18.4

15. George Yardley*-SYR 18.2

16. Bailey Howell*-DET 18.1

17. Paul Arizin*-PHW 17.2

18. Red Kerr-SYR 15.7

19. Larry Costello-SYR 15.6

20. Gene Shue-DET

Wilt 2, Russell 4

1960-61 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

2. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHW 27.8

11. Tom Heinsohn*-BOS 18.4

12. Bill Russell*-BOS 18.1

14. Sam Jones*-BOS 17.7

15. Bob Cousy*-BOS 17.4

17. Paul Arizin*-PHW 17.1

Wilt 2, Russell 4

1961-62 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHW 31.8

8. Tom Heinsohn*-BOS 20.0

9. Bill Russell*-BOS 19.4

12. Bob Cousy*-BOS 18.3

14. Sam Jones*-BOS 17.9

It's Wilt vs. the Celtics.....

1962-63 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-SFW 31.8

9. Sam Jones*-BOS 19.1

12. Tom Heinsohn*-BOS 18.8

14. Bill Russell*-BOS 18.2

18. Bob Cousy*-BOS 16.6

20. John Havlicek*-BOS 15.4

It's Wilt vs. the Celtics....

1963-64 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-SFW 31.6

9. Bill Russell*-BOS 19.3

13. Sam Jones*-BOS 17.7

15. Tom Heinsohn*-BOS 17.0

18. John Havlicek*-BOS 16.9

It's Wilt vs. the Celtics....

1964-65 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-TOT 28.6

6. Sam Jones*-BOS 20.7

8. Bill Russell*-BOS 19.5

16. Nate Thurmond*-SFW 16.5

18. John Havlicek*-BOS 16.3

Wilt 2, Russell 3 (wasn't Nate a rookie?)

1965-66 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHI 28.3

4. Sam Jones*-BOS 21.7

11. Bill Russell*-BOS 17.3

15. John Havlicek*-BOS 16.7

19. Hal Greer*-PHI 15.9

20. Billy Cunningham*-PHI 15.7

Wilt 3, Russell 3 this was the year Wilt was traded to to the 76ers, in the most important trade in NBA history. The $150,000 + players that the Warriors received literally saved the Warrior franchise from bankruptcy. It should be noted that the 76ers moved from Syracuse, and the Nationals were a team Chamberlain loathed for their dirty play.

1966-67 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHI 26.5

7. Bailey Howell*-BOS 19.5

8. Billy Cunningham*-PHI 19.3

9. John Havlicek*-BOS 19.2

10. Bill Russell*-BOS 18.6

11. Sam Jones*-BOS 18.5

14. Chet Walker-PHI 17.9

Wilt 3, Russell 4

Wilt finally had a great coach, so his team won.

1967-68 NBA Expanded Leaders

Player Efficiency Rating

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHI 24.7

13. Billy Cunningham*-PHI 18.6

15. Sam Jones*-BOS 18.3

16. Bailey Howell*-BOS 18.1

17. John Havlicek*-BOS 17.7

Wilt 2, Russell 3

Playoffs? Billy Cunningham broke his arm. {A similar recent injury people who never saw Chamberlain might know about, was last year's knee injury to Kendrick Perkins. Did that have an impact on the 2010 Finals going into G7?} Luke Jackson was limited minutes with a hamstring, and was not a lot of help. Hal Greer had hamstring problems too and was hobbled. 1968 was the heartbreaker in Philly because all season long the Sixers were just dynamite, but injuries stopped that team cold. Nobody expected Philly to win that series with all those players out, but since people never even watched those games, sorry to be blunt, they don't know what they're talking about.

There's no way anyone who has looked at these teams - let alone watched them - can say Wilt's teams were as strong as the Celtics. 1 single year he had a better team in the playoffs, and a coach that could do something with talent.


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Freddie, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your insights and perspective. Ryan admitted to being 29 years old, and could not have watched Chamberlain play in his prime. His opinion about Russell and the Celtics came from asking his father who was best. You demonstrated quite well how much better the Celtics players were than Wilt's teammates had been. Your analysis also supports another point I've made when comparing Chamberlain to Jordan--that the teams Jordan beat were not comparable to the teams Wilt faced. Does anyone believe Utah could send Greg Ostertag out to cover Wilt? How about Kevin Duckworth of the Blazers or Mark West out in Phoenix? I don't even remember who played center for Seattle unless it was Shawn Kemp playing out of position. Wilt played against stronger teams, and in a smaller league he competed against them more often. And, as you have demonstrated, he competed with Boston year after year with less talented teammates.

Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate it a great deal.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

By the way, Freddie, I very much appreciated your comment on Wilt and his double-double-double over on Steven Gomez' similarly themed article. Wilt put up some amazing numbers in the games you referenced, and the things he did will never be equaled. Jordan is often mentioned for his three-point barrage against Portland in the playoffs, as if that one game made him a great shooter; Wilt's performances transcend a single game. Thanks again for your insights.

Mike


Tommy Justin 5 years ago

I'm not sure why this discussion is even necessary. Anyone who knows anything about professional basketball knows that Jordan isn't qualified to carry Wilt's jockstrap. Chamberlain did whatever he wanted to do on a basketball court. One example: after winning yet another scoring and rebounding title, some smart-arse reporter joked to Wilt that he'd never led the league in assists. What did Chamberlain do? He went out the following year and led the league in assists (of course), the only time in history that a player other than a guard has done this. Jordan couldn't even dream of doing this, let alone attempt it, let alone accomplish it. He just wasn't a good enough player. The only thing Jordan coud do better than Wilt was shoot free throws; whoop-de-freakin'-do! The fewest number of minutes that Wilt averaged for an entire season during his career is still more than the most minutes Jordan ever averaged for an entire season during his career. Jordan just didn't have the stamina (aka "balls") to play that many minutes. Wilt's career scoring average would be a lot higher if he hadn't purposefully reduced his scoring output when he joined the Lakers, but then he was joining a team with HOF'ers Baylor, West and Goodrich, so he wasn't needed as much in that department as he was when he was with the Warriors and 76ers (though he did have some huge scoring games with LA, and again, whenever he felt like it).

But forget about hoops for a minute; Wilt's track and field accomplishments were also legendary. Here's a sample: "Wilt took up his first love of track and field at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas while also playing basketball there. The 7'2" goliath ran a sub 11 second 100 yard dash and also threw the shot put 56 feet. Despite competing and excelling in both sprinting and throwing his best events were not surprisingly the jumping events as Chamberlain triple jumped in excess of 50 feet and successfully won the Big 8 Conference high jumping competition three years in a row. In the world of track and field it is an extraordinarily rare athlete that can compete at the highest level in the shortest sprints, all the jumping events, and the throwing events. This dynamic collection of talents is so rare in fact that Wilt might be the only man ever to possess this unique skill set."

Wilt could also "flagpole" his 7'2" frame, i.e. bring his entire body up to a 90 degree angle, and hold it there, while holding on to a pole with his hands. I would pay money to see Jordan attempt that while in his prime; that would be hilarious.

I could go on (and on, and on, and on, and on...), but I think the point has been made. Jordan was a very good guard, possibly the third best guard that ever played the game after "The Big O" and Kobe. But Wilt? No one is at that level but him.


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Tommy, thanks for stopping by. You are correct about Wilt and I share your opinion. He was a world-class athlete that could probably dominate any sport he chose to participate in. I wonder if folks remember that he was involved in negotiations to box Muhammad Ali, or that the Kansas City Chiefs asked him if he would consider playing for them in the '60s? He lettered in track and basketball in college and played volleyball at a very high level after retiring from the NBA.

Wilt was so dominant, his accomplishments are frequently dismissed BECAUSE he was so talented. It is like saying Muhammad Ali was no good as a boxer because he SHOULD have beaten Ken Norton, Joe Frazier and George Foreman. That is a nonsensical statement, but that is how Wilt is often judged as a player.

Thanks for offering your insights, I agree with you 100%. Take care.

Mike


bisonman 5 years ago

Mike. This is directed at your comment about Wilt's coach not putting him back into a game 7. If I am thinking of the same game 7, Wilt pulled himself out of the game due to an injury. His team then began making a run and closing the gap on the other team.


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Bisonman, you're correct. That is the same game. As the story goes, when Chamberlain said he was ready to go back in, Van Breda Koff reportedly told him, "We don't need you." His coach made the decision to stay with Mel Counts rather than put Wilt back into the game. Would they have won the game with Wilt on the court? We can't know that, but without him, they did lose, and Van Breda Koff never coached in the NBA again.

Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

Mike


freddie freeloader 5 years ago

Mike I think that's not entirely correct about that chump van breda kopf. He coached the Pistons for a year or two I think, but he definitely coached the Suns, because I remember Bill Russell as an announcer saying dummKopf almost certainly cost Wilt that '69 championship by pulling him out of the game because the Celtics were out of gas. DummKopf was fired by the Suns.

Russell also ruined his friendship with Chamberlain after that game with his snide remarks about the injury (which was in fact a ruined knee that caused Wilt to miss the next season), and he definitely hurt his relationship with the Celtics too, when he retired abruptly without telling Auerbach. I've always thought he retired because he couldn't face the thought of Chamberlain AND Jabbar the next season. Red drafted the great JoJo White, thinking he didn't have to worry about a center.... they were fortunate though to get Dave Cowens, one of the all time best Cs.

Russell was such a great player, I was glad to see him honored by the President recently. If there is anyone who deserves that award as much, it would be Muhammad Ali who stood defiantly before the government and said we got no quarrel with those Viet Cong.

Great athletes, great men, all those guys were.


Wilt_Casanova 5 years ago

Good day, Mike. Just wanted to pick your brain with some questions, and give my personal views. When comparing Wilt vs. MJ, many people like to emphasize Jordan's "competitive drive" and "will to win." Personally, I will admit that Jordan probably had Wilt beaten in the area of fiery competitiveness. However, do you believe that argument is valid enough to give Jordan the nod over Wilt?

I personally have Wilt as # 1 on my all-time list, but in review of his career, I think he had more of a mentality that he wanted to win, but if he didn't, he was content with giving it his best. I gathered this after reading a couple of his books. For some people, this is enough to say, "see, he didn't have the drive of a Russell or Jordan; therefore, he can't be 'better' than them."

One of the personal knocks I have against Wilt is that I think he was too sensitive to criticism. Whenever the media said he couldn't do something, or questioned his all-around game, he set out to prove them wrong. Was it to the detriment of the team? I am not sure. He led the league in assists in 1968, but some people felt that was more important to him than winning. I am not sure if I agree, but I do know that the year he accomplished this feat, the 76ers finished the regular season with the best record, if I am not mistaken.

Do you believe Wilt was a "selfish" player who placed personal accomplishments ahead of winning? This is the universal knock I hear on Wilt. Your opinions to my questions/comments will be appreciated.


Stewart 5 years ago

Late comment...

Disclaimer: I watched MJ's entire career. I only recall the end of Wilt's, supposedly past his prime.

It may surprise you then that I am awestruck by Wilt. I have been reading the comments, and I can't believe commentators who would question his defensive prowess. Even in his "past prime" years the man was incredible. I would agree that 6-8 blocks were normal for Wilt, and may even be an understatement, it certainly seemed that way watching him on TV. I once remembe a playoff game where Wilt blocked one of Kareem's "sky hooks"(!!!)

To give you an idea of the man's athleticism, and his defensive prowess, I recall a story of an informal pickup game played with Magic Johnson and several other NBA players with Wilt, then in his 40s. Early in the game there was a ticky-tack foul called on Wilt, and Wilt responded with: "OK, that means from here on out, no one's gonna score". Wilt then proceeded to dominate the area around the basket, blocking shot after shot after shot, to demonstrate his point. This was by a man *in his 40s* playing against current professionals *in their 20s*. Imagine him in his prime!

Lastly, about the "he didn't win enough championships" accusation: I'm sorry, but in all team sports measuring athletes by the number of championships they won is a highly questionable standard. Some of the greatest players never get the chance, while some greats "only" win one. Wilt won two, and two championships are generally considered good enough in most other sports. Bill Russell, who is most often portrayed as Wilt's nemesis and the victories by his Celtics are most often cited as why Chamberlain wasn't truly "great", differs with this opinion. Russell unequivocably calls Chamberlain "the best center who ever played" and moreover adds "People say I beat Wilt. But I never beat Wilt. My team beat his team because we had the better team". Russell also says that Chamberlain was "the most intelligent player he ever faced" and that "unlike some people, who you could figure out, Wilt never played you the same way twice".


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Freddie,

I stand corrected on Van Breda Kopff's coaching career ending with the Lakers. He did indeed coach another year or two as you suggested. I will stick to my guns and claim his impact on any team he coached was negligible, and he was hardly a coach capable of getting the best out of any player on his roster.

I always regretted that Russell retired before Abdul-Jabbar came to the league. It would have been special to see them on the court together, even at Russ' age. Wilt left a year before Bill Walton arrived, and I found myself wishing they could square off also.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your insights a great deal.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Cassanova, I apologize for taking so long to see and answer your question, but I would like to offer my opinion.

I do think statistics mattered to Wilt, but to suggest they mattered more than winning is to assume we know what is going through the mind of another man. I agree with your assessment--winning was important, but losing wasn't the end of the world for Wilt. Did that mean he didn't want to win as much as Russell or Jordan? Of course not.

When talking about a player's determination and whether Wilt was "less determined" than Jordan, I think all one needs to is look at Wilt's rebounding totals. It has been reported that Wilt never retrieved less than ten rebounds in a game throughout his entire career. No matter who the opponent was, no matter how young or old Wilt was, Wilt GOT THE BALL. If a player is fatigued, a shooter can settle for jump shots instead of driving and still score his points. A rebounder has to battle for position and get the rebound. It is all effort and, yes--determination. This is as valid a way to define Wilt's determination as any.

I do think Wilt was probably too sensitive to criticism, by the way, but I don't think he changed his game to silence critics.

People have lauded Michael Jordan for his celebrated games with the flu, draping a towel over his head during time-outs to emphasize that he was sick. They forget that Wilt won the 72 title with a broken hand. There were no towels to emphasize the point--Wilt just played, and he played with a determination that few players could match.

Thanks for stopping by and, again, I apologize for the delayed response.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Stewart, thanks for your comments. I remember hearing about the pickup game with Wilt, Magic and the others, and I doubt that anyone there that day would question Wilt's defensive prowess. I have said all along that Wilt as a 25 year old would dominate any era in NBA history. No one would be capable of playing him, and he would dominate on both ends of the floor.

It is a shame that statistics for blocked shots were not kept until after Wilt retired, as that would answer a few more questions about his abilities.

Thanks again for stopping by, I appreciate your comments.

Mike


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juice76 5 years ago from Palatine

Great hub I really enjoyed your opinion on the subject even though I am not a person who believes in the term "Greatest of All-Time". We all forget about the rule changes that have taken place from the time Wilt played unti now. I remember reading an article where Bill Russel said he used to wrestle Wilt under the basket for positioning. If he did that now a days they would call a foul on him. I never was able to see Wilt play other than in old clips on ESPN, youtube, or dvd's but with the rule changes he would have a tough time defending a guy like Shaq, David Robinson, The Dream, or Ewing I am not saying they would dominate him I am just saying they all play the game differently then the way any of the guys he played against played. Let's face it you can't teach a guy to be 7 feet 2 inches tall 350 pounds Shaq was a freak of nature who will give any all time greats fits. Wilt is a great player one of the all-time greats unfortunately for him and Jordan becuase they can not play the great players from all era's in their prime you can not name any one the "Greatest Player" because it is just an opinion to each individual which has no meaning to anyone else.


Wilt_Casanova 5 years ago

Juice76, I do agree that no one player can make an outright claim to being the "greatest player ever," but I believe there is something to be said about a player who is so great that rules had to be changed to mitigate his dominance. Such was the case with Wilt. Jordan, on the other hand, was the beneficiary of rules which enhanced his abilities and inflated his statistics. For instance, from 1995-97, the league moved in the 3-pt line to help generate more scoring. If you take a look at Jordan's 3-pt shooting in 95, 96, & 97, he posted his best 3-pt shooting percentages of his career. Apart from those seasons, Jordan, for the most part, was a lousy perimeter shooter. Actually, if you discard his 3-pt shooting in those years, Jordan shot 29% from the 3-pt line for his career -- terrible.

If anything, since the days of Wilt and Russell, the rules that have changed have made the game easier . The NBA today is not nearly as physical, and superstars receive more preferential treatment from the officials. I actually read that the league allowed Wilt to receive excessive physical punishment as a means of curtailing his dominance; this nearly forced Wilt into early retirement. In today's game, he would be protected which could help him dominate more.

I honestly don't think Wilt would have a problem in today's league against Shaq. While it is true that Wilt would have his hands full against a physical specimen like Shaq, Shaq would also have a problem with Wilt. Whenever you hear Russell talk about his bouts against Wilt, he always mentioned Wilt's "intelligence" as much as his physical abilities. I think Wilt would outsmart Shaq, and his skill level and athleticism will force Shaq to play at a level to which he was never accustomed to playing. Shaq was not really the type to outsmart an opponent; he mainly just threw his weight around and knocked them back. What would Shaq do when he tries to body Wilt in the paint, and he realizes he can't move him? Shaq was big, but Wilt was pure muscle. What will Shaq do when he goes up for a shot, and Wilt knocks the ball into the cheap seats? What will Shaq do when Wilt hits one fadeaway jumper after another, and there is nothing he can do about it? I think Wilt would enjoy the challenge of facing Shaq, and Wilt would prove to the world that even in Shaq's era, Wilt would still be the biggest fish in the pond.


daryl2007 profile image

daryl2007 5 years ago

I agree with you that Wilt was great....but what makes Jordan the best is not just about the scores and his stats... But he made Basketball the best sport in the World. Try to talk to guys who loves to watch and play hockey and tennis about Basketball? And they would tell you Jordan made them aware that there is Basketball. That is something Wilt did not have... Jordan puts the game above the level of most sports audiences...that's is spectacular achievement...that made him a legend.


Wilt_Casanova 5 years ago

I think Jordan was the beneficiary of sports media coverage that the likes of Wilt, Russell, Oscar, Baylor, West, etc. did not have. I think these players, in some ways, were just as talented as MJ, if not more.

The league and media bent over backwards to promote Jordan and his talents. Sometimes, I wonder if Jordan would still be considered "the greatest" if he played in the NBA pre-1980.


John 5 years ago

Regarding assists, although Jordan was a guard, he rarely brought the ball up the court. When he did play point guard consistently when John Paxson got hurt in 1989, he had 10 out of 11 games with triple doubles.

Obviously, you are correct that Wilt did not bring the ball up the court. However, without a 3-point line, the game revolved around big men (why take long shots when they're worth the same as dunks?). This meant Wilt was likely to touch the ball nearly every time down the court, meaning he is more likely to get assists. Look at Bill Russell's assist average. He averaged 4.3 APG during the regular season compared to Wilt's 4.4 APG. In the playoffs, Russell averaged 4.7 APG compared to Wilt's 4.2 APG. Obviously, it was a completely different game back then that almost completely revolved around getting the center the ball. This makes Wilt's assist average much less impressive (although still impressive).

Regarding rebounds, the lack of a 3-point line made players more likely to take shots closer to the basket, which creates shorter rebounds (i.e. easier for big men that camp next to the basket to get rebounds). I'm not saying Wilt's

Another interesting fact is that once the NBA widened the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet, Wilt did not average 30 or more PPG in a season for the rest of his career.

Also, you mention the fact that Jordan did not play against as many of the 50 greatest players. The reason so many of the 50 greatest came from Wilt's era is because it's much more difficult to name someone as one of the 50 greatest that has ever played when their careers are not complete. Even if you don't agree with this, here's another thought for you. How many of the 50 greatest players did Michael play WITH? How many did Wilt play WITH?


Luke 5 years ago

Thanks for this article and the resulting discussions Mike. Has helped me a lot for my speech "Wilt Chamberlain is the best basketball player of all-time: :D


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Juice, thanks for your comments. I do not diminish the greatness of players like Shaquille O'Neal and David Robinson, but I am convinced Wilt would have held his own against any of them. The game is far less physical than it was in Wilt's time, and physical contact was the main weapon in the toolbox of most of Wilt's opponents. In his prime, Wilt's combination of strength, agility and intelligence would be difficult for any modern player to match.


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Cassanova, thanks again for your insights. In regards to your response to Juice awhile back, I agree completely. I think Chamberlain would have done just fine against any of the centers he mentioned, including Shaq. Take care, my friend.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Daryl2007, thanks for your comments. I would have to say Jordan had more charisma than Wilt, or as another reader put it, Jordan had a "better smile".

In Wilt's day, there was perhaps one NBA game a week on national television, and ESPN was still years away. The 100 point game was not even televised. Jordan did indeed bring a large following to the NBA, but if the situation was reversed--if Jordan played in the 60s and Wilt in the 90s, I am convinced Wilt would have made the same impact on the game, if not an even greater one.

so the opportunity to impact the game from a media standpoint was not there.

While we disagree on this point, I am appreciative of your comments and insights. Take care.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Cassanova, thanks again for your insights. I agree that Wilt would have been seen differently if he played in the 90s, and frankly, MJ might have been viewed differently, also. If Oscar Robertson and Jerry West played in Jordan's time and received the benefits of heightened television exposure, they might challenge MJ's claim to the best ever.

I would also suggest that at 6'6", if MJ played in Wilt's day he might have played forward. He would have to deal with physical players on the inside as well. Would he be the greatest if he spent his time boxing out Elgin Baylor or keeping Rick Barry from shooting? Perhaps, but perhaps not.... Everyone assumes Wilt would have his hands full in MJ's era, but Jordan might not find playing in Wilt's time a day at the beach. Thanks again.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

John, thanks for your comments. I appreciate your insights. I would suggest they widened the lane to keep Wilt from dominating, while MJ was the beneficiary of rules changes made primarily to help his game. Wilt still continued to play well with the wider lane, and if he didn't score as many points as he did, I still don't believe that diminishes from his greatness. I am still convinced he would be the best basketball player in any area.

Regarding assists, Jordan never played with a pure point guard who directed the offense, and he often brought the ball up instead of deferring to guys like Steve Kerr, B.J. Armstrong or Craig Hodges. He typically was paired with a shooting guard, not a point guard. I would also assert that he brought the ball up whenever he wanted to.

In Wilt's days, the ball didn't necessarily go into the pivot more--I think that, just like in today's game, the ball went through a teams best players. That would certainly have been Wilt, but I don't believe it can be viewed as a fundamental difference in the way the game was played. I also don't believe the three-point line changed rebounding. There might be more long rebounds now, but the floor is also spread more. Wilt had to battle numerous opponents to get the ball. It wasn't just Wilt camping out in the lane, it was Wilt and everyone trying to keep him off the boards.

Concerning your final comment about the 50 greatest players, I will say you're correct--Jordan didn't play with a lot of them, but the point still stands. The league was at one of its weakest points ever, and you didn't need a lot of the greatest players on your side to dominate because there was no one on the other side, either. Rarely did MJ play against more than two of the 50 greatest in an NBA finals--when Wilt played against ONLY two, he won handily.

Despite the fact we disagree, I appreciate the unique perspective you brought to this discussion. Thank you very much.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Thanks, Luke. I'm sure your speech turned out great. Take care.

Mike


John 5 years ago

What makes you think that Jordan played in the league during one of its weakest points ever? The top 10 teams in NBA history were also named at the same time that the 50 greatest players were named. Of those top 10 teams, Jordan and Wilt were each on two teams. Of the remaining 6 teams, Wilt played against 2 and Jordan played against 3.

Also, Jordan had a scoring record that not even Wilt could touch, and it was against one of the top 10 teams in NBA history. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about... 63 points in a playoff game against the 1985-86 Celtics. And that was a Celtics team with 4 of the 50 greatest players ever, and 5 hall of famers. Not even Wilt - the most dominant scorer ever (in the regular season) - could touch that record. The closest he got in the playoffs was 56 against a team with only 1 of the 50 greatest.


Curtis J. Phillips 5 years ago

As a baskeball journalist of 35 years and a basketball fan of 47 years I have met or seen play all of the greatest players in the modern era of the game. Without a doubt Wilt was the most dominant player in NBA history. Forget the facts and stats. Watch him play. Nohing comes close. End of story


John 5 years ago

Curtis, I respect your opinion on this. Obviously you have a lot of experience and credentials, and I would not necessarily disagree with you that Wilt may have been the most dominant player in NBA history... at times (i.e. regular season). It is obvious that he was extremely dominant during the regular season. The games in which he dominated, he did in more impressive fashion than possibly anyone. That's obvious with games such as his 100 point game, or his 55 rebound game... However, I do not believe this makes him the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. If he would have done those same things in the playoffs, then I would completely agree with you that he was the greatest ever. However, he didn't do that in the playoffs. His numbers dropped off significantly in the playoffs, when his team needed him the most.

Like I said, I respect your opinion, but it's apparent that we have different ideas about what makes someone the greatest player ever. I'll agree that Wilt was the most dominant regular season player ever. But I don't believe that makes him the greatest ever.


freddie freeloader 5 years ago

Interesting that nobody catches the huge flaw in their own argument about Jordan and the "modern" NBA.

If the 90s-00s were so much harder than the 60s, just how did Jordan score so many points? How did Kobe Bryant just pass the 60s greatest guard (Oscar) on the all-time scoring list?

There is no logic in calling Jordan's era harder when not only did Jordan score more than any 60s era player....... HE DIDN'T EVEN LEAD SCORING IN HIS OWN ERA!!!

Karl Malone outscored Jordan by 5,000 points in that so-called harder era.

Another fact: NBA scoring leaders, year in, year out, average 28-35 points per game.

1962

1. Wilt Chamberlain*-PHW 50.4

2. Walt Bellamy*-CHP 31.6

3. Bob Pettit*-STL 31.1

4. Jerry West*-LAL 30.8

5. Oscar Robertson*-CIN 30.8

Bellamy, Pettit, West, Robertson - all scored at the same pace as the league leaders every year since 1955.

Check out 1992 for comparison

1. Michael Jordan*-CHI 30.1

2. Karl Malone*-UTA 28.0

3. Chris Mullin*-GSW 25.6

4. Clyde Drexler*-POR 25.0

5. Patrick Ewing*-NYK 24.0

Same level of scoring as 1962.

2002

1. Allen Iverson-PHI 31.4

2. Shaquille O'Neal-LAL 27.2

3. Paul Pierce-BOS 26.1

4. Tracy McGrady-ORL 25.6

5. Tim Duncan-SAS 25.5

Same level of scoring as 1962.

Pick ANY year, that elite level of scoring is the same 28-35 points per game.... from George Gervin to Bernard King to Kevin Durant.

Chamberlain not only scored more points than anyone in history that 1962 season, the margin of difference between his numbers and everyone else's is astronomical.

Naturally the game has changed over the years - fads come and go in basketball just like they do in everything else.

The fact remains.

The players in Chamberlain's era put up the same numbers as players from every other era, which makes arguments about era inane.


Curtis J. Phillips 5 years ago

Have watched the NBA since 1967 and have met in person nearly all of the greatest players. As a journalist and historian of the game will have to concede that Wilt was indeed the greatest ever and would dominate the game today.


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Mike Lickteig 5 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

It has been awhile since I've stopped by to read the comments on this page and offer my opinion. In my absence, Freddie Freeloader has defended Wilt's status as greatest of all time with logic and eloquence. I appreciate the views of everyone who took the time to comment here, and look forward to a continuation of this most enjoyable discussion.

Mike


Jeremiah 4 years ago

HoW can I say that I agree w you but I don't? 2 diff time periods and Wilt might ultimately be better Jordan was always and will always be the best in my book. Plus I was born and raised in Chicago if that helps. I am younger as well so I dont know to many of the older players. I barely got a chance to see MJ play. Much less Johnson, Larry Bird and Kareem and The Big Dipper the Great Wilt Chamberlain. Curtis agrees w you and he's watched the Nba before I was even thought of so I do agree Wilt is better but Jordan to me will always be the best and my fave for the above reasons. Maybe ill catch some games on espn classics and they'll change my mind. 100 point game tho! That is truly amazing! 55 rebounds! and a 5,000 assists. a career total of 31k points! Man either way they are both up there.


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Jeremiah, thanks for your comments. Everyone is entitled to their opinions on who the greatest might be, and everyone is equally entitled to enjoy the players they like to watch. I consider Chamberlain the best, but I also loved watching Jordan, Bird, Kareem and the others you mention. I am about to watch Kobe Bryant play against the Knicks--not my favorite player, but fun to watch.

Wilt was truly amazing, and I hope you get a chance to go ESPN Classic or even YouTube and watch him play. You will enjoy it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


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PrometheusKid 4 years ago from Heaven

Great hub.

Watch this video, I actually think it exposes MJ as the most overrated player ever to play basketball.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53dn_D6FWBk&feature...


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

I will check it out, PrometheusKid. Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


Wilt_Casanova 4 years ago

I know I've already commented on this forum, but I just don't understand how Jordan, a player of such limited ability, can be universally hailed as the "greatest player in NBA history." He didn't have the most impact in his team's W-L column like Wilt, Russell, Oscar, Bird, or Magic Johnson, and he certainly wasn't the most dominating player, especially compared to Wilt. He was an excellent, complete player, and his clutch ability was legendary.

He was a great player (he's in my top 5), but the "greatest player" he is not.

Mike, have you visited Air Judden's webpage? In addition to the arguments you make against MJ (which were very good), he also makes convincing, powerful arguments as to why Jordan was supremely overrated.


Dantheman9758 4 years ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4WZXiaDzyc

A must-watch Wilt Chamberlain video for anyone on the fence about him - rare footage and commentary


noahawk 4 years ago

I agree completely!! Although I would say Russell is the greatest of all time for winning 11 titles. Chamberlain was dogged for being selfish and winning only 2 titles. But his numbers are so astonishing that no one comes close. 50 Point Games: Chamberlain 118, Jordan 38.

Chamberlain's rookie season of 38 PPG and 27 RBG is so far off the charts that no one is even in the same building. And that was as a rookie!!


Wilt_Casanova 4 years ago

I still have Wilt # 1 on my list. I might respect an argument for Russell being the best, but one would have to come with a much better argument than him having 11 rings. Winning is a TEAM accomplishment. Yes, I am aware of Russell's impact with the Celtics, but he didn't win those titles alone. I would have to see a very detailed argument in Russell's favor before I even begin to consider him as the best.

If rings are what seperates players, then Derek Fisher is better than John Stockton; Luc Longley is better than Patrick Ewing; Robert Horry is better than Karl Malone.


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Casanova, thanks for coming back. I have not seen the web site you refer to, but I will certainly take a look. It sounds quite interesting.

It is clear who I believe is the greatest of all time, and I am also uncertain who I would pick as next. I might actually opt for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, although I am also of a mind that Russell's rebounding and defensive prowess, his leadership and his rings certainly give him some consideration. I agree with your most recent comment completely, however--if the number of rings told the whole story, we would be talking about Russell and Robert Horry--or, perhaps, Russell and John Havlicek. Hondo has a ton of rings also, and scored a ton of points besides. It could reasonably be argued that Boston might never have beaten Wilt after the early 60's of Havlicek wasn't on all those teams. Anyway....

A final note: somewhere lost in the comments above was the statement that Wilt would have had trouble with Manute Bol or Mark Eaton because of their size, so don't be surprised if someone doesn't come along someday and insist that Luc Longley was indeed better than Patrick Ewing.

Thanks again for your comments, and feel free to stop by any time. I always appreciate your insights.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Dantheman, I will check out the link you have suggested. Thanks for stopping by.

Mike


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

noahawk, you're right. Wilt dominated from the beginning, and never really let up until he retired. He was so dominant, no one can really compare. Russell was certainly a great player and I will give him his due, but Wilt was in my mind the greatest--ever.

Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your comments a great deal.

Mike


zach g 4 years ago

Mike, i am a huge mj fan and would argue he is the best in a mimute but reading this hub has actually changed my mind tremendously. I am only 17 and i am fascinated with wilts athletic capabilities. And people say wilt was too big for his era which is why he dominated? 7'1 and 275 is still a little bigger than many centers in the league today. Plus who else could 100 points in one game with the 3 point line existing? Clase closed


zach g 4 years ago

I must correct my mistake at the end of my post. He scored 100 points in a game WITHOU

T the three point line existing


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Zach, thanks for reading. I've said this before, but Wilt's accomplishments are so staggering they become abstract. We forget he had to gather all those rebounds, score all those baskets over countless defenders, make the passes that resulted in the assist, block 6-8 shots per game, etc. What he did can only be marveled at--it is absolutely amazing.

The 50 year anniversary of Wilt's 100 point game is coming up next month, by the way. I think every NBA player in a game that day should wear number 13 on their jersey in honor of Wilt.

Thanks again for reading.

Mike


Dan 4 years ago

Your argument for why him being much taller than most of the league is irrelevant doesn't really fly. You mention tall guys that played later and question why they didn't dominate, but the answer is simple. They weren't towering over the rest of the league like wilt did, they were playing against guys every night that were just as tall and just as athletic. Wilt was seven feet tall when being seven feet tall was a freakish thing. Half the league is guys 6'10" and over now. And most of the guards in the modern game are the height forwards used to be in his days.

He also had to be fed the ball while standing two feet from the rim to score. A lot of rules have changed since wilt's days. Because they realized what in idiotic advantage it gave somebody by just being tall under the old rules. He wasn't extraordinarily athletic or skilled he was just tall, and the rules of the time played to that strength. He would be about as dominant as Darko Milicic in today's NBA.


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Dan, your comments left me speechless. The opinion that Wilt wasn't athletic or skilled is shared by virtually no one. Wilt was a world class athlete and a tremendously skilled basketball player. Comparing him to Darko Milicic would be like comparing Michael Jordan to Harold Miner.

As has been mentioned earlier in the comments, Wilt played against Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nate Thurmond, Walt Bellamy, Willis Reed, Dave Cowens, Bob Lanier and Jerry Lucas, just to name a few. He held his own against anyone.

Your comments are appreciated, but I agree with none of them. Thanks, though.

Mike


Michael Jeffrey 4 years ago

Lol Wilt was a track man and played 45.8mpg for his career but no matter how fit you are you're not going to play 42+ mpg and not over 44mpg in any single season in Today's NBA. When Making an argument for The Greatest player of All time- Michael Jordan.... There's No excuse you can say back. There are so many for Wilt and every other player. Wilt in the 60's could finger roll it over people's heads because EVERY SHOT WAS BADLY CONTESTED UNLESS IT'S WILT, RUSSELL OR THURMOND! So as for Yao Ming dominating and all that nonsense, he has heavier and better defenders to play against. So much more on why Wilt is not Better than many players!! He wasn't a Winner, he beat Russ Once Why didn't he do it again ? He had the same team!!


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Michael, thanks for your comments. To answer your last question first, he didn't beat Boston the next year because several key players on the 76ers were injured in 68, including Luke Jackson and Billy Cunningham. They had the better team but injuries took them down.

Wilt didn't just play against Russell and Thurmond. He was also playing against Willis Reed, Dave Cowens, Walt Bellamy, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Bob Lanier, Jerry Lucas, etc. This was toward the end of his career with the Lakers, and he still won a title and played in the finals multiple times. And, turning the defensive spotlight on Jordan, well--guys like Jeff Hornacek, John Stockton, John Starks or Reggie Miller weren't going to stop him. Except for Stockton and Gary Payton, there were very few outstanding guards in Jordan's era. When Jordan played against great guards earlier in his career, he didn't win.

And, it would probably be easier to play big minutes in today's NBA than in Wilt's era because conditions are better--training and medical treatment is superior, travel is usually by private jet, etc. Wilt was a tremendous athlete, and would be very capable of big minutes.

Thanks for your comments, I do appreciate them even if I stick by my assertion that Wilt was the best to ever play the game.

Mike


Wilt_Casanova 4 years ago

Mike,

Quick question. Of course, you and I both know that Wilt had the durability and stamina to play an exorbitant amount of minutes, but it has been said by some critics that coaches today wouldn't allow Wilt to play as many minutes as he did then. Do you necessarily believe this?

Personally, I think it would be foolish for any coach, with knowledge of Wilt's ability to play at an extremely high level, while playing so many minutes, to NOT entertain the thought of playing him a ton of minutes.


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

I agree completely. I believe the only thing that would limit Wilt's minutes in today's NBA would be the notion that Wilt probably wouldn't play in blowouts, which would be the only logical scenario I can think of. With more attention paid to health, nutrition and training than ever before, there is no reason to believe Wilt would not benefit from these advances and actually be more durable, if such a thing is possible.

Another thought: If you put Wilt into today's NBA as it is now, there is such a shortage of quality big men that it would in fact be foolish to take him out unless he wasn't needed. Who would you send in? If Tyson Chandler can be the defensive player of the year and an Olympian, who is out there that could steal minutes from Wilt? Perhaps that isn't a valid argument because it asserts that current NBA big men are awful more than it speaks to Chamberlain's abilities.

Thanks for stopping by, always a pleasure to hear from you!

Mike


djwc6 4 years ago

I don't know what I admire most,your writing or your patience with young nba fans many of whom where not even born when magic and larry entered the league.Someone can point out the fact that shaq "only" measured 6'11.75" in his bare feet but since players are now measured with their shoes on there is a misconception that todays players are taller.If Swede Halbrook,Red Kerr and Dolph Schayes where listed with todays shoes on they would probably list as 7'5",6'11"and 6'9",thats an imposing front line.If walter bell and Willis Reed where listed as today they would be 7'1" and 7'.0. Walter Dukes 7'1" or 7'2",Ray Felix 7"1''.Of course Wilt himself would measure 7'3" and come into a league that allows offensive players,like shaq,to bump there way closer to the basket,where defenders have to leave the paint after 3 seconds and with a landing zone for dunkers where no one could take a charge.Wilt would come into a league where none of its superstars can average 40 mpg.No Wilt would probably not average fifty,at least not every season.


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

djwc6, thanks for your comments. I confess that it seems amazing to me that some who have commented here are so certain their opinions are indisputable, including many who never saw Wilt (or even Bird or Magic) play a game. I also must admit that in their certainty, several folks have been downright rude in presenting their arguments. Wilt's dominance is easy to defend, however, and I have so far not needed to respond in kind. With the help of folks like you and a few others here who have taken the time to point out the fallacy in some arguments presented in Jordan's defense, it has been an enjoyable debate over time. I agree with you-- folks like Willis Reed, Walter Dukes and others were not measured as players are today, and the league is not as significantly taller as some are led to believe. This argument is also based on the idea that Wilt was good only because he was tall, which is simply not the case. He had his hands full playing against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because Jabbar was ten years younger, but still did fine in contests between the Lakers and the Bucks. If both players were the same age, I would suspect that a young Lew Alcindor would have been the one with all he could handle.

I have sometimes wondered to myself if the second greatest player of all time might have been Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and not Jordan (as the title of this article would suggest I believe). Kareem had some brilliant years in his career, and probably has not been given his due.

I might have to pursue this angle someday....

Anyway, thanks again for your comments. They are greatly appreciated.

Mike


Eric 4 years ago

Dude, do u even know that Wilt was one of the worst FT shooters ever???? He does not belong in the top 5, let alone be compared to Mike. People like u is the reaon I never tried crack.


Wilt_Casanova 4 years ago

Eric,

Nobody's denying that Wilt was a bad free throw shooter; he certainly had a weakness -- but so did M.J.

Do you even know that M.J. was a lousy 3-pt shooter? In his first four seasons, his 3-pt field goal shooting was under 20% in each season. Had the NBA not moved in the 3-pt line in 1994-97, (which btw, was the league's attempt to HELP players score more, and a rule from which Jordan greatly benefitted) Jordan would have shot around 29% from the 3-pt line for his career -- that is terrible. His career average of 33% is nothing to brag about either, as there were many perimeter shooters throughout league history who shot much better than that.

And don't talk to me about Jordan's seven 3-pters against the Blazers, as I could talk about Wilt making 28 of 32 free throws in his 100 point game.


blazedb 4 years ago

Hi,

a guy who averages 22+ rebounds per game and had a 50+ point season.. there's just not much to say after that. oh wait, there is.. he has so many other stats to mention.

I have a different question. Has there been any other athlete to so completely dominate their sport?


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Eric, Wilt_Casanova said it all. Yes, Wilt was a lousy free throw shooter. He was also a better basketball player than Michael Jordan. As W_C notes, MJ's game against the Blazers was an aberration; even Jordan shrugged his shoulders during the game as if he couldn't believe it himself. That one game has been often used to suggest that Jordan was a good three point shooter when, in fact, he was not. So, to repeat myself, it is extremely possible to be a bad free throw shooter and still be a better player than MJ.


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Mike Lickteig 4 years ago from Lawrence KS USA Author

Wilt_Casanova, thanks for stopping by. I have noticed that this argument takes place on several hubs, and I have refrained from joining in them because I would rather contribute to the dialogue on my own page. I'm not sure if I've seen you on the other sites, but I have always appreciated your willingness to offer your insights here. Thanks again, my friend.


Richard 3 years ago

I loved reading the comments and would like to add about the passing debate that Wilt led the league in passing in 67-68 with a league high 702 assists which means he ONCE LED THE LEAGUE IN ASSISTS!!!


Richard 3 years ago

One other thing as we know basketball is a team sport. How interesting when Wilt is finally on a great team not only does he win a championship, but he does so setting the NBA record for most consecutive wins with 33 straight wins. Not even the STACKED Miami Heat team has done this yet though they came CLOSE last season!!


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jeolmoz2 2 years ago from Florida, USA

Is just that time generation gap argument we grew up watching Michael Jordan, Bird, Magic etc...but it's awesome just reading about Wilt Chamberlain averaging 50 points per game and scoring 100 in one...whew!!!


inefekt 2 years ago

The pace of the game, which is well quantified on the basketballreference website, was MUCH higher in Wilt's day than it was in Jordan's. Take both Wilt's and MJ's most productive seasons in terms of scoring - 61/62 for Wilt when he dropped 50 per game and 86/87 for MJ when he dropped 37 per game. Wilt's Warriors team had a pace rating of 131.1 compared to the Bulls rating of 95.8. That's a whopping 36.8% difference. If we use that number to normalize the playing field then Wilt's scoring average drops to 36.8ppg if he were playing in 86/87, or conversely MJ's goes up to 50.8ppg if he were strutting his stuff in 61/62.

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