Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes that because you haven’t watched Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell play, you can’t truly rate their excellence.
Basketball has evolved from a game that involved no dribbling and a peach basket into one that rewards players with 50% more points for shooting from 24 feet out. Through the course of these changes, there have been myriads of gradual steps which edged it towards the modern era.
For one thing, the paint has become wider. For another, dribbling rules have been eased up a lot, allowing players to maneuver and handle the ball in new ways. Moreover, defensive and offensive sets have evolved with time – especially with the shot clock and backcourt rules.
Accounting for all of these changes to present a clear GOAT picture is truly a hopeless task. However, if you’re willing to be disingenuous and liberal with your comparisons – as many new fans are – it’s easy to dismiss the 60s and 70s the era of milkmen, plumbers and cokeheads.
The above trivialization is indeed way too prevalent in basketball discourse across social media. However, thanks to the enthusiastic presence of true basketball lovers, those opinions remain confined to isolated pockets.
Nevertheless, it is always interesting to hear an old head’s opinion on the GOAT debate. Whether or not a modern fan agrees with the take, there’s always a possibility to learn something new about legends of yore.
“I saw Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell play, they have no idea”: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is indisputably the most accomplished player in basketball history, all biases aside. This is a man who won championships in high school and college before 6 championships as a pro. One might as well call the 70s his decade, much the same way the 90s belonged to Jordan and the 10s to LeBron.
However, Kareem is in the camp of those fans who dismiss the veracity of GOAT debates and such discussions. He put forth a simple perspective that often gets missed by other fans while talking to Byron Scott:
“It affects me in that it makes me see that people don’t have a very good perspective. I saw Wilt Chamberlain play. Nobody that’s talking that GOAT stuff now probably even saw him play.”
“They haven’t seen Bill Russell play. And Bill Russell won 8 NBA championships in a row. But they have no idea of how he played, or how Oscar Robertson played, or Jerry West.”