Blog Entry

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

Posted on: March 1, 2012 7:57 pm
 
The 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is not only an occasion to remember the accomplishment, but also the man.

What better way to reflect on Chamberlain’s signature moment than through the eyes of his friend and most bitter rival?

So I called Bill Russell, the 11-time champion of the Celtics, and asked if he’d be so kind as to share his thoughts about the occasion 50 years ago Friday. I’ll provide his response, followed by the context.
 
The response from Russell: “Not really.”

“Is it a bad time, or is it a topic you don’t really want to talk about?”

“A little of both,” he said.

And that was that. I apologized for the intrusion and wished Russell the best.

“No intrusion,” Russell said. “And thank you.”

I shared the conversation with Sy Goldberg, Chamberlain’s longtime friend and attorney. On the phone from Los Angeles, Goldberg was neither surprised nor particularly offended by Russell’s reaction.

“There was a love-hate relationship between these two guys,” Goldberg said.

Let it be noted that Russell, who turned 78 last month, harbors no grudges or animosity toward Chamberlain – nothing different than they ever did, anyway. Goldberg said in the old days, the NBA used to schedule the Sixers and Celtics on Thanksgiving Day, and when the game was in Philadelphia, Russell was a guest at casa de Chamberlain for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Russell was there all the time,” Goldberg said. “They were close friends.”

But Chamberlain never forgave Russell for questioning his toughness after Lakers coach Jan van Breda Kolff refused to put an injured Chamberlain back into Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Celtics. Chamberlain had asked out with six minutes left and asked back in with three minutes left, but van Breda Kolff declined. The Celtics won, 108-106, for their second straight championship and last of the Russell era.

“That day, Russell said something like, ‘I don’t care how bad he was, I would never have come out of the game,’” Goldberg said. “Wilt never forgave him for that.”

But with Russell and Chamberlain, the hard feelings weren’t permanent. On the day Chamberlain died of heart failure, Oct. 12, 1999, Goldberg got a call from a frantic Russell, who didn’t want to believe the news.

“I had been called by the gardener, and the police were there, and it was real pandemonium,” Goldberg said. “And I got a call from Bill Russell. His quote was: ‘I wouldn’t believe any news at all unless you tell me it’s true.’ And he sounded like he was devastated.”

In the old days, Chamberlain got all the attention and Russell got most of the championships. So on the eve of Wilt’s 100-point anniversary, the old Celtic stays quiet.

Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s how Wilt would’ve wanted it.
Comments

Since: Mar 23, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:53 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

Both of these guys were class acts...And Bill Russell more than anyone is just class.  He was great....and no one player will ever match his championship rings.  Just the modle of consistency. 

Proabably in a one on one matchup Wilt wins...he was a stud (in more ways than one) and while he doesn't have the rings he was a force.  think about it - he forced a change in the very shape of the backboard!

You take these two guys, Bird, Magic, Jordan, and LeBron and you have a great group.  I wonder about me including LeBron but the guy is just a specimen...he just hasn't had the luxery of having quite the talent around him as some of the others.  but hweis with a good group now and I think he (LeBron) gets a ring or wtwo although he will never get close to Russell



Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:51 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

He was impossible to stop when he really put his mind to it but he sometimes coasted during games and he often didn't demand the ball at crucial times.  He achieved great individual stats but probably should have done a bit more with his talent as far as winning championships was concerned.
Just curious, how do you know this?  Did you know Wilt, coach him, see him play night in and night out? 



Since: Apr 13, 2009
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:50 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

I scored 100 the other day...



Since: Jun 24, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:46 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

The 100-point game is kind of a joke.  The other team was a bad one and Wilt's team kept feeding him the ball.  It was practically an exhibition game where no defense was played.  Bottom line: it's not as great an accomplishment as it sounds. 

Wilt was the strongest and biggest player of his day. He was impossible to stop when he really put his mind to it but he sometimes coasted during games and he often didn't demand the ball at crucial times.  He achieved great individual stats but probably should have done a bit more with his talent as far as winning championships was concerned. If he had had Russell's focus and determination, he probably would have been on a dozen championship teams. 



Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:33 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

Michael Jordan has a mere fraction of the 72 NBA records currently held by Wilt Chamberlain....and that's if you include Jordan's several records for being the oldest player to do this or that....which is a quasi-record at best.  It's almost like giving someone a record for being the tallest player with a certain number of steals in a game.  Horse manure.  Michael Jordan couldn't hold Chamberlain's jock strap.



Since: Feb 28, 2011
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:28 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

  That Russell the ego-maniac  would question Wilt's resolve and heart is no surprise.
Russelll always was  obnoxious &  the psuedo-intellectual. He always thought he was smarter than he really was.
What a  pompous ass.




Since: Mar 2, 2012
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:18 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

I'd like to hear Russell's comment on Wilt other Incredible record - the 55 rebounds he had against Russell.



Since: Apr 10, 2008
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:16 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

The great players seldom play on the best teams or they do later in their careers. I've tossed between Wilt and Big O as to whom I think is the best player of all time. I wish The Hawk (Connie Hawkins) could have played his entire career in the NBA. He was one who could do it all with the best of them ... even with his late entrance into the NBA. sigh ...

... done ramblin'



Since: Nov 26, 2011
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:02 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

If Jordan had played in that era , he might have been Oscar Robertson...few more points, few less assists, few less rebounds, but an overall fair comparison...

Oscar was one of the greatest players of all time...but NO ONE was Wilt...period...

rules were changed because of Wilt..thats how dominant he was

Only rule that was ever changed because of Jordan was traveling...which was never called on him..and his "push-off" the defender, turnaround jumper...ask Craig Ehlo...

Wilt was the man



Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:46 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

The object of any game is to win. But if basketball was a religion, these men would be gods-- championships or not. 


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