Wilt Chamberlain let NBA fans know that the rivalry between him and Bill Russell was merely on the court as the two were great friends off it.
Before the LeBron James-Kevin Durant, Shaquille O’Neal-David Robinson, Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalries, the NBA bared witness to Bill Russell going up against Wilt Chamberlain. While the former would bring 11 championships to the only team he would play for throughout his career, the Boston Celtics, Chamberlain would play for 3 teams and win two rings.
Both titans would face off against one another in the Playoffs on 8 separate occasions, with Bill Russell having won quite nearly every single outing. Whether it was an OT Game 7 in the 1962 NBA Finals while Wilt was still a Warrior or in Game 7 of the 1969 Finals that saw the Celtics rally back from a 0-2 deficit.
With the two playing the same position and being the top 2 players at the position for a decade, it’s easy to push the narrative of an intense rivalry between the two. Bill Russell was always more of a competitor between himself and Wilt Chamberlain, but off the court, both legends shared an incredible friendship.
Wilt Chamberlain talked about his friendship with Bill Russell.
Even with guys like Havlicek bashing Wilt for his selfishness on the court, Honcho’s all-time teammate, Russell, seemed to have no problem with him off it. During an interview with Bob Costas in 1997, Wilt Chamberlain let the world know that there was never any animosity between the two during their playing days and well after.
“Bill would come to my house on Thanksgiving night because we had Philly vs Boston the next night. He would sleep in my bed and take some food and he would go out there and whip my butt.”
Following the passing of the Sixers legend, Russell expressed deep sorrow in his eulogy, saying, “I feel unspeakably injured. I’ve lost a dear and exceptional friend and an important part of my life. Our relationship was intensely personal.”