Wilt Chamberlain and the science of 'load management' | Bob Ford

Wilt Chamberlain-18052017-0006
Wilt Chamberlain eventually bought into analytics and espoused the principles of Modern Motivation and Motion Mechanics, or 4M. (AP Photo)

“Wilt, thanks for coming to my office. Sit down. I want to talk to you about a few things.”

“Coach McGuire, this isn’t much of an office.”

“No, it’s the janitor’s closet, Wilt. Just move that mop and you can turn the bucket over and have a seat. Hey, it’s 1962 and this is Convention Hall. Coaches don’t have offices in the NBA. We just have gyms. If you think this is bad, two years from now, the Beatles are going to use this as a dressing room.”

“Who? The Bagels?”

“Never mind. It’s going to be a very big deal.”

“You know what I think is a big deal? Saturday, when the Celtics come in. I can’t wait for Saturday. I’m going to grab Russell and stuff him through the basket. I’m going to wait for that little gnat Cousy to come dribbling down the lane and I’m going to knock him into the folding chairs. Sam Jones? The only thing he’s going to bank on Saturday is his butt, which I’m going to bank off the floor. Oh, I don’t like that team, Coach. This Saturday, we’re going to get them.”

“Well, Wilt. I’m glad you brought that up. Our medical people have instructed me that you’re not going to play Saturday. Mr. Gottlieb has hired a very scientific new staff of doctors and kinesiologists and motion specialists for the Warriors and they’ve been studying you closely and their recommendation is that Saturday is out for you.”

“Wait a minute here, Coach. We don’t have any doctors. We have Freddy, the trainer, with the little doctor’s bag, but I’ve looked in it and nothing’s in there but a roll of tape and a copy of The Racing Form. We don’t even have liniment. The Celtics have liniment. That could be the difference. We need liniment.”

“Forget liniment, Wilt, and we’re getting rid of Freddy, too. We have assembled a modern Physiotherapy & Clinical Diagnostics team.”

“Diagnostics team? Can any of them shoot? We need a basketball team. The Celtics don’t have a diagnostics team. They have Russell. I diagnose that as being pretty good.”

“The future is sports science, Wilt, and sports science is telling us that we need to keep a close eye on your load management.”

“My what?”

“Load management. How much you work when you’re on the court. How many minutes you play. Whether it’s a fast game or a slow game. Whether we played the night before. Our Performance Research and Development staff will be getting together with our Analytics and Strategy people every morning and I’ll get a printout with instructions concerning every player on the roster.”

“What’s a printout?”

“It’s like a typewriter with nobody sitting at it, and you wouldn’t believe how much the ink cartridges cost, but that’s not the point here, Wilt. The point is your load management is way out of whack.”

“Coach, I’m averaging 48.5 minutes per game. I play every tick of every game and every tick of overtime. I haven’t sat down during a game since we had that leak in the roof and Gotty climbed up there to fix it so we wouldn’t have to refund the tickets.”

“I know, I know. But that was then. Now, we’ve got to worry about load management.”

“Russell doesn’t worry about load management.”

“Russell only plays 45 minutes a game. I’m sure he’s fine.”

“Coach, I’m averaging 50 points and 26 rebounds and we’re still 10 games behind the Celtics. If you take me off the court, who’s going to score, who’s going to rebound, who’s going to jump center with Russell?”

“Ruklick will be starting on Saturday, and I’m counting on Arizin and Gola and Guy Rodgers to pick up the slack while you’re getting your load-management break.”

“You’re going to play Joe Ruklick against Bill Russell? He’ll get killed.”

“It might not be pretty, Wilt, but I have to listen to the data provided by our researchers. Mr. Gottlieb believes that sports science is going to help prevent injuries and will improve our strength, our conditioning and our overall performance.”

“I really don’t see how our performance will improve when our best player isn’t on the court.”

“Some things we just have to trust, Wilt. You can’t argue with the data. As part of our research and information collection, by the way, we’re also going have each player submit a full accounting of how he spends his time away from the gym, so that we can assess any patterns that might not be conducive to optimal basketball performance.”

“Hmm.”

“In any case, Wilt, you’ll be on the bench Saturday. It’s those chairs next to the scorer’s table. All the doctors and scientists and research guys, the whole analytics team, will be at the game, and I can’t risk playing you against their orders. Tell you what, though. Next week, we’re in Hershey against the Knicks and you can play every minute and score as many points as you like.”

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