If the legend of Bill Russell was built on his individual and collective exploits with the Celtics, we must not forget that his rivalry with Wilt Chamberlain also participated in the glorification of his career. Died last night at the age of 88, the most successful player in NBA history has thus joined his sworn enemy, missing since 1999. The opportunity to return to these two men with linked destinies.
Of course, this is one of the first things we thought of this Sunday when we heard the sad news of Bill Russell’s death. Left in ’88, the latter went looking for the one with whom he fought his most intense battles in the 1960s: Wilt Chamberlain. Died in 1999 due to a heart attack, “El Zanco” was inseparable from “Good God”. Together, they regularly appeared on the cover of the American media, and this from the very beginning of their career. If Chamberlain did not arrive in the NBA in Philadelphie, who in 1959 was released with the Harlem Globetrotters pendant one year, Bill Russell was left on the train de faire du sale avec Boston sur les parquets de la grande Ligue after they arrived three years plus early. At that time, the two men knew each other very well, and their relationship was dominated by the desire to do better than the other. But with two rings already on the clock, the Celtics’ interior is ahead, which will make Wilt a little… seedy. MVP of his rookie season, the boy wants to prove that he is the best player in the world. Problem: Bill has a very different opinion, and his first playoff matchup will set the tone for a rivalry that will turn out great. The C’s beat the Warriors 4-2 – at the time they were in Philadelphia – in a series where Russell will finish in 20.7 points and 27 rebounds on average vs. 30.5 points and 27.5 rebounds. Yeah, yeah, that doesn’t make any sense, welcome to the ’60s. We also give you a little excerpt from a joint interview of the two men, where Wilt told the trashy version of Bill Russell:
“Bill came to my house one Thanksgiving night because the next day there was Philly-Boston. He slept in my bed, ate something, and then went to the gym and kicked my ass. »
At the time, nobody was wrong, the headliners of the NBA were the two giants. Each of his duels is expected, analyzed and commented on by millions of Americans. The 1961-62 financial year is one of the most representative examples. Named MVP for concluding the campaign in 18.9 points and 23.6 rebounds on averageBill Russell also made the Celtics the first team to reach 60 wins in a season. Opposite, Wilt Chamberlain will record 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. Even in NBA Live 07 it was not possible to actually do that. In the Playoffs, the confrontation is no longer even expected, the fans ask for it. And of course, once again, it was Boston who emerged victorious with Chamberlain limited to 33 points on average by the Minister of Defense of the Men in Green. Ah, yes, yes, we totally assume the use of the word “limited” in this situation. Yes Wilt, in basketball the goal is to win games, not chain 50/25, even with style. The rivalry continues even in the media where the latter do not hesitate to send spikes to touch the pride of their enemy. The pinnacle of this competition within the competition? The 1964 NBA Finals, which we recently returned to, the only time the two monsters will meet at this point. A series in the image and likeness of that unequal confrontation, where one has always been able to beat the other thanks to a superior team, and it is not Chamberlain who will tell you otherwise.
“The 11 rings? It has always bothered me, because it’s a lie. Russell didn’t win 11 titles, he played on teams that won 11 titles, that’s different. He had so much help around him, it was amazing. »
In the end, although they have always been compared, the two players have never really played at the same level. In the field of statistics, Wilt outrageously dominated. In 94 games against Russell, “The Stilt” will finish at 30/28 on average, compared to 14/23 for the C’s center. He is strong, but he is far from enough to scratch Bilou’s record. Eleven League titles against two and a balance of 57 wins for 37 losses in direct confrontation. Ouch… Certainly titles of best scorer or best rebounder are great, but bagouzes are still by far the greatest achievement. And for this reason, there has never been a photo between the two men. Throughout his career, this desire to do better than the other shines through in his every action. One thinks in particular of this story that Bill Russell had only one requirement for his contract: that he be paid a dollar more than Wilt. And we want to tell you thousands more anecdotes… Here! Did you know that sometimes they do car races in the United States to finally get caught by the police? We would not see that again today. Obviously, many will tell you about the cold, tried periods that existed between the two men as their competition was intense. But when Wilt Chamberlain died of a heart attack in 1999, only respect and sincere friendship remained from all those years of rivalry, just as Bill Russell had expressed at the time about the disappearance of his best opponent.
“I feel incredibly hurt. I have lost a dear and exceptional friend and an important part of my life. Our relationship was intensely personal. Many have called our competition “the greatest rivalry in sports history.” We had no rivalry. We had a truly fierce competition based on friendship and respect. We loved playing against each other. The ferocity of the competition has united us as friends for eternity. We loved the competition. Wilt loved competition. »
It’s always been hard to think of Bill Russell without Wilt Chamberlain popping up very quickly in the back of your mind. Two born competitors, two outstanding basketball players, two unique personalities. Today out of shift, the center of the Celtics has therefore gone to join his rival. No, we’ll do it again. Today he left the shift, the center of the Celtics, well, he went to join his… friend of his.
Text Source: ESPN / Basketball Reference / Bleacher Report
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