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LeBron James has matched Wilt Chamberlain in a good and bad way

When both guys have given up on a season, how did they conduct themselves throughout the long and grim journey of defeat?
Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James playing for the Los Angeles Lakers

Wilt Chamberlain and LeBron James

Fans watched LeBron James’ Lakers go down by 24 points within two minutes of the first quarter against the Raptors. Only a day earlier, they gave up 48 points to the Suns in the first. So when displaying some individual scoring record LeBron shared with the most disappointing champion ever in Wilt Chamberlain, it’s hard not to contrast their mentalities in the toughest times. When both guys have given up on a season, how did they conduct themselves throughout the rest of that long and grim episode?

The 3 versions of desperate LeBron

Kind of like how Michael would lie to the media to make mundane games a battle of maniacal warfare throughout extended dominance - LeBron instead lies to the media with false promises in an attempt to rally his troops and reach for motivation.

They all range off into different versions or modes.

Switch Mode

This is when the pressure is strong enough to force LeBron to address the critics but soft enough that he can apparently switch some button or push the pedal to the medal, and everything will just work itself out. Not exactly a strong history with this mode.

Transparent mode

The pressure (in this case, it was Magic Johnson's comments) is too hot to shroud off. Even LeBron knows that. This mode is much more direct and urgent.

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Code Red Mode

Everything has gone to crap. Now Bron is admitting that to do anything noteworthy; each play needs to be a blind Hail Mary.

The Dipper got his numbers, at least?

When the ceiling was looking bleak, Wilt wanted numbers to validate his season - even if it didn’t contribute to the team winning. Some sneaky last-second baskets aside, LeBron doesn’t hold a candle to Wilt’s self-centric behavior. Because LeBron gets what Wilt never did - that leading the league in assists solely to prove you’re not selfish won’t make people think of you any different. 

In fact, it highlights how confused Wilt was throughout every passing season. When LeBron did it in ’20, of course, the non-MJ tracked milestone was hanging over his head a little. But to his core - LeBron has always been a selfless player - sometimes maybe too selfless. That wasn’t Wilt, especially when winning was off the table. It wasn’t a coincidence that in his only two championship seasons, Chamberlain averaged the lowest points ever up to those points in his career.

In the ’67 championship season where Wilt finally toppled Russell’s Celtics (in Bill’s first year as a disappointing player-coach role while failing to fill the hole of a retired KC Jones), he finally bought into playing with a circle of talent like Billy Cunningham and Hal Greer. Of course, this had a short expiration date forcing the 76ers to trade him during his prime for 40 cents to the dollar.

The same short burst of transition happened in ’72. The year earlier, an aging Wilt came off a career-altering injury but was still prepared to be the guy. It didn’t matter that he was on one of the most talented teams in history (Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Jim McMillian, and Elgin Baylor), Wilt needed to be the system.

Here’s Jerry West in Goliath: “I don’t want to rap Wilt because I believe only Russell was better, and I really respect what Wilt did. But I have to say he wouldn’t adjust to you, you had to adjust to him.

Finally - once Russell was out of the picture - Wilt knew winning was possible if he let this other guy who would one day become The Logo take the reigns. They won a Wilt’s best 69-13 games (they went on a 33-game win streak after Baylor believed he was holding the team back and retired) and won a championship - Wilt averaged less than ten field goal attempts a game during the playoffs.

Compared to Wilt, maybe the 37-year old LeBron doesn’t deserve to be castrated for every losing game...is what I say right before I watch him stroll up the court forcing his team into a 4-5 possession. Every-single-game. Wilt’s just lucky he didn’t play in the era of social media. 

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