5-time NBA All-Star
Join Date: Apr 2013
Re: Some of the All-Time greats averages in 100 poss. per game and 40 mpg.
Pauk has been among the better posters here, and it was not my intention to "expose" him. I have read the analysis of the so-called "paceologists" on the topic of Chamberlain's extraordinary feats throughout the years after he retired. Pauk was certainly not the first to bring up "pace."
But it has also been pointed out that the NBA in the 60's, and particularly the early 60's, was played under conditions that were not conducive to the higher FG%'s that would slowly evolve to about the late 70's, when they just exploded. The ball was not uniform until the late 60's, and there are photos from that period with what appears to even be bald basketballs. The games were often played in cold, and even breezy venues. The game was usually played out to no more than about 20 feet, and defenses were more compacted. Traveling conditions were considerably worse, as were hotel accomodations. Medical technology was nothing like what is practiced today, and players were encouraged to play with their injuries. And finally, the scheduling was just brutal. Back-to-back games are a rarity today (and none at all in the playoffs.) In Wilt's '62 season alone, he played in six separate stretches of "three-in-rows"; another three separate runs of "four-in-a-rows: and even yet another separate stretch of an unfathomable "five-games-in-five nights" (and there were two road games in between, as well.)
Take a look at the FG%'s of the players who played in the early 60's, and who also played into the late 60's, or even into the 70's. Almost to a man they climbed. Some by huge margins. Jerry West, whose jump shot looked nearly the same in the '62 all-star game, as it did in video footage in the late 60's and early 70's, had two seasons of shooting .419 and .445. Johnny Green had seasons of .430 shooting early in his career, and by the early 70's, was leading the league. Darrell Imhoff shot as poorly as .386 in the early 60's, and as high as .540 in the late 60's. John Havlicek, whose 16 season career was split evenly between the two decades, shot as poorly as .399 in the early 60's, and then shot better in every season in the decade of the 70's, as he did in his best seasons in the 60's. Baylor shot as poorly as .401 early in the 60's, and as high as .486 late in his career, and on a bum leg. Even Wilt, who would just blow away FG% records later on, shot as poorly as .461 in his first season. These players did not suddenly learn to shoot.
Once again, take a look at the league FT%'s before Wilt arrived, .756 in '59 (keep in mind that in Shaq's 2000 season, the NBA shot .755), and the season after Wilt retired (.771.) And given the conditions that existed in the early 60's (and obviously before), it was amazing that they shot as well as they did.
From the late 70's, to the current NBA, FG%'s have remained relatively steady, with only a dip in the late 90's, and early 00's. But, keep in mind that the use of the 3pt shot has slowly risen from the late 70's, as well. The eFG%'s have been pretty level since then. So, when you read about FG%'s in 2000 being .449, the actual eFG% was .478, which means, of course, that two-point shooting was actually considerably higher, and was brought down by the 3pt percentages. And keep in mind that the 3pt shot also opened up the lanes and stretched out defenders. The post players actually benefitted somewhat.
Still, defenses improved from the late 80's over those from the late 70's thru the mid-80's. Take a look at those great centers who played in the early to mid-80's, and would also play into the 90's. Hakeem had his highest FG% season in his rookie season. Robinson and Ewing shot considerably better early in their careers, than they did in the mid-to-late 90's. Conversely, look at the centers who played in both decades of the 70's and 80's. Players like Kareem and Gilmore, even well past their primes, were shooting miles better in the decade of the 80's. Teams with records of 30-52 were shooting as high as .504 in the early to mid-80's, and that was not even eFG%'s either.
And all of the above is exactly why you have to factor in eFG% in these cross-era comparisions. And it clearly makes a difference in these formulas. As I stated earlier, if you don't take eFG% into account, then the teams of '62, in a league in which they averaged 119 ppg, would only average 85 ppg in Shaq's 2000 season, in a league that averaged 98 ppg.
And here again, you can't tell me that Sharman, who shot as high as .932 from the line in '59, would only be a .440 shooter in the decades of the 70's and beyond. Or West would only shoot as low as .419 in the 80's, or beyond. And, how did a prime Kareem, in the decade of the 70's, have seasons of .539, .529, .518, and even .513 (right in the middle of the 70's)? And yet in the 80's, never shoot below .564, and as high as .604 and .599? Or Gilmore suddenly going from as low as a .522 shooter, to having six seasons of .618+ in the 80's. Or MJ's FG%'s declining almost every season in the 90's. Or, as I mentioned earlier, Hakeem, Ewing, and Robinson all having their most efficient seasons early in their careers, and then generally declining after that.
And, by-the-way, the game was not it's infancy in the 60's either. The game was invented in the 1890's, and the dimensions, ball, hoop, and number of players has all remained relatively the same. And there really have only been two major rules changes that truly affected the game. The shot-clock, introduced in the 50's, and the 3pt shot, which the NBA adopted in the late 70's (and the ABA had been playing with since the 60's.) Sure, there were minor changes, like three-seconds, offensive and defensive goal-tending (all of which preceded Wilt BTW), and other's like the widening of the lane (which did not affect Wilt at all.) BTW, college basketball still uses the 12 ft lane that was in place before the "anti-Wilt" rule of widening it to 16 ft before the '65 season.
The game was invented in the 1890's, and was played by colleges in the late 1890's. There were professional teams as far back as the 1920's. And the NBA was established in 1946. So, no, the NBA, and particularly basketball, was not in it's infancy in the early 60's.
Nor do the Wilt-detractors bring up the fact that he was still capable of 60 point games even into the last season of the 60's (and was averaging 32.2 ppg in the last season of the 60's when his shredded his knee.) Or that Chamberlain was averaging 22.5 rpg in his 17 post-season games in his very last season (72-73), and that the highest post-season rpg playoffs since was Kareem's 17.3 rpg in his 11 games in the '77 playoffs. BTW, Wilt's 22.5 rpg average came in a post-season NBA that averaged 50.6 rpg.
Or that, as ThaRegul8r's research produced...that a 36 year old Chamberlain, in his last season, averaged 5.5 bpg, which is interesting given the fact that Mark Eaton set the NBA record of 5.6 bpg only 12 years later. And while we don't have solid numbers to back it up, none other than the esteemed Harvey Pollack had Wilt with seasons of 10+ bpg. And in some research, estimates had Chamberlain with dozens of double digit games in the mid-60's...with several in the 20's, and even a couple as high as 30+. And there is a recorded game, by SI, in 1968, in which Wilt blocked 23 shots.
And Russell was the only player who was close to Wilt in that category. Kareem and an aging Thurmond, actually played in the season in which the NBA started "officially" recording blocked shots, and neither were within the grand canyon of blocking 5 bpg, much less more.
Finally, for those that attempt to diminish what Chamberlain was capable of, how about his last two seasons, and against 6-11 HOFer Bob Lanier, who probably had his best season in one of them, in which. over the course of 11 straight games, Chamberlain averaged 23.9 ppg, on an unfathomable .784 FG%. Or that a prime Wilt averaged (yes averaged) 48.2 ppg against 6-11 HOFer Walt Bellamy (who would measure at over 7-0 in today's NBA), over the course of 20 (yes 20) straight games. And yet, Kareem faced Bellamy on numerous occasions, and his high game against him was only 39 (and Bellamy more than held his own against him.) Or that a prime "scoring" Wilt averaged 30 ppg against 6-11 HOFer Nate Thurmond, over the course of 11 straight games, including highs of 38 and 45 (outscoring Thurmond by margins of 38-15 and 45-13), and yet, Kareem faced Thurmond in some 40 H2H's, and only had seven games of 30+, with a high game of 34.
The fact was, a 38-39 year old Kareem could average 32 ppg on .633 shooting in ten straight games against a 23 year old Hakeem, and even lit up Ewing in a game in which he outscored Patrick, 40-9, in the about the same week he shelled Hakeem with a 46 point in only 37 minutes of play.
So, for those that suggest that a prime Wilt would not be among the best players of this era, is to suggest that Kareem, Hakeem, and even Shaq, would not be, either.