LeBron James vs. Wilt Chamberlain: Why King James Will Surpass NBA Legend
Today is the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s infamous 100-point outburst against the New York Knicks in Hershey, PA.
That game signifies what many revere Wilt for—his ability to have impressive statistical outings (the game was during a season in which he averaged 50.4 points per contest).
Chamberlain is also remembered for his inability to find success in the postseason, despite the capability he possessed to take a game over at any time.
In 2012, there’s a new basketball star that gets criticism for his eye-popping statistics and consistent postseason disappointments.
Obviously, we are talking about LeBron James.
The King has dominated the NBA’s 82-game regular season for eight-plus years now, but he has yet to capture an elusive championship.
Until he does that, James cannot be put into the discussion as one of the greatest of all time.
Fortunately, LeBron has a long and fruitful career ahead of him and when all is said and done, history will remember him as a better player than Chamberlain.
Keep reading to find out why.
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Wilt finished his 14-year career with 31,419 points in 1,045 games played, good for a ridiculous 30.1 points-per-game average.
While James will never touch that per-game figure, he will surpass Wilt and land in the top five of all-time NBA scorers if he can stay healthy.
The King has 18,303 points right now in just 661 games, and has a solid career average of 27.7 per contest.
If he can maintain this type of production for the second half of his career, it’s without question LeBron will accumulate more points by the time he retires.
Of course, his stats could dip as he grows older and his physical advantages start to dissipate, but it’s also entirely plausible he develops a post game and becomes an even more fearsome scorer.
LeBron's work ethic and ability to change his game to counter defenders is something Wilt never did and ended up hurting him late in his career.
Photo Credit: Paul Vathis/AP
One of the more little-known and completely-awesome facts about Chamberlain is that he is the first and only center to win an NBA assists title.
The best part is he did it completely out of spite.
Critics believed that for the first eight years of his career, Wilt did not pass nearly enough and dominated the ball. He responded by averaging 7.8 dimes during the 1966-67 season.
That wasn’t enough for him and he decided to go out and win the assist title in ’67-’68 and did so, dishing out 8.6 per contest.
However, Wilt wasn’t a gifted passer and tailored his game completely around moving the ball for those seasons, as his scoring dipped down to just over 24 points per game.
LeBron, on the other hand, is a natural ball distributor and makes all of his teammates better when he is on the floor.
The King is averaging a solid 7.0 assists for his career, which is just ridiculous for a small forward. Even more telling, he still gets his rebounds and points when all is said and done.
He matched Wilt’s 8.6 in 2009-10 and has been setting up teammates around seven times per game during his season and a half with the Miami Heat.
LeBron is likely going to surpass Wilt in total assists by the end of the season (LBJ has 4,596 – Wilt retired with 4,643) and prove that he’s the better passer and teammate of the two.
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The NBA was much, much different fifty years ago.
The average player was smaller and a player of Wilt’s stature and athleticism could absolutely dominate them without even trying.
It seemed only Bill Russell could slow down Chamberlain, and he had to use his head and his heart more than his 6’9” frame.
Wilt’s numbers are somewhat inflated because of the extremely quick pace the game was played at, weaker defenders were less likely to leave their man to double and slow to help when they actually did.
Now, imagine LeBron, as he is right now, playing in 1962.
He’d score 100, or come darn close.
At 6’8”, 250-pounds, with out-of-this-world athleticism, he’d be able to beat anyone thrown at him.
Remember, 1961-62 was the season Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double for the year. LeBron is widely considered to be the only player in the modern era that has a chance of touching that.
There is no question LBJ gets that done if he played under those circumstances.
This does raise the question—would Wilt have been good enough to dominate the record books if he came into the league in the early 2000’s?
The answer is most likely no. He’d have been a good player, but his work ethic was questionable and he didn’t have a burning desire to improve and expand his game the way LeBron has.
There are plenty of seven-footers in the league now, and it would have been easier for defenders to double up on the center. It would have been impossible for the Stilt to score 100 points, or even 80, in the modern era.
Hell, 60 would be an accomplishment.
It’s a much tougher time to play basketball, which is why LeBron should get more credit for his accolades.
The defining measure of any truly-great NBA player is how many championships he won during their career.
Wilt finished his with just two Finals victories, and could seemingly never get past the Boston Celtics, who defeated him seven out of the eight times they met.
You would think the most physically dominant player of an era would have won more, but it either didn’t matter to Chamberlain or he didn’t have the heart to do it.
LeBron shoulders the same criticisms as Wilt, perhaps even worse because of the 24-hour, multi-platform media blitz he faces on a regular basis.
He has yet to win a title, but before the South Beach star hangs up his sneakers, he is going to surpass Wilt.
The Heat are too good not to win it all this year and in the foreseeable future.
The traditional powerhouses—the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs—are on the decline, and the younger teams—like the Thunder and Bulls—still have some growing to do before they can challenge Miami, a franchise in its collective prime.
When James finally breaks through and wins that first ring, you can be certain it won’t be the last.
If he hoists three banners while continuing to put up the numbers he does, LeBron will without a doubt be remembered as better than Wilt.