Different Sides of Bill Walton and Wilt Chamberlain in New Series

Broadly speaking, that’s the mentality that goes with both documentaries. Walton and Chamberlain’s career conundrum was marked by success—college and professional championship wins, (in Chamberlain’s case) statistical superiority, reputation for unparalleled athleticism—and defined by disappointment. Thing. Both, in Walton’s case, due to injury, in Chamberlain’s case, the overwhelming dominance of 1960s rivals Boston Celtics and their center Bill Russell as the hard-working everyman are etched into sports mythology. As a result, I didn’t win as often or as easily as I expected. To Chamberlain’s sex- and statistics-obsessed egoists.

Directed by Rob Ford and Christopher Dillon, Goliath is a more workmanlike project than The Luckiest Man. But throughout the three episodes, Chamberlain is a compelling tale of a generous and sensitive soul, both blessed and constrained by his stature and extraordinary athleticism.

The film does its duty as a sports documentary, depicting Chamberlain’s on-court triumphs and frequent setbacks. But the paper is more interested in the path he blazed as a black cultural figure and self-determining professional athlete, prioritizing writers, critics and academics over basketball players in interviews. (What the lack of images of Chamberlain’s youth in the 1940s and ’50s is made up for is a shadow puppet scene reminiscent of Kara Walker’s work.)

Looking at the series side by side, I’m more interested in the commonalities that come to light rather than the differences between the two. Both are self-conscious stutterers who have learned to withstand and perform under the strictest of scrutiny. Chamberlain may have been flamboyant, but Walton is equally conscious of his influence on Lucky Guy, and his understated demeanor is ostentatious and no small amount of ego. (James also disputes Walton’s lifelong and generally false claim that he was only 6 feet 11 inches tall.)

Veteran sports fans may notice another commonality. The Luckiest Man in the World and Goliath are both great films, but not as funny as The Last Dance. This is a bit of a conundrum. Because both Chamberlain and Walton are arguably more complex, interesting, and moving figures than Michael Jordan. But Michael Jordan is an almost unrivaled winner. And while winning isn’t everything, for better or worse, sports is the most compelling thing about his documentary subject matter.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button