Was Michael Jordan REALLY The Best Of All Time?

Jeremy KaufmanSenior Analyst IMarch 10, 2008

In recent Bleacher Report articles, heated debates have taken place in respect to whether or not Kobe, Lebron, or both will ever surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player of all time.

While I do believe, along with almost everyone else, that Jordan is the greatest ever to play as of this date, there is a small part of me that tempts me to say otherwise.

Therefore, I will now play devil’s advocate and make the case for Wilt Chamberlain as the greatest player in basketball history.

The Statistics

Wilt Chamberlain: PPG: 30.1 RPG: 22.9 APG: 4.4

Michael Jordan: PPG: 30.1 RPG: 6.2 APG: 5.4

Let’s start by taking a look at their career averages. Yes, I know that statistics can’t tell you everything, but they definitely are a good place to start.

Firsty, each player is exactly equal in points per game. In rebounds, Chamberlain averaged more than triple the total of Jordan.

Yes, I do realize that Chamberlain was 7’1", but the NBA doesn’t give you a handicap for being shorter. If they did, Nate Robinson would be the best player in history.

Finally, in the assists column, Jordan tops Chamberlain by only a little over an assist per game; not a very high margin considering centers rarely rack up assist totals over 1 per game.

In addition, in 1967, Wilt Chamberlain led the league in assists with 8.6 per game, an amazing feat for any player, let alone a 7 foot tall center.

It is also important to note that Chamberlain’s greater utilization of passing in the second half of his career likely explains why his PPG dropped down into the mid- 20s in the latter part of his career.

Finally, in the season of 1961-62, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points per game, a mind-boggling statistic that will likely never even be threatened by any player ever.

I believe that Chamberlain’s absolute offensive dominance as well as his ability to adapt through superior passing may establish him as the greatest player in basketball history.

While I do not mean to take anything away from Jordan, as his abilities were unfathomable as well, the aforementioned data is almost unrealistically good.


Michael Jordan was one of the better defensive guards ever to play the game.

However, Wilt Chamberlain’s defensive prowess is often disregarded due to the lack of defensive statistics that were recorded during his time.

However, if such statistics were recorded as they are today, Chamberlain may very well have been recognized as one of the best shot-blockers of all time.

This would only further establish Chamberlain’s case over Jordan, as a shot blocking center is always looked at as a valuable asset to a team, even if the center didn’t have the offensive and defensive abilities of Chamberlain.

The Championships

Chamberlain is the owner of two NBA titles and one Finals MVP.

While Michael Jordan had accumulated several more pieces of hardware in his tenure with Chicago, it is vital to note the team that he had around him.

At Jordan’s side were Scottie Pippen, one of the 50 greatest players in basketball history, and Dennis Rodman, a defensive and rebounding machine, among others.

Placing players like Rodman and Pippen on any team, even one like the New York Knicks, could make them contenders. Throw in a player like Jordan, and of course you’re going to win a ton of championships.

Therefore, given how he carried his team on his back for so long (as illustrated by his season of 50.4 ppg, more than half of some teams totals per game), I feel that two championships are more than enough to validate him as the best player of all time in basketball history.

When asked by peers who I consider to be the greatest basketball player of all time, I often respond without much hesitation, “Michael Jordan”.

However, after carefully analyzing the aforementioned information, I am no longer so sure if that answer is correct.

I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with this assessment, as I have seen the emotionally charged and sometimes hateful comments sent to other writers who have dared to venture into this controversial topic.

However, please don’t hesitate to state your views and make the best case possible for them. After all, that’s what sports are all about.