Philadelphia 76ers: Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest NBA player of all-time

Wilt Chamberlain | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images)
Wilt Chamberlain | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

2. Wilt’s economic impact

The NBA had only eight teams when Chamberlain came in and it was not living up to its name as a national basketball league.

Outside of the St. Louis Hawks, it was entirely made up of Eastern and Midwest cities. The NBA was basically a regional league, but even some of the biggest cities in that area like Chicago, Baltimore/Washington D.C. and Cleveland had seen franchises come and then fail.

The NBA went as far south as Cincinnati and as far west as Minneapolis.

The league did have a dynasty in the Boston Celtics but they never gained the national following like the New York Yankees in baseball or Dallas Cowboys in football until the arrival of Larry Bird in the 1980s. Even in the city of Boston, they were behind the Bruins, Red Sox and Boston College football in popularity and rarely sold out a regular season game.

Their top player, Bill Russell, was not a warm and fuzzy personality interested in brand marketing like current stars. He did not even like to sign autographs.

Wilt was mostly a friendly guy who got along with most everyone (except some of his coaches). He was used to the limelight, having been immersed in it since his freshman year at Overbrook High School, so the media attention did not bother him.

And people wanted to see Chamberlain play. Philadelphia boosted its attendance by 75,000 over the previous year, even though the big local sports story was the Eagles winning the NFL championship.

While the Celtics by themselves were not a draw, people wanted to see Wilt vs. Russell and the Eastern Division (changed to conference in 1970) finals between Philadelphia and Boston was a big draw.

When Wilt retired in 1973, the NBA had gone from eight to 17 teams and now had franchises in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta, Portland and Seattle, places that were a thousand miles away from the closest NBA team when he started. Also, Chicago, Cleveland and Baltimore/D.C. now had entrenched teams.

Also. 15 greatest seasons in franchise history. light

According to, in Chamberlain’s rookie season of 1959-60, 1,296,973 total fans went to an NBA game. In his last year (1972-73), it was 5,852,081.

Was this massive increase in the NBA’s popularity totally due to Chamberlain? No, but he was the top gate attraction during this period. He was the one NBA person that non-sports fan recognized. If you said the name ‘Wilt’, just like Elvis, everyone knew who you were talking about.

It should also be pointed out that after Chamberlain left, the NBA immediately hit a rough patch. Its popularity got so low that by the late 70s the NBA finals were on tape-delay and the playoff schedule was stretched out until June so it did not hurt the TV networks important May ‘sweeps’ period.

And money talks, in 1968 he signed for what seemed like an insane amount of money to most people: a five-year contract worth $1.25 million dollars. No player had ever reached the $250,000 a year level in any team sport until then

In 1973, the San Diego Conquistadors of the ABA paid Chamberlain $600,00 to be their player-coach. The Lakers stopped him from playing with a lawsuit but he was, by far, the highest-paid coach in professional sports at the time.