Houston Rocket pivot man Dwight Howard’s 26 rebounds in Friday’s 130-128 NBA playoff victory over the Dallas Mavericks was a tremendous feat in modern pro basketball.
But for Wilt Chamberlain it would have been just another day in the office. Wilt, like contemporary Oscar Robertson, belong on the same level in basketball as Babe Ruth is in baseball, They were the models of excellence that present players only hope to emulate.
Wilt Chamberlain AVERAGED more than 20 points and 20 rebounds per game for his entire career! The actual numbers were 30.1 points per game and 22.9 rebounds. In five of his twelve seasons in the NBA he finished the season with averages more than 20-20.
Only two other players in NBA history have had a single season with averages of more than 20-20. Jerry Lucas did it twice and Bob Pettit once.
It is true that in the Chamberlain, Lucas, Pettit era game scores like Friday’s 130-128 Rocket win were far more common than today. More shots were taken–and missed than in the present era which is why the numbers Chamberlain put up will never be equaled.
As for Oscar he was the master of the triple double. For one whole season, 1961-62, he averaged a triple double all year. He scored at 30.8 points per game, rebounded at 12.5 and assisted at 11.2. Those numbers were good enough to carry him through the first five years of his career with a triple double average. His final rebound per game average dropped off to 9.5 by his retirement and his concentration on play making.
No one in the NBA will ever do what Wilt and Oscar did again. It is also likely no one will ever do what Babe Ruth did either. His single season and career home runs have been topped, but not by any player who also registered a .342 batting average. Combine that with his pitching skills early in his career and there will never be anyone like the Babe.
And while I am at it how about Jim Brown in football? Look up his average yardage per carry someday and find anyone who comes close.
We have great players in all sports and more of them than at any time in history. Yet it is very unlikely and future player will equal the achievements of Wilt, Oscar, Babe and Jim Brown.