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.
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.
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.
Ironically, though known as a notoriously poor free-thrower, Chamberlain holds the record for most free throws made in a single game. Astounding.
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.
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.
Chamberlain once grabbed 55 rebounds in a single game. His opponent that night was the great rebounding center of the Celtics, Bill Russell. Astonishing.
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.
Over his career, Chamberlain scored 50 points or more in a single game 118 times. The great Michael Jordan ranks second with 38. Stunning.
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.
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.