Wilt Chamberlain was and is the ultimate what-if, or something close to it.
What he did as a player makes our current definition of “dominant” look skewed and, to be frank, foolish. He averaged over 50 points and 25 rebounds in the 1961-62 season with the Philadelphia Warriors, the year he scored 100 points in a game.
Now, when we re-examine his career, there are so many hypotheticals that come to mind. Chamberlain himself was asked a bunch of them. Back in 1997, Conan O’Brien wondered how Chamberlain would have fared against Shaquille O’Neal.
“He plays an entirely different type of basketball game,” Chamberlain said. “He uses his physicality and he’s a big, strong young man, and that works well in today’s game. If he was facing me and other guys of my time, not so good. I’m a guy bench pressing around 600 pounds when I was at my best.”
A 600-pound bench press is an absurd number — the kind you’d need to see to believe — which makes it perfect for Chamberlain.
It’s natural to be curious about how Chamberlain’s game would have translated to the current era. Since the Sixers retired his No. 13 jersey 29 years ago today, it seems like as good a time as any to dive into that topic a bit.
(You can watch the full jersey ceremony retirement below, including an excellent opening from Marc Zumoff.)
Chamberlain’s rebounding likely would have…