Defining the decade: The best team, player and moments from the 1960s

This is the 60s (NBA Getty Images)

It's decades week here on and each day we're paying our dues to the defining players, teams and moments of every decade.

"You can't tell the story of X without Y."

How many times have you heard that phrase in some way, shape or form? And how many times have you then heard anyone try to tell those stories?

Well, that's exactly what we're doing, picking a different decade each day and telling the story of each 10-year run through the lens of the five defining moments... and only five!

THE FIVE MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: 2010s | 2000s | 1990s | 1980s | 1970s

We'll also pick out the best player, team and game along with some statistical superlatives.

Onto the 1960s...

The five moments that mattered

Wilt Chamberlain setting unbreakable records: To name a few...

  • 37.6 points per game in 1959-60. It's the most points a rookie has ever averaged in a season.
  • 27.2 rebounds per game in 1960-61. It's the most rebounds a player has ever averaged in a season.
  • 50.4 points per game in 1961-62. It's the most points a player has ever averaged in a season.
  • 48.5 minutes per game in 1961-62, which seems physically impossible seeing as there's only 48 minutes in a regulation game.

Oh, and he scored 100 points in a game in 1962.

Some more evidence of his prodigious scoring ability? Chamberlain had 118 50-point games in the decade. The next-most? 16 by Elgin Baylor.

Yeah, Wilt dominated the 60s.

The champion of all champions: Speaking of unbreakable records and players who dominated the decade, Bill Russell won an NBA record 11 championships in his NBA career, nine of which came in the 1960s.

The only team other than the Celtics to win a championship that decade? The Philadelphia 76ers in 1967, who were led by - you guessed it - Wilt Chamberlain.

Russell's final championship came in 1969 as a player-coach. 40 years later, the NBA named the Finals MVP award after him, a nod to his dominance.

"Who better to name this prestigious award for than one of the greatest players of all time and the ultimate champion," former NBA commissioner David Stern said.

Oscar Robertson's historic triple-double: In 1961-62, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists per game in just his second season in the league. It was also the first time in NBA history that anyone averaged a triple-double in a single season.

It would take over 50 years for anyone to do it again.

That was the only season Robertson averaged a triple-double, but he still holds the all-time record for career triple-doubles with 181. Russell Westbrook is a distant second (146), followed by Magic Johnson (138), Jason Kidd (107) and LeBron James (94).

"Havlicek stole the ball!": It's one of the most famous calls in NBA history.

Up by one point with five seconds remaining in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, John Havlicek tipped Hal Green's inbounds pass to secure the win over Philadelphia and punch Boston's ticket to its seventh straight Finals appearance.

The Celtics would go on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals to record their seventh straight title.

In 2006, Havlicek's steal was voted as the fifth-greatest playoff moment in NBA history by the NBA behind only Michael Jordan's game-winner against the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals, Magic Johnson filling in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at centre in the 1980 NBA Finals, Willis Reed's comeback in the 1970 NBA Finals and Larry Bird's steal in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.

The logo: In 1969, Alan Siegel designed the red, white and blue logo for the NBA that is still being used today. As the story goes, the NBA tasked Siegel with the redesign after he supervised the MLB's logo redesign the year before. The rest is history.

Best team: 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers

Honourable mention: 1964-65 Boston Celtics

It might seem weird to not give this to one of the nine Celtics teams that won a championship, but this 76ers team is widely regarded as being better than any of those Celtics teams.


Why? The 76ers steamrolled their way through the regular season with a 68-13 record, giving them the fourth-best single season record in NBA history. As Amick noted, they went on multiple double-digit winning streaks and won 46 of their first 50 games.

The 76ers then defeated Russell's Celtics in five games in the Eastern Division Finals to snap Boston's streak of eight straight championships. It was the only time Chamberlain ever beat Russell in a postseason series.

In the Finals, the 76ers took down the San Francisco Warriors in six games to win their second title in franchise history. Chamberlain averaged 17.7 points, 28.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game in the series, while Hall of Fame guard Hal Greer led the 76ers in scoring with 26.0 points per game.

Best player: Bill Russell

Honourable mention: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor

This comes down to Russell and Chamberlain.

It's a debate over whether or not you value individual dominance or team success. The two won the same amount of MVPs and made the same number of All-Star Games in the 1960s, but Chamberlain edged Russell out of more All-NBA First Teams, whereas Russell won nine times the amount of championships.

Bill Russell vs. Wilt Chamberlain in the 1960s
Bill Russell Wilt Chamberlain
MVPs 4 4
All-Star selections 10 10
All-NBA First Team selections 2 7
All-NBA Second Team selections 7 2
Championships 9 1

For me, the championships matter. It's hard to go against Russell considering he was the best player on a team that won all but one title in the 1960s. He is the greatest winner in NBA history, and that earns him the title of the best player of the decade.

Best game: Wilt scores 100

What else were you expecting?

On May 2, 1962, Chamberlain scored an NBA record 100 points in a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. He shot 36-for-63 shooting from the field and 28-for-32 from the free throw line in 48 minutes of play.

He also added 25 rebounds to his stat line.

After the game, a statistician wrote the number 100 on a piece of paper and gave it to Chamberlain, leading to one of the most iconic photos in NBA history.

The closest anyone's gotten to Chamberlain? Kobe Bryant, who scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006.

There's a good chance Chamberlain's single game scoring record won't ever be broken.

Best stat standouts

Which players stuffed the stat sheet like no other? We've got you covered!

Below are the statistical leaders for the regular season only spanning the 1959-60 through 1968-69 seasons.

1959-60 through 1968-69
Wins Bill Russell 563
Points Wilt Chamberlain 27,098
Rebounds Bill Russell 21,620
Assists Oscar Robertson 7,173
Triple-doubles Oscar Robertson 170
Win Shares Wilt Chamberlain 198.3
Player Efficiency Rating Wilt Chamberlain 28.1

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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