With position-less basketball becoming the norm in today’s NBA, there is less of an appreciation for the truly dominant big man.
The league had to change rules to limit Wilt Chamberlain’s dominance. Teams would rather give Shaq an automatic trip to the line instead of defending him in the post. And even most recently, Dirk Nowitzki became immortalized for his signature, low-post fadeaway that most players are not even advised to shoot anymore.
All this being said, who would be the best big if they all played at the same time? There are nine bigs in NBA history to average over 20 points per game in their career while collecting over 150 Win Shares. All nine of these players range in when they played, how they played, and the style of the league in which they played, giving us a very divided comparison.
Even with a significant decrease in most of his metrics, Wilt still leads in most of the categories. Besides total rebounds, however, all the metrics he leads in are league-influenced. And considering the era in which Chamberlain played, it only makes sense his volumes are this high.
This is why Chamberlain was the only member of the group to see double-digit deflation on some of his scoring metrics. A lot more was expected from a team’s star player, and Chamberlain was a workhorse on the floor, which also helped his numbers considering field goal attempts were at an all-time high, specifically for big men.
And once you have a big man-friendly league paired with an all-time high of top scorers staying on the floor, you see the monstrous seasons that Chamberlain set.
But, once all nine centers and forwards were put into one league average, Chamberlain lost his group-high points per game to Karl Malone by 0.3. He owes a lot of that credit to the point guard that gave him most of his attempts, John Stockton, as after inflation he was second in field goal and free throw attempts per game.
While nobody outside of Nowitzki was really known for their shooing ability on this list, the fact that Chamberlain was practically a coin flip from the charity stripe is what would really hurt him if he played outside the ‘60s and ‘70s. Consider the “hack-a-Shaq” became popularized despite O’Neal shooting a higher percentage from the line than Wilt may have changed who the term was named after.
The slight disadvantage in scoring that Chamberlain would be given is made up for due to his separation in rebounds per game. Even though he loses over a quarter of his normal total, he still has more than 4.1 more than the second-best in Moses Malone.
If we looked just at rebounding totals over a career, we would see four different competitors for Chamberlain’s amount. Since Chamberlain and Bill Russell played in a completely different era for rebounders, how would some of the more recent stars fare if they played back when these two Hall of Famers did?
|FG Miss %||56.2%||58%||54.4%|
Even with all three of the qualifiers accumulating over 30% inflation when combining the addition of field goal attempts, field goal misses, and minutes per game, none of them even break 20, which shows how remarkable Chamberlain and Russell’s totals were. And the way that the NBA is trending, alongside the deflation of these factors that benefited the two, pretty much confirms that we will never see the career or single-season totals produced by these two ever again.