If Wilton Norman Chamberlain were still alive, he’d be 82 years old and no doubt would give a nod of approval that another one-name wonder has passed him on the all-time scoring list.
Dirk Nowitzki took less than four minutes Monday night to get the four points he needed to pass Chamberlain for No. 6 on the NBA scoring list.
Wilt, who died just a few months after Luka Doncic was born in 1999, will always be a legend, even if his name rarely gets thrown around with the likes of Michael, LeBron or Kobe or anybody else when it comes to listing the greatest basketball players ever.
Older NBA watchers appreciate Nowitzki passing Chamberlain more, probably. They remember just how great the Big Dipper was.
“At one time, he was my favorite player in the early, early ‘70s,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said Monday before the Mavericks played New Orleans and Dirk made history once again. “I was a kid growing up in northern New York state and we didn’t have cable TV to watch the ABC game of the week on Sundays, so we drove into town, which was a 5 or 10 minute drive to a friend of ours and he (Chamberlain) was a guy I was simply in awe of.
“Wilt was one of those larger-than-life guys that did virtually everything there was to do on a basketball court. He was constantly resetting the bar of things that could be accomplished by an individual guy and along the way won two championships with two of the most dominant teams in history, Philadelphia in ’67 and the Lakers in ’72.”
Consider some of the numbers Chamberlain put up. He averaged 22.9 rebounds per game for his career.
And he never averaged fewer than 18 rebounds per game for a season.
Passing the ball? He averaged 7.8 assists in the championship season of ’67 and 8.6 helpers the next season.
Scoring? Obviously, he could do a little of that, too. He averaged 50.4 points in the 1961-62 season. He averaged 30.1 points for his career. And of course, there was that 100-point game.
He shot 54 percent for his career and more than 72 percent in his final season.
And, he played every minute of every game in the 1961-62 season, averaging 48.5 minutes per game, thanks to a few overtimes.
Yes, that’s a flat-out legend that Nowitzki passed on Monday night.
More proof? Even some of the kids that Nowitzki has been playing with and against paid homage to Nowitzki – and Chamberlain.
“Great night for Dirk,” said Shawn Marion, one of Nowitzki’s former teammates on the 2011 championship team who wanted to make sure he was present for the milestone. “Wilt was a monster. But Dirk is No. 6 — again.”
Indeed, he was sixth for a time before LeBron James passed him earlier this season to knock him down to seventh. Now Nowitzki is back in sixth.
“It’s amazing,” said the Pelicans’ Julius Randle, who grew up in the Dallas area and knows all about Nowitzki’s history. “For a guy that’s so accomplished, he’s kind of had an underrated career, underappreciated, from my perspective. It’s great that he’s breaking these milestones and people are giving him the love he deserves.”
Interestingly, Randle was in the building a couple years ago when he was with the Lakers and Nowitzki broke the 30,000-point mark.
“Seems like every time I play him he’s breaking some record, man,” Randle said with a laugh. “It’s crazy. I was just happy he didn’t hit the shot over me, to be honest with you.”
Randle also said of Chamberlain: “He was a freak athlete in his time. There wasn’t anybody like him from an athletic standpoint. He was the first of his kind.”
Nowitzki agreed as he addressed the media after his milestone.
“Anytime you beat some of those legends up there, it’s incredible,” he said. “Wilt, in his era, was the most dominant player this league has ever seen. Nobody’s scored 100 (except Chamberlain). It’s surreal at times to be up there with some of these names.
“He dominated his era like nobody else. He was obviously a little before my time, but everybody knows about Wilt, how athletic he was, how big he was, that height, 7-2 or whatever it was. He was just unguardable in that era. That’s why he’s up there in only 13, 14 years. If he’d played a couple more years, he’d be No. 1 or 2.”
Carlisle also said that if there were sports talk shows in the ‘60s like there are now, the big debate would have been Chamberlain vs. Bill Russell.
“I remember very vividly when he passed several years ago,” Carlisle said. “I remember seeing Bill Russell’s reaction to it and it was extremely emotional and those two really pushed each other to levels of greatness that were just amazing to even consider – Russell with all the championships and Wilt with championships and MVPs and individual accomplishments and some of the statistical things that, if you think about them, are just beyond belief.
“That’s the part of this that gets me, along with how I feel about Dirk.”
So add Wilt to the list. He follows Oscar, Hakeem, Elvin, Moses, Shaq and the other one-name heroes of the past that Nowitzki has eclipsed on the scoring list.
It’s a mind-blowing amount of talent. And a list that Nowitzki truly deserves to be part of.