One-third of the way through the season, it is clear that no rookie—in any sport—has ever achieved the smashing success that Philadelphia's 7-foot-plus Wilt Chamberlain presently enjoys in professional basketball. From the first, he has scored more points per game and pulled down more rebounds than any other player in the league. His defensive skill, like Bill Russell's, has intimidated all rival teams, forcing them to pass up easy shots repeatedly because of a well-justified fear that Wilt might block them. Players defending against him are nearly always in danger of fouling out of games because the great effort required to keep up with Chamberlain drives them to undisciplined maneuvers. Wilt's remarkable stamina enables him to play the full 48 minutes, without substitution, whenever the Warriors need him. And he is bound to improve. As St. Louis Coach Ed Macauley says, "He will learn more from our old pros than they will from him." Finally, his presence is the principal reason why NBA attendance has increased almost 25%. Below is a detailed analysis of Chamberlain's record thus far.
What Wilt has faced
How Wilt has done
Boston's Bill Russell, quicker than Wilt and as good a jumper but not nearly so strong, is chiefly responsible for Boston's victories, because he can play Wilt man-for-man, free his teammates for other assignments. But even he gets help occasionally.
St. Louis has held Wilt to his lowest averages because two tall, strong centers alternate against him. Coach Ed Macauley docs not believe in "special" tactics. "After all." he says, "how do you pitch to Hank Aaron? You just do your best."
Total-139 Average per game-46.3
Total-73 Average per game-24.3
Cincinnati yields 40 points a game because neither of its centers is anywhere near as agile as Wilt. However, Phil Jordon is effective against Chamberlain on offense; he has a fine hook shot, a weapon Russell has learned to cope with but Wilt has not.
Total-86 Average per game-28.7
Minneapolis often concedes rebounds to Wilt in favor of falling back to positions in Chamberlain's pet shooting areas. Center Larry Foust always does an outstanding defensive job on Wilt for part of each game, but he no longer has the stamina to go 48 minutes.
Total-91 Average per game-30.3
New York has no adequate pivot man to throw against Wilt, therefore plays Center Charlie Tyra in a corner as part of a "perimeter" offense. On defense, however, this weakness shows up in Wilt's fine shooting percentage, despite much double-teaming.
Detroit's center. Walter Dukes, is one of the league's best offensive rebounders, which accounts for Wilt's comparatively low average here. However, Dukes commits many fouls and cannot contest position with Wilt-the reason for his high point average.
Syracuse's Coach Paul Seymour believes Wilt and Russell pose the same problem and that both must be played man-for-man. He has two big men for the job. But he does admit "We float off Philly's backcourt a little" to jam Wilt's shooting area.