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Wilt Chamberlain - History

Wilt Chamberlain - History

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Wilt Chamberlain


American Athlete

Outstanding American basketball player Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain parlayed his 7-foot-1-inch physique, agility and natural skills offensively and defensively, into a stellar career as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia on August 21, 1936. He was a frail child. In high school at Overlook High School he began playing basketball and was the start of the team. He went to Kansas University were he dominated the team and the opposition. He dropped out after his junior year and played with the Harlem Globetrotters for one year. He then joined the NBA in 1959 by starting to play for the Philadelphia warriors. He subsequently played for the Philadelphia 76’ers, Los Angeles Lakers ending his career with the San Diego Conquistidors

Chamberlain dominated basketball until his retirement in the 1972, averaging more than 50 points each game. He still holds the record for scoring points in a single game: 100 against the New York Knicks in 1962. Bibliography:

Frankl, Ron. Introduction by Chuck Daly. Wilt Chamberlain. New York : Chelsea House Publishers, c1995.

Chamberlain, Wilt. A View From Above. New York: Signet : Published by the Penquin Group, 1992, c1991.


Wilt Chamberlain: Black History Month Tribute

When it comes to black athletes in Philadelphia's history, there is probably no bigger name than Wilt Chamberlain. To many, Chamberlain is the greatest player in the history of basketball, and it is easy to understand the argument.

Few athletes changed the game they play like Chamberlain did. How many players played where the rules were changed because of their dominance? Name one besides Chamberlain and you win a prize.

Truth is, no athlete represents Philadelphia like Chamberlain. As member of the Overbrook High School basketball team, Chamberlain averaged 31 points per game in his 1953 season. Leading his team to the city title against West Catholic, Chamberlain saw triple coverage. Triple! Despite West Catholic's best defensive efforts, the young Chamberlain scored 29 points. However, West Catholic did win the game 54-42.

Chamberlain headed off to play his college ball at Kansas, located in a town that was still heavily segregated. He ignored the segregation in the town of Lawrence and roamed about town any time and any where he wished. Nobody bothered him. Chamberlain had taken one of the first steps to equality in Lawrence, as black people were treated more fairly from then on.

As a student, Chamberlain started his college basketball career on the Kansas freshman team. He also pledged to Kappa Alpha Psi and was selected to be pledge class president. In 1956, he made his varsity debut in grand fashion with 52 points and 31 rebounds in an 87-69 win over Northwestern. Both his point total and his rebound total broke NCAA records. It was a sign of things to come.

But Chamberlain was more than just a phenomenal basketball player he was an outstanding athlete, as evidenced by his track and field career. He ran a 10.9 100-yard dash, threw a shot put 56 feet, triple jumped more than 50 feet, and won the high jump three times in Big Eight championship meets.

When his stellar college basketball career ended, Chamberlain was signed by the Harlem Globetrotters to start his professional career. The Globetrotters did not follow the NBA rules, which would not allow a college player to play professionally unless they finished their studies in college (how the times have changed). Chamberlain signed with the Globetrotters after a frustrating junior season.

Chamberlain's #13 was retired by the Globetrotters in 2000.

Not much needs to be said about his NBA career. Everybody knows about it. He started out with the Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to San Francisco during his tenure. It was with the Warriors that Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey Stadium. The sad thing is there is no video of the record-breaking game, but there is one photo that is immortalized because of it.

Chamberlain also spent time with the Sixers, Lakers, and the San Diego Conquistadors before ultimately calling it a career. Although Chamberlain did not achieve as much team success as rival Bill Russell did with the Celtics, Chamberlain left an impact on the game that will never be forgotten.


Chamberlain was born on August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into a family of nine children, the son of Olivia Ruth Johnson, a domestic worker and homemaker, and William Chamberlain, a welder, custodian, and handyman. [9] He was a frail child, nearly dying of pneumonia in his early years and missing a whole year of school as a result. [10] In his early years, Chamberlain was not interested in basketball because he thought it was "a game for sissies." [11] As an avid track and field athlete, Chamberlain high jumped 6 feet, 6 inches ran the 440 yards in 49.0 seconds and the 880 yards in 1:58.3 put the shot 53 feet, 4 inches and long jumped 22 feet. [12] According to Chamberlain, "basketball was king in Philadelphia", so he eventually turned to the sport. [13]

Because Chamberlain was a very tall child, already measuring 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) at age 10 [14] and 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m) when he entered Philadelphia's Overbrook High School, [3] he had a natural advantage against his peers he soon was renowned for his scoring talent, his physical strength and his shot blocking abilities. [15] According to ESPN journalist Hal Bock, Chamberlain was "scary, flat-out frightening . before he came along, very few players at the center position possessed his level of athleticism, stature, and stamina. Chamberlain changed the game in fundamental ways no other player did." [16] It was also in this period of his life when his three lifelong nicknames "Wilt the Stilt", "Goliath", and his favorite, "The Big Dipper", were allegedly born. [2]

As the star player for the Overbrook Panthers, Chamberlain averaged 31 points a game during the 1953 high school season and led his team to a 71–62 win over Northeast High School, who had Guy Rodgers, Chamberlain's future NBA teammate. He scored 34 points as Overbrook won the Public League title and gained a berth in the Philadelphia city championship game against the winner of the rival Catholic league, West Catholic. [17] In that game, West Catholic quadruple-teamed Chamberlain the entire game, and despite his 29 points, the Panthers lost 54–42. [17] In his second Overbrook season, he continued his prolific scoring when he tallied a high school record 71 points against Roxborough. [18] The Panthers comfortably won the Public League title after again beating Northeast in which Chamberlain scored 40 points, and later won the city title by defeating South Catholic 74–50. He scored 32 points and led Overbrook to a 19–0 season. [18] During summer vacations, he worked as a bellhop in Kutsher's Hotel. Subsequently, owners Milton and Helen Kutsher kept up a lifelong friendship with Chamberlain according to their son Mark, "[t]hey were his second set of parents." [19] Red Auerbach, the coach of the Boston Celtics, spotted the talented teenager at Kutscher's and had him play one-on-one against University of Kansas standout and national champion, B. H. Born, elected the Most Outstanding Player of the 1953 NCAA Finals. As Chamberlain won 25–10, Born was so dejected that he gave up a promising NBA career and became a tractor engineer, recalling: "If there were high school kids that good, I figured I wasn't going to make it to the pros." [20] Auerbach wanted him to go to a New England university, so he could draft him as a territorial pick for the Celtics, but Chamberlain did not respond. [20]

In Chamberlain's third and final Overbrook season, he continued his high scoring, logging 74, 78, and 90 points in three consecutive games. [21] The Panthers won the Public League a third time, beating West Philadelphia 78–60, and in the city championship game, they met West Catholic once again. Scoring 35 points, Chamberlain led Overbrook to an easy 83–42 victory. [21] After three years, Chamberlain had led Overbrook to two city championships, logged a 56–3 record and broken Tom Gola's high school scoring record by scoring 2,252 points, averaging 37.4 points per game. [2] [5] [22] After his last Overbrook season, more than two hundred universities tried to recruit the basketball prodigy. [3] Among others, UCLA offered Chamberlain the opportunity to become a movie star, the University of Pennsylvania wanted to buy him diamonds, and Chamberlain's Panthers coach Mosenson was even offered a coaching position if he could persuade him. [23] In his 2004 biography of Chamberlain, Robert Cherry describes that Chamberlain wanted a change and therefore did not want to go to or near Philadelphia (also eliminating New York), was not interested in New England, and snubbed the South because of racial segregation this left the Midwest as Chamberlain's probable choice. [23] In the end, after visiting the University of Kansas and conferring with the school's renowned college coach Phog Allen, Chamberlain proclaimed that he was going to play college basketball at Kansas. [23]

At the ages of 16 and 17, Chamberlain played several professional games under the pseudonym George Marcus. [24] There were contemporary reports of the games in Philadelphia publications, but he tried to keep them secret from the Amateur Athletic Union. [25]

In 1955, Chamberlain entered the University of Kansas (KU). In his first year, he played for the Kansas Jayhawks freshman team under coach Phog Allen, whom he admired. Chamberlain was also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, where he was the president of his pledge class. [26] Chamberlain's freshman debut was highly anticipated, and he delivered the freshman squad was pitted against the varsity, who were favored to win their conference that year. Chamberlain dominated his older college players by scoring 42 points (16–35 from the field, 10–12 on free throws), grabbing 29 rebounds, and registering four blocks. [12] Chamberlain's prospects of playing under Allen ended when the coach turned 70 shortly after and retired in accordance with KU regulations. Chamberlain had a bad relationship with Allen's successor, Dick Harp, fueled by resentment and disappointment. Chamberlain biographer Robert Cherry doubts whether Chamberlain would have chosen KU if he had known that Allen was going to retire. [27]

On December 3, 1956, Chamberlain made his varsity debut as a center. In his first game, he scored 52 points and grabbed 31 rebounds, breaking both all-time Kansas records in an 87–69 win against Northwestern, who had Chamberlain's future NBA teammate Joe Ruklick. [28] Teammate Monte Johnson testified to his athleticism that Chamberlain had "unbelievable endurance and speed . and was never tired. When he dunked, he was so fast that a lot of players got their fingers jammed [between Chamberlain's hand and the rim]." Reportedly, Chamberlain also broke Johnny Kerr's toe with a slam dunk. [28] By this time, he had developed several offensive weapons that became his trademarks, such as his finger roll, his fade-away jump shot, which he could also hit as a bank shot, his passing, and his shot-blocking. [28] Leading a talented squad of starters, including Maurice King, Gene Elstun, John Parker, Ron Lonesky, and Lew Johnson, the Jayhawks went 13–1 until they lost a game 56–54 versus Oklahoma State, who held the ball the last three and a half minutes without any intention of scoring a basket, which was still possible in the days before the shot clock (introduced 1984 in the NCAA). [28] As he did at Overbrook, Chamberlain again showcased his diverse athletic talent. He ran the 100-yard dash in 10.9 seconds, shot-putted 56 feet, triple jumped more than 50 feet, and won the high jump in the Big Eight Conference track and field championships three straight years. [29]

In 1957, 23 teams were selected to play in the NCAA Tournament. The Midwest Regional was held in Dallas, Texas, which at the time was segregated. In the first game, the Jayhawks played the all-white SMU team, and KU player John Parker later said: "The crowd was brutal. We were spat on, pelted with debris, and subjected to the vilest racial epithets possible." [28] KU won 73–65 in overtime, after which police had to escort the Jayhawks out. The next game against Oklahoma City was equally unpleasant, with KU winning 81–61 under intense racist abuse. [28]

In the semi-finals, Chamberlain's Jayhawks handily defeated the two-time defending national champion San Francisco 80–56, with Chamberlain scoring 32 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and having at least seven blocked shots, as the game film is unclear whether an 8th block occurred, or the ball just fell short due to Chamberlain's withering defensive intimidation. Chamberlain demonstrated his growing arsenal of offensive moves, including jump shots, put-backs, tip-ins, and his turnaround jump shot. He was far more comfortable and effective at the foul line than he would later be during his professional career. He had outstanding foot speed throughout the game, and several times led the fast break, including blocking a shot near the basket and then outracing the field for a layup. His stellar performance led Kansas to an insurmountable lead, and he rested on the bench for the final 3:45 remaining in the game. Chamberlain was named on the first-team All-America squad and led the Jayhawks into the NCAA finals against the North Carolina Tar Heels. In that game, Tar Heels coach Frank McGuire used several unorthodox tactics to thwart Chamberlain. For the tip-off, he sent his shortest player, Tommy Kearns, in order to rattle Chamberlain, and the Tar Heels spent the rest of the night triple-teaming him, one defender in front, one behind, and a third arriving as soon as he got the ball. [5]

With their fixation on Chamberlain, the Jayhawks shot only 27% from the field, as opposed to 64% of the Tar Heels, and trailed 22–29 at halftime. [28] Later, North Carolina led 40–37 with 10 minutes to go and stalled the game, as they passed the ball around without any intention of scoring a basket. After several Tar Heel turnovers, the game was tied at 46 at the end of regulation. [28] In the first overtime each team scored two points, and in the second overtime, Kansas froze the ball in return, keeping the game tied at 48. In the third overtime, the Tar Heels scored two consecutive baskets, but Chamberlain executed a three-point play, leaving KU trailing 52–51. After King scored a basket, Kansas was ahead by one point, but then Tar Heel Joe Quigg was fouled on a drive with 10 seconds remaining and made his two foul shots. For the final play, Dick Harp called for Ron Loneski to pass the ball into Chamberlain in the low post, but the pass was intercepted and the Tar Heels won the game. In spite of his loss, Chamberlain, who scored 23 points and 14 rebounds, [28] was elected the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. [5] Cherry speculates that this loss was a watershed in Chamberlain's life because it was the first time that his team lost despite him putting up impressive individual stats. He later admitted that this loss was the most painful of his life. [28]

In Chamberlain's junior year of 1957–58, the Jayhawks' matches were even more frustrating for him. Knowing how dominant he was, the opponents resorted to freeze-ball tactics and routinely used three or more players to guard him. [30] Teammate Bob Billings commented: "It was not fun basketball . we were just out chasing people throwing the basketball back and forth." [30] Nevertheless, Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points for the season and led the Jayhawks to an 18–5 record, losing three games while he was out with a urinary infection. [30] Because KU came second in the league and at the time only conference winners were invited to the NCAA tourney, the Jayhawks' season ended. It was a small consolation that he was again named an All-American, along with future NBA Hall-of-Famers Elgin Baylor and Oscar Robertson, plus old rival Guy Rodgers. [30] Having lost the enjoyment from NCAA basketball and wanting to earn money, he left college and sold the story named "Why I Am Leaving College" to Look magazine for $10,000, a large sum when NBA players earned $9,000 in a whole season. [30] In two seasons at KU, he averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game, while totaling 1,433 points and 877 rebounds, [16] and led Kansas to one Big Seven championship. [6] By the time Chamberlain was 21, even before he turned professional, he had already been featured in Time, Life, Look, and Newsweek magazines. [31]

For many years following Chamberlain's departure from KU, critics claimed that he either wanted to leave the very white Midwest or was embarrassed by not being able to bring home the NCAA basketball tournament victory. In 1998, Chamberlain returned to Allen Field House in Lawrence, Kansas, to participate in a jersey-retiring ceremony for his No. 13. Around this time, he has been quoted as saying: "There's been a lot of conversation, since people have been trying to get my jersey number retired, that I have some dislike for the University of Kansas. That is totally ridiculous." [32]

Harlem Globetrotters (1958–1959)

After his frustrating junior year, Chamberlain wanted to become a professional player before finishing his senior year. [33] At that time, the NBA did not accept players until after their college graduating class had been completed, therefore Chamberlain was prohibited from joining the NBA for a year, and decided to play for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958 for a sum of $50,000 [2] [5] (equal to about $449,000 in 2019). [note 1] Chamberlain became a member of the Globetrotters team that made history by playing in Moscow in 1959 the team enjoyed a sold-out tour of the Soviet Union. Prior to the start of a game at Moscow's Lenin Central Stadium, they were greeted by General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev. [34] One particular Globetrotter skit involved Globetrotter captain Meadowlark Lemon collapsing to the ground, and instead of helping him up, Chamberlain threw him several feet high up in the air and caught him like a doll. The 210-pound Lemon later recounted how Chamberlain was "the strongest athlete who ever lived." [35]

In later years, Chamberlain frequently joined the Globetrotters in the off-season and fondly recalled his time there, because he was no longer jeered at or asked to break records, but just one of several artists who loved to entertain the crowd. [36] On March 9, 2000, his No. 13 was retired by the Globetrotters. [34]

Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (1959–1965)

On October 24, 1959, Chamberlain finally made his NBA debut, starting for the Philadelphia Warriors. [2] Chamberlain immediately became the NBA's highest paid player, when he signed for $30,000 (equal to about $266,000 today) [note 1] in his rookie contract. In comparison, the previous top earner was Bob Cousy of the Boston Celtics with $25,000 in fact, Eddie Gottlieb bought the whole Warriors franchise for $25,000 seven years earlier. [37]

1959–60 NBA season

In the 1959–60 NBA season, Chamberlain joined a Warriors squad that was coached by Neil Johnston and included Hall-of-Fame guards Tom Gola and Paul Arizin, plus Ernie Beck and his old rival, Guy Rodgers remarkably, all five starters were Philadelphians. In his first NBA game, against the New York Knicks, the rookie center scored 43 points and grabbed 28 rebounds. [38] In his third game, Chamberlain recorded 41 points and a then-career-high 40 rebounds in a 124–113 win over the visiting Syracuse Nationals. [39] In his fourth game, Philadelphia met the reigning champions, the Boston Celtics of Hall-of-Fame coach Red Auerbach, whose offer he had snubbed several years before, and Bill Russell, who was now lauded as one of the best defensive pivots in the game. [38] In what was the first of many Chamberlain–Russell match-ups, Chamberlain outscored Russell with 30 points versus 28 points, but Boston won the game. Chamberlain and his perennial nemesis would grow to become one of the NBA's greatest on-court rivalries of all time. [6] Nevertheless, the two also became friends off the court, similar to later rivals Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. [40] On November 10, 1959, Chamberlain recorded 39 points and a new career-high 43 rebounds in a 126–125 win over the visiting New York Knicks. [41] On January 25, 1960, Chamberlain recorded a rare feat in the NBA, recording 50 points, and 40 rebounds in an NBA game. During a game against the Detroit Pistons, Chamberlain recorded 58 points, 42 rebounds, and 4 assists in a winning effort. [42] His 58 points were a then-career-high for him. He later tied that on February 21, as he recorded 58 points to go along with 24 rebounds in a 131–121 over the visiting Knicks. [43]

In his first NBA season, Chamberlain averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds, convincingly breaking the previous regular-season records as a rookie. He needed only 56 games to score 2,102 points, which broke the all-time regular-season scoring record of Bob Pettit, who needed 72 games to score 2,101 points. [44] Chamberlain broke eight NBA records, and was named NBA MVP and Rookie of the Year that season, a feat matched only by fellow Hall-of-Famer Wes Unseld in the 1968–69 NBA season. [5] [44] Chamberlain capped off his rookie season by winning the 1960 NBA All-Star Game and the NBA All-Star Game MVP award with a 23-point, 25-rebound performance for the East. However, it also became evident that he was an atrocious free-throw shooter, making hardly half of his foul shots. As time progressed, Chamberlain grew even worse, and acknowledged he was simply "a psycho case" on that matter. [45]

The Warriors entered the 1960 NBA playoffs and beat the Syracuse Nationals, setting up a meeting versus the Eastern Division champions, the Boston Celtics. Cherry described how Celtics coach Red Auerbach ordered his forward Tom Heinsohn to commit personal fouls on Chamberlain whenever the Warriors shot foul shots, Heinsohn grabbed and shoved Chamberlain to prevent him from running back quickly. His intention was that the Celtics would throw the ball in so fast that the prolific shotblocker Chamberlain was not yet back under his own basket, and Boston could score an easy fastbreak basket. [44] The teams split the first two games, but Chamberlain got fed up with Heinsohn and punched him during Game 3. In the scuffle, Chamberlain injured his hand, and Philadelphia lost the next two games. [44] In Game 5, with his hand healthy, Chamberlain recorded 50 points and 35 rebounds in a 128–107 win over the Celtics, extending the series to a Game 6. As of the end of the 2019 playoffs, he is the first and the only player in NBA history to record 50 points and 35 rebounds in a playoff game. [46] In Game 6, Heinsohn got the last laugh, scoring the decisive basket with a last-second tip-in. [44] The Warriors lost the series 4–2. [2]

The rookie Chamberlain then shocked Warriors' fans by saying he was thinking of retiring. He was tired of being double- and triple-teamed, and of teams coming down on him with hard fouls. Chamberlain feared he might lose his cool one day. [2] Celtics forward Heinsohn said: "Half the fouls against him were hard fouls . he took the most brutal pounding of any player ever." [2] In addition, Chamberlain was seen as a freak of nature, jeered at by the fans and scorned by the media. As Chamberlain often said, quoting coach Alex Hannum's explanation of his situation: "Nobody loves Goliath." [5] Gottlieb coaxed Chamberlain back into the NBA, sweetening his return with a salary raise to $65,000 [47] (equal to about $569,000 today). [note 1]

1960–61 NBA season

Chamberlain's 1960–61 NBA season started with a 42-point and 31-rebound performance in a 133–123 road win against the Syracuse Nationals. [48] On November 24, 1960, Chamberlain grabbed an NBA-record 55 rebounds to go along with 34 points and 4 assists in a game against the Bill Russell led-Boston Celtics. [49] Five days later, Chamberlain recorded 44 points, 38 rebounds, and a career-high 7 assists in a 122–121 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. [50]

Chamberlain surpassed his rookie season statistics, as he averaged 38.4 points and 27.2 rebounds per game. He became the first player to break the 3,000-point barrier, and the first and still only player to break the 2,000-rebound barrier for a single season, grabbing 2,149 boards. [51] Chamberlain also won his first field goal percentage title, and set the all-time record for rebounds in a single game with 55. [5] Chamberlain was so dominant on the team that he scored almost 32% of his team's points and collected 30.4% of their rebounds. [47] However, Chamberlain failed to convert his play into team success, this time bowing out against the Syracuse Nationals in a three-game sweep. [52] Cherry noted that Chamberlain was "difficult" and did not respect coach Neil Johnston, who was unable to handle the star center. In retrospect, Gottlieb remarked: "My mistake was not getting a strong-handed coach. . [Johnston] wasn't ready for big time." [53]

1961–62 NBA season

In Chamberlain's third season, the Warriors were coached by Frank McGuire, the coach who had masterminded Chamberlain's painful NCAA loss against the Tar Heels. In that year, Chamberlain set several all-time records which have never been threatened. In the 1961–62 NBA season, he averaged 50.4 points and grabbed 25.7 rebounds per game. [51] On March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pennsylvania, he scored 100 points, shot 36 of 63 from the field, and made 28 of 32 free throws against the New York Knicks. Chamberlain's 4,029 regular-season points made him the only player to break the 4,000-point barrier [2] the only other player to break the 3,000-point barrier is Michael Jordan, with 3,041 points in the 1986–87 NBA season. Chamberlain once again broke the 2,000-rebound barrier with 2,052. Additionally, he was on the hardwood for an average of 48.53 minutes, playing 3,882 of his team's 3,890 minutes. [51] Because Chamberlain played in overtime games, he averaged more minutes per game than the regulation 48 in fact, Chamberlain would have reached the 3,890-minute mark if he had not been ejected in one game after picking up a second technical foul with eight minutes left to play. [54]

His extraordinary feats in the 1962 season were later subject of the 2005 book Wilt, 1962 by Gary M. Pomerantz, who used Chamberlain as a metaphor for the uprising of Black America. [55] In addition to Chamberlain's regular-season accomplishments, he scored 42 points in the 1962 NBA All-Star Game, a record that stood until broken by Anthony Davis in 2017. [56] In the 1962 NBA playoffs, the Warriors met the Boston Celtics again in the Eastern Division Finals, a team which Bob Cousy and Bill Russell called the greatest Celtics team of all time. [57] Each team won their home games, so the series was split at three after six games. In a closely contested Game 7, Chamberlain tied the game at 107 with 16 seconds to go, but Celtics shooting guard Sam Jones hit a clutch shot with two seconds left to win the series for Boston. [57] [58] In later years, Chamberlain was criticized for averaging 50 points but not winning a title. In his defense, Warriors coach Frank McGuire said that "Wilt has been simply super-human", and pointed out the Warriors lacked a consistent second scorer, a playmaker, and a second big man to take pressure off Chamberlain. [45]

1962–63 NBA season

In the 1962–63 NBA season, Gottlieb sold the Warriors franchise for $850,000 (equal to about $7.27 million today) [note 1] to a group of businessmen led by Marty Simmons from San Francisco, and the team relocated to become the San Francisco Warriors under a new coach, Bob Feerick. [59] This also meant that the team broke apart, as Paul Arizin chose to retire rather than move away from his family and his job at IBM in Philadelphia, and Tom Gola was homesick, requesting a trade to the lowly New York Knicks halfway through the season. [60] With both secondary scorers gone, Chamberlain continued his array of statistical feats, averaging 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds per game that year. [51] Despite his individual success, the Warriors lost 49 of their 80 games and missed the playoffs. [61]

1963–64 NBA season

In the 1963–64 NBA season, Chamberlain got yet another new coach, Alex Hannum, and was joined by a promising rookie center, Nate Thurmond, who eventually entered the Hall of Fame. Ex-soldier Hannum, who later entered the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach, was a crafty psychologist who emphasized defense and passing. Most importantly, he was not afraid to stand up to the dominant Chamberlain, who was known to not communicate with coaches he did not like. [62] Backed up by valuable rookie Thurmond, Chamberlain had another good season with 36.9 points per game and 22.3 rebounds per game, [51] and the Warriors went all the way to the 1964 NBA Finals. In that series, they succumbed to Russell's Boston Celtics yet again, this time losing 4–1. [63] As Cherry remarked, not only Chamberlain but Hannum in particular deserved much credit because he had basically had taken the bad 31–49 squad of last year, plus Thurmond, and made it into an NBA Finalist. [64]

1964–65 NBA season

In the summer of 1964, Chamberlain, one of the prominent participants at the famed Rucker Park basketball court in New York City, [65] made the acquaintance of a tall, talented 17-year-old who played there. Soon, the young Lew Alcindor was allowed into his inner circle, and quickly idolized the ten-year older NBA player. Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as Alcindor would name himself later, would develop an intensely personal antipathy. [66] In the following 1964–65 NBA season, the Warriors got off to a terrible start and ran into financial trouble. At the 1965 NBA All-Star Weekend, Chamberlain was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, the new name of the relocated Syracuse Nationals. In return, the Warriors received Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer (who opted to retire rather than report to the Warriors), and $150,000 [2] [5] (equal to about $1.23 million today). [note 1] When Chamberlain left the Warriors, owner Franklin Mieuli said: "Chamberlain is not an easy man to love . the fans in San Francisco never learned to love him. Wilt is easy to hate . people came to see him lose." [33]

Philadelphia 76ers (1965–1968)

1964–65 NBA season with the 76ers

After the trade, Chamberlain found himself on a promising Sixers team that included guards Hal Greer, a future Hall-of-Famer, and talented role players Larry Costello, Chet Walker, and Lucious Jackson. Cherry remarks that there was a certain tension within the team, as Greer was the formerly undisputed leader and was not willing to give up his authority, and Jackson, a talented center, was now forced to play power forward because Chamberlain blocked the center spot however, as the season progressed, the three began to mesh better. [67] He did not care for the Sixers' coach Dolph Schayes because in his view Schayes had made several disrespectful remarks when they were rival players in the NBA. [67]

Statistically, Chamberlain was again outstanding, posting 34.7 points per game and 22.9 rebounds per game overall for the season. [51] After defeating the Cincinnati Royals led by Oscar Robertson in the 1965 NBA playoffs, the Sixers met Chamberlain's familiar rival, the Boston Celtics. The press called it an even matchup in all positions, even at center, where Bill Russell was expected to give Chamberlain a tough battle. [68] The two teams split the first six games, and because of the better season record, the last game was held in the Celtics' Boston Garden. In that Game 7, both centers were marvelous, as Chamberlain scored 30 points and 32 rebounds, and Russell logged 16 points, 27 rebounds and eight assists. [68]

In the final minute, Chamberlain hit two clutch free throws and slam dunked on Russell, bringing Boston's lead down to 110–109 with five seconds left. Russell botched the inbounds pass, hitting a guy-wire over the backboard, and giving the ball back to the Sixers. Coach Schayes called timeout, and decided to run the last play over Hal Greer rather than Chamberlain because he feared the Celtics would intentionally foul him as he was a poor foul shooter. When Greer attempted to inbound the ball, John Havlicek stole it to preserve the Celtics' lead. [69] For the fifth time in seven years, Russell's team deprived Chamberlain of the title. [2] According to Chamberlain, that was the time that people started calling him a loser. [5] In an April 1965 issue of Sports Illustrated, Chamberlain conducted an interview titled "My Life in a Bush League" where he criticized his fellow players, coaches, and NBA administrators. [70] Chamberlain later commented that he could see in hindsight how the interview was instrumental in damaging his public image. [70]

1965–66 NBA season

In the 1965–66 NBA season, the Sixers experienced tragedy when Ike Richman, the Sixers' co-owner as well as Chamberlain's confidant and lawyer, died of a coronary. The Sixers would post a 55–25 regular-season record, and for his strong play, Chamberlain won his second MVP award. [6] In that season, Chamberlain again dominated his opposition by recording 33.5 points and 24.6 rebounds a game, leading the league in both categories. [51] In one particular game, Chamberlain blocked a dunk attempt by Gus Johnson so hard that he dislocated Johnson's shoulder. [71] Off the court, Chamberlain's commitment to the cause was doubted, as Chamberlain was a late sleeper, lived in New York, preferring to commute to Philadelphia rather than live there, and was only available during the afternoon for training. Because Schayes did not want to risk angering his best player, he scheduled the daily workout at 4 P.M. This angered the team, who preferred an early schedule to have the afternoon off, but Schayes just said: "There is no other way." [72] Irv Kosloff, who now owned the Sixers alone after Richman's death, pleaded with Wilt to move to Philadelphia during the season, but was turned down. [73]

In the 1966 NBA playoffs, the Sixers again met the Celtics, and for the first time had home-court advantage. However, Boston easily won the first two games on the road, winning 115–96 and 114–93 Chamberlain played within his usual range, but his supporting cast shot under 40%. This caused sports journalist Joe McGinnis to comment: "The Celtics played like champions and the Sixers just played." [73] In Game 3, Chamberlain scored 31 points and 27 rebounds for an important road win, and the next day, coach Schayes planned to hold a joint team practice. However, Chamberlain said he was too tired to attend, and even refused Schayes' plea to at least show up and shoot a few foul shots with the team. In Game 4, Boston won 114–108. [73] Prior to Game 5, Chamberlain was nowhere to be found, skipping practice and being non-accessible. Outwardly, Schayes defended his star center as "excused from practice", but his teammates knew the truth and were much less forgiving. [73] In Game 5 itself, Chamberlain was superb, scoring 46 points and grabbing 34 rebounds, but the Celtics won the game 120–112 and the series. [74] Cherry is highly critical of Chamberlain because, while conceding he was the only Sixers player who performed in the series, he pointed out his unprofessional, egotistical behavior as being a bad example for his teammates. [73]

1966–67 NBA season: first championship season

Prior to the 1966–67 NBA season, the friendly yet unassertive Schayes was replaced by a familiar face, the crafty but firm Alex Hannum. In what Cherry calls a tumultuous locker room meeting, Hannum addressed several key issues he observed during the last season, several of them putting Chamberlain in an unfavorable light. Sixers forward Chet Walker testified that on several occasions, players had to pull Chamberlain and Hannum apart to prevent a fistfight. [75] Fellow forward Billy Cunningham observed that Hannum "never backed down" and "showed who was the boss." By doing this, he won Chamberlain's respect. [75] When emotions cooled off, Hannum pointed out to Chamberlain that he was on the same page in trying to win a title but to pull this off, like his teammates, he had to "act like a man" both on and off the court. [75] Concerning basketball, he persuaded him to change his style of play. Loaded with several other players who could score, such as future Hall-of-Famers Hal Greer and newcomer Billy Cunningham, Hannum wanted Chamberlain to concentrate more on defense. [5] [76]

As a result of his style of play change, Chamberlain was less dominant, taking only 14% of the team's shots (in his 50.4 points per game season, it was 35.3%) but extremely efficient, as he averaged a career-low 24.1 points. Nevertheless, he led the league in rebounds (24.2), ended third in assists (7.8), had a record-breaking .683 field goal accuracy, and played strong defense. [51] His efficiency that season was reflected by a streak of 35 consecutive made field goals over the course of four games in February. [77] [78] For these feats, Chamberlain earned his third MVP award. The Sixers charged their way to a then-record 68–13 season, including a record 46–4 start. [2] In addition, the formerly egotistical Chamberlain began to praise his teammates, lauding hardworking Luke Jackson as the "ultimate power forward", calling Hal Greer a deadly jumpshooter, and point guard Wali Jones an excellent defender and outsider scorer. [75] Off the court, Chamberlain invited the team to restaurants and paid the entire bill, knowing he earned 10 times more than all the others. [75] Greer, who was considered a consummate professional and often clashed with him because of his attitude, spoke positively of the new Chamberlain: "You knew in a minute the Big Fella [Chamberlain] was ready to go . and everybody would follow." [75]

The Sixers' 1966–67 NBA season was a remarkable season, as recounted by writer Wayne Lynch in Season of the 76ers, his 2002 book centered on Chamberlain. The Sixers got the best regular-season record and Chamberlain won his first NBA championship, with Chamberlain himself describing the team as the best in NBA history. [51] In the 1967 NBA playoffs, the Sixers yet again battled the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals, and again held home-court advantage. In Game 1, the Sixers beat Boston 127–112, powered by Hal Greer's 39 points and Chamberlain's unofficial quadruple double, with 24 points, 32 rebounds, 13 assists, and 12 unofficially counted blocks. [79] In Game 2, the Sixers won 107–102 in overtime, and player-coach Russell grudgingly praised Chamberlain for intimidating the Celtics into taking low percentage shots from further outside. [79] In Game 3, Chamberlain grabbed 41 rebounds and helped the Sixers win 115–104. The Celtics prevented a sweep by winning Game 4 with a 121–117 victory. In Game 5, the Sixers simply overpowered the Celtics 140–116, ending Boston's historic run of eight consecutive NBA titles. Chamberlain scored 29 points, 36 rebounds, and 13 assists, and was highly praised by Celtics Russell and K. C. Jones. [79]

In the 1967 NBA Finals, the Sixers were pitted against Chamberlain's old team, the San Francisco Warriors of his one-time backup Nate Thurmond and star forward Rick Barry. The Sixers won the first two games, with Chamberlain and Greer taking credit for defensive dominance and clutch shooting, respectively, but San Francisco won two of the next three games, so Philadelphia was up 3–2 prior to Game 6. [79] In Game 6, the Warriors were trailing 123–122 with 15 seconds left. For the last play, Thurmond and Barry were assigned to do a pick and roll against Chamberlain and whoever would guard Barry. However, the Sixers foiled it because when Barry ran past Thurmond's pick and drove to the basket, he was picked up by Chet Walker, making it impossible to shoot Thurmond was covered by Chamberlain, which made it impossible to pass. Barry botched his shot attempt, and the Sixers won the championship. [79] Chamberlain, who contributed with 17.7 points per game and 28.7 rebounds per game against fellow future Hall-of-Fame pivot Nate Thurmond, never failing to snare at least 23 rebounds in the six games, [5] [80] said: "It is wonderful to be a part of the greatest team in basketball . being a champion is like having a big round glow inside of you." [79]

1967–68 NBA season

In the 1967–68 NBA season, matters continued to turn sour between Chamberlain and the Sixers' sole surviving owner, Irv Kosloff. This conflict had been going along for a while. In 1965, Chamberlain asserted that he and the late Richman had worked out a deal which would give him 25% of the franchise once he ended his career. [81] Although there is no written proof for or against, ex-Sixers coach Dolph Schayes and Sixers lawyer Alan Levitt assumed Chamberlain was correct. [79] In any case, Kosloff declined the request, leaving Chamberlain livid and willing to jump to the rival ABA once his contract ended in 1967. Kosloff and Chamberlain worked out a truce, and later signed a one-year, $250,000 contract. [79]

On the hardwood, Chamberlain continued his focus on team play and registered 24.3 points and 23.8 rebounds a game for the season. [51] On March 18, 1968, Chamberlain reportedly had a quintuple-double with 53 points, 32 rebounds, 14 assists, 24 blocks, and 11 steals [82] in a 158–128 victory against the Lakers. [83] Chamberlain also recorded the most points in a triple double, an NBA record broken by Russell Westbrook and improved by James Harden. [84] [85] [86] The 76ers had the best record in the league for the third straight season. Chamberlain also made history by becoming the only center in NBA history to finish the season as the leader in assists, his 702 beating runner-up, Hall-of-Fame point guard Lenny Wilkens' total by 23. [22] Chamberlain likened his assist title to legendary home-run hitter Babe Ruth leading the league in sacrifice bunts, and he dispelled the myth that he could not and would not pass the ball. [87] For these feats, Chamberlain won his fourth and final MVP title. [6] Another landmark was his 25,000th point, making him the first-ever player to score that many points he gave the ball to his team physician Stan Lorber. [88] Winning 62 games, the Sixers easily took the first playoff berth of the 1968 NBA playoffs. In the 1968 Eastern Division Semifinals, they were pitted against the New York Knicks. In a physically tough matchup, the Sixers lost sixth man Billy Cunningham with a broken hand, and Chamberlain, Greer and Jackson were struggling with inflamed feet, bad knees, and pulled hamstrings, respectively. Going ahead 3–2, the Sixers defeated the Knicks 115–97 in Game 6 after Chamberlain scored 25 points and 27 rebounds he had a successful series in which he led both teams in points (153), rebounds (145), and assists (38). [89]

In the 1968 Eastern Division Finals, the Sixers yet again met the Boston Celtics, again with home-court advantage, and this time as reigning champions. Despite the Sixers' injury woes, coach Hannum was confident to "take the Celtics in less than seven games", and he pointed out the age of the Celtics, who were built around Bill Russell and guard Sam Jones, both 34. [90] On April 4, national tragedy struck with the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. With eight of the ten starting players on the Sixers and Celtics being African-American, both teams were in deep shock, and there were calls to cancel the series. [90] In a game called "unreal" and "devoid of emotion", the Sixers lost 127–118 on April 5. After attending the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr., Chamberlain called out to the angry rioters who were setting fires all over the country, stating King would not have approved. [90] In Game 2, Philadelphia evened the series with a 115–106 victory, and won Games 3 and 4, with Chamberlain suspiciously often played by Celtics backup center Wayne Embry, causing the press to speculate Russell was worn down. [90] Prior to Game 5, the Celtics seemed dead, as no NBA team had overcome a 3–1 series deficit before. [90] However, the Celtics rallied back, winning Games 5 and 6 122–104 and 114–106, respectively, powered by a spirited John Havlicek and helped by the Sixers' terrible shooting. [90]

What followed was the first of three consecutive controversial and painful Game 7s in which Chamberlain played. In that Game 7, the Sixers could not get their act together and 15,202 stunned Philadelphia fans witnessed a historic 100–96 defeat, making it the first time in NBA history a team lost a series after leading three games to one. Although Cherry points out that the Sixers shot badly (Hal Greer, Wali Jones, Chet Walker, Luke Jackson, and Matt Guokas hit a combined 25 of 74 shots), and Chamberlain grabbed 34 rebounds and shot 4-of-9, Chamberlain himself scored only 14 points. [90] In the second half of Game 7, Chamberlain did not attempt a single shot from the field. [76] Cherry observes a strange pattern in that game, as in a typical Sixers game, Chamberlain got the ball 60 times in the low post but only 23 times in Game 7, and only seven times in the third and only twice in the fourth quarter. [90] Chamberlain later blamed coach Hannum for the lack of touches, a point which the coach conceded himself, but Cherry points out that Chamberlain, who always thought of himself as the best player of all time, should have been outspoken enough to demand the ball himself. [90]

The loss meant that Chamberlain was now 1–6 in playoff series against the Celtics. After that season, coach Alex Hannum wanted to be closer to his family on the West Coast he left the Sixers to coach the Oakland Oaks in the newly founded American Basketball Association (ABA). [91] Chamberlain then asked for a trade, and Sixers general manager Jack Ramsay traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Darrall Imhoff, Archie Clark, and Jerry Chambers. [76] The motivation for this move remains in dispute. According to sportswriter Roland Lazenby, a journalist close to the Lakers, Chamberlain was angry at Kosloff for breaking the alleged Richman–Chamberlain deal. [33] According to Ramsay, Chamberlain threatened to jump to the ABA after Hannum left, and forced the trade himself. [76] Cherry finally adds several personal reasons, among them Chamberlain felt he had grown too big for Philadelphia, sought the presence of fellow celebrities, which were plenty in Los Angeles, and finally also desired the opportunity to date white women, which was possible for a black man in Los Angeles but hard to imagine elsewhere back then. [92]

Los Angeles Lakers (1968–1973)

1968–69 NBA season

On July 9, 1968, Chamberlain was the centerpiece of a major trade between the 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, which sent center Darrall Imhoff, forward Jerry Chambers and guard Archie Clark to Philadelphia, making it the first time a reigning NBA MVP was traded the next season. [93] Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke gave Chamberlain an unprecedented contract, paying him $250,000 after taxes (about $1.9 million in real value) in comparison, previous Lakers top earner Jerry West was paid $100,000 before taxes (about $740,000 in real value). [94]

Chamberlain joined a squad which featured Hall-of-Fame forward Elgin Baylor and Hall-of-Fame guard Jerry West, along with backup center Mel Counts, forwards Keith Erickson and Tom Hawkins, and talented 5'11" guard Johnny Egan. The lack of a second guard next to West, and the lack of speed and quickness concerned, coach Butch Van Breda Kolff. After losing Clark and Gail Goodrich, who joined the Phoenix Suns after the 1968 expansion draft, he said: "Egan gets murdered on defense because of his [lack of] size . but if I don't play him, we look like a bunch of trucks." [95] In addition, Cherry observed that Chamberlain was neither a natural leader nor a loyal follower, which made him difficult to fit in. [94] While he was on cordial terms with Jerry West, he often argued with team captain Elgin Baylor, later explaining in regard to Baylor: "We were good friends, but . [in] black culture . you never let the other guy one-up you." [94] The greatest problem was his tense relationship with Lakers coach Bill Van Breda Kolff. Pejoratively calling the new recruit "The Load", he later complained that Chamberlain was egotistical, never respected him, too often slacked off in practice and focused too much on his own statistics. [94] In return, Chamberlain blasted Van Breda Kolff as "the dumbest and worst coach ever." [33] [94] Laker Keith Erickson observed that "Butch catered to Elgin and Jerry . and that is not a good way to get on Wilt's side . that relationship was doomed from the start." [94]

Chamberlain experienced a problematic and often frustrating season. Van Breda Kolff benched him several times, which never happened in his career before in mid-season, Chamberlain, a perennial scoring champion, had two games in which he scored only six and then only two points. [95] Playing through his problems, Chamberlain averaged 20.5 points and 21.1 rebounds a game that season. [51] Jack Kent Cooke was pleased because ticket sales went up by 11% since acquiring Chamberlain. [95] In the 1969 NBA playoffs, the Lakers dispatched 4–2 Chamberlain's old club, the San Francisco Warriors, after losing the first two games, and then defeated the Atlanta Hawks, and met Chamberlain's familiar rivals, Bill Russell's Boston Celtics. [95] Going into the series as 3-to-1 favorites, the Lakers won the first two games but dropped the next two. Chamberlain was criticized as a non-factor in the series, getting neutralized by Russell with little effort. [95] In Game 5, Chamberlain scored 13 points and grabbed 31 rebounds, leading Los Angeles to a 117–104 win. In Game 6, the Celtics won 99–90, and Chamberlain only scored 8 points. Cherry accuses him of choking because if "Chamberlain had come up big and put up a normal 30 point scoring night", the Lakers would have probably won its first championship at Los Angeles. [95]

Game 7 featured a surreal scene because Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke put up thousands of balloons in the rafters of the Forum in Los Angeles in anticipation of a Lakers win. This display of arrogance motivated the Celtics. [95] In Game 7, the Lakers trailed 91–76 after three quarters. The Lakers mounted a comeback, but then Chamberlain twisted his knee after a rebound and had to be replaced by Mel Counts. With three minutes to go, the Lakers trailed 103–102, but they committed costly turnovers and lost the game 108–106, despite a triple-double from West, who had 42 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists, and became the only player in NBA history to be named Finals MVP despite being on the losing team. [95] After the game, many wondered why Chamberlain sat out the final six minutes. At the time of his final substitution, he had scored 18 points (hitting seven of his eight shots) and grabbed 27 rebounds, significantly better than the 10 points of Mel Counts on 4-of-13 shooting. [95] Among others, Russell did not believe Chamberlain's injury was grave, and openly accused him of being a malingerer, stating: "Any injury short of a broken leg or a broken back is not enough." [95] In spite of their earlier quarrels, Van Breda Kolff came to his defense, insisting the often-maligned Chamberlain hardly was able to move in the end. [95] Van Breda Kolff himself was perceived as "pig-headed" for benching Chamberlain, and soon resigned as Lakers coach. [95] Cherry comments that some journalists reported how Game 7 destroyed two careers: "Wilt's because he wouldn't take over and Van Breda Kolff because he wouldn't give in." [95]

1969–70 NBA season

In the 1969–70 NBA season under new coach Joe Mullaney, Chamberlain began the season strongly, averaging 32.2 points per game and 20.6 rebounds per game over the first nine games of the season. [96] During the ninth game, he had a serious knee injury, suffering a total rupture of the patellar tendon at the base of his right kneecap, [97] and missed the next several months before appearing in the final three games of the 82-game regular season, the first season in which he failed to reach 20 rebounds per game. Owing to his strong start, he still managed to put up a season-average 27.3 points, 18.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. [51]

The Lakers again charged through the 1970 NBA Playoffs, and in the 1970 NBA Finals were pitted against the New York Knicks, loaded with future Hall-of-Famers Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, and Walt Frazier. Cherry observed that Reed, a prolific midrange shooter, was a bad matchup for Chamberlain. Having lost lateral quickness due to his injury, Chamberlain was often too slow to block Reed's preferred high post jump shots. [98] In Game 1, the Knicks masterminded a 124–112 win in which Reed scored 37 points. In Game 2, Chamberlain scored 19 points, grabbed 24 rebounds, and blocked Reed's shot in the final seconds, leading the Lakers to a 105–103 win. [98] Game 3 saw Jerry West famously hit a 60-foot shot at the buzzer to tie the game at 102 however, the Knicks took the game 111–108. [98] In Game 4, Chamberlain scored 18 points and grabbed 25 rebounds and helped tie the series at 2. [98] In Game 5, with the Knicks trailing by double digits, Reed pulled his thigh muscle and seemed to be done for the series. By conventional wisdom, Chamberlain now should have dominated against little-used Knicks backup centers Nate Bowman and Bill Hosket or forwards Bradley and DeBusschere, who gave up more than half a foot against him. [98] Instead, the Lakers gave away their 13-point halftime lead and succumbed to the aggressive Knicks defense, as they committed 19 second-half turnovers, and the two main scorers (Chamberlain and West) shot the ball in the entire second half only three and two times, respectively. [98] The Lakers lost 107–100 in what was called one of the greatest comebacks in NBA Finals history. [98]

In Game 6, Chamberlain scored 45 points, grabbed 27 rebounds, and almost single-handedly equalized the series in a 135–113 Lakers win, and with Reed out, the Knicks seemed doomed prior to Game 7 in New York. [98] However, the hero of that Game 7 was Willis Reed, who famously hobbled up court, scored the first four points, and inspired his team to one of the most famous playoff upsets of all time. [99] The Knicks led by 27 at halftime, and despite scoring 21 points, Chamberlain could not prevent a third consecutive loss in Game 7. Chamberlain was criticized for his inability to dominate his injured counterpart but Cherry pointed out that his feat, coming back from a career-threatening injury himself, was too quickly forgotten. [98]

1970–71 NBA season

In the 1970–71 NBA season, the Lakers made a notable move by signing future Hall-of-Fame guard Gail Goodrich, who came back from the Phoenix Suns after playing for the Lakers until 1968. Chamberlain averaged 20.7 points, 18.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, [51] once again led the NBA in rebounding, and the Lakers won the Pacific Division title. After losing Elgin Baylor to an Achilles tendon rupture that effectively ended his career, and especially after losing Jerry West after a knee injury, the handicapped Lakers were seen as underdogs against the Milwaukee Bucks of freshly crowned MVP Lew Alcindor, and veteran Hall-of-Fame guard Oscar Robertson in the Western Conference Finals. Winning the regular season with 66 wins, the Bucks were seen as favourites against the depleted Lakers still, many pundits were looking forward to the matchup between the 34-year-old Chamberlain and the 24-year-old Alcindor. [100] In Game 1, Alcindor outscored Chamberlain 32–22, and the Bucks won 106–85. In Game 2, the Bucks won again despite Chamberlain scoring 26 points, four more than his Milwaukee counterpart. Prior to Game 3, things became even worse for the Lakers when Keith Erickson, West's stand-in, had an appendectomy and was out for the season with rookie Jim McMillian easing the scoring pressure, Chamberlain scored 24 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in a 118–107 victory, but the Bucks defeated the Lakers 117–94 in Game 4 to take a 3–1 series lead. Milwaukee closed out the series at home with a 116–98 victory in Game 5. [101] Although Chamberlain lost, he was lauded for holding his own against MVP Alcindor, who was not only 10 years younger but healthy. [100]

After the 1971 NBA Playoffs, Chamberlain challenged heavyweight boxing legend Muhammad Ali to a fight. The 15-round bout would have taken place on July 26, 1971, in the Houston Astrodome. Chamberlain trained with Cus d'Amato but later backed out, withdrawing the much-publicized challenge, [102] [22] by way of a contractual escape clause which predicated the Chamberlain–Ali match on Ali beating Joe Frazier in a fight scheduled for early 1971, which became Ali's first professional loss, enabling Chamberlain to legally withdraw from the bout. [103] In a 1999 interview, Chamberlain stated that boxing trainer Cus D'Amato had twice before, in 1965 and 1967, approached the basketball star with the idea, and that he and Ali had each been offered $5 million for the bout. In 1965, Chamberlain had consulted his father, who had seen Ali fight, and finally said no. [104] [105] Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had also offered Chamberlain a record-setting contract on the condition that Chamberlain agree to give up what Cooke termed "this boxing foolishness." [106] In 1967, recently retired NFL star Jim Brown acted as Chamberlain's manager, but Ali's manager Jabir Herbert Muhammad backed out of the Chamberlain–Ali match which was slated to take place at Madison Square Garden. [107]

1971–72 NBA season: second championship season

In the 1971–72 NBA season, the Lakers hired former Celtics star guard Bill Sharman as head coach. Sharman introduced morning shoot-arounds, in which the perennial latecomer Chamberlain regularly participated (in contrast to earlier years with Dolph Schayes) and transformed him into a defensive-minded, low-scoring post defender in the mold of his old rival Bill Russell. [108] Furthermore, he told Chamberlain to use his rebounding and passing skills to quickly initiate fastbreaks to his teammates. [109] While no longer being the main scorer, Chamberlain was named the new captain of the Lakers. After rupturing his Achilles tendon, perennial captain Elgin Baylor retired, leaving a void Chamberlain now filled. Initially, Sharman wanted Chamberlain and West to share this duty, but West declined, stating he was injury-prone and wanted to solely concentrate on the game. [110] Chamberlain accepted his new roles and posted an all-time low 14.8 points per game but also won the rebound crown with 19.2 rebounds per game and led the league with a .649 field goal percentage. [51] Powered by his defensive presence, the Lakers embarked on an unprecedented 33-game win streak en route to a then-record 69 wins in the regular season, yet the streak led to one strangely dissonant event. According to Flynn Robinson, after the record-setting streak, Lakers owner Cooke sought to reward each of his players, who were expecting perhaps a trip to Hawaii, with a $5 pen set. In response, Chamberlain had everybody put all the pens in the middle of the floor and stepped on them. [111]

In the post-season, the Lakers swept the Chicago Bulls, then went on to face the Milwaukee Bucks of young superstar center and regular-season MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Lew Alcindor). The matchup between Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar was hailed by Life magazine as the greatest matchup in all of sports. Chamberlain would help lead the Lakers past Abdul-Jabbar and the Bucks in six games. Particularly, Chamberlain was lauded for his performance in Game 6, which the Lakers won 104–100 after trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter Chamberlain scored 24 points and 22 rebounds, played all 48 minutes, and outsprinted the younger Bucks center on several late Lakers fast breaks. [112] Jerry West called it "the greatest ball-busting performance I have ever seen." [112] Chamberlain performed so well in the series that Time magazine stated: "In the N.B.A.'s western division title series with Milwaukee, he (Chamberlain) decisively outplayed basketball's newest giant superstar, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, eleven years his junior." [113]

In the 1972 NBA Finals, the Lakers again met the New York Knicks, which were shorthanded after losing 6'9" Willis Reed to injury, and so undersized 6'8" Jerry Lucas had the task to defend against the 7'1" Chamberlain. [114] However, prolific outside shooter Lucas helped New York to win Game 1, hitting nine of his 11 shots in the first half alone. In Game 2, which the Lakers won 106–92, Chamberlain put Lucas into foul trouble, and the Knicks lost defensive power forward Dave DeBusschere to injury. [114] In Game 3, Chamberlain scored 26 points and grabbed 20 rebounds for another Lakers win. In a fiercely battled Game 4, Chamberlain was playing with five fouls late in the game. Having never fouled out in his career, a feat that he was very proud of, Chamberlain played aggressive defense despite the risk of fouling out, and blocked two of Lucas' shots in overtime, proving those wrong who said he only played for his own stats he ended scoring a game-high 27 points. [114] In that game, he fell on his right hand, and was said to have sprained it but it was actually broken. For Game 5, Chamberlain's hands were packed into thick pads normally destined for defensive linesmen in American football he was offered a painkilling shot but refused because he feared he would lose his shooting touch if his hands became numb. [114] In Game 5, Chamberlain recorded 24 points, 29 rebounds, 8 assists, and 8 blocked shots. While blocked shots were not an official NBA statistic at that time, announcer Keith Jackson counted the blocks during the broadcast. Chamberlain's outstanding all-around performance helped the Lakers win their first championship in Los Angeles with a decisive 114–100 win. [114] Chamberlain was named Finals MVP, [51] and was admired for dominating the Knicks in Game 5 while playing injured. [114]

1972–73 NBA season

The 1972–73 NBA season was to be Chamberlain's last, although he did not know this at the time. In his last season, the Lakers lost substance, as Happy Hairston was injured, Flynn Robinson and LeRoy Ellis had left, and veteran Jerry West struggled with injury. [115] Chamberlain averaged 13.2 points and 18.6 rebounds, still enough to win the rebounding crown for the 11th time in his career. In addition, he shot an NBA record 0.727 for the season, bettering his own mark of 0.683 from the 1966–67 season. [51] It was the ninth time Chamberlain would lead the league in field goal percentage. The Lakers won 60 games in the regular season and reached the 1973 NBA Finals against the New York Knicks. This time, the tables were turned, as the Knicks now featured a healthy team with a rejuvenated Willis Reed, and the Lakers were now handicapped by several injuries. [115] In that series, the Lakers won Game 1 115–112, but the Knicks won Games 2 and 3 things worsened when Jerry West injured his hamstring yet again. In Game 4, the shorthanded Lakers were no match for New York. In Game 5, the valiant but injured West and Hairston had miserable games, and despite Chamberlain scoring 23 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, the Lakers lost 102–93 and the series. After the Knicks finished off the close fifth game with a late flourish led by Earl Monroe and Phil Jackson, Chamberlain made a dunk with one second left, which turned out to be the last play of his NBA career. [116] [117]

San Diego Conquistadors (1973–1974)

In 1973, the San Diego Conquistadors of the NBA rival league ABA signed Chamberlain as a player-coach for a $600,000 salary. [118] However, the Lakers sued their former star and successfully prevented him from actually playing because he still owed them the option year of his contract. [5] Barred from playing, Chamberlain mostly left the coaching duties to his assistant Stan Albeck, who recalled: "Chamberlain . has a great feel for pro basketball . the day-to-day things that are an important part of basketball . just bored him. He did not have the patience." [118] The players were split on Chamberlain, who was seen as competent but often indifferent and more occupied with promotion of his autobiography Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door than with coaching. He once skipped a game to sign autographs for the book. [118] In his single season as a coach, the Conquistadors went a mediocre 37–47 in the regular season and lost against the Utah Stars in the Division Semifinals. [118] After the season, Chamberlain retired from professional basketball in addition, he was displeased by the meager attendance, as crowds averaged 1,843, just over half of the team's small San Diego 3,200-seat sports arena. [118]

GP Games played GS Games started MPG Minutes per game
FG% Field goal percentage 3P% 3-point field goal percentage FT% Free throw percentage
RPG Rebounds per game APG Assists per game SPG Steals per game
BPG Blocks per game PPG Points per game Bold Career high
Won an NBA championship * Led the league NBA record

Regular season

1959–60 Philadelphia 72 46.4* .461 .582 27.0* 2.3 37.6*
1960–61 Philadelphia 79* 47.8* .509* .504 27.2 1.9 38.4*
1961–62 Philadelphia 80* 48.5 .506 .613 25.7* 2.4 50.4
1962–63 San Francisco 80* 47.6* .528* .593 24.3* 3.4 44.8*
1963–64 San Francisco 80 46.1* .524 .531 22.3 5.0 36.9*
1964–65 San Francisco 38 45.9 .499* .416 23.5 3.1 38.9*
1964–65 Philadelphia 35 44.5 .528* .526 22.3 3.8 30.1*
1965–66 Philadelphia 79 47.3* .540* .513 24.6* 5.2 33.5*
1966–67† Philadelphia 81* 45.5* .683* .441 24.2* 7.8 24.1
1967–68 Philadelphia 82 46.8* .595* .380 23.8* 8.6* 24.3
1968–69 Los Angeles 81 45.3* .583* .446 21.1* 4.5 20.5
1969–70 Los Angeles 12 42.1 .568 .446 18.4 4.1 27.3
1970–71 Los Angeles 82 44.3 .545 .538 18.2* 4.3 20.7
1971–72† Los Angeles 82 42.3 .649* .422 19.2* 4.0 14.8
1972–73 Los Angeles 82* 43.2 .727* .510 18.6* 4.5 13.2
Career 1045 45.8 .540 .511 22.9 4.4 30.1


1960 Philadelphia 9 46.1 .496 .445 25.8 2.1 33.2
1961 Philadelphia 3 48.0 .489 .553 23.0 2.0 37.0
1962 Philadelphia 12 48.0 .467 .636 26.6 3.1 35.0
1964 San Francisco 12 46.5 .543 .475 25.2 3.3 34.7
1965 Philadelphia 11 48.7 .530 .559 27.2 4.4 29.3
1966 Philadelphia 5 48.0 .509 .412 30.2 3.0 28.0
1967† Philadelphia 15 47.9 .579 .388 29.1 9.0 21.7
1968 Philadelphia 13 48.5 .534 .380 24.7 6.5 23.7
1969 Los Angeles 18 46.2 .545 .392 24.7 2.6 13.9
1970 Los Angeles 18 47.3 .549 .406 22.2 4.5 22.1
1971 Los Angeles 12 46.2 .455 .515 20.2 4.4 18.3
1972† Los Angeles 15 46.9 .563 .492 21.0 3.3 14.7
1973 Los Angeles 17 47.1 .552 .500 22.5 3.5 10.4
Career 160 47.2 .522 .465 24.5 4.2 22.5

After his stint with the Conquistadors, Chamberlain successfully went into business and entertainment, made money in stocks and real estate, bought a popular Harlem nightclub, which he renamed Big Wilt's Smalls Paradise, and invested in broodmares. [36] Chamberlain also sponsored his personal professional volleyball and track and field teams, and also provided high-level teams for girls and women in basketball, track, volleyball and softball, [119] and made money by appearing in ads for TWA, American Express, Volkswagen, Drexel Burnham, Le Tigre Clothing and Foot Locker. [36] After his basketball career, volleyball became Chamberlain's new passion. Being a talented hobby volleyballer during his Lakers days, [116] he became a board member of the newly founded International Volleyball Association in 1974, and then its president one year later. [8] As a testament to his importance, the IVA All-Star game was televised only because Chamberlain also played in it he rose to the challenge and was named the game's MVP. [8] He played occasional matches for the IVA Seattle Smashers before the league folded in 1979. Chamberlain promoted the sport so effectively that he was named to the Volleyball Hall of Fame, and he became one of the few athletes who were enshrined in different sports. [8]

In 1976, Chamberlain turned to his interest in movies, forming a film production and distribution company to make his first film, entitled Go For It. [120] [121] Starting in the 1970s, he formed Wilt's Athletic Club, a track and field club in southern California, [122] coached by then UCLA assistant coach Bob Kersee in the early days of his career. Among the members of the team were Florence Griffith, before she set the current world records in the 100 meters and 200 meters three-time world champion Greg Foster [123] and future Olympic Gold medalists Andre Phillips, Alice Brown, and Jeanette Bolden. In all, he claimed 60 athletes with aspirations of expanding to 100. While actively promoting the sport in 1982, Chamberlain claimed he was considering a return to athletic competition but not in basketball rather, in Masters athletics. At the time, he claimed he had only been beaten in the high jump once, by Olympic champion Charles Dumas, and that he had never been beaten in the shot put, including beating Olympic legend Al Oerter. [124]

Chamberlain played a villainous warrior and counterpart of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Conan the Destroyer (1984). In November 1998, he signed with Ian Ng Cheng Hin, CEO of Northern Cinema House Entertainment (NCH Entertainment), to do his own bio-pic, wanting to tell his life story his way. [125] He had been working on the screenplay notes for over a year at the time of his death. Sy Goldberg, Chamberlain's longtime attorney, said: "He was more inquisitive than anybody I ever knew. He was writing a screenplay about his life. He was interested in world affairs, sometimes he'd call me up late at night and discuss philosophy. I think he'll be remembered as a great man. He happened to make a living playing basketball but he was more than that. He could talk on any subject. He was a Goliath." [126] When million-dollar contracts became common in the NBA, Chamberlain increasingly felt he had been underpaid during his career. [127] A result of this resentment was the 1997 book Who's Running the Asylum? Inside the Insane World of Sports Today (1997), in which he harshly criticized the NBA of the 1990s for being too disrespectful of players of the past. [128] Even far beyond his playing days, Chamberlain was a very fit person. In his mid-forties, he was able to humble rookie Magic Johnson in practice, [129] and he flirted with making a comeback in the NBA even in the 1980s. In the 1980–81 NBA season, coach Larry Brown recalled that the 45-year-old Chamberlain had received an offer from the Cleveland Cavaliers. When Chamberlain was 50, the New Jersey Nets had the same idea but were declined. [129] However, he would continue to epitomize physical fitness for years to come, including participating in several marathons. [5]

Chamberlain had a history of heart trouble. In 1992, he was briefly hospitalized for an irregular heartbeat. [130] According to those close to him, he eventually began taking medication for his heart troubles. [131] [132] In 1999, his condition deteriorated rapidly. During this time, he lost 50 pounds. [133] After undergoing dental surgery in the week before his death, he was in great pain and seemed unable to recover from the stress. On October 12, 1999, Chamberlain died in Bel-Air, California, at the age of 63. [3] [134] His agent Sy Goldberg stated Chamberlain died of congestive heart failure. [135]

NBA players and officials were saddened at the loss of a player they universally remembered as a symbol of the sport. His lifelong on-court rival and personal friend Bill Russell stated "the fierceness of our competition bonded us together for eternity", and Celtics coach Red Auerbach praised Chamberlain as vital for the success of the entire NBA. Ex-Lakers teammate Jerry West remembered him as an utterly dominant yet friendly and humorous player, and fellow Hall-of-Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Johnny Kerr, Phil Jackson, and Wes Unseld called Chamberlain one of the greatest players in the history of the sport. [126]

Chamberlain vs. Ali was almost a done deal in 1971

By early 1971, Muhammad Ali had just come off a three-year-plus ban from boxing for refusing to fight in the Vietnam War but was still very much in his prime. Apart from his heavyweight championship defense against Joe Frazier in March, which he ended up losing, there was another high-profile fight that awaited him that year — the six-years-in-the-making bout against Chamberlain that, according to Mental Floss, was scheduled to take place on July 26, 1971, at the Houston Astrodome.

As cited by the Los Angeles Times in 1989, promoter Bob Arum recalled that Chamberlain agreed to the terms of the fight and that the NBA superstar's lawyer approved — but did not sign — the contract. Chamberlain was supposed to announce the fight and sign the contract at a press conference at the Astrodome, but Arum claimed that Ali, despite being warned not to "disrupt the giant" just yet, did Muhammad Ali things and trash-talked his would-be opponent during the event, allegedly yelling, "Timber! The tree will fall."

As Los Angeles Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had a lucrative contract offer for Chamberlain, provided he give up "this boxing foolishness," that settled it for the big man — he was re-signing with the Lakers and backing out of the fight. The decision may have deprived fight fans of what would have been a curious in-ring matchup at the very least, but one can't say it wasn't good for Wilt's basketball career. With Chamberlain patrolling the middle, the Lakers won the 1971-72 NBA championship — his second and last title before his retirement in 1973 (via Basketball-Reference).

The NBA’s true greatest player of all time, Wilt Chamberlain

The NBA’s “greatest of all time” conversation tends to lend itself to recency bias, as LeBron James and Michael Jordan are players that a lot of people are familiar with. However, it typically fails to acknowledge historical legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain. Between the three, Wilt is not only arguably the best, but he’s also slept on historically despite having a career that is too crazy to make up.

Chamberlain was a cheat code. He was 7𔃻″ with the athleticism of Zion Williamson, the strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and crazy leaping ability. Not only that, but Wilt also led the league in assists in 1967-68 and scored 100 points in a game.

More from Hoops Habit

The start of Wilt The Stilt’s professional career came allegedly when he went by the name of George Marcus. When Wilt was 16 years old, he joined a professional team, the Pittsburgh Raiders, under a fake name. Chamberlain/Marcus dominated and according to the research done on Reddit (take it for what it’s worth), the star scored over 40 points in a game. At the age of 17 he joined the Quakertown Fay and averaged 40.5 points in 8 games, among more eye-popping stats.

From there, the big man joined the University of Kansas Jayhawks to play college ball. In his debut game, Chamberlain scored 42 points and had 29 rebounds and 4 blocks. For the rest of his two seasons there he averaged 30 points and 18 rebounds per game. Following his last season at Kansas, the star joined the Harlem Globetrotters for a year.

Now, hopefully, you’re intrigued by the greatest mythical creature of basketball known as Wilt Chamberlain. He started his NBA career after his one year playing for the Globetrotters. in the rookie center’s debut, he scored 43 points, nabbed 28 rebounds, and played all 48 minutes. That game would set the tone for the illustrious career of the big man who owns 72 NBA records, most of which are for his impressive ability to score, rebound, and never need a break.

Perhaps Wilt’s most impressive season came in his third year in the league. Wilt averaged 50 points and 26 rebounds a game (blocks and steals weren’t recorded back then). He had a crazy 17 offensive win shares and a PER of 32. Unfortunately, Chamberlain didn’t win the NBA title that year due to having a weaker supporting cast and facing the legendary Boston Celtics team of Bill Russell.

Another season that really shows how talented the big man is is his aforementioned 1977-78 season. He averaged an absurd 24 points, 24 rebounds, and 9 assists on his way to winning one of his 4 MVP awards. Aside from LeBron James likely doing it this year, no non-guard has led the league in assists since Chamberlain did it. Not only that, Chamberlain’s PER that season was 24.7 with a strong defensive win shares rating of 11.

Chamberlain won 4 MVP awards, 11 rebounding titles, seven scoring titles and two championship rings. One thing that is relatively underrated about Chamberlain is that he was arguably the second-best defender of the era behind only Bill Russell. Ben Taylor took a close look at it here. Chamberlain led some of the best defenses in the league, especially when he tapered down his scoring.

One of the qualities of a “GOAT” is to be able to do anything asked of you, and Wilt Chamberlain was a great example of that. He could do unheard-of things like block Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook and turn up his defense when needed, he could drop 100 points when needed, he could run the offense if the team needed it, grab literally every rebound when asked, and even play just about every minute of every game.

Doing the Math

If Chamberlain started having sex at the age of 15, from then up to the age of 55 (when the book was published) he would have had 40 years to sleep with 20,000 women, or 500 different women a year—easy math.

That works out to roughly 1.4 women a day.

According to close friends, Wilt loved threesomes. According to legend, he was intimate with 23 different women on one 10-day road trip. Wilt was also a lifelong insomniac, sometimes just not sleeping at all. He probably would take a woman to bed any time he couldn't fall asleep.

But the time factor is an interesting point. A close childhood friend, Tom Fitzhugh, said, "I don't remember him having a date. He was probably a virgin when he left high school." So let us assume Wilt really started around the age of 18, which ups the average to 1.5 women per day for 37 years.

Additionally, he did have a six-month schedule, for 14 seasons, of playing professional basketball. That's 82 games a season, not including playoffs, exhibitions, practices, and travel time.

The fact that he said 20,000 different women also leaves little time for repeats, or love. And what about sickness? Everyone gets sick once in a while, which would have cost Chamberlain precious time during those 37 to 40 sexually active years.

But most incredibly, even with those reported 20,000 sexual liaisons, Chamberlain is not known to have contracted any serious sexually transmitted diseases. Nor was there ever a woman who came forward with an unplanned pregnancy or a paternity suit.

And what about turndowns? Every guy in human history has been turned down by a woman at some point. One can only wonder at Wilt's rejections . probably extremely few, to manage that 20,000 record.

Wikimedia Commons

In a 1999 interview, shortly before he died, Chamberlain made the following revealing statement:

"Having a thousand different ladies is pretty cool, I've learned in my life. I've (also) found out that having one woman a thousand different times is more satisfying."

So perhaps he made time for repeats after all.

Chamberlain died of heart failure in 1999 in Bel-Air, California, at the age of 63.

Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain is universally recognized as one of the greatest basketball players in history, but he may well be the most under-rated player in history. While this may sound absurd, if one truly looks at the career, accomplishments and achievements of Wilt and balances them against the criticism and restrictions aimed at him, he stood (literally) head and shoulders above every other player in basketball history. Beyond that, he was one of the greatest all-around athletes in history, achieving Hall of Fame status in two different sports.

Wilton Norman “Wilt” Chamberlain was born on August 21 st , 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, one of nine children born to Olivia Ruth Johnson and William Chamberlain. His mother worked as a domestic worker and his father as a welder and handyman. Although a sickly child who almost died from pneumonia, Wilt would grow into a huge athletic body that enabled him to dominate in all of the sports in which he participated. Nicknamed ‘Wilt the Stilt’, his gargantuan physique lent him a supreme natural advantage on the basketball courts on which he cemented his name in NBA folklore.

Chamberlain first gained recognition at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia where he played basketball and participated in track and field. Initially he disdained basketball as “a game for sissies.” Instead he was drawn to track and field where he dominated, running the 440 yard dash in 49.0 seconds and the 880 yards in 1:58.3. He high-jumped 6 feet, 6 inches, threw the shot put 53 feet, 4 inches, and broad-jumped 22 feet. Eventually, however, basketball came calling as it was the king of sports in Philadelphia. Wilt was a dominant performer for his school’s varsity team, capitalizing on a 6 foot 11 inch frame in order to out-play his rivals and distinguish himself as one of the most promising young basketball talents in the world. Showing that fitness improves performance, he became an athletic behemoth in his quest for glory. In his second season at Overbrook, he led his team to the city title and in his third and final season, he scored 74, 78 and 90 points in three consecutive and once again led his team to the city title. During the summers he worked as a bellhop at Kutsher’s Hotel and Country Club in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. He often entertained resort customers by handing their luggage to them through the second floor windows while he stood on the ground outside.

Humble Beginnings for the Self-Proclaimed Goliath

Wilt vs. High School Double-team – Great Black Heroes

Indeed, his performances at Overbrook High School, where he scored over 2,200 points in total, showed such promise that a host of top-drawer college basketball teams supplicated their interest in him (he was recruited by more than 200 schools). Chamberlain, wanting a change from his surroundings, opted to enroll at the University of Kansas. He was surprised to find Lawrence, Kansas still a segregated town, but he ignored signs and went and ate wherever he wanted, his star power eclipsing the rules normally laid out for Blacks. He debuted for the Jayhawks freshman team in an exhibition against the varsity squad that was expected to win the conference. Wilt scored 42 point and registered 29 rebounds and four blocked shots, leading the freshman team to a ten point upset victory. The next year, he debuted for the varsity team against Northwestern University, scoring 52 points and grabbing 31 rebounds in a resounding victory. He was the mainstay of a team that would go all the way to the NCAA Title game. Kansas was ranked number two in the nation and matched up against number one North Carolina. The game was decided after three overtimes with North Carolina edging Kansas 54-53. Despite his team losing, Chamberlain was selected as ‘Most Outstanding Player’ of the tournament in merit of a series of remarkable performances.

He also participated in track and field at Kansas, winning the Big 8 high jump championship. Unfortunately, in basketball, the opposing teams often ganged up on Wilt, hitting him with hard fouls on every play. He realized that he would eventually be provoked to the point of retaliating against white players in a segregated environment. As such, after his junior year, he decided to leave school early. Due to NBA-enforced age restrictions, Chamberlain was unable to participate in professional basketball for a year after leaving Kansas University. He chose, instead, to join the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958 for a transitory stint until he could step up to a professional NBA league. He teamed with Harlem greats Goose Tatum and Meadowlark Lemon and was able to travel the world, entertaining fans with the Globetrotters unique style of play, but he was just one of the great members of the team and wasn’t pressured to dominate and score on every play. He would later describe his time with the Globetrotters as his most enjoyable of his career.

Wilt was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors of the National Basketball Association in 1959, making his professional debut against the Knicks in New York City, scoring an impressive 43 points and 28 rebounds. In an unprecedentedly successful debut season in which he averaged 37 points and 27 rebounds, the young talent was bestowed with a number of prestigious awards, including NBA Most Valuable Player and NBA Rookie of the Year (a feat accomplished only one other time, by Hall of Famer Wes Unseld). He was also the league’s top paid player (although he took an almost 40% pay cut from his Globetrotters salary).

Despite his success, he shocked Warriors fans and management by contemplating retirement after his rookie year. He was again plagued by the beating that he took and the danger of his retaliating. Tommy Heinsohn, one of his contemporaries from the Boston Celtics and a man who was responsible for some of those beatings said “[h]alf the fouls against him were hard fouls … he took the most brutal pounding of any player ever.” He also had to fight against the stigma of being a freak of nature, jeered by fans and critiqued by the press, leading his coach Alex Hannum to later say “Nobody loves Goliath.” This notion would unfairly plague Chamberlain’s career and his legacy. After playing during the summer, Wilt was coaxed back to the Warriors, with a new contract worth $65,000.00 (in comparison, the team was purchased by Eddie Gottlieb eight years earlier for only $25,000.00). It was also during this season that the renowned basketball player cultivated a notoriously fierce rivalry with Celtics’ star defender, Bill Russell, with whom he vehemently competed against on the court, but was friendly with outside of the game (in fact, the two often spent time together during the holidays).

During his second season, he again achieved great success averaging 38 points per game and grabbing an astounding 2,149 rebounds. His highest mark in a game was an incredible 55 rebounds against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, his huge numbers did not translate to playoff wins as the Warriors were sent packing for the second year in a row.

The Centurion of the Basketball World

Wilt Chamberlain scores 100 points – Great Black Heroes

It was in 1962 that the colossal Philadelphia Warriors star enjoyed arguably the finest, most celebrated season in the history of professional basketball. He achieved the milestone for which he is most known, his 100 point game in a 169-147 victory against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. Renowned the world over as one of the greatest achievements in the history of basketball, Chamberlain will forever be associated with this extraordinary feat. However, he also set a number of other famous league records during that historic game, including shooting the most successful free throws (28), which was a particularly striking one as he was one of the worst foul shooters in NBA history. Although an ungodly point total, it was not dissimilar of his scoring for the season as he became the only person in NBA history to score more than 4000 points in a season (4,029) and averaged a shocking 50.4 points per game. Consider that the second highest numbers (Michael Jordan scored 3,041 and averaged 37.1 in 1987) were not even remotely closely, Wilt, literally and figuratively, towered above everyone in the league. As well, he worked harder than anyone in the league, averaging 48.5 minutes per game (when there are only 48 minutes in a regulation game). In fact, he would have played every single minute of his team’s games that year, but he was ejected for technical fouls in one game, thus missing eight minutes. To repeat, he only missed eight minutes for the entire season. For the third year in a row, he was selected for the All-NBA first team, but again, his team was bounced from the playoffs by the Celtics in seven games.

Moving on Chamberlain remained with the Philadelphia Warriors when they changed grounds to San Francisco in 1962, and averaged 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds per game that year, but returned to his hometown three years later to join the Philadelphia 76ers. There he secured an NBA Championship win in 1967 over the Warriors with whom he made his name. His coach, Alex Hannum, convinced him to play more of a defensive role, and though his scoring statistics diminished, he helped his team in other areas (including two playoff games in which he achieved an unofficial quadruple double, 24 points, 32 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks against the Celtics and 10 points, 38 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 blocks against the Warriors.

In 1968, Wilt was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he teamed up with future Hall of Famers Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. The 1969 playoffs were a particularly disappointing time for Chamberlain and the Lakers were defeated by the Celtics in seven games. In the final game, Wilt was injured with six minutes left and came to the bench. His coach Butch Van Breda Kolff refused to put him back in the game and the Celtics won by two points. Wilt received a great deal of criticism including from Bill Russell who called him a malingerer, saying “Any injury short of a broken leg or a broken back is not enough.” This was a particularly bitter slight to Wilt, who considered Russell one of his best friends. This caused the two not to speak for more than 20 years. Years later Russell apologized and the warm feelings between the two were evident at Chamberlain’s funeral when Russell said “Today, I am unspeakably injured.”

In 1972, after the retirement of Baylor, Wilt was named the captain of the Lakers. While his points per game dipped noticeably, he concentrated on the defensive side of the ball and helped lead the team to a record 33 straight wins and the teams first NBA Championship over the New York Knicks while playing with a broken hand. He was named the MVP for the finals. The next season included another trip to the finals despite numerous serious injuries on the team, including to Jerry West. The New York Knicks defeated the Lakers in five games, despite Wilt scoring 23 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, including a dunk shot with one second to go. This would be the last points Chamberlain would score in the NBA.

Wilt signed a contract with the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association to serve as the player-coach in 1973, but the Lakers sued to prevent him from playing, saying they had an option on his contract. Thus, after the season, Wilt retired from professional basketball.

Wilt Chamberlain – greatblackheroes.com

Retirement for Wilt was never boring as he ventured into various business and investment deals. He became heavily involved in the sport of volleyball, becoming a board member and President of the International Volleyball Association. He played in the league’s All Star game in order to assure television coverage and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He would later be enshrined in the Volleyball Hall of Fame, one of the few sportsman to ever be named to two Halls of Fame.

He would later become involved in film production and would act in various commercials. The pinnacle of his acting career occurred in his role as the lead villain in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian movie.

Chamberlain remained active and in great physical health during his retirement and was offered contracts by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New Jersey Nets in his forties and fifties. Diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in 1992, he began taking medication for the ailment. He died on October 12, 1999 due to congestive heart failure.

Wilt Chamberlain lived big, on and off the court. He was known as brash and egotistical by some and particularly sensitive by others. He was a night owl who loved hanging out at clubs in New York City, so much that he actually lived in the city and commuted to Philadelphia while playing for the Sixers (he also owned a club in the Harlem called Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise). He had a fondness for the ladies and made the audacious claim that he had slept with more than 20,000 women during his lifetime.

Big numbers would always define his life, but for many the paltry two championships would define his career. This was unfair in light of the teams he played on and against. Particularly against the Celtics, he faced a superior team, even while he statistically dominated Russell. He tried to explain that he and Russell played different roles and that Russell was allowed to concentrate primarily on defense while “I’ve got to hit forty points or so, or this team is in trouble. I must score—understand? After that I play defense and get the ball off the boards. I try to do them all, best I can, but scoring comes first.”

It is also important to note that the league implemented various rules to limit Wilt’s dominance (as it had earlier against George Mikan). The league widened the lane to prevent Wilt from being so close to the basket, changed the inbounding rule to prevent players from lobbing the ball over the backboard to him and changed the free throw rules to prevent him from jumping from the foul line to dunk a free throw. Despite this, Wilt dominated on the floor like nobody, before or since.

Many try to diminish his achievements by saying that all he did was dunk, but most of Wilt’s scoring was from his wide repertoire of skillful shots, including his finger rolls from more than six feet out. Another attempt at downgrading his dominance is the myth that he was a giant playing against small players. First of all, Wilt was not the tallest player in the league at the time. That honor would go to Swede Halbrook, the 7’3″ center for the Syracuse Nationals. Second Wilt played amongst the best group of rebounders in history. Of the top 10 (NBA only) rebounders (rebounds per game), eight of them played during Wilt’s playing days (Chamberlain, Russell, Bob Pettit, Jerry Lucas, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld and Elgin Baylor). Also consider that Dennis Rodman is considered by many the best recent rebounder and he averaged 13.12 rebounds per game in his career, while Wilt averaged 22.89 and Russell 22.45, almost 10 more per game. Also, of the 25 greatest single rebound totals, 23 of them are held by Chamberlain and Russell with Chamberlain’s 55 being the most (while playing against Russell).

The noted author Frank Deford said that Chamberlain was caught in a no-win situation: “If you win, everybody says, ‘Well, look at him, he’s that big.’ If you lose, everybody says, ‘How could he lose, a guy that size?’

Wilt Chamberlain&rsquos Records

* record set on March 2, 1962, vs. New York at Hershey, Pa.

*59 - most points in one half

*36 - most field goals made

*22 - most field goals made in one half

*63 - most field goals attempted

*37 - most field goals attempted in one half

*21 - most field goals attempted in one quarter

58 - most points by a rookie (January 25, 1960, vs. Detroit)

1.000 - highest field goal percentage (minimum 15 made)
(15-for-15, January 20, 1967, vs. Los Angeles
18-for-18, February 24, 1967, vs. Baltimore and
16-for-16, March 19, 1967, vs. Baltimore)

55 - most rebounds (November 24, 1960, vs. Boston)

45 - most rebounds by a rookie (February 6, 1960, vs. Syracuse)

*28 - shares single-game record for most free throws made (March 2, 1962, vs. New York at Hershey, Pa.) (since eclipsed)

* record set on March 2, 1962, vs. New York at Hershey, Pa.

118 - holds career records for most games with 50 or more points

7 - shares career records for most consecutive seasons leading league in scoring (1959-60 through 1965-66)

45 - most games with 50 or more points (1962)

4,029 - most points, single season (1962)

50.4 - highest points-per-game average (1962)

2,707 - most points by a rookie (1960)

*59 - most points in one half

*36 - most field goals made

*22 - most field goals made in one half

*63 - most field goals attempted

*37 - most field goals attempted in one half

*21 - most field goals attempted in one quarter

58 - most points by a rookie (January 25, 1960, vs. Detroit)

23,924 - most rebounds, career

22.9 - highest rebounds-per-game average (minimum 400 games)

2,149 - most rebounds—2,149 (1961)

1,941 - most rebounds by a rookie (1960)

27.2 - highest rebounds-per-game average (1961)

55 - most rebounds (November 24, 1960, vs. Boston)

45 - most rebounds by a rookie (February 6, 1960, vs. Syracuse)

NBA Most Valuable Player (1960, 1966, 1967, 1968)

NBA Rookie of the Year (1960)

All-NBA first team (1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1968)

All-NBA second team (1963, 1965, 1972)

NBA All-Defensive first team (1972, 1973)


NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (1972)

26 - most rebounds in one half (April 16, 1967, vs. San Francisco)

32.0 - holds single-series playoff record for highest rebounds-per-game average (1967)

41 - holds single-game playoff records for most rebounds (April 5, 1967, vs. Boston)

26 - most rebounds in one half (April 16, 1967, vs. San Francisco)

53 - most points by a rookie (March 14, 1960, vs. Syracuse)

24 - shares single-game playoff records for most field goals made (March 14, 1960, vs. Syracuse)

48 - most field goals attempted (March 22, 1962, vs. Syracuse)

25 - most field goals attempted in one half (March 22, 1962, vs. Syracuse)

Wins championship with the 76ers

Finally, in 1967, Chamberlain reversed his fortunes. He had been traded to the new Philadelphia team, the 76ers, and in 1967 they finished the regular season with the best record in the history of the league. In the championship series, the 76ers polished off the San Francisco Warriors to win the first world title for Chamberlain.

Several years later Chamberlain was traded again, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers had featured numerous great players through the years, including Elgin Baylor (1934–) and Jerry West (1938–), but had not won a championship since moving to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1960. In 1972, however, the Lakers seemed poised to finally win a championship. They finished the year with the best regular season record in history, breaking the record set by Chamberlain and the 76ers in 1967. In the championship series, the Lakers played the powerful New York Knickerbockers, led by Willis Reed (1942–), Dave DeBusschere (1940–), Bill Bradley (1943–), and Walt Frazier (1945–). In the fourth game of the series Chamberlain suffered a fractured wrist. Although the Lakers led the series three games to one, the series still seemed in doubt because of Chamberlain's injury. Despite understandable pain, Chamberlain played the next game with football linemen's pads on both hands. He scored 24 points, grabbed 29 rebounds, and blocked 10 shots. The Lakers won the game and the series four games to one, bringing the first world championship to Los Angeles.

Following the 1973 season, Chamberlain left the NBA as the all-time leader in points scored (more than 30,000), rebounds (over 22,000), and with four Most Valuable Player awards and more than forty league records. After retiring from basketball, Chamberlain was involved in a wide variety of activities. He sponsored several amateur athletic groups, including volleyball teams and track clubs. He invested wisely through the years and spent his retirement years as a wealthy man. He also kept in outstanding physical condition. When he walked into a room or onto a basketball court, he was a legendary presence.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain. The mere mention of the Big Dipper's name evokes images of hoops dominance and romantic impossibilities. The man who once scored 100 points in a single game and claimed to have bedded 20,000 women was a fairly enigmatic figure, though, as his huge athletic gifts made him something of a loner throughout his career. As we continue our new series of five things you didn't know about famous people, let's take a look at Wilton Norman Chamberlain.

1. He Wasn't Just Great At Basketball

Although Chamberlain is most known for his exploits on the basketball court, he was no athletic one-trick pony. As a high schooler he was intensely interested in track and field, and he continued this passion when he went to college at Kansas University. While at Kansas, Chamberlain won three straight Big Eight high jump championships, ran the 100-yard dash, and could hurl the shotput up to 56 feet.

After his basketball career ended in 1974, the Big Dipper picked up a new hobby: volleyball. That year he became a board member of the International Volleyball Association, a fledgling pro coed volleyball league that only lasted until 1979, and brought his intimidating 7'1" frame to the Seattle Smashers' front line. Chamberlain's presence brought enough attention to the league that the IVA's All-Star game was televised. (Of course Wilt won the MVP of the game.) His contributions to volleyball earned him a spot in the sport's Hall of Fame.

2. He Nearly Boxed Muhammad Ali

Chamberlain was notorious for always seeking out a new challenge, but he missed out on one that became one of the great "what if?" scenarios in sports history. According to Don Cherry's biography Wilt: Larger than Life, legendary boxing trainer and promoter Cus D'Amato approached Chamberlain in 1965 with a lucrative offer to box heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali. Philadelphia 76ers owner Ike Richman eventually talked Chamberlain out of the match, but the idea just wouldn't die.

D'Amato again offered to train Wilt for a fight against Ali in 1967. In this fight, football star Jim Brown would act as Chamberlain's manager. Although Wilt was taller, heavier, and had over a foot on Ali in the reach department, Chamberlain's father, a boxing fan, warned his son away from the fight.

It was in 1971, though, that it looked like this throwdown was really going to finally happen. Wilt signed a contract to fight Ali at the Houston Astrodome on July 26, 1971, potentially for the heavyweight title if Ali could beat champion Joe Frazier that March. However, Ali dropped the Frazier fight for his first professional loss, and Chamberlain ended up backing out at the last minute thanks to an escape clause in his contract.

3. He Knew How to Fix a Car Problem

Chamberlain loved cars, and he was known for cruising around in his Cadillac convertible or a custom-made lavender Bentley he'd imported from England. What Chamberlain craved, though, was speed. The only hitch was that he couldn't fit his giant frame into any of the sports cars on the market he allegedly had to take the seat out of his Lamborghini Countach and replace it with a padded mat just so he could fit behind the wheel.

Most people would just resign themselves to driving some big boxy ride with plenty of legroom in this situation. This was Chamberlain, though, and his solution to this conundrum was characteristically over-the-top: he designed and built a fully custom Le Mans-style racecar. The yellow ride, called Searcher One, was built for Chamberlain in 1996 at a reported cost of $750,000.

4. He Trotted the Globe

Most people think of Chamberlain as a member of the Lakers, Warriors, or 76ers, but his first pro basketball gig was actually with the Harlem Globetrotters. After losing in the finals of the NCAA tournament during his junior year at Kansas, Wilt wanted to make the leap to the NBA. NBA rules didn't allow players who hadn't finished college, though, so Wilt signed up with the Globetrottters.

Financially, Chamberlain probably made out like a bandit by skipping the NBA to head to Harlem. At the time, the average NBA player made less than $10,000 a season, while Wilt's deal guaranteed him $65,000 each year. Chamberlain immediately became the team's top draw who wouldn't want to watch a seven-footer play shooting guard? After a season of enthusiastically throwing himself into the Globetrotters' skits and shooting, Wilt jumped to the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA.

5. That 20,000 Number May Have Been Exaggerated

Chamberlain's famous claim that he slept with 20,000 women first appeared in his 1991 autobiography A View From Above. While Chamberlain was indeed renowned as an incredible pick-up artist and ladies' man, for him to hit such a lofty number he would have needed to bed 1.2 women a day every single day from the age of 15 until he wrote the book.

Although the 20,000 feat would have been logistically difficult, Chamberlain allegedly told his on-and-off girlfriend Lynda Huey, "What's a zero between friends?" to imply that the number was actually more like 2,000. According to David M. Pomerantz's exquisite must-read Wilt, 1962, lifelong friend and confidante Lynda Huey thought that number sounded about right.

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Watch the video: Wilt Chamberlain - ESPN Basketball Documentary (August 2022).