Welcome to the 13th edition of NBA Tuesday, where we find ourselves in the 1962 season. It’s another year where the MVP Award definitely went to the wrong player, based on skewed perspectives at the time. Get used to it as we move forward in our current editorial focus.
1962 MVP: Bill Russell (original), Wilt Chamberlain (revised)
The voted MVP winner—center Bill Russell—finished fourth in Win Shares (15.49) and ninth in Player Efficiency Rating (19.36), while leading the Boston Celtics to a 60-20 record. They won the Eastern Division by 11 games over the Philadelphia Warriors.
Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain led the league in both WS (20.94) and PER (31.74), pulling off the sabermetric double double. With that near-5.5 edge in WS, Chamberlain clearly meant more to his team than Russell did, as the Celtics needed seven games in the postseason to oust the Warriors (irrelevant to this discussion as it is).
But that PER gap is ginormous as well, and even though the MVP voters placed the Stilt second, it’s clear there was a serious perception error. Chamberlain scored a record 50.4 points per game to lead the NBA, while he also grabbed a league-best 25.7 rebounds each game while playing 48.5 minutes per contest to top his peers there, too.
Think about that for a moment: Each game has only 48 minutes in it, so to average more than 48 mpg, you have to be playing pretty much every minute during the season. That’s an insane usage rate, too, and Chamberlain still managed to post the highest PER in the NBA. How can someone not see the value there?!
Look, Russell was a great player still in 1962—averaging 18.9 ppg and 23.6 rpg, in addition to 4.5 assists per game—but he played more than three minutes less per game and at a much lower efficiency rate.
It’s impossible to overlook Chamberlain’s dominant numbers for a playoff team, though.