Wilt Chamberlain is a Hall of Famer and most experts place him in the top 10 players of all-time. As a result, I think the notion of comparing him to middle-of-the-pack players in the modern game would be a waste of time and effort. Therefore I'm only going to be looking at the top five currently active centers.
Chamberlain's name is all over the NBA record book. Among his many achievements:
- Career PPG: 30.1
- Career RPG: 22.9
- Career APG: 4.4
- Seven scoring titles
- 11 rebounding titles
- Eight win-share titles, including six of the top 15 win-share seasons (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and George Mikan are tied for second most, with three of the top 15)
- Only center in NBA history to lead the league in assists (702 in 1967-68)
- Averaged 50.4 PPG in 1961-62
- Averaged 48.5 MPG in 1961-62
- Four-time MVP
- Two-time NBA All-Defensive First Team
- Only player in NBA history to record a 100-point game
- Never fouled out in his career
One of the conceits I've been forced to make is evaluating Chamberlain fairly against modern players when many of the stats modern players accumulate were not tracked in the 1960s. To level that playing field I've narrowed my comparisons down to the big three that have come down to us since the beginning: points, assists and rebounds, which when combined are known as PAR.
Admittedly, this is an imperfect way of comparing one player to the next, but I consider it to be the most fair method.
The other conceit I've made is to adjust for era.
During the 14 years of Chamberlain's career teams in the NBA averaged 101.5 shots; over the last 14 years teams have taken 80.9 shots per game. That means that points per game (114.1 then; 97.4 now) and rebounds per game (63.2 then; 41.9 now) are down. However, shooting percentages have improved from .438 in Wilt's day to .451 in modern times. So while players are taking fewer shots, assists haven't dropped off very much at all, going from 23.2 assists per game then to 21.5 now.
Put all that together and a modern Wilt the Stilt's numbers might look a little more like this:
In the 2013/14 season, his career numbers would put him fourth in PPG, first in RPG and a respectable 40th in APG.
So let's have a look at how that compares to the top five current centers, as rated by PAR.