Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are often credited with changing the NBA forever. The two historic players were part of the league during its early years and became defining stars for the NBA during the time they played in the league.
Russell stayed with the Boston Celtics and led the franchise to insurmountable glory. While he only played in the league for 13 years, Russell led the Celtics to 11 NBA championships.
To this day remains the most decorated individual in NBA history. But there are some, including Wilt Chamberlain himself, who believe that Bill Russell doesn't deserve all the credit for the Celtics' dominance.
As for Chamberlain, he is truly a statistical marvel. He holds a lot of the major records in the NBA, including the most points in a single game, and the highest PPG in a season. Chamberlain's numbers are hard to fathom because no player has come close to matching him since he walked away.
One player who is mentioned in the debate about the greatest of all time doesn't believe this is right. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke about Russell and Chamberlain in a recent discussion with Byron Scott for his podcast (2-minute mark).
Kareem said that people who overlook Wilt and Russell lack perspective, and are not paying attention to what these players did during the peak of their powers. The fact that people haven't seen the two legends play makes them overlook their greatness.
“It affects me in that it makes me see that people don’t have a very good perspective. I saw Wilt Chamberlain play. Nobody that’s talking that GOAT stuff now probably even saw him play.”
“They haven’t seen Bill Russell play. And Bill Russell won 8 NBA championships in a row. But they have no idea of how he played, or how Oscar Robertson played, or Jerry West.”
Hearing Kareem speak the way he did about Chamberlain and Russell's legacy was great, as he made some excellent points. It was a little surprising, given how his relationship with Chamberlain became hostile over the years.
Because of the era they played in, they do get overlooked to a certain extent when it comes to being the greatest of all time. Chamberlain and Russell played primarily in the 50s and 60s when the NBA was not as strong as it was in later years. So their incredible runs are taken with a pinch of salt whenever the discussion comes up.
Whether right or wrong, Russell and Chamberlain played during a time when the NBA had fewer teams and wasn't as competitive as it would become in the future. And therefore, their dominance is always undermined by the time period they played in.