Why did Bill Russell win the MVP over Wilt Chamberlain in the 1961-62 season?
Are we missing something, or did Wilt deserve the MVP? During that season, he averaged an unfathomable 50 PPG and 25 RPG! Not to mention the iconic 100-point game, which happened the same season. So how in the world did he not win?
Bill Russell had a fantastic season too, but when it comes down to the numbers, he had much lower stats than Wilt with about 19 PPG and 24 RPG. Some people would argue that Oscar Robertson should’ve been voted higher than Russell, seeing as that was the year Robertson averaged a triple-double with 30 PPG.
Russell’s Boston Celtics had the best record in the league (60-20) and went on to win the NBA title that year. Wilt’s Philadelphia Warriors were 49-31 (a third-best record), and Oscar’s Cincinnati Royals were 43-37 (fourth-best).
The MVP voting was Russell with 297 points, Wilt 152, and Oscar 135. It seems harsh to have Wilt’s numbers and not win the MVP Award and to have the first triple-double for a season in NBA history (Oscar) and to come in third in the MVP voting.
MVP was voted by fellow players.
Back then, MVP was voted by fellow players, and they liked Russell more. He also averaged a lot of minutes and played pretty good defense, so maybe the rest of the league felt he was more “valuable.”
Bill Simmons wrote about this particular controversy in his book. He argued that it was because Chamberlain was somewhat selfish, obsessed with the stats, and didn’t care about winning nearly as much whereas Bill was ultimately the complete opposite.
When it comes down to it, 11 more wins for the Celtics is a good enough reason for Bill to be MVP. Relatively, Wilt might’ve been of way more value to his team, but Bill won them a lot more games.
Ultimately, there’s more to basketball than just stats. Bill Russell was considered the real engine of the Celtics. Sure, Wilt had arguably the most dominant season by any individual in basketball history, but Russell catalyzed that Celtics team to team-based greatness.