Tag: Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West

Creating a legacy: Comparing Miami Heat, ’72 Lakers win streaks


It’s about legacy.

When you talk about the 1972 Lakers 33-game win streak you talk about a team that had been the best in the West for the better part of a decade but had no rings to show for it, and when they put it together that year they dominated the league for a season like few others have.

That kind of legacy — of dominating a season, of dominating an era — is what the 2013 Heat are playing for. It’s one thing their current 27-game win streak can help bring them. Setting a new record would be mentioned as part of this team’s legacy the way we talk about the 72-win Jordan-led Bulls squad. The Lakers absolutely owned that season; that’s the legacy the Heat want.

But when you look at who has been better in their respective streaks you see neither team had it easy. There is no easy way to win 27 in a row. Yet the key to how we will remember the run 15 years from now is how it ends for Miami — how many wins and is there a ring to go with it?

Looking at the numbers one difference stands out — the Lakers won the games in their streak by an average of 16 points a night. They dominated. The Heat are at 11.9, which certainly is impressive in its own right. Only three times in their streak did a team come within six points of the Lakers, the Heat have had that or gone to overtime 9 times. That 16-point differential is insane, it speaks to a level of dominance over their competition that even the Heat on this streak haven’t shown.

The two teams have plenty of things in common, starting with the obvious of three big stars on each — Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Gail Goodrich are all Hall of Famers. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be without question; Chris Bosh has an 88 percent chance of getting elected according to Basketball-Reference’s probability estimates (if he gets a few more rings with this Heat side it is pretty much a lock). Both teams also had good fitting role players around their stars — remember Heat president Pat Riley was one of those players for the Lakers, along with Jim McMillan and Happy Hairston (the latter of which averaged better than 20 points a game during the streak). Miami has Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers and others that fit their style of play and what they want to do.

The other big similarity: Defense. We know the Heat’s run is built on it — in the last 10-games they are allowing just 97.7 points per 100 possessions, second best in the NBA in that time. The Heat are aggressive, forcing turnovers and converting those to easy buckets and monster dunks the other way.

That Lakers team was sixth in the NBA in points per game (in that era certain stats were not kept so it’s impossible to estimate possessions and the stats that come from them). But former Lakers coach Jim Mullaney said that Bill Sharman, who had taken over to coach that team, had “Chamberlain playing like he is Bill Russell.” (Quote from the book “Lakers Glory.”) When Chamberlain wanted to own the defensive end or glass, he could do it.

That Lakers team did have to deal with things the current Heat do not — the Lakers run started during a string of eight games in 10 days (nod to John Schumann at NBA.com). You read that right. It started on a back-to-back-to-back, they had a day off, then had another back-to-back on the road (Chicago and Philadelphia), then one day off to travel back to Los Angeles before another back-to-back-to-back. And five of those eight teams won 47 games or more that season. During their streak, the Lakers had a total of four back-to-back-to-backs.

That said, the Lakers cumulative winning percentage of teams they beat during the streak (.477, measured by records at the end of the season) is pretty much right in line with where the Heat are now.

It’s hard to compare across decades — the 17-team NBA of 1972 was a very different place than today’s NBA. Fewer teams could mean more condensed and deeper teams (although there were 11 teams in the ABA at the time) but there were also no foreign players to speak of at the time to deepen the player pool.

I think someday we’ll look back on the runs as similar in that they showed the team’s dominance over the league that year — if the Heat win a title this spring.

And that is one other difference — the Lakers streak started in November and ended at the hands of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 9. Teams can have letdowns when streaks end — those Lakers lost four of six starting with the Bucks — and getting it over early was a good thing said Jim McMillan, the Lakers starting forward on that team, speaking with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

“We had a chance to regroup emotionally, mentally, physically,” McMillian said. “We said, ‘OK, we had a good run on the streak and let’s get ready for the championship run.’ [The Heat] are pushing themselves to break this record and not lose. They are not going to have a chance to regroup because next thing you know the playoffs are here.”

The Heat are riding this wave into the playoffs. We’ll see how — or if — the streak impacts their title run.

But someday my guess is we’ll look back at both streaks the same way — a sign of a team dominating the league for a season like few others have.

Friday night video: Wilt Chamberlain was unlike any other


Lots of talk the past couple weeks about Dwight Howard, his impact as a center on both ends of the floor and what he means to the Lakers. There is no doubt he is the best center in the game today.

But no center could physically dominate his era like Wilt Chamberlain. And I mean on the court, too. He was bigger, stronger, more athletic than everyone he went up against to the point it was almost unfair. For his career he averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds a game. AVERAGED. He averaged a career PER of 26.1 (last season only four players in the NBA had better). He’s a four-time MVP, 13 time All-Star, an NBA champion and a Hall of Famer.

So to start off your weekend, here are some highlights of one of the greatest centers ever to play the game. A true legend.

What was more impressive: Chamberlain’s 100 point game or Kobe’s 81?


Here is the statistic that most amazes me about Wilt Chamberlain’s 1962 season — he AVERAGED 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds a game. Averaged. No player in the history of the league has been as physically superior to everyone around him as early Wilt.

Notice I did not say his legendary 100-point game, which happened exactly 50 years ago tonight. What Chamberlain did on March 2, 1962 in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is certainly and deservedly celebrated. It is an amazing accomplishment that I don’t think will ever be matched (not everyone agrees with that).

I also would also say Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game against the Raptors was more impressive.

I do not wish to disparage Chamberlain, who had scored 73 points in a game a few months before and was having a season for the ages. No doubt when the Warriors faced the Knicks in Hershey he was having a special kind of night, dominating the game in a 169-147 Warriors win.

Chamberlain handled the ball 125 times in that game, had 63 shots, 32 free throws, 25 rebounds, and played all 48 minutes. He overwhelmed the Knicks defenders. Remember that back then the pace of the game was much faster, so he got more attempts in that game than an NBA player would today. But don’t hold that against Wilt — this was about effort and a workman like effort. He stole inbound passes, played defense and showed this was no fluke.

But the fourth quarter was. The Warriors would foul the Knicks intentionally to stop the clock and get the ball back so they could feed Chamberlain. The Knicks fouled him back to create a free throw battle. The game was in the Warriors hands and Chamberlain asked out but his coach wanted the 100 and left him in. The Knicks coach after the game called it a farce.

Kobe’s points came in the flow of the game — the Lakers were on a two-game losing streak and were down 14 at the half to the lowly Toronto Raptors. The Lakers needed Kobe to step up and carry them, they needed him to take over and he did.

Also, Kobe had to create his own shots — Chamberlain got fed the ball in the post, a luxury Kobe did not have.

Chamberlain is a player to be celebrated and his 1962 season may be the best single season a player has ever had. His 100-point game is an amazing performance that will never be matched.

But Kobe’s game was better.

Kobe thinks someone will score 100 points in a game again

Kobe Bryant

Friday is the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game. A feat that is shrouded in legend and myth, but in actuality was a bit bogus as teammates fouled the opposing team at the end of a blowout game to stop the clock, send them to the line and get the ball back so they could feed Wilt. We’ll get into that game more tomorrow.

The question for right now is, could someone do it again?

If anyone has the skill and is enough of an unrepentant gunner to pull it off, it is Kobe Bryant. He had 81 in a game (legitimately, the Lakers were behind when he started taking over that game).

So Kobe, could it happen again? (Via the amazing Kevin Ding at the Orange County Register.)

“It probably won’t happen in our generation or the next, but it will happen,” Bryant said….

“Right place, right time, right team … the right opponent,” Bryant said.

A few things have to come together for it to happen. First, a great scorer having just one of those nights where he can’t miss. The right opponent (read: bad defensive matchup for that player’s position). And the one thing that makes me think it will be a while — a very, very fast paced game. The average NBA game this season has 93.8 possessions per team, you’re going to need to get that into the 110 level to give this player a real chance.

I don’t see it. Then again, I didn’t see anyone scoring 80 ever again, so who knows.

Kobe youngest player to 28,000 points, not catching Kareem

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers

There’s irony that it came on one of the worst shooting nights of his career, but Kobe Bryant set a historic NBA scoring mark on Sunday night.

With a fourth-quarter free throw Kobe became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 28,oo0 points. Kobe is 33 years, 131 days.

Only five other players in NBA history have scored that many points, period. Kobe needed 1,109 games to get there, but four players who reached this milestone in fewer games (Wilt Chamberlain in just 825 games, Michael Jordan in 886, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1,008 and Karl Malone in 1,070. (The other member of the 28,000 point club is Shaquille O’Neal.

If you’re thinking can Kobe catch Kareem for the all time lead… not really. Kobe is 10,375 points behind the Captain — it would mean Kobe scoring at the rate he has for the past few years for another five years to do it. That’s asking a lot. More likely, Kobe catches MJ (because you know that Kobe wants to).

Kobe was just 6-of-28 shooting in a loss to the Nuggets Sunday, but even that illustrated how Kobe got to this milestone. Kobe’s greatest asset is a confidence and unmatched belief in himself, which allows him to attack constantly and put up gaudy scoring numbers. It also means on an off night he firmly believes that the next shot will fall and he will shoot himself out of this slump. Like a tragic character in a Greek tragedy, Kobe’s greatest strength can be his greatest weakness.

But when he retires, he will rightfully be remembered as one of the game’s greatest scorers.