Why Basketball’s Greatest Decade was the 1960s

Lew Alcindor at Power Memorial, NYC

“The ’60s was clearly the best era. Why? Only 9 teams in a nation of basketball players. If you drove thru every suburb, there was a hoop in EVERY driveway. Society put endless pressure on any kid who was over 6 feet tall. I know; I was 6’3 at 13 years old and was talked out of tennis. A game that sports three seven-footers in today’s ATP. The black players dominated playgrounds because they couldn’t get into the NBA. With the constant downward pressure of Jim Crow combined with the simple law of supply and demand because of only nine teams, this pressure contributed to forming the hardest diamonds ever made. Four black diamonds and two white diamonds. Russel, Wilt, Elgin, Oscar, Jerry, Pettit. This is why the Harlem Globetrotters were formed and why the Rucker and other talent-laden tournaments of that ilk popped up all over the nation. The Globetrotters had a winning record against NBA teams in exhibitions. Their victory against the Lakers in 1948 was more celebrated in black communities than the championships of Jack Johnson and Joe Louis. Little known fact. Wilt played the two-guard position during his tenure. Why? Because he could. His 15-20 foot J was wet. He ran the court with the speed of a track star who ran a 9.5 hundred as an adult, with a 50” vertical at 7’4” in shoes. They measured players in socks in that era. He was bigger than everyone in the ’60s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s….yeah, you get it. The pace was faster than any era; they scored more than any era. You will be blown away by all the scores in the 140’s and 130’s. The defense was brutal. … When playoffs came in league with only nine teams, they knew each other so well; it was a bloodbath. West had nine broken noses and was so gifted athletically that he knocked himself out by hitting his head on the bottom of the backboard; he had so much ace wrap on that he looked like a mummy during the playoffs. The Celtics dominated because they were coached by Red Auerbach, who practically invented modern pro basketball. If Wilt and Bill switched teams, it would have been Wilt who won 11. …”
The Grueling Truth
Top 10 New York City Basketball Players from the 1960’s
Ranking Each Decade of NBA Basketball, from the 1960s to Today
The Greatest White Players in NBA History
New Yorker: A Sense of Where You Are By John McPhee (January 1965)

Oscar Robertson – University of Cincinnati

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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