He dominated his sport in the way few have in the long history of game men play. God made Wilt Chamberlain 7-feet and 1-inch tall and weighed 275 pounds. He took care of the rest.
NBA legend Oscar Robertson was once asked in an interview by the Philadelphia Daily News whether Chamberlain was the best ever. The answer was: “The books don’t lie.”
The record books, indeed, are full of Chamberlain’s accomplishments. He was the only NBA player to score 4,000 points in a season. He set NBA single-game records for most points (100), most consecutive field goals (18) and most rebounds (55). Perhaps his most mind-boggling stat was the 50.4 points per game he averaged during the 1961-62 season. And if it wasn’t, then perhaps the 48.5 minutes per game he averaged that same year.
Wilt with an all-time career points 31,419, which was later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. He is tops in rebounds with 23,924. He led the NBA in scoring seven years in a row. He was the league’s top rebounder in 11 of his 14 seasons. And as if to prove that he was not a selfish player, he had the NBA’s highest assist total in 1967-68.
Wilton Norman Chamberlain was born on August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia. Spent his high school days playing for Overbrook High that city and college at Kansas University.
He died on October 12, 1999 and today is the 18th anniversary of his demise.
Was elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978; NBA champion in 1967, ‘72; NBA Finals MVP (1972); NBA MVP (1960, ‘66, ‘67, ‘68); All-NBA First Team (1960, ‘61, ‘62, ‘64, ‘66, ‘67, ‘68); Second Team (‘63, ‘65, ‘72); All-Defensive First Team (1972, ‘73); Rookie of Year (1960); One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History (1996).
He was acknowledged as basketball’s unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen. Asked to name the greatest players ever to play basketball, most fans and aficionados would put Wilt Chamberlain at or near the top of the list.
Wilt Chamberlain as a Laker won 33 straight games and the NBA title in 1971-72. He dominated the game as few players in any sport ever have. Chamberlain seemed capable of scoring and rebounding at will, despite the double- and triple-teams and constant fouling tactics that opposing teams used to try to shut him down.
The most shining figures are his scoring records; most games with 50 plus points, 118; most consecutive games with 40 plus points, 14; most consecutive games with 30 plus points: 65; most consecutive games with 20 points and more, 126; highest rookie scoring average: 37.6 ppg; highest field goal percentage in a season: .727. In almost all of these, the players who emerged second place found themselves far behind.
Wilt’s dominance led to many rules changes, including widening the lane, instituting offensive goal-tending and revising rules governing inbounding the ball and shooting free throws. Chamberlain would leap with the ball from behind the foul line to deposit the ball in the basket.
No other player in NBA history has spawned so many myths nor created such an impact. It’s difficult to imagine now, with the seemingly continuing surge of bigger skilled players, the effect of playing against Chamberlain, who was not only taller and stronger than almost anyone he matched up against but remarkably coordinated as well.
A track and field star in high school and college, Chamberlain stood 7-1 and was listed at 275 pounds, though he filled out and added more muscle as his career progressed and eventually played at over 300 pounds.
Chamberlain was one of the few players of his day who had the sheer strength to block a dunk. In a game against New York in 1968, Walt Bellamy, the Knicks’ 6-11, 245-pound center, attempted to dunk on Chamberlain. “Bellamy reared back,” one spectator who was there later recalled to the Philadelphia Daily News, “and was slamming the ball down when Wilt put his hand above the top of the rim and knocked the ball off the court. He almost knocked Bellamy off the court, too.”
It was also during this time that one of his nicknames, “the Stilt” and “Goliath” in reference to his height. Other nicknames given him were “Dippy” and “Dipper,” along with the later variant, “Big Dipper.” The story goes that Chamberlain’s buddies seeing him dip his head as his walked through doorways tagged him with the nickname and it stuck.
When Chamberlain finally slipped on a Philadelphia uniform for the start of the 1959-60 season, the basketball world eagerly awaited the young giant’s debut—and he didn’t disappoint. In his first game, against the Knicks in New York, he pumped in 43 points and grabbed 28 rebounds.
Chamberlain averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds in his rookie year and was named NBA Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and NBA Most Valuable Player as well as being selected to the All-NBA First Team. Only Wes Unseld would duplicate Chamberlain’s feat of winning Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season. Unseld did it in 1968-69.
With Chamberlain, the Warriors vaulted from last to second and faced the Boston Celtics in the 1960 NBA Playoffs. The series saw the first postseason confrontation between Chamberlain and defensive standout Bill Russell, a matchup that would grow into the greatest individual rivalry in the NBA and possibly any sport.
During the next decade, the pair would square off in the playoffs eight times. Chamberlain came away the victor only once. In that initial confrontation, Chamberlain outscored Russell by 81 points, but the Celtics took the series, four games to two.