Wilt Chamberlin vs Bill Russell

Wilt Chamberlin vs Bill Russell

Who was the better basketball player?

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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.

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn't sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It's obvious your calling wasn't coaching and you weren't meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn't have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn't your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that's how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “It's not what you say, its how you say it."

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won't even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don't hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That's the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she's the reason I continued to play."

I don't blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn't working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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I Wouldn't Trade My DII Experience To Play DI Athletics Any Day

I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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As a high school athlete, the only goal is to play your varsity sport at the Division 1 level in college.

No one in high school talks about going to a Division 2 or 3 school, it's as if the only chance you have at playing college athletics is at the DI level. However, there are so many amazing opportunities to play a varsity sport at the DII and DIII level that are equally fun and competitive as playing for a division 1 team.

As a college athlete at the DII level, I hear so many DI athletes wishing they had played at the DII or DIII level. Because the fact of the matter is this: the division you play in really doesn't matter.

The problem is that DII and DIII sports aren't as celebrated as Division 1 athletics. You don't see the National Championships of Division 2 and 3 teams being broadcasted or followed by the entire country. It's sad because the highest levels of competition at the DII and DIII level are competing against some of the Division 1 teams widely celebrated across the country. Yet DII and DIII teams don't receive the recognition that DI athletics do.

Not everyone can be a DI athlete but that doesn't mean it's easy to be a DII or DIII athlete. The competition is just as tough as it is at the top for DII and DIII athletes. Maybe the stakes are higher for these athletes because they have to prove they are just as good as DI athletes. Division 2 and 3 athletes have just as much grit and determination as Division 1 athletes, without the glorified title of being "a division 1 athlete."

Also, playing at the DII or DIII level grants more opportunities to make your college experience your own, not your coach's.

I have heard countless horror stories in athletics over the course of my four-year journey however, the most heartbreaking come from athletes who lose their drive to compete because of the increased pressure from coaches or program. Division 1 athletics are historically tougher programs than Division 2 or 3 programs, making an athlete's college experience from one division to another significantly different.

The best part of not going to a division 1 school is knowing that even though my team doesn't have "DI" attached to it, we still have the opportunity to do something unique every time we arrive at an event. Just because we aren't "DI" athletes, we still have the drive and competitive spirit to go to an event and win. We are great players, and we have broken countless records as a team.

That's something we all have done together, and it's something we can take with us for the rest of our lives.

We each have our own mission when it comes to our college athletic careers, however together we prove to be resilient in the fight for the title. Giving it all when we practice and play is important, but the memories we have made behind the scenes as a team makes it all worth it, too.

The best part of being apart of college athletics is being able to be passionate about your sport with teammates that embody that same mindset. It's an added benefit to having teammates who become your best friends because it makes your victories even more victorious, and your defeats easier to bare.

No matter what level an athlete is playing at in college, it's important that all the hours spent at practice and on the road should be enjoyed with teammates that make the ride worthwhile. The experiences athletes have at any level are going to vary, but the teammates I have and the success we've had together is something I cherish and will take with me forever. I'm thankful that I didn't go DI because I wouldn't have had the best four-year experience as a college athlete.

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