This is a picture of a young Wilt Chamberlain beside the words: Wilt Chamberlain Championships

Wilt Chamberlain Championships: 2 Great Victories But Still Not Enough?

Wilt Chamberlain won two championships in his 14 year NBA career. He won his first title with the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers and his second with the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt lost in the NBA Finals 4 times – twice each to the Celtics and Knicks. He was defeated seven times in the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. 

How many championships did Wilt Chamberlain win? 

Despite being one of the greatest players of all time, and a completely dominant physical force for his time in the league, Wilt Chamberlain won only two NBA championships. 

Wilt won the 1967 NBA title with the Philadelphia 76ers and the 1972 NBA championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. 

He did post completely insane career statistics by today’s, or any, standards. 

Games PointsAssistsRebounds

What teams did Wilt Chamberlain play for? 

59-60Philadelphia Warriors49-26Lost Div. Finals
60-61Philadelphia Warriors46-33Lost Div. Semis
61-62Philadelphia Warriors49-31Lost Div. Finals
62-63San FranciscoWarriors31-49Not in playoffs
63-64San FranciscoWarriors48-32Lost NBA Finals
64-65Philadelphia 76ers*40-40Lost Div. Finals
65-66Philadelphia 76ers55-25Lost Div. Finals
66-67Philadelphia 76ers68-13NBA Champions
67-68Philadelphia 76ers62-20Lost Div. Finals
68-69Los Angeles Lakers55-27Lost NBA Finals
69-70Los Angeles Lakers46-36Lost NBA Finals
70-71Los Angeles Lakers48-34Lost Conf. Finals
71-72Los Angeles Lakers69-13NBA Champions
72-73Los Angeles Lakers60-22Lost NBA Finals

*In the ‘64-65 season, Wilt Chamberlain was traded from the San Francisco Warriors to the Philadelphia 76ers after playing 35 games for the Warriors. 

Losses in italics above are losses to the Boston Celtics.

What teams did Wilt Chamberlain win championships with? 

Wilt Chamberlain won his two NBA titles with the 1966-1967 Philadelphia 76ers and the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers. 

Wilt played his first professional season for the Harlem Globetrotters because the NBA did not let players in until their class graduated college. 

His first three seasons in the NBA were with the Philadelphia Warriors. Wilt was on the team when they moved from Philly to California becoming the San Francisco Warriors before settling later in Oakland and becoming Golden State. He is still tied for 5th tallest player in the history of the Warriors. 

Despite getting to one NBA Finals in San Francisco, where they lost to the Boston Celtics, the Warriors struggled in California. The team faced financial struggles and basically sold Chamberlain in a trade with the newly-moved-from-Syracuse Philadelphia 76ers. 

In Wilt’s first two seasons as a Sixer,  they lost in the playoffs to the…. Boston Celtics. Big surprise. But things finally changed for the team the next season. 

1st Title: Philadelphia 76ers 1966-1967

The Sixers brought in a new coach, Alex Hannum, who was able to assert himself as the leader of the team, conquering one problem Chamberlain faced as he often ran over coaches and destroyed team chemistry in the process. 

In addition to having good leadership, the team was well constructed with future Hall of Famer rookie Billy Cunningham joining a team already featuring three Hall of Famers in  Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Chamberlain.

Because the team was full of scoring, and because he was a strong leader, Hannum was able to convince Chamberlain to focus more on defense. 

Not to say he didn’t score, he averaged 24 points per game to go along with his 24 rebounds. But Wilt was freed up to focus more on defense with a strong-scoring supporting cast. 

The team was extremely successful in the regular season, topping the Eastern Division with a 68-13 record.

In the playoffs, the Sixers beat the Cincinnati Royals 3-1 before matching up with the Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals. This time, it went the Sixers way. 

Wilt averaged only 22 points per game to go along with 32 rebounds and 10 assists. That is some stat line! The Sixers ended the Celtics string of 8 straight NBA titles. 

But they were not done yet. In the NBA Finals, the Sixers faced Wilt’s old team the Warriors. Again, Wilt took on a lesser scoring role while racking up incredible rebound totals and winning. 

The Sixers won the championship by defeating the Warriors in 6 games and Wilt had his first of two NBA titles. 

Years between titles

After one more year in Philly, where he lost to the….Boston Celtics, Wilt requested a trade to Los Angeles that was granted.

In his first year in LA, stop me if any of this sounds familiar, Wilt feuded with his head coach Bill Van Breda Kolff and then proceeded to lose in the NBA Finals to the…. Boston Celtics! 

In his second season in LA, Wilt suffered a major injury that caused him to miss most of the season, but in the playoffs he helped the Lakers make the Finals. 

In the 1970 NBA Finals, the Lakers took it to game 7 but lost, this time to Clyde Frazier and the New York Knicks. Game 7 was the famous Willis Reed game where the big man dragged himself, injured, onto the court to start the game and helped will his team to victory. 

The 1971 playoffs saw 34-year-old Wilt hold his own against a ten-years-younger Lew Alcindor, but the Lakers lost to the Bucks. After winning the title that year, Lew would become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

2nd Title: Los Angeles Lakers 1971-1972

Chamberlain won his second title with the Lakers in 1971-1972. The team hired Bill Sharman away from the ABA Championship-winning Utah Stars.  

Sharman had a Hall of Fame playing career and was in the midst of a Hall of Fame coaching career as well. He had coached the Stars in their two years in Los Angeles before his single season with the team in Utah, so he was making a return to LA. 

It is not surprising that a coach as great as Sharman was able to convince Chamberlain to put the team first. Sharman asked Wilt to play more like Russell – defense, rebounding, quick outlets to scorers like Gale Goodrich and Jerry West, and limited, low-post scoring.

Chamberlain bought in and it worked. Wilt scored only 15 per game but grabbed 19 boards. West and Goodrich did the scoring and the team was unstoppable. They won 33 straight at one point and set the regular season record for wins with 69. 

In the playoffs, the Lakers swept the Chicago Bulls before matching up with Jabbar’s Bucks. Wilt outplayed the much-younger Kareem and the Lakers went back to the Finals.

In the NBA Finals, they got past the Knicks in five games and Wilt was named Finals MVP in his second NBA championship. 

Chamberlain would play only one more season, this time losing to a much-healthier Knicks team in the NBA Finals in a reversal of the prior year. 

How many times did Wilt Chamberlain lose in the NBA Finals?

Wilt lost 4 times in the NBA Finals. 

  • In 1964 Wilt’s San Francisco Warriors lost to the Boston Celtics 1-4.
  • In 1969 Wilt’s LA Lakers lost  to the Boston Celtics 3-4. 
  • In 1970 Wilt’s LA Lakers lost to the New York Knicks 3-4.
  • In 1973 Wilt’s LA Lakers lost to the New York Knicks 1-4. 

In total, Wilt Chamberlain’s teams lost twice to the Boston Celtics and twice to the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals. 

Over his career, the Boston Celtics were Wilt’s main nemesis. In his career, the Celtics knocked Wilt’s teams out of the playoffs 7 times total including the two NBA Finals defeats. 

Why didn’t Wilt Chamberlain win more NBA championships? 

While winning two titles is considered a strong career accomplishment in today’s NBA, in Chamberlain’s first years in the league there were only 8 teams. By the time he retired in 1973 there were 16 teams. 

With so few teams in the league and with such a physical edge on most of the league, it is reasonable to expect that Chamberlain might have won more than he did. 

There are several  explanations for Chamberlain’s failure to win more than two titles. 

The first, and I believe the most likely, reason for Chamberlain’s limited titles is he was often matched up with a Celtics team that included another physically dominant, all-time great center in Bill Russell in addition to a litany of other Hall of Fame players.

For example, in the 1961-1962 season, Wilt scored 100 in one game and averaged 50 points and 26 rebounds per game for the season. 

But in the playoffs, his Philadelphia Warriors lost to the Boston Celtics in 7 games. That Celtics team featured SEVEN Hall of Famers. 

The greatness of the Celtics leads to another reason for Chamberlain’s lack of titles: his teams were generally not as talented overall as other teams in the league at that time. 

Chamberlain was completely dominant but basketball is a team sport and his teams were not as loaded with talent as their opponents.

Finally, Chamberlain was criticized for a lack of leadership. He got into public and private spats with various coaches and publicly criticized his teammates at times. None of that helped his teams win more. 

Ultimately, I am a believer that the quality of his teams and his opponents is what mostly did him in. It is hard to beat a team that is stacked at nearly every position in addition to having the only person on earth in Bill Russell who could possibly guard you. 

In his prime years, Wilt Chamberlain was often matched up against teams stacked with talent at every position while his own teams were not. 

How Does Wilt Chamberlain’s Record Compare With Other Great Players?

PlayerNBA Finals Record
John Havlicek8-0
Michael Jordan6-0
Bill Russell11-1
Tim Duncan5-1
Kobe Bryant5-2
Steph Curry4-2
Shaquille O’Neal4-2
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar6-4
Magic Johnson5-4
Larry Bird3-2
Hakeem Olajuwon2-1
Kevin Durant2-2
LeBron James4-6
Wilt Chamberlain2-4
Jerry West1-8
Elgin Baylor0-7

Summary: Wilt Chamberlain Championships

Wilt Chamberlain won two NBA Championships during his 14 year career. He won one title each with the 76ers and the Lakers while losing in the NBA Finals four times total. He is criticized by some for not winning more as he often clashed with coaches and was sometimes critical of teammates as well. In his defense, he faced a completely stacked Celtics team in his prime years who featured Hall of Famers at every position. 

Featured Image Credit: Adapted from: Wilt_Chamberlain2.jpg: Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographer derivative work: JoeJohnson2CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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