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  1. The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball
    The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball
    The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball
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  2. The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball

    Delivery: 10-20 Working Days
    Customer Ratings (33 reviews)
    Price R527.00

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In the mid-1950s, the NBA was a mere barnstorming circuit, with outposts in such cities as Rochester, New York, and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Most of the best players were white; the set shot and layup were the sport’s chief offensive weapons. But by the 1970s, the league ruled America’s biggest media markets; contests attracted capacity crowds and national prime-time television audiences. The game was played “above the rim”–and the most marketable of its high-flying stars were black. The credit for this remarkable transformation largely goes to two giants: Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

In The Rivalry, award-winning journalist John Taylor projects the stories of Russell, Chamberlain, and other stars from the NBA’s golden age onto a backdrop of racial tensions and cultural change. Taylor’s electrifying account of two complex men–as well as of a game and a country at a crossroads–is an epic narrative of sports in America during the 1960s.

It’s hard to imagine two characters better suited to leading roles in the NBA saga: Chamberlain was cast as the athletically gifted yet mercurial titan, while Russell played the role of the stalwart centerpiece of the Boston Celtics dynasty. Taylor delves beneath these stereotypes, detailing how the two opposed and complemented each other and how they revolutionized the way the game was played and perceived by fans.

Competing with and against such heroes as Jerry West, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, John Havlicek, and Elgin Baylor, and playing for the two greatest coaches of the era, Alex Hannum and the fiery Red Auerbach, Chamberlain and Russell propelled the NBA into the spotlight. But their off-court visibility and success–to say nothing of their candor–also inflamed passions along America’s racial and generational fault lines. In many ways, Russell and Chamberlain helped make the NBA and, to some extent, America what they are today.

Filled with dramatic conflicts and some of the great moments in sports history, and building to a thrilling climax–the 1969 final series, the last showdown between Russell and Chamberlain–The Rivalry has at its core a philosophical question: Can determination and a team ethos, embodied by the ultimate team player, Bill Russell, trump sheer talent, embodied by Wilt Chamberlain?

Gripping, insightful, and utterly compelling, the story of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain is the stuff of sporting legend. Written with a reporter’s unerring command of events and a storyteller’s flair, The Rivalry will take its place as one of the classic works of sports history.

From the Hardcover edition.

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John Taylor
Taylor, John
Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books
Ballantine Books
Most Helpful Customer Reviews

"The Rivalry" recounts the on-court battles between Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, the two greatest basketball centers/players from the Sixties. Bill Russell was the first black superstar in the NBA, and Chamberlain followed him into the league three years later. Chamberlain is regarded by many people as the greatest player of all time and still holds many records. His talent was so great, his teams were expected to win numerous titles. Russell transformed his team, the Boston Celtics, into a powerhouse which won eleven titles in the thirteen years Russell played in the league...a record that has never been approached since. A number of those victories came at the expense of Chamberlain's teams who either lost to the Celtics in the semis or the finals numerous times. There was a reason Russell's Celtics beat Chamberlain's team numerous times...they were usually a better team. But although Wilt's teams only beat the Celtics once in those thirteen years, they came within a whisker... Read more
Wilt Chamberlain is statistically the greatest basketball player who ever lived. Bill Russell has eleven rings meaning he won eleven championships in the thirteen years he played. Wilt once averaged 50.4 points in the same season he averaged 25.7 rebounds. Bill Russell never averaged more than 18.9 points per game but was surrounded by so many Hall-of-Famers, it's a wonder they lost at all. Wilt averaged 22.9 REBOUNDS for his career. Russell averaged 22.5 REBOUNDS for his career. In the 2012-3 season, the leading rebounder was Dwight Howard who averaged 12.4 rebounds per game. Wilt never averaged LESS than 18.2 rebounds per game and had ten seasons where he averaged 21.1 or more (with a high of 27.2). Russell never averaged LESS than 18.6 rebounds per game and had ten seasons where he averaged 21.0 or more (with a high of 24.7). When Wilt had good players around him, his teams won championships. More often, Wilt was called on to improve an area of the team that wouldn't normally be... Read more
This appears to be a thorough, thoughtful examination of the Russell-Chamberlain rivalry and what it did for pro basketball (much as Bird-Magic would do years later), but its sloppiness makes its accuracy on any given anecdote suspect. Given that some of the inaccuracy involves some of the better-known, most easily researched moments -- mistakes that literally jump out for their amatuerishness -- I went from initially being fascinated by Taylor's compilation of behind-the-scenes insights to wondering whether I could trust any of it.

Here are some examples that came to mind as I read The Rivalry:

* Taylor's depiction of one of the most celebrated shots in NBA history, Don Nelson's desperation foul-line set shot that bounced freakishly high off the rim before falling through the net just as the Lakers were making their Game 7 comeback in 1969, is available from many film sources, and yet Taylor gets it all wrong. He say Keith Erickson "blocked a shot" and Nelson... Read more
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