|KING OF THE COURT|
December 17, 1999
SPENCER MICHELS: He was called "the big dipper" in part for his signature move, maneuvering over and around his defender, then gently laying the ball into the basket. He was also basketball's first celebrated dunker, slamming the ball with force over his opponents. At 7'1" and 275 pounds-- though some people said he weighed more-- Wilt Chamberlain was an unstoppable giant. By some accounts, he was the most dominant basketball player ever.
WALT FRAZIER: I think he's the only superman, for sure, to ever play in the NBA, a guy that could go out and do what he wanted to do.
SPENCER MICHELS: Chamberlain was so invincible that pro basketball
changed the rules, widening the lane near the basket, for example, to
make it more difficult for a big man like him to score. Sportswriters
nicknamed him "Wilt the Stilt," a name he detested. Wilton
Norman Chamberlain grew up in Philadelphia, played basketball at Overbrook
High, and attended the University of Kansas for three years, where he
starred on the basketball team. He left to spend one year, 1958, with
the Harlem Globetrotters, then over the next 14 years, he played for
three NBA teams. First, the Philadelphia Warriors, who later moved to
San Francisco, then the Philadelphia 76'ers, a team he led to an NBA
championship in 1967, and finally for the LA Lakers, the team he was
on for his second championship in 1972. He had the highest scoring average
in a season, 50 points per game; grabbed the most career rebounds, almost
24,000; and he was one of two players, along with Kareem Abdul Jabbar,
to score 30,000 career points. Astonishingly, in more than a thousand
games, the Big Dipper never fouled out. Basketball fans loved the rivalry
between Chamberlain and the Boston Celtics' Bill Russell. Today Russell
WILT CHAMBERLAIN: The magic only started to happen when I got into
the 70s, and when I got in the stands, which was around 4,000-some-odd
people, which were a lot of people back in those days in that arena.
They just started chanting "We want 100."
SPENCER MICHELS: Chamberlain remembered falling asleep while riding
home after the game with some New York Knicks players.
WILT CHAMBERLIN: I kind of wake up and I can hear them saying, "can
you believe that SOB got 100 points on us?" And the whole conversation
for an hour was them calling me names about "can you believe that
SOB got 100 points against us?' So finally they dropped me off at my
house first, and I got out of my car and said, "Hey fellas, thanks
for the lift, and I am so sorry about that 100 points."
SPENCER MICHELS: He retired in 1973 and entered the Hall of Fame five
years later. By then, parts of the NBA record book were essentially
his personal scrapbook. Chamberlain received a lot of attention for
his 1991 biography, in which he bragged of his sexual exploits, a boast
he said later he regretted. But on the court, his legacy is indisputable.
MAGIC JOHNSON: There will never be anybody like him. They always say
that about Michael, they always say that about other players, but there
will never, ever be another Wilt Chamberlain.
ELIGIN BAYLOR: It's just mind-boggling to think what he accomplished
as an individual, aside from winning the championships, when you look
at some of the records and things he did. I don't think it will ever
SPENCER MICHELS: Yesterday, Wilt Chamberlain died at his Los Angeles
home, possibly of a heart attack. He had been diagnosed with an irregular
heartbeat; he was 63 years old.