Class Warfare Blog

November 25, 2019

No Respect for Goliath

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 10:11 am
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I was watching an NBA game the other day, one involving the Dallas Mavericks, specifically so I could watch their new star, 20-year old Luka Dončić from Slovenia. I was not disappointed. He is not only really, really good but he is a likable young man also.

He doesn’t, however bear any responsibility for the comments of those broadcasting the game. They used visuals to show that only three players had averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds in their first seasons. None of the three was Wilt Chamberlain.

For the record—in Wilt’s Rookie season, 1959-60 he averaged 37.6 points per game and 27 rebounds per game. To show that was not a fluke Wilt averaged 38.4 points and 27.2 rebounds per game the next season and then in 1961-62 he averaged 50.4 points and grabbed 25.7 rebounds per game. Many of these are still all-time records, as is the 55 rebounds he grabbed in one game. (Bill Russell claims he had the best seat in the house to observe this performance, so this wasn’t some stat put up against a lame opponent.) Now a great many people will say that that was a different era, which is was, but along with the positive attributes there were negatives. In that incredible 1961-62 season it wasn’t as if they weren’t trying to stop Wilt—he lead the league in free throws shot. As just one example consider this quote “Half the fouls against him were hard fouls … he took the most brutal pounding of any player ever.” That was from Boston Celtic Tom Heinsohn, one of Wilt’s most fierce competitors, with regard to an NBA Finals series.

So, why the disrespect? Chamberlain said himself, that “no one roots for Goliath” even though he was not the largest player in the league by any measure (but was most likely the strongest ever to play).

Dončić is a 6´ 7ʺ guard-forward and his numbers are quite extraordinary, but commentators should know better than to claim that only three people had better numbers for some stretch without mentioning Wilt.

Nobody had better numbers than Wilt, except for free throw percentage. Wilt even led the league in assists one year. Wilt had 30.1 points per game, 22.9 rebounds per game and played 45.8 minutes (out of 48) per game for his entire 15-year career! No other player could come close to his endurance, nor could they even try out of fear of breaking down (load management my ass).

If you are going to quote US professional basketball statistics, always, always, always start with the most prolific player in NBA history. Have some respect.

March 2, 2016

Things Are Slow, So . . . Wilt!

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 2:31 pm
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Wilt BW #1Now that Stephen Curry’s blowing up the NBA and old-timers are grousing (Sit down, shut up, and enjoy the show!) I decided to revisit a number of past greats. I was watching a video from the Wilt Chamberlin archive comparing Wilt to Kareem Abdul Jabbar. One of the comparisons was based upon production and Wilt was downgraded a bit because he played so many minutes. This is entirely backwards and indicated how we often don’t use reason to evaluate comparisons between players, contemporaneous or from different eras.

wilt_chamberlain_1979_01_01So, the comparison said that Wilt played more minutes, so he had more opportunities to score, so he should be marked down regarding that. WTF? Wilt had attributes that made him, without doubt, the greatest center to ever have played professional basketball. Yes, Bill Russell (my #2) had way more championships, but in case you haven’t noticed, basketball is a team sport and Bill played for much better teams. So, should Wilt’s “production” be downgraded since he played more minutes per game in a comparison? No, that is idiotic.

It is true that one of the reasons Wilt had a career average of more than 20 rebounds per game was he was in the game to make rebounds. One year he averaged over 50 points per game in scoring! No one else has averaged as many as 40 per game. (Actually Wilt did and if you look at the highest per game scoring averages in a season in the NBA, you will find Wilt in third and fourth place, too.) One year Wilt averaged over 48 minutes of play per game. Since a game is only 48 minutes you might wonder at that but Wilt played every minute of every game in that season … including overtimes.

The only fair way to evaluate such a comparison is to switch conditions. Estimate what Wilt would have done had he had 10 minutes of rest each game. Then estimate how Kareem would have done had he played every minute of every game. This is where Wilt wins in any such comparison. If any other player were required to play every minute of every game, their production, minimally, would have fallen off and most likely they would have broken down and gotten injured. They would not have been able to go “all out” knowing they could “take a blow” for a few minutes when they needed to and they would flat out get tired and more tired game after game and pretty soon they would be ineffective.

8089-wilt-receives-two-usps-stampsAnd, I can imagine Wilt coming back off the bench in the second half of game, refreshed, and ready to break some wrists at the rim. You must realize that many of his opponents physically feared Wilt and for good reason. There wasn’t a one of them he couldn’t have picked up and slammed to the floor. Even Arnold Swartzenegger tells tales of Wilt’s immense strength in the gym and Arnold only knew a somewhat over-the-hill Wilt.

Wilt was immensely strong, immensely durable, immensely fast, and had immense stamina. Consequently he is one of the only players in NBA history to have consistently played whole games. And for those who think that those “old guys” in the NBA weren’t worked as strenuously as today’s players, look again. What was considered a foul then was basically blood was drawn. Things that would be considered a Flagrant-2 foul now might not have even been whistled back then. Wilt made the bulk of his baskets with two or more guys hanging on him. And Wilt never fouled out of a game. (Yes, superstars were protected then as they are now, but still.)

Just because scoring and rebounds can be considered on a “per minute played” basis does not mean it is fair to do so. The only fair comparison is to consider what would have happened had each played the other’s game.

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