It’s impossible to overstate Wilt Chamberlain’s dominance in the NBA. He remains the only guy to ever score 100 points, the only guy to average 50 points and averaged 22 rebounds for his career and topped out at 27 in his best year.
Bill Russell, well aware of Chamberlain’s talents, made it a point to be as nice as possible to him. They would have dinner together frequently and Russell was a guest at Wilt’s mother’s dinner table more than once.
They greeted each other as friends when the ball went up and the wily Russell had an edge that Chamberlain, as smart as he was, never suspected.
NC State’s DJ Funderburk is taking a different path. Here’s what he has to say about Zion Williamson the day before he’s going to go up against him in Cameron:
“I’m ready for anybody on Duke’s team,” Funderburk told the Raleigh News & Observer. “No offense to them or anything, they have a great basketball team, but we have have a great basketball team, too, and they have to lace up their shoes just like us.”
And on Williamson specifically?
“Athletic ability ... but he’s really a regular player to me. I’m not really in awe about basketball players, especially not in the same conference or younger than me or the same age as me. I’m just going to go out there and play as hard as I can. I’m known for playing in big games, I love to to play in big games, I love playing away.”
There’s a difference between verbal arrogance like this and competitive arrogance like, say, the between-the-legs pass that RJ Barrett made to Cam Reddish for a brilliant three point play late against Louisville.
This will probably be in Williamson’s locker, and everyone else’s, by the time you read this. We’ll be interested to see what Funderburk has to say afterwards and, of course, how well he can back it up.