When Luka Doncic, Dallas’s 6-foot-7 do-everything Slovenian import, strafed the Knicks for 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in a comeback time beyond regulation victory late last month, commentators breathlessly noted that nobody, not even Wilt, had ever posted such a line.
Walt Frazier, the Hall of Fame guard who broadcasts Knicks games and once shared a backcourt with Garrett at Southern Illinois, has an idea why.
“What you always see now are guys running up and down, dunking on people,” he said in a telephone interview. “Only just a few teams buckle down on defense. They don’t double-team when someone goes off. When someone got here in and dropped 40 on me, it was all the time, ‘Clyde got destroyed.’ Now Doncic scores 60 and nobody even says who was guarding him.”
Frazier, 77, was echoing recent laments on the state of the game from the old-school coaches Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. It’s no surprise that appreciation, or lack thereof, for the contemporary N.B.A. would break down along generational lines. For individuals who played with or against Chamberlain, he’s basketball’s Babe Ruth, the sport’s all-time goliath. Everyone has a tale, perhaps on the tall side, to inform.
Billy Cunningham, 79, a Hall of Famer and Chamberlain’s teammate with the Philadelphia 76ers, cited the night Gus Johnson, a really strong forward for the Baltimore Bullets, went at Wilt with every intention of dunking over him as he’d done earlier in the sport.
Chamberlain didn’t just block the shot, Cunningham said: “He actually caught the ball, and while Gus went to the ground, he just stood there holding it over his head.”
Nonetheless grainy the video, nevertheless dorky the short shorts, don’t attempt to persuade Cunningham and company that what Chamberlain achieved was the results of an ancient, inferior era. They may remind you that he averaged 45.8 minutes per game for his profession and rarely sat one out, in stark contrast to the more coddled modern star — who, in fairness, represents a far greater financial investment to guard.