Re: Happy Birthday to an Underappreciated All Time Great
Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) - October 15, 1999
WILT WAS AT ANOTHER LEVEL, SAYS EX-RIVAL
LOUISVILLE - At 6-foot -8 and around 230 pounds in his prime, Bud Olsen was hefty enough to compete against most of the NBA centers of the 1960s. But Wilt Chamberlain was a different proposition. "Until Wilt," Olsen said, "I'd never been around a guy who made me feel inferior." Now a semi-retired businessman, Olsen was at the theater Tuesday night when he heard that Chamberlain, 63, had died in Los Angeles. The news shook him up because, he said, "you just don't expect certain people to die, especially a legend like him." After graduating from Louisville in 1962, Olsen spent seven years knocking around the NBA. He played on the Cincinnati Royals with Oscar Robertson and,, for a short time, on the Boston Celtics with Bill Russell. But nobody impressed him as much as Chamberlain, the 7-1, 275-pound center who averaged more than 30 points and 22 rebounds during his 14-year career.
As Olsen tells it, Chamberlain was more than just big and strong. "Baseline to baseline," Olsen said, "nobody in the NBA was faster than him. He was just an incredible athlete. He had big thighs and his body was just chiseled, except for his shins and calves. They were so skinny he wore kneepads. I figured if he ever came after me, my only defense would be kicking him in the shins."
Olsen feared that such an altercation might happen in 1966-67, the season Chamberlain led the Philadelphia 76ers to a 68-13 regular-season record and the NBA title. At the time, Olsen was a backup center for the San Francisco Warriors. "I was sent into the game to foul Wilt," Olsen said. "He had his right hand bandaged up, but he still could windmill the ball with one hand so that it was just impossible to reach it. I'm chopping him the best I can and Earl Strom, who was refereeing, won't call a foul."
After the game I know Wilt's upset with me because I just butchered him. I saw him outside the locker room and he said, `Bud, if you do that tomorrow night, I'll kill you.' So I did the smart thing. I went outside. I scored 24, the most I ever got on him."
Olsen thinks that 76ers team was the best he ever played against, and that includes several of the 11 NBA championship teams the Celtics produced during Russell's 13-year career. Besides Chamberlain, who averaged 24.1 points and 24.2 rebounds that season, the 76ers had Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Billy Cunningham, Wally Jones, Lucious Jackson and Matt Goukas. They trounced the Celtics, four games to one, in the Eastern Division finals and then whipped Olsen's Warriors, whose stars were Rick Barry & Nate Thurmond.