Nobody asked me about Wilt Chamberlain, but …

In this piece by one Scott Harris, he says, more or less, that 7’2″ Wilt Chamberlain would be irrelevant in today’s game of basketball because centers are no longer important. Of course, if 6’11” Andre Jordan of the LA Clippers, quite similar to Chamberlain for athleticism, can play today … well, trust me, Wilt could still play. In fact, if you took Wilt at the top of his powers, let’s say 50 years ago, in 1966, he would still dominate the NBA.

Harris does mention Wilt participated in Track & Field at Kansas. Participated? He could have been an Olympic decathlete. He ran a sub-11 second 100 meters. He threw the shot 56 feet when the WR was like 59 feet. He had a 45’9″ in the triple jump. He ran a 49.0 in the 400 meters when the WR was not much faster than that. He won the Big 8 high jump (Western Roll style) with 6’9″ when the WR was 6’11”. He also did a long jump of 22 feet. He ran the 800 meters in 1:58.3. All this without a whole lot of practice. So, we are talking about the supreme athlete.

When he came out of Overbrook HS in Philadelphia in 1955 … 61 years ago … he was like 50-60 years ahead of his time and that is what matters. Yes, I understand Scott Harris is saying “The guy was great in his time but …. ” As with yesterday, with Roger Bannister … give him today’s training equipment, techniques and such and he’d still be a world-class miler. Wilt, though, is another matter: the man would rock the NBA today. I talk to NBA people of my generation him and how Wilt would do today. They all say, “Dan, those that did not see him play just can’t grasp what he was like.”

Again, I understand: Scott Harris wanted to write a piece that made conversation … with some controversy. Well, Earth to Scott Harris: Wilt would turn the NBA upside down, even today. He’d dunk on everyone. He’d out-jump and out-muscle and out-run everyone. He’d block any shot in the lane. No, he could not shoot the three. But, would he guard Draymond Green out at the 3-point line? Draymond Green should thank God that Wilt is not there to shut him down. Would Wilt have to adjust to the new game? Yes. And he’d do that. But the new game would also have to adjust to him!

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Dan Peterson

Dan Peterson

Long-time Head Coach of Olimpia Milano in the Italian Serie A1