Wilt Chamberlain “The Big Dipper”
Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most dominant players in basketball history. He was a supreme athlete for his size, 7’1″ and 265 pounds, and still holds the record, among others, for most points in a game with 100, amazing in any era but especially so because there was no shot clock or three point line when he played. If you can measure the greatness of a player by how many nicknames he has than Chamberlain racked it up in that department too. He had many, with his most enduring being “Wilt the Stilt” and the “Big Dipper”.
A character off-the-court as well, Wilt was notorious for seeking both attention and the affections of the opposite sex. Chamberlain is truly one of the most memorable players in league history.
First A Jayhawk
Kansas has a proud basketball tradition, but you can make an easy case that Chamberlain was the best player in the history of the school, not for what he became as a pro for but just form what he did in Lawrence. As a freshman he scored 29.6ppg and led the team to the NCAA Finals, where they lost to North Carolina. He was the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, which is exceptionally rare for a player who’s team did not win the title. Wilt was also an All-American that season.
The team did not have as much success in his sophomore campaign but Chamberlain nudged his scoring over 30ppg and received All-American honours again.
Off to Dominate the NBA
After all of his collegiate success, it was no shock that Chamberlain was the top pick of the NBA draft that season. There was a bit of controversy as the Philadelphia Warriors made the selection as a Territorial Pick, aiming to keep local talent at home and help grow interest in the game. Since he went to Kansas, the Warriors used the fact that Wilt grew up in Philadelphia to lay claim to the superstar.
To nobody’s surprise, Chamberlain was an immediate success in the NBA, leading he league in scoring his first six seasons in the league and in rebounding his first four. He would ultimately capture 7 scoring titles and 11 rebounding titles, finishing his career with astonishing averages of 30ppg and 23rpg. For the 1961-62 season he averaged 50.4ppg, a record that still stands and probably will forever. The second best season scoring average in league history is 44.8ppg, also held by Chamberlain (No other player has averaged even 38ppg in any other season).
Despite his early excellence, Chamberlain enjoyed only limited team success as the Boston Celtics, led by his nemesis Bill Russell, won repeated championships throughout the 1960’s. Wilt’s individual numbers dropped considerably in games played against Russell and the Celtics.
It was not until 1967 that Chamberlain, then with the Philadelphia 76ers, broke through with his fist title. He would win another with the Los Angles Lakes in 1972.
The Hall of Fame
Wilt Chamberlain did not have an extraordinarily long career but he shone brightly. He made an impact right away, winning the Rookie of the Year in 1960, and his career included 13 All-Star games, 10 All-NBA teams and four Most Valuable Player awards. He was one of the defining players of his era and like all great players was juxtaposed to another, in his case the great Bill Russell.
While Russell was portrayed as the ultimate team player and winner, Chamberlain was the more flamboyant, ego-driven athlete, comparable to today’s stars who are as much icons off the court as on it. Nevertheless, you cannot have a conversation about the All-time greats that doesn’t include Chamberlain, who revolutionized what players of his size could achieve. For all of that and more he was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1979.