What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Honestly, this rant has been stuck in my throat for 12 years; ever since ESPN came out with that silly list of Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century. A list that includes horses should be all you need to know about its credibility. But there was just too much “power of present perspective” that allowed people to miss what a mistake it was naming Michael Jordan at the top of that list.
It was completely ridiculous to put Jordan ahead of Babe Ruth. Ruth revolutionized baseball; before Ruth set the career home run mark at 714, it was held by a guy named Roger Connor who had 138…and most of those were of the inside-the-park variety. Then there was the small matter of the fact that not only did Ruth’s fame build Yankee Stadium, it literally built professional sports in this country. It’s no accident that all that pro sports took off in America after everybody saw what attraction a major sports star could be. Nobody ever talks about the “house Jordan built” and he didn’t have nearly the impact on his own sport; Jordan didn’t revolutionize anything, he simply improved on what Elgin Baylor and Julius Erving had already done.
Don’t even get me started on how asinine it was to put Jordan in front of Muhammad Ali. Did we forget about Ali being called the “Greatest of All Time?”
Again, the problem stems from too many voters under the age of thirty who hadn’t seen anybody on the list whose careers were before 1980. Then it dawned on me; the key to exposing this fraud was to note that Jordan isn’t even the greatest basketball player of all-time. The fact that he was the only basketball player in the top ten was the first clue; it made me look for where Wilt Chamberlain was on the list. It made me realize that not only Chamberlain should be in the top ten, but that there was no way Jordan should be in front of him.
Chamberlain was capable of scoring and rebounding at will, despite the double and triple-teams and constant fouling tactics that opposing teams used to try to shut him down. He dominated the game as few players in any sport ever have; when Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson was asked whether Chamberlain was the best ever he said “the books don’t lie.” Just run through the usually accepted criteria.
Many Jordan supporter hang their hats on the fact he won 6 NBA championships. First of all, I reject team accomplishments as a measure of individual greatness, but it is one area where NBA fans believe there has to be a ring for there to be greatness. While Jordan has six and Chamberlain had two, it still leaves MJ just a bit over the halfway mark to Bill Russell’s eleven NBA Championships.
Wilt retired as the all-time in career points with 31,419, which was later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan. Jordan was never the all-time leading scorer. While Jordan and Chamberlain both led the league in scoring for seven consecutive years, Chamberlain was also the only NBA player to score 4,000 points in a season and score over 3,000 on two other occasions. The closest Jordan ever got to that mark was 3,041 in 1986-87, and by then he had the advantage of the three-point shot.
The record books literally drip with Chamberlain’s accomplishments. Some of them are simply mind-boggling, like the 48.5 minutes per game he averaged in 1961-62. Some of his scoring numbers are hard to believe, such as his mark of 14 with 40+ points, 14; 65 consecutive games with 30+ points, or his field goal percentage of .727 in 1972-73.
Seriously, Wilt’s name appears so often in the NBA record books that if you are ever in doubt as to who holds a particular record, just say “Chamberlain” and the odds are with you. What is really exceptional is so many of these records find the second-place guy miles behind Wilt. But of all the records noted here, there are nine which need to be on any list of unbreakable records in sports; nobody is going to touch these anytime soon, and they still stand nearly four decades after Chamberlain’s retirement.
Chamberlain owns 71 NBA records; he has sole possession of 62 of them. Many will fall to others; he’s already been passed by three other career scorers. But look at that list and try to tell me how a guy who set nine unbreakable records isn’t the greatest basketball player of all time.
– Dubsism is a proud member of the Sports Blog Movement
I love these surveys and lists where the top players chosen are all ones who played in the last ten years. Those of us old enough to qualify for AARP mailings get the fact there were monumental achievements some voters have never even heard of, let alone seen. Heck, many pro athletes don’t even know whose records they might be chasing. Never heard of who came before them. History isn’t just for the old to ruminate over…it is for all to learn from and appreciate. And sometimes, it is to acknowledge some history will never be duplicated. Ever.
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Absolutely. It doesn’t take long reading this blog to understand that I take a big exception to the term “All-Time” actually meaning “the last 25 years or so.”
Boy do I love playing devil’s advocate with J-Dub.
First of all, sir, let me state that you make very valid points.
But in the cases of both Ruth and Chamberlain, couldn’t it be argued that their mere size and stature helped them to revolutionize the game.
Does that necessarily make them the greatest players ever simply because they were bigger than everyone else?
Time machine arguments aside, do you think Wilt would be putting up those numbers against guys his size? When he squared off against Bill Russell one-on-one, did he put up those gaudy numbers?
Try this, Devil…
1) Baseball is a sport where size is not an advantage.
Babe Ruth was a great pitcher when the Red Sox sold him to the “evil empire.” And hitting home runs is more about hand-eye coordination than brute force. If “brute force” was the key to the “big fly,” then why didn’t Pete Incaviglia become the greatest home run hitter of all-time? And if the home run was so crucial to success, why didn’t that Rays team that signed Greg Vaughn, Vinny Castilla, and Jose Canseco win three World Series?
2) The idea Wilt was only great because he was big
a) So What? Basketball is a game about being big, but it isn’t exclusively so. If size were the sole criteria, then Manute Bol and Gheorghe Muresan should have been the greatest players in the history of the league.
b) Wilt wasn’t Shaq. Let’s cut through the crap. Being able to hit a free throw matters. Not to mention, Wilt could shoot when needed. Then there the matter of rebounding. Everybody wanted me to buy Dennis Rodman as the greatest rebounder ever; but he’s not the biggest guy ever.
What about having a lot of his opponents on drugs and out of shape? When Wilt played basketball was on the verge of going under and wasn’t even shown on TV unless it was a tape delayed. Nothing against what you said, but I’m going to have to side with Bill Simmons Book of Basketball in that Jordan is better than Wilt… Here’s a nice stat for you, Jordan won 5 MVP’s vs. Wilt’s 4, and we all know that Jordan got cheated out of at least one because they were tired of voting for him. To count someones greatness, I think you have to look at how many times he was the best player in the league in a season. Wilt turned it on and off, Jordan went all out every year he played…
Oh, and for your point I think you did forget to point out that there were a lot of rule changes because of him.
“Jordan went all out every year he played” This obviously doesn’t include the years he lost when he decided to “retire” to “play” baseball.
Besides, I’m less inclined to go with voted honors as a measure of greatness. Peyton Manning won four NFL MVPs, but he isn’t the greatest football player ever. But the voters sure liked him.
I think this page needs to be washed just for the mere mention of Pete Incaviglia.
How much do you figure that guy weighs now?
Somehow, Incaviglia did not make this list.
While most think that 100 points is his greatest feat, 55 rebounds is a more staggering figure to me.
How did he average 48.5 minutes per game?
He played all the time, including overtime.
Don’t get me wrong JW, Wilt Chamberlain is the man and he deserves all these records, but there’s something inside of me that says he would have had some trouble playing in this generation. Wilt certainly would have still posted monster numbers, but not every game like he was doing back in the day.
I never understood this sort of argument. A player who was great isn’t great because he couldn’t play today. Wilt might have had a hard time playing on the moon too. Micheal Jordan and Blake Griffin might have some trouble in the era when traveling was still called. So what?
The measure of greatness is how you compared to the guys you played against. They were the best at the time, and if you were better than them, you were great.
No I definitely hear you… and I am not taking anything away from Chamberlain.. the guy was a basketball innovator. All I am saying is if everyone is shorter than you by like 7 inches, given athletic ability, you would be putting monster numbers too… Yes, we measure his greatness based on the people he played with, but don’t tell me the players that he was going against were anywhere near the talent that the guys have now… It’s that simple.
I don’t even consider MVP awards, nor do I care whether someone is in a “Hall” or not. Just look at their achievements on the scoreboard, between the lines, etc. I love the back-and-forth on this one. I do question the wisdom of using voter opinions as a measuring stick for greatness.
Great, great work JW. Thank you, I a basketball fan needed this. I just now Wilt was great but this really help understand how great he really was!!
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Chamberlain wasn’t even the best of his era. Stats aren’t everything, and Russell’s leadership resulting in 11 championships is the main reason he was better. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Thank you Vince L for that.