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Bill Russell Once Threatened Celtics With Retirement If They Didn't Pay Him $1 More Than Wilt Chamberlain's $100K Contract

bill russell wilt chamberlain

The world is currently mourning Bill Russell's passing. There's no doubt that Russell was a pioneer of the game as well as a Celtics legend, and he had a huge impact on the sport of basketball as a whole.

One of the well-known things about Bill Russell was the fact that he was an absolutely tough competitor. His rivalry against Wilt Chamberlain was a common topic of discussion during their playing days. Their competition was so fierce, that Bill Russell once threatened the Boston Celtics with retirement if they didn't pay him $1 more than Wilt Chamberlain, who signed a $100,000 contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics eventually ended up raising their contract offer from $75,000 to $100,001, fulfilling Bill Russell's contract demands. Larry Schwartz of ESPN relayed the news.

In 1965, after Chamberlain signed a $100,000 a year contract for three seasons, Russell said he would consider retiring unless he got paid a dollar more. The Celtics finally raised their offer from $75,000 to $100,001, and Russell signed.

Wilt Chamberlain had zero championships in 1965, while Bill Russell had eight, and it's easy to see why Bill Russell wanted at least as much money as his rivalry. Wilt Chamberlain was a player that had amazing stats, but it is interesting that players viewed him as "a loser", per Rick Barry.

“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.”

While Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain had different playstyles, there's no doubt that they are both legends of the sport. They were both extremely talented players, and there's a reason both are generally viewed as top-10 in all-time player rankings.

Hopefully, we see the league find a way to celebrate Bill Russell's achievements both on and off the court in the future. Some have suggested that his No. 6 should be retired across the league, and we'll see if the league enacts something similar to that proposal in the future.