When you mention Wilt Chamberlain's name in NBA circles, it's usually to talk about some unbreakable record he set during the 60s, at the peak of his career. Many consider the 7'1'' 'Big Dipper as the most dominant force the league has ever seen, and the astronomical numbers back it up. But as always, there's an exception.
Numbers over rings
Despite dropping 100 points in a game, averaging 50 for a season, and picking up almost every individual award there is in his 15-year career, Wilt only has two championships to his name -- one with Philadelphia in 1967 and one with the Lakers in 1972, at the tail end of his career; a number many would say is low, especially when you look at his individual output.
In 1967, Wilt beat the San Franciso Warriors, who used to be his team. That must've rubbed the Warriors star, Rick Barry, the wrong way, given that he criticized Chamberlain in his book 'Confessions of a Basketball Gyps,' calling him a loser, afraid of the big moment.
“I’ll say what most players feel, which is that Wilt is a loser…He is terrible in big games. He knows he is going to lose and be blamed for the loss, so he dreads it, and you can see it in his eyes; and anyone who has ever played with him will agree with me, regardless of whether they would admit it publicly... When it comes down to the closing minutes of a tough game, an important game, he doesn’t want the ball, he doesn’t want any part of the pressure. It is at these times that greatness is determined and Wilt doesn’t have it. There is no way you can compare him to a pro like a Bill Russell or a Jerry West…these are clutch competitors.”
Well, it's not usual that we see someone bash Wilt and his career, but Barry spared no criticism. Wilt went to the Finals 6 times in his career, losing 4 of them, mostly to the dynasty Celtics and Bill Russell. That's why many people consider Russell to be the better center, despite not having as flashy individual numbers as Wilt. But the 11 rings speak for themselves.
On the other hand, Jerry West, who is also mentioned, might be called Mr. Clutch, but his Finals record of 1-8 wouldn't back that up. Still, his clutch shot-making ability and loyalty to the Lakers give him a good reputation amongst all NBA fans. Ironically the one ring he did win was with Wilt in 1972.
As far as Barry's words go, it's maybe a bit overboard to call Wilt a loser. After all, someone that reaped so much havoc on opposing players and notched those kinds of numbers can't be a loser. But the fact is that he is not the best winner we have seen.
The 51.1% free throw percentage for his career made him a liability in close games down the stretch, and it reflected on his teams often being on the losing end of those battles, with Wilt either shying away from closing the game or failing to do so.
That's why Barry saying Wilt is not on the same level as Bill Russell or Jerry West isn't that crazy, but still calling him a loser is a bit too much. I guess those 1967 Finals stung pretty bad for Barry.