Every decade has its superstars, but not every superstar is worth mentioning these days. Every decade has its stories, but some stories are not worth recapitulating. Every decade has its games, but other matches have passed them in greatness and craziness.
Thus, we decided to create a timeline for you. From the 60s to lost legends of our era up to prospects for future legends, we studied, chose, profiled and compared players. Different decades, different legends. Bare in mind, it is impossible to satisfy all your affections, but we tried our best – but some players are just impossible not to mention in our trip down memory lane.
Here are the 1960s, a time of revolution, rebellion and change:
THE BATTLE OF GOLIATH VS. DAVID, THE BATTLE OF RECORDS VS. GLORY
It’s a debate that has raged since the 1960s. Which center was better? The offensive Goliath who rewrote the NBA record book over and over again or the defensive David who won more championships than anyone else in the entire league up until now?
Wilt “The Big Dipper” Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Two players that were basketball’s first superstars. Two players that are possibly the greatest centers of all time. Two players that changed the game and made it the way it is today. Two players that unquestionably shared the greatest individual rivalry in NBA history. It was the man-to-man confrontation of the sixties, let alone of all time.
When Bill Russell entered the league in 1957, he was the sole star on the court. Who would have thought that an even bigger men would follow the Big Man. 7’1” tall, Wilt the Stilt was already bigger and better than most of the league’s center when he was drafted to the Philadelphia – San Francisco Warriors three years later. Focusing on stats and scoring, Wilt Chamberlain became a historic player in the blink of an eye during his rookie season. Focusing on wins and blocking shots, Bill Russell dominated the defensive side of the court like no other.
Both players went at each other incredible 142 times during their ten years rivalry, averaging 14 meetings a year. Quite a number of games to stir up some rivalry. Russell’s Celtics won 85 times while Wilt, playing with the Warriors, 76ers and the Lakers during this period, beat their opponent 57 times. The wins might mislead you as to say Russell killed Chamberlain more often on court. The individual stats, love of the Big Dipper’s life, show something different though. While the 7’1” Big Men scored 62 points in one game against Russell and six times more than 50 points, Russell’s highest score was 37 against “Goliath”. He managed to score more than 30 only two other times throughout their encounters. Chamberlain’s rebound game was strong as hell, too. He set an NBA record (of course!) grabbing 55 rebounds against Russell in 1960, another six times grabbing more than 40 – savage! Wilt Chamberlain and “shut down by Russell”? No way! Some say, Wilt helped Bill to his greatness and vice versa. I have to admit, both would have been great without their rival’s presence, but having to stand one’s ground, they were the best they could have been in the attempt to outshine the other.
Their goals were quite different though: While Goliath was striving for the perfect stats, David put all his effort in winning – and winning often. Both stole the show with their ambitions: During his time in the NBA, Chamberlain led the league seven times in field goal percentage, eight times in rebounds per game, seven times in points per game and scrounged every award one could possibly have had. Not bad! But if we have a look at Bill Russell, not bad either. The 1960s belonged to the Boston Celtics. They won all but one NBA Championship during this decade. Russell was a major reason for the Celtics’ superb collection of championships. He was the heart of the Celtics, winning eleven Championship rings with this club – more than his ten fingers could carry, making him the player with the most championships EVER. Considering the time between the 60s and the 70s, Russell won nine out of ten championships, while Wilt the Stilt could only reap one (of his total two).
Taking this into consideration, the title of the greatest winner in the history of the National Basketball Association goes to Russell. Throughout the decades, questions arose whether Wilt just did not know how to win or his team just could not compete with the squad of the Celtics? Most critics have argued that these are team achievements and are therefore unsuitable in the attempt of contrasting both centers. True that! But here’s one fun fact for you: On Bill Russell’s teams, his combined teammates made it to 27 All Star games throughout the 13 years, while Wilt’s teammates made it to 25 All Star games combined. The argument, “Wilt lacked the supporting cast that Russell enjoyed”, can therefore be considered as incorrect!
The success of the Celtics and their Russell is untouchable as well as unique. But is it truly a comparison of David vs. Goliath then? If we compare numbers of wins and championships, Bill Russell could actually be the Goliath in this story as well. If we compare individual stats, Wilt Chamberlain is undeniable the one and only Goliath of all time! His stats are beyond crazy, he was the better offense force, rebounder, defender and allrounder. From points to rebounds up to assists, this guy smashed every category possible – and there were not as many stats as nowadays since blocks and steals had not been counted in the old days, so statistical proof of his dominance is mostly lacking. Just imagine how insane Chamberlain’s total individual stats would have been… He was the first – and only – person to score 100 (!) points in a game, bizarre! Kobe Bryant tried his best some years later, but reached only 81… Furthermore, he scored more than 60 points THIRTYTWO times – that is more times than every other player who has scored 60+ points in NBA history combined. Crazy!!! You can now see how outstanding Chamberlain was, can’t you? But that still does not mean the Stilt was better than the famous Celtics center, in a way he was Russell with a dominant offensive game.
The quest for the best statistics drove “The Big Dipper” nuts. He even sacrificed his teams’ success in order to lead the league in points, rebounds and assists. He was a nightmare for teammates and coaches alike. He was traded twice in his career, after demanding to be allowed to leave. He would occasionally pass the ball to his team, never sacrificing his stats for the benefit of the others. He never fouled out of a game, solely for the purpose of keeping his record pretty little. (One could nonetheless argue that it takes a LOT of discipline to control himself enough to never receive enough fouls to be tossed from a game, though!) Unfortunately, Chamberlain does not sounds like a true leader at all! This point has to go to Russell instead. He was a team player, team leader and the head of his squad, setting them up with perfect passes. The Celtics’ No. 6 was in the Top Ten in NBA for assists per game four times during the decade.
It’s the never ending battle of records vs. glory. Both players were in a pretty good shape, but dominance was the key. There have been other Big Men as well, even taller guys, but Wilt Chamberlain was an incredible specimen of height, strength, agility and athleticism. Russell’s unmatched defensive intensity on the other hand and his sheer will to win were dominating the league at the time. Reading and writing about both superstars feels like greatness relived. Their legacies made the history books, it was a showdown of David and Goliath. On the first glance, Chamberlain was without doubt Goliath… Difficult to say after this short recapitulation, but whoever David was, both showed their very own supremacy.
The basketball adage “Offense wins games, defense wins championships” has become one of the most commonly used phrases in sports. This dates back to Bill Russell and his Celtics teams. Let’s see how many championships & awards both defense players truly won?
Who scored more points in his career? Who won more championships? Who led the season more times? Who won more MVP awards? The following data will give you a short recap of the two Big Men’s greatest achievements:
Wilt Chamberlain: 1960 to 1973
NBA Seasons: 14
Total Games: 1045
All-Star Games: 13
NBA Championships: 2
Season MVP: 4
Finals MVP: 1
All-NBA First Team: 10
All-Defensive 1st Team: 2
All-Defensive Teams: 2
Scoring Leader: 7
Rebounds Leader: 11
Assists Leader: 1
Rookie of the Year Award: 1
NBA Regular Season Stats: 30.1 PPG, 22.9 RPG, 4.4 APG
Bill Russell: 1957 to 1969
NBA Seasons: 13
Total Games: 963
All-Star Games: 12
NBA Championships: 11
Season MVP: 5
All-NBA First Team: 3
All-NBA Teams: 11
All-Defensive 1st Team: 1
All-Defensive Teams: 1
Rebounds Leader: 4
NBA Regular Season Stats: 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
In cooperation with FIVE MAG!