ESPN Classic: Top 5 reasons you can't blame Wilt
The Top 5 can't blame Wilt for losing to Bill Russell. I saw this a while back on ESPN Classic, and just found it on youtube. It's a pretty interesting piece. Personally, I feel Wilt is the greatest center ever, and the second greatest player ever behind Jordan. He's probably the most dominant any player has ever been on the court. He would have won more championships had he not had to go against the 2nd greatest basketball dynasty ever in the 60's Celtics. I rank the 90's Bulls as the greatest dynasty. Anyways, here's the video. Dismiss the Asian subtitles, enjoy.
I lost all faith in Wilt after reading Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball on the matter. Wilt was an athletic freak and a dominant individual player, but as Simmons points out, there's a reason he was traded twice in his prime; he didn't play basketball the right way.
The numbers stand out at face value (averaging 50ppg for a season among other things), but if you dig a little deeper you'll see that they are largely empty and he had many mental deficiencies in the clutch which account for his relative lack of championships.
He's probably one of the most talented players of all time, but it's hard to call him the second greatest given how much of his potential he wasted.
were his averages for one season! 44 and 24 the year after that. 30 and 22 for his career. He never averaged less than 18 rebounds per game. He had a 20-20-20 game. If the Boston Celtics didn't have an unnatural assortment of talent during his prime, he'd be the greatest of all time. But, since Jordan has six rings and Wilt only has one...
He led the NBA in assists for one season (24.3p-23.8r-8.6a) and averaged 4.4 assists/g for his career. But you should all believe what Bill Simmons says, because he has multiple...oh wait, he's a Boston writer, isn't he? Nah...he wasn't really that good.
Have you actually read the passage I'm referring to or just throwing out stats that I'm very much aware of and Simmons has already dealt with?
He goes into a LOT of detail about Wilt and Russell, he presents the argument with a number of statistics and supplements them with stories from Wilt's peers.
The numbers are a lot less impressive when you give them a context.
It's well documented that it was Wilt's primary goal that season to lead the league in assists that year. You know how once Rondo got the streak last season he started passing up good looks and trying to force the issue to get assists? That is what Wilt did for two consecutive years.The first year he tried it his scoring dropped 9 ppg and took 800 less shots than the previous season. The second year his numbers were largely the same except he didn't have Oscar Robertson averaging 9.7 apg to lead the league that year.
It's hard to trust Simmon's opinion on Wilt since he is very biased toward the Celtics and Bill Russell. Russell's Celtics ruled the league winning 9 championships in 10 years. The only team to stop them in that time was Wilt. He also was very selfless in the twilight of the career when he was on the Lakers, and he still won finals MVP over his teammates West and Goodrich.
I saw a bunch of people put Hakeem in their top 3 of all time list in that recent thread, and no one faulted hakeem for never beating Jordan. Wilt at least beat Russell one time. Plus I love the point that the NBA changed rules to stop Wilts dominance. Imagine if they employed rules to stop Lebron's driving to the basket ability, people would cry out that it's unfair and you're blaming him for being talented.
Look, it's not Simmons' opinion, he backs it up, just read the damn book.
People go on about how Wilt averaged 50ppg, but he attempted 39.5 shots to get those points.
It's also no coincidence that the year Wilt won his first championship he attempted 14 attempts per game but shot 68% instead of 50% (like he did in the 50ppg season).
Also, when you talk about Hakeem and Jordan, you're ignoring the fact that Hakeem never played Jordan in a playoff series, but Wilt lost 7-8 to Russell in head-to-head match-ups.
Having Hakeem top-3 is ridiculous by the way.
Simmons does a better job of explaining it, but just read that section of the book before disregarding it because he's a Boston fan.
I own the book. He is very biased against lakers players(Wilt, Kareem, Kobe). He always uses negative quotes, and never brings up positive things their teammates have said about them. Hundreds of quotes have been uttered about wilt vs russell, so to be objective you should bring quotes favoring both. Simmons doesn't tho and only uses quotes favoring Russell. Fred Schaus and Bill Russell both talk fondly of Wilt saying he was a great teammate(Russell) and was never missing or late to practice(Schaus). Heck even Oscar Robertson said he would choose Wilt over Russell.
Wilt one his first championship not because he shot less, but because he finally had teammates to pass to. When he averaged 50ppg his only other great player was Arizin. Eddie Gottlieb(his owner) told him to shoot as much as possible, and to not foul out because they needed him to play 48 minutes a game. Award winning sportswriter Leonard Koppett(a man who saw the 100+ Wilt vs Russell battles) said, "Those who criticized Wilt -- first for his scoring, then for not scoring more -- really should have criticized his employer."
Wilt lost 7/8 times to Russell in the playoffs, but EVERYONE did. Wilt is literally the only one to beat a healthy Celtics team in the playoffs, the other time was Bob Petit when Russell was hobbled. Wilt lost 4 of his 5 games 7's by 9 points. If things went the other way, his teammate made the buzzer beater layup, his teammate throwing the ball to havlicek, sam jones did not make the last second 3, etc. he could have up to 7 rings.
Wilt never fouled out of a game and it was his most prized accomplishment. It had nothing to do with his coach telling him not to. Just like his assist record, he completely changed the way he played so he could avoid fouling out at all costs.
For the record I rank Wilt higher than Russell All Time.
i read the book Simmons wrote, the problem with Wilt was the Playoffs he didn't play the same way he played the regular season tha'ts strange for me, he did faced a Celtics team that was stacked i'm not giving excuses for Wilt lack of rings... but Wilt lack of something that stopped him for being better in the PO
Wilt Lost 21 games in PO against Russell he still managed to win 15, i don't agree on saying Will played the wrong way maybe he had the wrong mentality playing the game but the guy had a finger roll, a fadeaway jumpshot where he used most of the time using the glass the so called bank shot he had a hook shot and he was a terrific athlete, strong, athletic, quick and Strong
The Celtics Roster was insane
Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Bill Sharman, K.C.Jones, Bob Cousy, Frank Ramsey, Tom Heinshon, John Heinshon, John Havlicek, Tom Sanders and Don Nelson... some of them are HOF and some where players that averaged double digit in PPG in the PO, for me it's hard to imagine the top all time in C position because i have a lot of players i love that i can actually make a list
Karee, Russell, Wilt, Hakeem, Mikan and Shaq
it's hard to argue if i see in the game stanpoint
i would say
Kareem, rings best scorer all time and unstoppable move
Hakeem, the best player i ever saw abusing guys in the post terrific player and he could do other things so well
Wilt, the most dominant player, the rules where changed because of him
Russell, the man that used the block shot the right way the ultimate leader, winner and fundamentally sound player
Mikan, one of the pioneers of professional basketball, his talent to shoot with his ambidextrous hook shot, result of his own Mikan Drill, the rules changed because of him too, the widening the foul lane known as the "Mikan Rule" and the introducing of the shot clock
Shaq, for me he was the punisher the way he pushed away his opponents with his physical strenght
and i still had other C's i loved Pat Ewing, David Robinson, Moses Malone, Robert Parish, Nate Thurmond
if i had to choose 3 all time centers i can't i must have 5 or 6 i can choose on my all time last that's all
One of the best posts that i ever read on this site.
Wilt averaged an INSANE amount of minutes though, I mean in the 67-68 playoffs he averaged 48.5 mpg. So his stats look so much worse as a per 36, like his playoff stats per 36 are actually:
17.2 ppg and 18.6 rpg, 3.2 apg on 52 fg% and 46.5 ft%
That's pretty crazy but not THAT crazy, especially considering the time he played in.
Hakeem Olajuwon's per 36 for the playoffs are 23.5, 10.2 on 53 fg% and 72 ft%.
Considering the competition level it's arguable that Olajuwon's stats are more impressive than Wilt's. And NOBODY EVER suggests Olajuwon is a top 2 player ever.
Sure being able to play 48.5 minutes takes a lot, but still.
If you're talking about best players in the sense of taking Olajuwon and matching him against Wilt in their primes, then Hakeem would absolutely destroy him, because he was a LOT more skilled in the post and wouldn't have been as physically overwhelmed.
The reason The Dream is never considered a top-2 player is because he didn't dominate his own era, and when you rank players across eras it's about greatness and dominating in your own time, not a comparison of direct match-ups (at least with players from that early era).
In many ways Hakeem is the best 2-way C of all time, but you wouldn't call him the greatest. There's a distinction between the greatest and the best which people fail to make.
I do think that Hakeem is the best C of the modern era bar none (yes including Shaq) for his superior skill-set, amazing defensive ability (an area Shaq lacked) and back-to-back championships with basically no one on his side.
I think Hakeem and Isiah Thomas are two guys who don't get enough credit for winning back-to-back titles as the sole stars on their teams.
Hakeem is one of the best players ever, but he isn't one of the greatest, partly because he didn't try against most Cs in the NBA. I was watching the documentary about him and he used to say there were only 4 or 5 Cs he'd have to try to beat, the rest of the time he would just cruise offensively.
I agree with the criticism of Wilt is over played. What's funny to me though is how nobody ranks Russell the top center or player of all time. We all know how legendary Wilt is yet Russell held him to under 45% shooting in the playoffs. Go on basketball reference and look up his defensive win shares. He is the Michael Jordan of defense and has 11 rings to back it up. Wilt's criticism is as overrated as LeBron's was pre championships.
The only reason Omphalos is using Bill Simmons as a trustworthy source here is because they are both Boston Celtic fans.