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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.

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. 



Read other Hubs about the NBA, its history, and its stars

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inefekt on May 31, 2014:

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.

Julio E Olmo Sr from Florida, USA on May 23, 2014:

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!!!

Richard on October 21, 2013:

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!!

Richard on October 21, 2013:

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!!!

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 05, 2012:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 05, 2012:

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.

blazedb on October 04, 2012:


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?

Wilt_Casanova on September 17, 2012:


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.

Eric on September 17, 2012:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on August 24, 2012:

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.


djwc6 on August 22, 2012:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 26, 2012:

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!


Wilt_Casanova on July 26, 2012:


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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 26, 2012:

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.


Michael Jeffrey on July 23, 2012:

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!!

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on April 14, 2012:

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.


Dan on February 25, 2012:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 16, 2012:

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.


zach g on February 16, 2012:

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

zach g on February 16, 2012:

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

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 15, 2012:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 15, 2012:

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


Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 15, 2012:

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.


Wilt_Casanova on February 15, 2012:

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.

noahawk on February 14, 2012:

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!!

Dantheman9758 on February 12, 2012:

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

Wilt_Casanova on February 11, 2012:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 11, 2012:

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


PrometheusKid from Heaven on February 11, 2012:

Great hub.

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

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 10, 2012:

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.


Jeremiah on January 15, 2012:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 07, 2011:

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.


Curtis J. Phillips on December 05, 2011:

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.

freddie freeloader on September 05, 2011:

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.


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.


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.

John on August 01, 2011:

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.

Curtis J. Phillips on July 31, 2011:

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 on July 28, 2011:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 19, 2011:

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


Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 19, 2011:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 19, 2011:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 19, 2011:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 19, 2011:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 19, 2011:

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.

Luke on July 09, 2011:

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

John on June 15, 2011:

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?

Wilt_Casanova on June 15, 2011:

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.

daryl2007 on June 14, 2011:

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 on June 05, 2011:

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.

juice76 from Palatine on June 04, 2011:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 02, 2011:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 02, 2011:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 02, 2011:


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.


Stewart on June 02, 2011:

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".

Wilt_Casanova on March 31, 2011:

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.

freddie freeloader on March 29, 2011:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 12, 2011:

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.


bisonman on February 11, 2011:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 10, 2011:

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.


Tommy Justin on January 09, 2011:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 09, 2010:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 09, 2010:

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.


freddie freeloader on December 08, 2010:

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 (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 25, 2010:

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.


Ryam on November 25, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 25, 2010:

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.


Ryan on November 25, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 25, 2010:

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.


ryan on November 25, 2010:

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


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


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.

ryan on November 25, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 08, 2010:

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.


Wilt_Casanova on November 08, 2010:

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

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 05, 2010:

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.


Luke on November 05, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 05, 2010:

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.


Boone on November 04, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 04, 2010:

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.


Boone on November 04, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 03, 2010:

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 Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 03, 2010:

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.


Boone on November 03, 2010:

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.

Boone on November 03, 2010:

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.

Wilt_Casanova on November 03, 2010:

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

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 16, 2010:

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.


LT Jaeger on October 16, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 07, 2010:

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.


Bill on October 07, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on August 24, 2010:

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.


Godwin Obi Nwando from San Diego on August 23, 2010:

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.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on August 23, 2010:

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.


Godwin Obi Nwando from San Diego on August 23, 2010:

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

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on August 08, 2010:

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.


freddie freeloader on August 07, 2010:

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!

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 29, 2010:

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.


nbadave on June 28, 2010:

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

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 22, 2010:

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.


Micky Dee on June 22, 2010:

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!

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 19, 2010:

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


snames on June 19, 2010:

Michael Jordan > Wilt

The article is retarded.

Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 17, 2010:

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.


dandrews1 from Los Angeles on June 17, 2010:

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 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 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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