No, seriously, it really is.
Credit to basketball super-fan Nate Jones for helping spread this footage via Twitter yesterday. Based solely off the battles the two had during their younger seasons and up until 1969, Wilt Chamberlain’s most storied competitor was Bill Russell. Yet, towards the end of the Dipper’s legendary – and at times controversial – career was another seven-footer primed to assume his role as the most dominant force in basketball. That guy was Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.
Some fine soul took the task upon him or herself to piece together clips of Wilt and Kareem battling one another as members of the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. Allow me to provide some personal cliff notes.
1. Kareem’s Soul Brother #1 afro-beard combo at the :19 mark was flawless. Had I lived in the ’70s, I’m definitely, definitely, definitely asking for that every time in the barbershop.
2. Kareem was the more polished offensively. His moves came off more fluid and he appeared a tad more comfortable with the ball in his hands. Nevertheless, Wilt was superior defensively, a bloodhound when it came to grabbing rebounds and obviously was far from a slouch putting the ball in the basket in his own right.
3. It’s amazing the degree to which Wilt obsessed in his relationships/battles with Russell and Jabaar. Wilt, at least in all the material I’ve read on buddy over the years, came off as a guy who felt slighted. Numbers and skill-wise, Chamberlain topped Russell, but rarely when it came down to the moments that truly mattered. With Kareem, he was no longer the unquestioned best center in the league, but his Lakers were better than Jabaar’s Bucks (a role reversal, if you will). All Wilt desired, in his eyes, out of the game of basketball was to be viewed as superior than his closet competitor.
4. To piggyback off #3, imagine how much psychoanalysis would be done on Wilt in today’s media cycle. Following that 1969 Finals loss to Boston, there’s a good chance – after 10,000 articles and blog posts on Wilt’s “killer instinct” – that he may have shown up on Iyanla Vanzant’s Fix My Life. TMZ would have absolutely loved Wilt, however. As would Draya.
As for Kareem, a seven-footer with that much offensive talent? Who practices Islam? And wasn’t necessarily great with the media? The combination of Skip Bayless and FOX News would have a field day with 2.5 borderline “WTF” comments per week. Roc Nation Sports would’ve went after him though. We’re all less fortunate by never getting to see a Yasiel Puig/Kareem Abdul-Jabaar press conference with Jay Z announcing the signings.
Give me under on the over/under for 200 words combined between the two.