100 days of hoops

100 Days of Hoops: Day 65, A Year of Centers

You can learn about someone’s taste in basketball by what they think of the 1960s in the sport.  You may hear the argument that guys like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell only played against 6’5 lanky scrubs, but in 1965 that was not the case.

It’s true, there were only nine teams in the league, so making it to the Finals was easier, right? Not really.  Well, easier than today, yeah but not an easy task in general.

1965 is the year of centers (and Hall-of-Famers).  70% of the league’s centers ended up in the Hall-of-Fame.  Six dominant big men and the rest who weren’t too shabby.  Here are the Hall-of-Fame centers who contributed to the 1964-65 season.  For the record, we credit this post to the YouTube user Wilt Chamberlain Archives (or reddit.com/u/dantheman9758).

Wilt Chamberlain

Chamberlain led the league in scoring this season as well as field goal percentage and Player-Efficiency Rating.

Bill Russell

Russell was the season’s MVP, his fifth and final and led the Celtics to its seventh straight title.  Most successful player ever and it’s not close.

Walt Bellamy

As you can see from the highlights, Bellamy was athletic and agile.  He used his speed and size advantage to get invited to four all-star teams and he even led the NBA in field goal percentage when he was a rookie.

Nate Thurmond

Thurmond should be compared to Rudy Gobert and you can see the defensive similarities.  Voiceover Guy even says Wilt and Kareem claims Thurmond was one of the best players to slow them down and his wingspan and skill shows that.

Willis Reed

Like Bellamy,  Reed took advantage of speed and verticality.  He could even sink jump shots if you let him and you never wanted to motivate him, as he became the hero five years later because of his performance against Wilt Chamberlain in the Finals.

Zelmo Beaty

The Original Big Z.  That Cavs guy is just a poser.  Zelmo Beaty’s Hall of Fame induction also included his ABA stint, winning a championship with the Utah Stars in 1971 and earning Playoffs MVP.

Moving on from those centers who made the biggest impact, there were a total of twenty-nine Hall-of-Famers during the 1964-65 season.  Each team also had its own superteam in a way, even if some were pretty old.  Most of the teams had at least two to three HOFamers per team, the Boston Celtics had seven and it shows in their consecutive championship runs.

So next time someone tells you that 1960s basketball wasn’t all that, just give them the ol’ eye roll because basketball constantly evolves.  There’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to old-style basketball.  Some will give the assumption Wilt and Russell were the biggest guys but that wasn’t true, it was a big man’s game meaning teams were finding guys who can try to slow down the legendary centers.  And yeah, some had to work part-time jobs on the side because the league wasn’t making enough money.

Some of the players we see today will be Hall-of-Famers, but a new generation of children will look at the current generation and say “What a bunch of sissies only shooting threes! No one does any triple backflip, behind-the-head, blindfolded, between-the-legs while eclipsing the Sun slam dunk for five points like they do today!”

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