The game was transforming from white to black, a cultural and stylistic shift. Increasingly the game was played higher, faster and better than ever before.
Wilt Chamberlain would be the next must-see attraction. That became evident on November 11, 1958, when the Celtics gathered near courtside at Boston Garden to watch the Globetrotters play the first game of a doubleheader. The game offered a first look at the twenty-two-year-old Chamberlain, playing for the Trotters though already scheduled to join the NBA’s Philadelphia Warriors the following season. Chamberlain scored fifty points for the Globetrotters that afternoon and dominated the game athletically and aesthetically. It was only comedy, the Celtics figured. But still …
One teammate asked Russell, “What are you trembling for?”
Fitting that the GOAT’s first glimpse of Wilt should precede a game against the Lakers, still based in Minneapolis at the time. Not only did Chamberlain play his last five seasons in a Laker suit …
… but Bill Russell acknowledged (as far back as his 1966 memoir Go Up for Glory) that he’d met with George Mikan prior to the 1956 NBA Draft and fully expected to be selected by the Lakers – indeed, the Minneapolis brain-trust had considered making a major deal (with the Celtics, ironically) for the purpose of “tanking” their ’55-56 season to ensure getting the first pick … I kid you not!!
I guess the GOAT was destined to be in the Garden on this particular November Tuesday some kind of way.
Accoutrements: Lewiston (ME) Evening Journal, The Last Pass by Gary M. Pomerantz, basketball-reference.com, michaelhamel.net