If Bill Russell’s legend is built through his individual and collective exploits with the Celtics, we must not forget that his rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain also contributed to the glorification of his career. He passed away last night at the age of 88, and thus the most successful player in NBA history joined his archenemy, who had disappeared since 1999. The chance to return these two men with their linked fates.
Of course, that’s one of the first things we thought of on Sunday when we learned the sad news of Bill Russell’s passing. The latter left at the age of 88, and went on to find the person with whom he fought his fiercest battles of the 1960s: Wilt Chamberlain. Died in 1999 of a heart attack, “Stilt” was inseparable from “The Good Lord”. Together, they regularly served on the front page of American media, and this is from the very beginning of their career. If Chamberlain didn’t make it to the Philadelphia NBA until 1959 after having had a blast with the Harlem Globetrotters for a year, Bill Russell had already been dealing with Boston on the big league floors since arriving three years later. At that time, the two men knew each other very well, and the desire to do one better than the other predominated in their relationship. But with two rings already on the clock, the Celtics’ interior is advanced, which makes Wilt a little… sleazy. The best player in his rookie season, the man wants to show that he is the best player in the world. Problem: Bale has a very different opinion, and their first playoff match will set the tone for a competition that will prove great. A 4-2 C win over the Warriors – while they were at Philly – in a series where Russell would end in 20.7 points and 27 rebounds with an average of 30.5 points and 27.5 rebounds. Yeah yeah, that doesn’t make sense, welcome to the 60s. We also bring you a small excerpt from a joint interview with the two men, where Wilt told Bill Russell’s trash-talking version:
“Bill came to my house one Thanksgiving night because there was Philadelphia-Boston the next. He slept in my bed and ate something and then he went to the gym and kicked my ass.”
At the time, no one was wrong, and the two most prominent stars in the NBA were the two giants. Each of their duels are awaited, analyzed and commented upon by millions of Americans. The 1961-1962 fiscal year is one of the most representative examples. He was appointed MVP to end the campaign with 18.9 points with an average of 23.6 reboundsBill Russell also made the Celtics the first team to achieve 60 wins in a single season. On the other hand, Wilt Chamberlain will score 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. Even in NBA Live 07, it wasn’t actually possible to do that. In the playoffs, the confrontation was no longer expected, but rather the fans requested it. And of course, once again, it was Boston that came out victorious with Chamberlain limited to an average of 33 points by the green-clad men’s defense secretary. Ah yeah yeah, we’re just assuming the word “limited” is used in this case. Yes Wilt, in basketball the goal is to win games, not peg 50/25, even if it’s elegant. The rivalry continues even in the media where the latter does not hesitate to send peaks touching the pride of his enemy. The height of this competition within the competition? The 1964 NBA Finals – which we’re back in recently – is the only time the two monsters meet at this point. A series in the picture of this unequal confrontation, where one has always been able to gain the upper hand over the other thanks to a superior group, and Chamberlain will not tell you otherwise.
“The 11 episodes? It always bothered me, because it’s a lie. Russell didn’t win 11 titles, he played in teams that won 11 titles – that’s different. He had so much help around him, he was amazing.”
In the end, even though they were always compared, the two players didn’t actually play at the same level. In statistics, Wilt outrageously dominated. In 94 games against Russell, “The Stilt” would finish at 30/28 on average, versus 14/23 for the C’s axle. It’s sturdy, but far from enough to even scratch Bilou’s record. Eleven league titles against two, and he scored 57 wins against 37 defeats in the head-to-head confrontation. Oops… sure, top scorer or quarterback titles are great, but Baghouz remains by far the ultimate achievement. On this basis, there was never a photo between the two men. Throughout their career, this desire to do one better than the other has appeared in each of their actions. One thinks especially of this story according to which Bill Russell had only one requirement for his contract: that he be paid a dollar more than Wilt. And we want to tell you a thousand other stories… here! Did you know that they sometimes race cars across the United States only to get caught by cops? We won’t see that again today. Obviously, many will tell you about the cold, proven periods that existed between the two men where their competitive edge was. But when Wilt Chamberlain died of a heart attack in 1999, only respect and sincere friendship remained from all those years of rivalry, as Bill Russell expressed at the time the disappearance of his best opponent.
“I am in so much pain. I have lost a dear, extraordinary friend and an important part of my life. Our relationship has been intensely personal. Many have described our competition as “the greatest competition in the history of sports”. We had no rivalry. We had a really fierce competition based on friendship and respect. We We just loved playing against each other. The fierceness of the competition made us bond forever as friends. We loved the competition. Wilt loved the competition.”
It’s always been hard to think of Bill Russell without Wilt Chamberlain quickly coming to the back of your mind. Two born competitors, two outstanding basketball players, and two unique personalities. Today in turn, the Celtics hub went on to join its rival. No, we will do it again. Today in turn, the Celtics hub went to join his…friend.
Text source: ESPN / Basketball reference / Bleacher Report