The argument about who the basketball GOAT is never really stops and mostly lately it centers around Michael Jordan and LeBron James (recently Hakeem Olajuwon weighed in on Jordan’s side).
We have immense respect for James’s talent but we don't see him on that level. We’d put him behind Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird at least. Bill Russell with his 11 rings has to be in the conversation.
Not everyone accepts Jordan is the GOAT however and one of his main antagonists in that regard was the late Wilt Chamberlain.
And he had an argument obviously. No one ever came close to Chamberlain’s level of dominance statistically or physically. As he points out in this video, Chamberlain had sprinters speed, a 52” vertical (that may still be a record) and could bench press 600 lbs.
At the NBA’s All-Time team celebration in 1997, Chamberlain and Jordan were together and had a chance to discuss this. With no need for public politeness or false humility, the two of them went at it, each arguing for himself. In the end, Chamberlain had an irrefutable point: they changed the rules to limit his impact (it didn't) and that was a measure of his greatness that Jordan couldn’t approach.
It’s fascinating to imagine these two on the court at the same time, each in their prime. The main difference?
Jordan’s competitive urge was nearly psychotic. The Bulls kept him out of the weight room when Horace Grant was working out because they feared Jordan would severely injure himself trying to outlift the much larger Grant.
He might not have conquered Chamberlain but it would have been more important to Jordan than it would have been for Chamberlain.