The late great Wilt Chamberlain was, without a doubt, one of the greatest and most dominant basketball players in NBA history. Stories about his brilliance on the basketball court to a certain degree sound so unreal it’s hard for the younger generation of fans to comprehend how great Wilt was during his prime years still holding a vast majority of individual records in the NBA.
In one of his older interviews with Roy Firestone from 1987, Wilt talked about several things related to basketball but his personal life as well. He touched upon the status of a center position in the NBA back then and how he believes there are only a few good centers that play the game the right way.
There is a notion Wilt played in an era where there weren’t as many big guys, which made it easier for him to dominate ball games with such ease. Wilt disagrees with that perspective, saying there were big guys in the NBA back then, and the reason for his dominance was not only because of his physical ability but also a high basketball IQ. In the interview, Wilt said centers in the ’80s were much more athletic but lacked the necessary skillset and knowledge about the game a real center needs to possess.
I think there were a lot of big guys when I played. Guys that weighed more than I did and a few guys that were taller than I was, there were a lot of seven-footers. Today the guys are much more athletic, and I sometimes think when you have so much going on for you with your body, how is your head. I think the center position is suffering. I think they have lousy centers out there. There are only 2 or 3 that are really good, and the rest couldn’t make Overbrook high-school.Wilt Chamberlain
It’s interesting to hear Wilt’s thoughts on this matter, viewing it from this perspective in which the center position changed so much, and the role of big men is no longer the same as it was a few decades ago. If Wilt didn’t like how centers played in the game back in the ’80s or ’90s, he probably wouldn’t like how they play the game today shooting threes and no longer playing in the post as much as they probably should.
The game evolved significantly in the last 10 years, and it’s definitely a guard-driven league where the most significant emphasis is on shooting. That meant the centers had to evolve and focus on improving their shooting while neglecting the majority of skills necessary to be effective in the post. Centers like Wilt, thrived in the low-post using their God-given ability to assert dominance over other players and teams. If Wilt was still alive, he probably wouldn’t be pleased to see what centers are like today because it’s very different to how it once was in the NBA.