The final name on the list of finals flops is Wilt Chamberlain, proving that even the best of players can have a horrible series. Placing Chamberlain above LeBron was a difficult choice but, because of the intense rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers, the 1969 finals seemed to carry more weight.
The 1969 Finals were part of a series of hotly contested championships that spanned the previous decade. Though they were all close, the Lakers failed to win a single series, losing the previous five finals matchups against the Celtics. In an effort to finally defeat the Celtics and win a championship, the Lakers signed Chamberlain during the 1968 offseason.
Chamberlain continued with his statistical success in LA, although he had difficulty adapting to the Laker offensive schemes. He averaged 20.5 ppg and the Lakers won 55 games that season.
In the Finals things were different. Throughout the series Chamberlain scored well below his averages, costing them victories on several occasions. In contrast to Chamberlain’s numbers, Jerry West was unstoppable, scoring an average of 37.9 points a game. But without Chamberlain’s assistance, the series was out of reach.
In Game 4, despite West’s monstrous effort of 40 points, Chamberlain recorded only 8 as the Lakers lost 88-89. And in the most infamous game of the series, Chamberlain was invisible in Game 6, scoring only eight points as Boston won 99-90, escaping possible elimination.
Everything came down to Game 7, where West dominated again, scoring 42 on 48 percent shooting. But it wouldn’t be enough as Chamberlain scored 18, again well below his season average, allowing the Celtics to escape with the win and the trophy.
In the end, Chamberlain scored only 11.7 ppg, 8.8 points less than his season average, and more than 25 points below West’s incredible average of 37.9 points per game.
Lakers fans would criticize his Game 6 effort for years to come, and the memory was never truly buried until three years later when Chamberlain finally captured his first championship with the franchise by defeating the Knicks in 1972.
But Wilt Chamberlain’s inexplicable 11.7 points per game series will go down as one of the biggest Finals under-achievements in NBA history.