Michael Jordan vs. Wilt Chamberlain: The Real Comparison

Chris HoustonContributor IIIOctober 23, 2010

Michael Jordan Vs. Wilt Chamberlain: The Real Comparison

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    Are you tired of Jordan fans bringing up stats as proof that Michael Jordan is hands down the greatest player ever?

    So am I.  The "haterade" seems to be flowing so freely, I thought I'd take a sip or two myself.

    Seriously, why is it not good enough to let great players be great?  Why do Jordan's fans feel the need to protect his legacy?  If the results were so "hands down" in Jordan's favor, there would be no need for the Jordan masses to arm up for battle as this era's players elevate through the ranks of the NBA's greatest players.

    Most Jordan fans will parade stats like points per game, rebounds, field goal percentage, etc as the end all and be all of the conversation of the greatest player ever.  If stats are their greatest defense, I will make it their greatest weakness......

    I will look at each player's five best seasons in several statistical categories. 

    In doing so, I will demonstrate why the idea that Jordan is the greatest basketball player ever without question is false, with the same method that others will use to prove that he is.

    Wilt Chamberlain vs. Michael Jordan.

    Without further ado...I give you the comparison of the stats between two of the most dominant figures in the history of the sport


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    Here are the top five regular season PPG totals for MJ and Wilt:

    50.4  Wilt

    44.8  Wilt

    38.4  Wilt

    37.6  Wilt

    37.1  Jordan

    Four of the top five belong to Wilt.  Does the fact that the players played in different eras impact this statistic?  Maybe.  The pace was faster in Wilt's time but not by much over the 80's, when Jordan was statistically at his peak.  Also of note is that the "Jordan Rules" pale in comparison to the nightly beatings that Chamberlain took. 

    Here is a direct quote taken from Wilt Chamberlain's Wikipedia page:

    "The rookie Chamberlain then shocked the Warriors' fans by saying he was thinking of retiring. He was tired of being subjected to double and triple teams, and teams coming down on him with hard fouls. Chamberlain feared he might lose his cool one day.  As Celtics forward Heinsohn said, himself no stranger to dirty play against Chamberlain: "Half the fouls against him [Chamberlain] were hard fouls ... he took the most brutal pounding of any player ever". In addition, Chamberlain was seen as a freak of nature, jeered at by the fans and scorned by the media. As Chamberlain often said, quoting coach Alex Hannum's explanation of his situation, "Nobody loves Goliath."



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    Here are the top five field goal percentages by year for the two players

    .727 Wilt

    .683 Wilt

    .649 Wilt

    .595 Wilt

    .583 Wilt

    Jordan's best season registers at .539 which is coincidentally below Wilt's career average of .540.  Amazing that Wilt Chamberlain dominates the statistic that Jordan fans usually love bringing up. 


     Let's continue in our search for the statistical truth . . .


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    Here are the top five rebounding years between the two players

    27.2 Wilt

    27.0 Wilt

    25.7 Wilt

    24.6 Wilt

    24.2 Wilt


    Starting to get the picture?  It's very funny how Jordan fans use stats as a platform to prop Jordan up as the greatest of all-time without a doubt.  It's very possible that he is the greatest.....but is there room for discussion?  More room than Jordan fans would like for you to think . . .

    Let's continue . . .


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    Surely Wilt Chamberlain had the advantage at points and rebounds because of his "weak era" and the fact that he played center. This is where Jordan will start to get his revenge . . . right?

    Here are the top five seasons for assists between the two players

    8.6  Wilt

    8.0 Jordan

    7.8  Wilt

    6.3 Jordan

    6.1 Jordan

    Surely Jordan has three out of the top five seasons but Wilt has the best marks here and two of the top three.

    And this, as a center. 

    He is in fact, the only center to lead the league in assists in NBA History.  Jordan never lead the league in assists as a guard.  This category could go either way, and Wilt's numbers are decidedly more impressive as he was playing the center position, but to prevent the Jordan lovers from revolting, I will gift this category to him.  Don't say I never gave you anything Mike.



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    Steals and blocks are often used as barometers of how good a defensive player one is.  There are some aspects of defense that don't show up on the stat sheet but these two are quantifiable.

    Unfortunately, the NBA did not start recording steals and blocks until after Wilt Chamberlain was out of the league. 

    Even the staunchest Jordan fan will be able to concede that while Jordan was superior in steals, he was no match for Chamberlain in blocks.




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    There was no three-point line in the days that Wilt Chamberlain played, and it goes without saying that Michael Jordan would have been the better shooter had their been one.  No real competition here.  This category goes to "His Airness". 

    Note the picture of "The Shrug Game" above, one of Jordan's more memorable outside shooting hot streaks..



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    Jordan's all-universe statistics barely, if at all, make it onto the points per game, field goal percentage, or rebounds per game slides. 

    The assists per game could have gone either way although the edge was given to Jordan. 

    Steals went to Jordan while the blocks were claimed by Chamberlain.  Three-point percentage was also claimed by Michael Jordan.

    The final tally?

    Wilt Chamberlain  comes out with a total of four statistical categories won, while Jordan (The Greatest of All-Time without question, hands down as the stats "prove") comes in at three category wins, with one of them being the extremely even assists per game statistic.

     I, myself, am not of the opinion that stats are "proof" of who is the better player.  But for those who do hold that opinion, how does it lead you to believe Jordan is number one?  This is only one slideshow but similar ones could be made for Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar among others. 

    So the next time the debate about the greatest player of all time comes up with your friends, in the barber shop, or on the internet, and you use stats like points per game or field goal percentage to "prove" that Jordan was the best, try again.  

    Those statistics don't support your cause.   

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