I responded to your actual statement about defending the rim not defense in general, but Wilt's defense in general was also excellent. Wilt wasn't the overall defender that Bill was, but Wilt was a still an excellent defender and he is the best shot blocker in the sport's history.
The thing about Wilt is, he was an excellent defender as well. The guys that have pieced together blocks from that era, have all said Wilt was a better and more prolific shot blocker than Bill. It was estimated in his prime Wilt averaged around 8 blocks a game, while Bill was more in the 6 block a game range. Bill was quite simply blessed to be drafted to the Celtics, which was a stable organization, with an excellent coach/gm, and several legit HOFers. It took Wilt a long time to find that (perhaps some of that self inflicted) and I do think that contributed a great deal to their overall team success.
Sure, but the bold is what I was responding to. That just isn't a true statement. The folks watching in the 60's (and watching more than the normal fan) consistently voted Wilt ahead of Bill. That is the exact opposite of that bolded statement.
I have no issue if someone says Bill was better than Wilt, but when you spout off nonsense about how the players were viewed at the time, I will correct that. The media of the time period, thought Wilt was better than Bill basically the entire time they overlapped in their careers. To me, that says more than anything we can argue about now.
Wilt Chamberlain. It's completely laughable that modern day lists of the greatest basketball players in history put him above Russell. The folks watching basketball in the 1960s certainly didn't see it that way. The problem is that, these days it's a very individualistic era, and there is too much emphasis on individual play and not on how a player helps his team succeed. Hence the obsession with Chamberlain.You mean the folks that voted Wilt as the 1st Team All NBA Center for 7 of the first 9 years in the 60's with Russell only getting the nod in 63 and 65.
I knew you'd come in to save the day
I don't particularly trust the media's evaluation of players. Look at the way they have elevated Kobe.
Fair enough. I do think that matters to a degree. I also think a retrospective look at their achievements/ stats as part of a team/organization is important.
Tim Duncan comes to mind as Russell-like figure whose team contributions outweigh his stats and contemporary accolades.
IMO the two most important abilities in the game are defending the rim and being able to score against the very toughest defenses in key moments. There are tons of stats that track offense, but not many for D.
Both are essential to win championships, but there is more bias for the guys who put up numbers, which inherently skew towards offense.
Blocks don't equal good defense. Hassan Whiteside was the NBA's block champion just 3 seasons ago.
Fun fact: KG, Tim Duncan, and Marc Gasol each never led the league in blocks, yet I'd have those 3 as the best defensive anchors of the last 20 years, with Bam Adebayo as the current best (though a healthy Timelord could be better).
But guys like Theo Ratliff have (twice). And Andrei Kirilenko, Bogut, Ibaka (twice).
Blocks don't take into account team defense, leadership, clutch play. Russell had those in spades. Wilt did not.
Wilt was the best raw talent in NBA history, yet he defeated the Russell Celtics only once. Wilt's scoring numbers dropped precipitously in the playoffs (from career 30.1 to 22.5), and the C's in particular were able to make him seem mortal. In the 1969 Finals - Russell's last year - the C's held him to 11.7 ppg.
In the first half of his career Wilt was his team's primary option on offense. The second half of his career he became more focused on defense and passing, and he won two titles as a result. It's not shocking that team ball was more effective and harder to defend than stat-pleasing iso-ball.
One could argue coaching hurt Wilt's career - but Russell was a coach by his own merits and won two titles as such. One could also argue that Russell had better teammates. And, while this is true, the gulf is not nearly as large as some say - Wilt did play with 21 all-stars over his 13-year career, while Russell played with 29 in 13 years. Wilt had 10 HOF teammates, while Russell had 14.
So it's not like Wilt played with a bunch of stiffs.
And, when push cane to shove, Russell won when it counted. 10-0 in game 7s. (Wilt was 4-5). This cannot be overstated. In series where two teams were fairly evenly matched, Russell willed his club to win every single time. This alone is a remarkable achievement.
In the end Russell was Tom Brady and Wilt was Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers. Manning and Rodgers might have had more pure talent, but their lesser leadership and weakness in clutch games hurt their title counts and their legacies.
I just disagree with your assessment that the Celtics and Warriors were evenly matched, they were not. The Celtics were 7 HOFers deep, the Warriors had 4(and Arizin, Gola, and Rodgers were not the same class of player that Cousy or Sam Jones were, and then you had Heinsohn, Ramsey, Sharman, KC Jones on top of that). Take that 62 series that went 7, Meschery (not a HOFer) and a rookie was the Warriors 2nd best player during that series (though Arizin was during the regular season). In basically ever single game, Wilt had better stats across the board than Bill, but the Celtics won because Cousy, Jones, and Heinsohn were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th best players in that series. Gola only played 4 games that series as well.
It wasn't until the Sixers in 66, when Wilt was joined by Cunningham that he finally had a running mate at least on par with what Bill had in Boston. 66 was Cunningham's rookie year, by Cunningham's 2nd year in 67 the Sixers were the greatest team in the sports history to that point (they had Greer and Walker as well). Cunningham got hurt and didn't play in the 68 playoffs and they lost to Boston.
6 HoF teammates when multiple players in that group would've never even come close to the hall without Russell - KC Jones was a terrible offensive player who got playing time because he was a good defender in the mould of say Patrick Beverley (but with an inaccurate set shot instead of a decently reliable jumpshot), Heinsohn was an average defender who had severe shot selection issues (he only had one season in his career where he shot above league average efficiency) while Ramsey was quite similar (doesn't seem to be a great defender, shot chucking combined with the mystique of his role as the sixth man of those Celtics teams overstated his offensive impact). As influential as they have been for our club as coaches and human beings, they were not moving heaven and earth for us as players - they were major beneficiaries of winning bias.
Sharman, Cousy, Havlicek and Jones were certainly very good players, but they peaked at different times: Sharman fell off as soon as the 60s arrived while Cousy retired after Havlicek's rookie season, meaning that Russell was never really playing with more than 2-3 All-Star level teammates at once. This was actually the norm
for teams back then, check out Wilt's notable teammates from his rookie season to '65:
'60 and '61 - Paul Arizin (volume scorer who was actually efficient), Tom Gola (two-way combo guard) and Guy Rodgers (KC Jones but with actual PG chops instead of looking worse than old Russell on offence). I'm not sure how this was notably worse than Russell's casts in these years: Arizin is arguably the best offensive player out of the lot while players like Gola and Rodgers are immensely valuable from being able to provide value on both ends of the floor unlike some of the one-way specialists the Celtics had.
'62 - down years for the aforementioned three (Arizin even retired after this season) and the brilliance of Wilt carried them to the finals, but it wasn't like Russell was just matching Wilt's team achievements with a better supporting cast: the '62 Celtics were over 8 points better than the rest of the league and almost 6 ahead of Wilt's Warriors thanks to Russell peaking around this period of time.
'63 - Gola and Rodgers have strong bounceback years (Meschery was a bizarre selection - his defence was certainly nice, but his offence was not good at all), but the Warriors have a mediocre season despite the support not being terrible
(it was certainly worse than that of the teams that finished above the Warriors, but you would expect someone who's supposed to be the best player in the league to somewhat narrow that gap).
'64 - Rodgers continues chugging along, Meschery finally looks like a decent player on offence and Nate Thurmond turns into one of the best big men in the league after Russell and Wilt (he took Hightower's place in the starting lineup as the season progressed and had the third most MPG in the playoffs on the team). The result? A finals berth where they were utterly outclassed by Bill Russell's Celtics, who still outclassed them by two and a half points in regular season point differential and beat them convincingly in a finals matchup on the back of a defence that was over ten points
better than league average (their offence was more than 4 points worse than league average, so much for those 6 HoFs
Now we get to the fun part in '66, '67 and '68 when Wilt got on an absolutely loaded team in the form of future ABA MVP Billy Cunningham, Sam Jones' rival in Hal Greer and the oft-underrated Chet Walker who would lead darkhorse title contenders in Chicago later on. The results? Russell bested him in '66, lost in '67 and had mixed results in '68 (the Celtics had a worse RS finish, but compensated for that with a strong +2.7 net rating in a bloodbath of a playoff run - the Lakers inflated theirs by beating up on a 29 win team in the second round and a middling Warriors team in the WCF).
This isn't to say that Bill Russell was leaps and bounds better than Wilt Chamberlain - I personally think that Wilt's '67 campaign from Alex Hannum's coaching bested any year Russell had with a combination of strong offence and all-time great defence. But to say that Wilt was the better player by far is simply wrong when Russell had a much more stable career by being a peerless defender year after year while Wilt struggled to balance his scoring with playmaking early on and ended up going too far in the opposite direction as he aged.