First, the regular season:
Chamberlain - 30.1 ppg, 22.9 rpg, 4.4 apg
Russell - 15.1 ppg, 22.5 rpg, 4.3 apg We see a difference of 15 points per game and less than one rebound and assist per game. Some may legitimately try to argue that Wilt’s 15 extra points per game are greater than Russell’s 9 championships. But what about the playoffs?
Chamberlain - 22.5 ppg, 24.5 rpg, 4.2 apg Russell - 16.2 ppg, 24.9 rpg, 4.7 apg Playoff basketball has a different feel than the regular season. There’s little room for selfishness because players know that there is much more at stake than in the regular season. With Russell, we see the same consistency with the regular season as with the postseason. His numbers are largely the same. He always cared about winning and his style of play never changed. With Chamberlain, we see a different story. We see a player who didn’t have the luxury of getting to fill out his stat sheet when his energy was more focused on the team’s goodwill over his own. In other words, we gain an understanding of who Chamberlain truly was as a basketball player when we see his playoff statistics. The fifteen point difference in their regular season scoring averages may be reasonably useful for arguments in Chamberlain’s favor. What about the six point difference in their playoff scoring averages when we consider how consistently Russell’s teams …show more content…
“Russell made us better players,” said Celtics teammate Bob Cousy. “Wilt, in my opinion, had the opposite effect on his teams.”
Former Chamberlain coach Butch Van Breda Kolff shared the following thought. “The difference between Russell and Wilt was this: Russell would ask, ‘What do I need to do to make my teammates better?’ Then he’d do it. Wilt honestly thought the best way for his team to win was for him to be in the best possible setting. He’d ask, ‘what’s the best situation for me?’” Former teammate Jerry West added “I don’t want to rap Wilt because I believe only Russell was better, and I really respect what Wilt did. But I have to say he wouldn’t adjust to you, you had to adjust to him.” It is certainly worth mentioning that Chamberlain wasn’t just an average teammate. He was well below average. He was so bad in fact, that the Los Angeles Lakers owner had a chance to purchase his rights from the San Francisco Warriors in 1965 and he polled the players, asking if they wanted Chamberlain to be their teammate. They voted 9-2 against. It is hard to imagine any scenario when a 29 year old player with Chamberlain’s skills isn’t useful for a team like the 1965 Lakers, but his peers knew something that must have been lost as the years have passed. Perhaps they saw him as a valuable asset at his best and as a cancer at his worst. Regardless, it would be nearly impossible to find a