2 minute read

Wilt Chamberlain - A Team Player

Famous Sports StarsBasketballWilt Chamberlain Biography - A Giant At An Early Age, Recruited By Kansas, From The Jayhawks To The Globetrotters To The Warriors - SELECTED WRITINGS BY CHAMBERLAIN:

A Team Player

The 1966-67 season would prove to be not only the halfway point of Chamberlain's career, but also the high point. As Oscar Robertson once said, when a Philadelphia Daily News reporter asked him if Chamberlain was the best player of all time, "The numbers don't lie"—and this was equally true when assessing the relative decline that marked Chamberlain's latter years. Granted, his 20.7 point-per-game average for the period 1967-74 was one for which most NBA players would kill, but it was only a little more than half as good as his 1959-67 record of 39.4 points per game, a showing that only Michael Jordan has managed to equal.

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP PTS PPG FG% FT% REB RPG APG
LAL: Los Angeles Lakers; PHI: Philadelphia 76ers; PHW: Philadelphia Warriors; SF: San Francisco Warriors.
Traded to 76ers after 1965 all-star game.
1959-60 PHW 72 2707 37.6 .461 .582 1941 27.0 2.3
1960-61 PHW 79 3033 38.4 .509 .504 2149 27.2 1.9
1961-62 PHW 80 4029 50.4 .506 .613 2052 25.7 2.4
1962-63 SF 80 3586 44.8 .528 .593 1946 24.3 3.4
1963-64 SF 80 2948 36.9 .524 .532 1787 22.3 5.0
1964-65 SF/PHI 73 2534 34.7 .510 .464 1673 22.9 3.4
1965-66 PHI 79 2649 33.5 .540 .513 1943 24.6 5.2
1966-67 PHI 81 1956 24.1 .683 .441 1957 24.2 7.8
1967-68 PHI 82 1992 24.3 .595 .380 1952 23.8 8.6
1968-69 LAL 81 1664 20.5 .583 .446 1712 21.1 4.5
1969-70 LAL 12 328 27.3 .568 .446 221 18.4 4.1
1970-71 LAL 82 1696 20.7 .545 .538 1493 18.2 4.3
1971-72 LAL 82 1213 14.8 .649 .422 1572 19.2 4.0
1972-73 LAL 82 1084 13.2 .727 .510 1526 18.6 4.5
TOTAL 1045 31419 30.1 .540 .511 23924 22.9 4.4

A variety of reasons have been offered for Chamberlain's relative decline. Age and the effects of lifestyle (including all those amorous encounters of which he boasted) were obvious possibilities, as was the development of better defenses by opposing teams. Chamberlain, on the other hand, maintained that his coaches—in a reversal of patterns that went back all the way his high-school years—did not want him shooting as much. The fact was that while Chamberlain did well, teams on which he played did not tend to fare as well in the finals. During that winning 1966-67 season, on the other hand, Coach Alex Hannum instructed him to pass more and shoot less, a strategy that obviously worked.

Chamberlain took on his new, more team-oriented role with alacrity, leading the NBA in assists during the 1967-68 season. Traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968, he went on to take his team to the finals four times, and in 1972 won his second and last championship in five games against the Knicks. In his final years in the NBA, Chamberlain distinguished himself as a team player alongside the likes of guard Jerry West and others, and in 1971-72 the Lakers went one better than the record set by Chamberlain and the 76ers in 1966-67, with a season record of 69-13.

Additional topics