The NBA had seen a big man dominate before, when George Mikan's Minneapolis Lakers won five NBA titles in six years from 1949 through 1954. But in terms of individual dominance, no one had seen anything quite like Wilt Chamberlain. At 7-1 and nearly 275 pounds, Wilt towered over Bill Russell and the other centers of his time. In his rookie season with the Philadelphia Warriors, Chamberlain won both Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, leading the league in scoring (37.6) and rebounding (27.0). Chamberlain scored 50 or more points in seven times. A Philadelphia team that went 32-40 improved to 49-26, and Chamberlain's Warriors attracted capacity crowds most nights.

But despite the arrival of Chamberlain, the Celtics were still the league's top team, which was underlined as Boston won an NBA-record 59 games and the Eastern Division. St. Louis won the West by 16 games in what was now a 75-game season. Boston defeated the Warriors and Chamberlain in six games to advance to the Finals, while St. Louis was pushed to seven games by the Lakers before advancing to once again meet the Celtics. The teams split the first six games, with Boston winning in blowouts and St. Louis just scraping by. The Celtics easily won Game 7 in Boston as Russell starred with 22 points and 35 rebounds.

The Celtics, with Red Auerbach at the controls, had built a champion piece by piece, beginning with Bob Cousy in 1950, adding Bill Sharman in 1951, Frank Ramsey in 1954, Jim Loscutoff in 1955, and Tom Heinsohn and Bill Russell in 1956.

But after the first championship in 1957, the Celtics didn't stop adding players who put winning above personal achievements. Sam Jones came aboard in 1957, K.C. Jones and Gene Conley in 1958, and Tom Sanders in 1960. Auerbach's legendary eye for talent and demand for team play had set in motion one of sport's greatest dynasties.