The phrase “larger than life” is cliché and over used, right? In a time full of superficial hype and self promotion we all want to be ‘on’; we want everyone to see our highlight reels on social media; but back in the day there was a man who did it so big he became legendary (S/O to Barney from How I Met Your Mother). Wilt Chamberlain was that legendary individual. He’s where myth, legend and fallacy come into play. Myths being alterations of facts, legends being factual history and fallacies being completely wrong. We know so much about Wilt but at the same time know very little. We have stories about him and we’ve seen old pictures and videos of him playing but due to his era there are is so much to the man we don’t know. In remembrance of his life, lets uncover some Wilt stories and records. Rest in pimpin’, Wilt: August 21, 1936 to October 12, 1999.
Mr. Chamberlain was a prodigious athlete. The lack of statistics from his athletic peak is unfortunate for comparing him to modern athletes, but it’s safe to say he was blessed with remarkable abilities. Wilt could apparently:
- Run faster than Jim Brown (this might be myth but Wilt raced Jim at a party and beat him, twice… barefoot).
- Take a quarter off of the top of the backboard (and dunk on 12 foot rims easily), and jump higher than Air Jordan (Wilt’s words, nothing official).
- Lift 500-600 lbs (I think this one is a false but who am I to say); Wilt was known to easily pick up 200lb+ men with a single hand soo…
- Wilt was a world class track star and volleyball player too.
- While working at a hotel when a car would get a flat Wilt wouldn’t fetch a car jack… he’d pick the car up (allegedly (I think this one is false but hey, it adds to his lure)).
** Wilt was 7’1, 275 lbs in his prime, so contextualize all that speed and agility with that frame. Insane. **
Wilt’s most well known on-the-court feat was scoring 100 points in a single game but these are the real gems:
- (Hall-of-Famer) Walt Bellamy’s rookie season in 1961 started off great, he was scoring over 25 ppg and on track to win rookie of the year. When Walt played Wilt for the first time he said, “Hello, Mr. Chamberlain. I’m Walter Bellamy.” Walt responded with, “Hello, Walter. You won’t get a shot off in the first half” and he subsequently blocked Bellamy 9 times in the first half! As the second half started Walt hit Bellamy with, “Okay, Walter. Now you can play.” Now that’s gangster.
- Before the start of the 1967-68 season Wilt was criticized for not sharing the rock enough. Being Wilt and wanting to prove a point, he lead the league in assists for the ’67-’68 (the only center to EVER lead the league in assists).
- Wilt wasn’t a man to mess with on the court. On multiple occasions he picked up grown men, 230lb+ men with ease.
- Wilt was so dominant the league changed rules because of him. They expanded the width of the paint and made it illegal to cross the free-throw line on free-throws… Yep, Wilt used to try and dunk/ take floaters from the free throw line when he wasn’t shooting the shot ‘granny style.’
- Here’s an odd one: Wilt never fouled out of an NBA game. Random but impressive.
Wilt set the NBA rookie record 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds on his way to capturing the NBA MVP and NBA Rookie of the Year Awards following the 1959-60 season. READ THOSE NUMBERS AGAIN, 37 & 27… AS A ROOK’!!! By modern NBA standards those numbers will never be duplicated nor will a rookie win MVP and ROY – bananas. Then there’s the 20-20-20+ game from 1968 where he put up a stat line of: 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in a 131-121 Sixer win over the Pistons.
Over the course of his career Wilt played for the Philadelphia/ San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. The 2x champion (’67,’72) was a 4x MVP too and averaged 30 ppg for his career (that’s a random assortment of accolades but there’s just so many to list people). Dudes and dudettes, no one wanted the smoke Wilt was serving up.
Now time for a quick sneaker plug. Wilt wore Converse All-Stars his entire career on all levels of competition. Now do us this favor, imagine doing anything of the things you’ve read above in Chucks… no Air Max, no Boost, just straight up canvas and rubber. Rest in Peace big fella, thank you for being larger than life.