Two basketball players defied the odds. Both apart of the first generation of African American basketball players, they were faced with many difficulties. They grew up in a time when segregation was overwhelming, and yet no matter how many things were thrown their way, they conquered every challenge. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin are two of the greatest basketball players that ever lived, and they both excelled in many different ways.
Bill Russell was born in Monroe, Louisiana on February 12th, 1934. His childhood was filled with challenges; his family was constantly abused by racial slurs and acts. Finally, when Russel was 10, his father decided he could no longer take the close-minded atmosphere of the south, so the family moved to Oakland, California. Life was still rough and Russell was extremely shaken by the death of his dearest advocate and supporter, his mother. Although he was heartbroken, he decided to religiously focus on his studies just as she would have wanted. At this time, he also began to participate in basketball. He was cut from his middle school team and finally, many years later, made the starting team as a senior in high school. At the end of his high school career, he only received the attention of one school: University of San Francisco. There he led his team to two NCAA titles (1955, 1956), and in 1956 he was invited to the 1956 Olympics where he achieved a Gold medal.
Wilt Chamberlin had a different upbringing. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 21st, 1936. At the time, Philadelphia was less segregated than Louisiana. Another thing that differed between the two players was that Chamberlin was a superstar in high school. He had already reached the height of 6 feet tall at the age of ten. He was highly recruited by all the top basketball schools, and he finally decided to go to the University of Kansas, a school still highly sought after today for its basketball program. Kansas made it to the finals in 1957, but they were defeated by the North Carolina. Although they did not win Chamberlin was still named the "Most Outstanding Player" of the tournament, which was unusual for the time because he was African American.
Moving on, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin ended up making history once they entered the NBA. Wilt Chamberlin was in the league from 1959-1973, and Bill Russel was in the league from 1956-1969. Both had long careers, and both still hold records today that may never be broken.
Bill Russell was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 1956 and got straight to work. In 1957, the team finished the year with the best record in the NBA. Not only did they finish with the most wins, they also battled the Hawks and finally beat them in game seven. This first win foreshadowed the destiny of the Boston Celtics. The 1956 Championship was the first of eleven Championships over the next thirteen years. Bill Russel finished his career with a total of eleven NBA Championships. He was named a five-time NBA MVP and a twelve-time NBA All-Star, and lastly, his number was retired soon after his departure from the Celtics. The top six players behind Russell on the list of most championships were all his teammates. Not counting his teammates, the next player with the most championships falls short four behind Russell.
Wilt Chamberlin came into the league three years after Russell. He was first apart of the Philadelphia Warriors. His first year he received the NBA Rookie of the Year award and also the NBA Most Valuable Player Award. Clearly, Chamberlin was destined to make history. Chamberlin stayed with the Warriors for 5 years until he decided to return to his hometown of Philadelphia to join the Philadelphia 76ers, but before he left the Warriors he needed to make history first. In 1962, Chamberlin set an NBA record that still to this day has never come close to being touched: 100 points in a single game. The closest athlete behind Chamberlin is Kobe Bryant with a remarkable 81 points, but still, this does not come close to Chamberlin's mind-shattering 100 points. Wilt Chamberlin stayed with the Warriors when they moved to San Francisco, but in 1965 he went back to Philadelphia.
Both Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlin set records that have not come close to being conquered. There is conversation as to who is the greatest of all time. Some say Russell, and some say Chamberlin. In my opinion, the best of all time is Bill Russell. I believe Bill Russell is the best of all time simply because of his undoubted ability to lead a team. When people say "There is no I in team" they mean it. Wherever Russell went, he would win. In college, he won two consecutive NCAA titles at a school not particularly known for its basketball program. When a team wins an NBA title, they must have good teamwork and chemistry, but when a team wins 11 NBA titles in 13 years there has to be a secret behind it. The secret behind the Boston Celtics success was their leader. In a piece done by the famous Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford, published on May 10th, 1999 Russell expressed how important it was for the Celtics to succeed as a whole " "To be the best in the world," Russell says, all but licking his lips. "Not last week. Not next year. But right now. You are the best. And it's even more satisfying as a team because that's more difficult. If I play well, that's one thing. But to make others play better...." He grins, savoring the memory." Bill Russell wanted everyone around him to succeed. When his teammates saw this, it only motivated them to give it their all as well. Bill Russell is the greatest of all time.