Look, up in the sky…
The past. How do we objectively sort history comparative to the present and even the future? Do we merely allow the past to float away like the leaves falling off trees while somehow forgetting the next generation of seeds? Do we over-exaggerate the past by embellishing facts just so history remains relevant and even superior to what is now? Is it wrong to ask and debate whether Wilt or Mike is the GOAT? Is Wilt Chamberlain gone from your sports measure simply because he’s not alive and little footage is available to give him the proper and in many cases a cynical eye test? If Wilt were alive on this day, his birthday, what position would he play? What was his go to move? How would he be perceived by society? What is your perception of him? Would he dominate? Would you be shocked by his chill demeanor? Could you honestly say without question that he couldn’t score 100 points today?
Happy Birthday Mr. Chamberlain.
Let’s have a little chat people…
Simply because history is documented by folks with known names does not necessarily mean what those folk wrote is what should be known and passed through time. Understand? Why should the future trust a time where biases were ubiquitous? There must be alternate checks and balances to mainstream thinking, and that many go with a past especially racist in the era Wilt played because of minority dissent in is irrational. Society has never respected a strong Black male presence and when it’s known Wilt is having fun with every woman as if his name was Jack Johnson, we have to be honest and say a disdain for Wilt was obvious and it wasn’t about basketball. So think people. Think about what you read, where it’s written and why it’s written. What makes my work lesser than anyone at any outlet where faces are seen on TV or in print? What makes your thoughts lesser than anything I’ve written? So I ask you these questions in hopes you make up your own mind. Not only because I tell you so, but because it is common sense. We have to become more perceptive instead of this mental laziness that has become us while the world at large storms past the intelligence of our nation’s collective brain. If readers step up and challenge journalism consistently maintain the objectivity it says it prides itself on, journalism will have to change. If we trust the words of a field simply set on money to maintain jobs or worse to set a negative narrative of specific athletes, we deserve historical inaccuracy.
Those of us in the field write initially because we love to write and later because we have pay bills. So, we’re really no different than you except this is our job, and because this is what we do, I hope we pay a lot more attention to all of sports exclusive of cheering for our favorite teams. My point is, I’ve had many debates about Wilt vs. Mike, vs. Shaq, vs. Russell, vs. Kareem, vs. history, and unfortunately, because Wilt Chamberlain is no longer with us, his image and almost mythical athletic prowess begins to blur.
Of course those who played with and against Wilt will have a broader perspective, because to say Wilt is the GOAT represents their era and keeps their names and game alive, but are they wrong? Michael Jordan will be seen as the GOAT in the internet age because he did it all before our eyes. He won six titles and was Finals MVP six times as well. He had no peer during his greatness and will to stay the best. Many of us saw his entire career, but it must be said that Mike in a lot of ways benefited from the death of Len Bias (definitively one of the greatest to not play in the NBA) and the untimely injuries Ralph Sampson (3 time college player of the year) suffered (that Houston team with Dream would have by dynastic). Does that make him fortunate? Sure. Does that imply he wouldn’t be the player he is for time because the aforementioned weren’t able to have full careers? No of course not. I’m just giving you something to think about in a conversation many think no one else is worthy to even be discussed. That’s crazy. These words are in no way intended to diminish anything Mike accomplished, but just because Mike was great, doesn’t mean Wilt’s impact wasn’t just as transcendent or even more so as well. I’ve had many say “You’re insane. Mike is the GOAT. End of story.” I then ask, have you seen any footage of Wilt? Immediately the buts and the stutter stutter begin to fly. I understand folks cannot quantify what they never saw, but the sheer numbers Wilt amassed are incredible. Just as baseball sees Babe Ruth as a historical behemoth, so should basketball of Wilt on the same level. Rarely is anything said of Ruth that would be perceived as negative, but the pejoratives spouted when Wilt is mentioned are many. Why? If Babe played in an era where his numbers are totally respected, why isn’t Chamberlain given the same respect? After all, at least Wilt’s era was integrated, but, can we say that of Ruth? How beneficial would it be if we broadened our view of what the sport of basketball is and not what the powers to be think it should be. Wilt spoke up when necessary and every single athlete alive should feel free to do so when the common sensory hits them.
Anyone who follows my work, knows if I had to choose the NBA GOAT it would be Wilt (there is no GOAT). The Dipper (he hated being called Wilt the Stilt) was 7’1″ and 275 pounds of controlled yet sensitive will. He was all types of strength, masterful conditioning and had a mind few, if any, could penetrate — off the floor. The perception of Wilt is he was an arrogant individual whom simply cared of his stats, but when looking objectively at history, who could honestly say they embodied everything he was in the 50′s and 60′s when civil unrest was shaping the nation? He stood outside that margin and wouldn’t allow himself to be marginalized by anyone. His height was clowned more often than not because he stood out in a world where most stood in with the average (height) crowd. No diss to Bill Russell, because we’ll never know if he could have done the offensive things Wilt was known to do, but when considering the organization, coach and surrounding talent of both basketball giants, give me Wilt Chamberlain every single time — despite all the championships Russell and the Celtics won. Imagine scoring 35 more points a game than the guy who won MVP and how that would affect your psyche and how you view people. How is it even possible Chamberlain didn’t win MVP in his 50 points per game season? Do you honestly think any team without that type of input would be better off (He and Oscar should have won all the MVP trophies)? I asked a few NBA superstars for a later piece about that ’61-’62 season and they were shocked Wilt wasn’t MVP. It’s evident Wilt was the villain LeBron is today. How would LeBron be different if Wilt was around. It’s obvious Wilt would have identified with LeBron athletically, mentally and somewhat socially, so who could have been a better teacher than the first so called NBA villain himself? I find it comically simple that society needs a villain and though Wilt probably didn’t care what people thought of him in solitude judging by my interactions with folks he knew, maybe he was better off performing in an individual sport. A sport where the Dipper simply had to focus on what he could do alone and thus be more comfortable with the outcome. The loss that was his forever regret was vs. UNC in the 1959 National Final because he felt he let the Kansas faithful down. The triple overtime loss was also the origin of Wilt being falsely labeled a loser. Frank Deford opined that Wilt maybe was in fact better off in track and field in a piece for ’99 Sports Illustrated: “Indeed, it may be most revealing that, of all his basketball years, the one he enjoyed most was the one between leaving Kansas and joining the NBA, when he was a Harlem Globetrotter, globetrotting with no pressure on him to perform heroically, to quantify anything. I always thought that Chamberlain would have been much more content in an individual sport—such as track and field, in which he excelled, disparately, in the high jump and the shot put. The conflict between team and personal supremacy forever confounded him.”
Yes he was different. So much more to write here, but I’ll chill until the proper context is presented.
Happy Birthday Wilt Chamberlain. We miss your intelligence, quick wit, laughter and vulnerable confidence. We miss the impact you would have had on future generations had this society been more true to the game. May time remember what you were and less of what is written and spoken. There was something about you the world just didn’t understand. Your complex art of life has yet to be fully acknowledged and while it isn’t known how much you struggled with an objectified view of you, understand many of us will forever speak your Philly name with honorable objectivity sans a common definition of integrity. You were the bridge to the current superstar and while your game was limited by the rules of insecure imbeciles, your presence in sports overall by those of us who truly care will never be forgotten and never will be distorted. We know you were one of the greatest athletes that ever lived, but since the historical microscope sees you simply as a basketball player who liked nice things and loved the ladies even more, we all will fall short of how much your time on this earth is truly worth.
Deserves every inclusion to any discussion of greatest athlete ever.
To the links…
Syrian activists accuse government of deadly chemical attack near Damascus (WaPo).
Cleveland Cavaliers’ top pick Anthony Bennett reaches agreement on three-year deal (Cleveland.com).
Yankees not happy with Ryan Dempster’s suspension (USA Today).
Alex Rodriguez and the Overkill of Hate (EB Sports Report).
Maryland guard Dez Wells suing Xavier for expulsion (Yahoo!).
Facial scanning is making gains in surveillance (NYT).
Don’t answer that cotdamn phone! (My Word Wizard).
Divorced Parents Online August – September ’13 issue (Divorced Parents Online).
Sexual double standards, slut-shaming and #Slanegirl (Slate).
Aspiring rapper’s Instagram photos lead to largest gun bust in New York City history (The Verge).