Wilt Chamberlain once said in the late 80s that the center position is suffering deeply and that the NBA had lousy centers.
When talking about the greatest centers in NBA history, the name Wilt Chamberlain is sure to come up in the top 3 or at the very least, the top 5. Him alongside his arch-rival and unlikely confidante, Bill Russell, would be two names that would certainly be on the tip of everybody’s tongue in this conversation.
So, when it comes to discussing other players who have played his position in the NBA, it’s safe to say that Wilt Chamberlain knows what he’s talking about. Wilt has long been critical of players who came after him, even having a rocky relationship with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar along the way.
While being critical of the centers who came after him may seem fair coming from Chamberlain, it tends to become a bit hypocritical when you realize that he didn’t have much competition one on one in his heyday.
The reasons as to why Wilt Chamberlain didn’t win as many championships as he should have were never to do with his individual capabilities, rather his unwillingness to change the way he approached the game.
Wilt Chamberlain on the state of centers in the 1980s.
The 1980s were so dominated by the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers that it was easy to overlook any center that was not named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Wilt Chamberlain, while speaking with Roy Firestone, talked about the state of centers in the NBA during the late 80s.
“I think the center position is suffering. I think they have lousy centers right now. 2 or 3 are really good and the rest of them couldn’t make it in high school. Kareem can still go out there and do it scoring wise and these guys should, you know, be killing him.” [ at the 3:44 mark]
At age 38, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was averaging 23.4 points per game on 56.4% shooting from the field. Essentially, according to Wilt, this should not have been the case as opposing centers should not have allowed it to happen.
In all fairness, the 1980s had a lot of centers who were up and coming such as Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon; players who were excellent in the 80s but became NBA legends in the 90s.
It should also be noted that guys like Robert Parish, Moses Malone, and even Jack Sikma should not be slighted in this conversation.