By: Kento Kato
As I posted before, the 50s were the first full decade of the National Basketball Association and with players, the league, positions, and even the game itself still being established, four players put up stats that caught my eyes. Bob Petit, and George Mikan forced rules to be changed in the NBA and were pioneers in dominating the game in the pain with their inside scoring and rebounding. Dolph Schayes was the best player for a Syracuse team that won a championship in the 50s and Bob Cousy was arguably the best floor general of the era showing that one could dominate at that position as well. In the 60s, the game and the positions continued to develop as some of the best players of all time were in their primes. My Mount Rushmore of the 60s includes Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, and Jerry West.
Let me start with the most winningest player of all time, Bill Russell. He came into the league in the late 50s but played the entire 60s and left a mark in doing so. He is widely considered as one, if not the best defensive center to play the game and grabbed rebounds left and right. Unlike today’s centers, he didn’t try to block shots as hard he could; instead, he tried to keep them in bounds leading to fast breaks for his team. Bill Russell’s defense, and rebounding inspired his teammates and he was a focal point in the Celtics’ Dynasty because of it. One of the controversies over Lebron James’ Mount Rushmore was that Bill Russell wasn’t on there when many people would be quick to put Bill Russell on there.
In the 60s, he won the MVP award 4 times, made the All-Star team all ten years, and even won the All-Star Game MVP Award in 1963. He also made the All NBA First-Team twice, the All NBA Second-Team seven times, made the All-NBA Defensive Team in 1969, and led the league in rebounding twice all in the 60s. He did all of this while averaging 14.5ppg, 4.7apg, and 22.4rpg in the decade. To this day, he is one of only two players to grab more than 50 rebounds in a game and is still second all time in total rebounds and rebounds per game. While all of these stats and accolades are great, he was mostly known for being a winner. In his 14 year playing career, he won 11 championships, 9 out of the 10 years in the 60s. His 11 rings is tied for the most championships won by an athlete in a North American sports league. Bill Russell is also the first African American NBA player to achieve superstar status and when he served as a player-coach from 1966-1969, he also became the first African American coach in the NBA. His stats, rings, and impact on the league make him an easy pick for this decade’s Mount Rushmore.
The next player is Bill Russell’s rival, Wilt Chamberlain. While Bill got the better of him almost every time they matched up, it is hard to deny Wilt’s dominance against everyone else. When not playing one of the best defenders of all time in Russell, Wilt was one of the best scorers of all time. For the decade, he averaged 34.1ppg on 53.8% shooting, 24rpg, and 4.7apg. Some people say that the some of his numbers may be skewed because he was a seven footer playing in an era with smaller players, but even if that is the case, nobody in the history of basketball was able to put up numbers like him. The two-time champion won one ring in the 60s and won the MVP Award 4 times in the 60s. He also made the All-Star team every year in the decade and won the All-Star Game MVP Award in 1960. He was a 7 time All-NBA First-Team member and made the All-NBA Second-Team twice in the decade. After getting the Rookie of the Year Award in 1960, he led the league in scoring 6 straight years and even led the league in assists in 1968. Throughout the decade, he went on to lead the league in rebounding 8 of the years. To this day, his still holds many record including most points in a game, 100, and is the NBA’s All-Time rebounding leader and is the all-time leading scorer for the Warriors.
My third player on the 60’s Mount Rushmore is Oscar Robertson. He was one of the player’s on Lebron’s Mount Rushmore and one could make a strong case for it. Nicknamed the, “Big O”, the 6ft 5 point guard was the first point guard to have size in the league and put it to use by being the only player to average a triple-double for a whole season in the 1961-62 season averaging 30.8ppg, 11.4apg, and 12.5rpg. In the 60s, he won one MVP Award, made the All-Star game 9 times, made the All-NBA First-Team 9 times, led the league in assists 6 times, and is still the Kings all time leading scorers. In the decade, he averaged 29.7ppg on 48% shooting, 10.5apg, and 8.7rpg. Besides the ridiculous video game like stats, Oscar Robertson can be given credit for paving the road for the likes of Magic Johnson, and Lebron James. Before Oscar Robertson, the game of basketball was very structured when it came to how people played in their position, but Oscar with his combination of speed, ball handling and size, was able to play like nobody ever had.
The last player on my Mount Rushmore for the 60s is Jerry West. He is known for numerous things including being clutch in big games, being the logo of the NBA and being one of the best shooters of all time. With the lack of media and footage from the era, many look past him and quickly point to Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Stephen Curry as the best shooters, but real fans know that West should be in the conversation. In the 60s, he averaged 27.5ppg on 47% shooting, 6.5rpg, and 5.7apg. Through the decade, he made the All-Star team all ten years, made the All-NBA First-Team 6 times, the All-NBA Second-Team twice, the All-NBA Defensive Second Team once, and even won the NBA Finals MVP award in 1969 even though he was on the losing team, the only time its ever happened in the NBA.
The 60s included some of the best player to play the game and included some iconic players that are still prevalent in today’s basketball world. Bill Russell is still regarded as one of the father figures of the league carrying what seems to be an unlimited amount of knowledge and wisdom, and Jerry West remains the logo of the NBA. Oscar’s name still comes up often when talking about Lebron James and Wilt is still remembered daily for his 100 point game. The 70s will be next and it will be hard to choose just four players in an era that included Walt Frazier, Kareem, Dr. J, Elvin Hayes, Pete Maravich, John Havlicek, and Bob Lanier.