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Celtics remember "The Stilt"
Boston greats remember their rival with fondness
Posted: Tuesday October 12, 1999 09:44 PM
BOSTON (AP) -- Two Celtic legends remembered longtime adversary Wilt Chamberlain as a "Gentle Giant" whose graceful and powerful play built the stature of the entire NBA.
"Wilt Chamberlain had a great deal to do with the success of the NBA," said former Celtics coach Red Auerbach, whose teams battled Chamberlain-led teams throughout the 1960s.
"Wilt was a great performer and a great athlete. His dominance, power, demeanor and the rivalry with Bill Russell says it all," Auerbach said in a statement released by the team after Chamberlain's death Tuesday.
Russell and Auerbach's Celtics teams beat Chamberlain's teams twice in the championship series and five times in the conference finals. Three times, a series was decided by a seventh game that Boston won by either one or two points.
Russell's last title came against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969. He was outscored and outrebounded by Chamberlain, but the Celtics won the seventh game, 108-106 in Los Angeles.
Chamberlain's single-game record for rebounds, 55, was set against Boston in 1960.
When Russell's No. 6 was re-retired during a public ceremony at the FleetCenter in May, Chamberlain was invited to salute his close friend.
"The man is greedy," Chamberlain said with a smile. "He has 11 rings and 10 fingers."
Tom Heinsohn, who played for the Celtics from 1956 to 1964, called Chamberlain a "Gentle Giant."
"He was a terrific guy," Heinsohn said in a statement. "It is a great loss to the sports world. Wilt Chamberlain had a special place in basketball history and he will be missed."
Don E. N. Gibson, executive vice president of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, recalled growing up as a New York Knicks fan watching Chamberlain battle Willis Reed's Knick teams.
"In the history of sport, there are few athletes who can rival Wilt's greatness," Gibson said in a statement. "It's hard to imagine that there will ever be another athlete like Wilt."
Russell, who was hired by the Celtics last week to tutor players, left the team's training camp in Waltham on Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
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