The Numbers Don’t Lie: 10 Reasons Wilt Chamberlain Reigns Supreme

There’s been some recent public discussion among top NBA players as to who should be regarded as the greatest player of all-time. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James receive frequent mention as candidates for the title. Unfortunately the old-school NBA players are often left out of the discussion.

In my humble opinion, Wilt Chamberlain was certainly the most dominant NBA player in the league’s history. And I offer ten numbers to illustrate my point.

# 0:
Zip, zero, nada. That’s the number of times Chamberlain fouled out during his 14-year career. He played 1,045 regular season games and never once fouled out. Amazing.

# 2:
Chamberlain played on two NBA championship teams: Philadelphia 76ers (1966–67) and Los Angeles Lakers (1971–72). While many players have more championship rings (for example, former Boston Celtics center Bill Russell has 11), these two teams are arguably the best in basketball history. Classic.

# 28:
Ironically, though known as a notoriously poor free-thrower, Chamberlain holds the record for most free throws made in a single game. Astounding.

# 48.5:
In the 1961–62 NBA season, Chamberlain averaged playing more minutes per game than there are in an actual game that season (games last 48 minutes, but Chamberlain also played in all the overtime sessions). Incredible.

# 50.4:
Also in the 1961–62 NBA season, Chamberlain averaged more than 50 points a game for the entire season. So if he had an off game and scored only 40 points, then the next game he would have had to score 60 points just to keep his average. Mind-boggling.

# 55:
Chamberlain once grabbed 55 rebounds in a single game. His opponent that night was the great rebounding center of the Celtics, Bill Russell. Astonishing.

# 100:
On March 2, 1962, Chamberlain actually hit the century mark in scoring. He totaled 100 points in a single game against the New York Knicks. Impossible.

# 118:
Over his career, Chamberlain scored 50 points or more in a single game 118 times. The great Michael Jordan ranks second with 38. Stunning.

# 4,029:
Chamberlain’s total for most points scored in a single NBA season is 4,029. Jordan’s highest point total for a season is almost 1,000 points less. Unbelievable.

# 23,924:
This is the number of rebounds Chamberlain grabbed in his 14-year NBA regular season career. Phenomenal.

These are just 10 examples of Wilt Chamberlain’s incredible stats. There are too many to mention in a brief blog article.

Crunching the Numbers
Of course, some NBA analysts say that these amazing numbers are overrated. They assert that numbers from Chamberlain’s era are inflated when compared to later eras.

There is some truth to this claim. Chamberlain’s era was characterized by a faster-paced playing style that contributed to increased statistical numbers. Also rules in the 1960s and 1970s allowed for more shots and rebounds on average in a game.

But this critique possesses only limited merit. In all eras NBA games ran 48 minutes. And when Chamberlain is compared with other outstanding players in his era no one even comes close statistically.

Furthermore, Chamberlain faced obstacles that other later players have not encountered. For example, the NBA changed various rules to limit Chamberlain’s dominance (like widening the lane). And Chamberlain didn’t benefit from modern advancements in travel and the social acceptance of racial minorities.

The numbers don’t lie. And when these incredible statistics are marshaled they make a cogent case for Chamberlain being the most dominant NBA player of all-time. There may indeed be a difference between “dominant” and “greatest” of all NBA players, but the stats above demonstrate that Wilt Chamberlain must be part of serious discussion.

Most of the stats I’ve cited are found in this Wikipedia article.

  One thought on “The Numbers Don’t Lie: 10 Reasons Wilt Chamberlain Reigns Supreme

  1. Packard Roundtree
    June 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    I saw Wilt play. He never fouled out in high school or college either.

  2. Boone
    June 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

    How can you say Wilt faced obstacles that later players have not (such as widening the lane)? I don’t believe they have gone back to the old lane width since Wilt quit playing, therefore, the later players have faced that obstacle throughout their entire careers, whereas Wilt only faced it for a portion of his career. Also, the big men of today have the obstacle of having a 3-point line. Basketball in Wilt’s era was absolutely a big man’s game… Why have the little guys shooting from further away from the basket when it’s worth just as much to dunk it?

    Wilt does have some very impressive stats. However, the face that his playoff numbers dropped significantly shows that he was simply exploiting the fact that he was taking on weaker competition. When the competition got tough, his numbers shrunk. Jordan, on the other hand, got better against better opponents. That is what makes Jordan the greatest player ever.

  3. Boone
    June 14, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    I should also add that once they increased the width of the lane, Wilt did not average 30 or more points in the playoffs for the rest of his career… Thought that was interesting.

  4. NjtoTX
    June 4, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Keep in mind, though, that in the latter part of his career, no ref was going to call foul #6 on him.

    • June 4, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      Did you ever watch him play? He didn’t need to foul to guard people. Fouls were called much closer in those days too. There was no circle where you can just bull your way to the basket. If there was Wilt would have averaged 75 ppg.

      • NJtoTX
        June 5, 2015 at 10:40 am

        Yep. with the Sixers as well as the Lakers. He didn’t like to dunk. Much preferred the finger roll. He was going up against a lot of non-athletic white guys early in his career.

  5. September 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    To Boone (or Joe?):

    My point is that Wilt was the only player in NBA history that I’m aware of in which the League actually changed the rules of the game in an attempt to slow him down (widening the lane, no guiding the ball, no tipping the ball in from the free throw line, etc).

    Wilt’s numbers did go down in the playoffs but that happens when good teams double or triple team you on every play.

    By the way, had the NBA kept track of blocked shots during Wilt’s era, he may have averaged a triple double for his entire career (points, rebounds, blocks).

    The numbers don’t lie!

  6. March 21, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    wilt was the only player in the nba who did somthing no one could ever do.he scored 100 points in a single game no nba player could ever do he did it without 3 pointers.and he has played in the last 40 somthing years and no one has still done it it doesnt matter who stepped up which game or what hes done more unbelieveable things in his career than any other player. not only that. he made it seem like he invented basketball he was the reason for goal tending and lane width.wilt was the player no one wanted to go up agianst,he was the scarriest player out thier.he is basically the reason julious erving flew from the free throw if wilt didnt dunk a free throw jordan probably wouldnt have won the dunking contest head to head agianst wilkins.dont get me wrong wilt chamberlain is the greatest player ever.hell no doubt.

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