Wilton Norman Chamberlain was born on August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Olivia and William Chamberlain. He was one of their 11 children. Both of his parents held strong beliefs in family values and the value of hard work. At the age of 5, he started doing odd jobs around the neighborhood, like running errands, shoveling snow, cleaning cellars, etc to help his parents pay the bills. At birth, Wilt was 9 inches longer than the national average. At the age of 8, he was forced to pay the adult price at movie theaters because he was so tall. He was quickly nicknamed "Wilt The Stilt" as well as the "Big Dipper," two nicknames he did not enjoy. In 9th grade, Wilt was the star of the freshman basketball team at Overbrock high school. Two private schools had tried to lure him away from the public education. During his freshman year, scouts for professional teams were looking at him, and were blown away by his talent.
During his high school summers, Wilt worked as a bellhop for the Kutsher's Country Club in the Catskill Mountains. He played b-ball on the hotel team, and through that team, he met fabled Celtics coach, Red Auerbach. Red gave Wilt the oppertunity to play against, and learn from , better players, including the Celtics first round draft choice, Chet Noe, as well as other collegiate players. Unexpectedly to the coach, as well as the players, Wilt outplayed them all in two-on-two scrimmages.
In his senior year, he scored over 40 points 22 times, including averaging over 50 points in his first 16 games that season. Wilt ended his highschool career with 2,252 points, and an average of 36.9. Both of these statistics would be higher if his coach, Cecil Mosensen, allowed him to play in the second half of games. Overbrook only lost 3 games in Wilt's high school career. During highschool, Wilt also competed in the shot put and high jump for Overbrook's track and field squad. He won both contests for the public school championship in his senior year.
Even though owner of the Philadelphia Warriors, Eddie Gottlieb, pushed a new rule allowing teams to use territorial draft picks on high school players, which was an obvious move to draft Wilt, Chamberlain announced on May 14, 1955 that he would attend the University of Kansas on a basketball and track scholarship. Over 200 universities and colleges tried to woo Wilt to their school.
With the Jayhawks, Wilt was a powerhouse, just as everyone expected. In his first game on the varsity squad, Wilt threw down for 52 points against Northwestern. This would be a mark Wilt would never again reach, as he was double and triple teamed throughout the rest of his college years. "I was guarded so closely that I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life looking out at the world through wiggling fingers, forearms and elbows." 1
However, Wilt and the Jayhawks would never reach the Championship game in the NCAA tournament, let alone the Final Four. In his junior year, Wilt suffered a groin injury, and had to sit out a game for the first time ever in his career. Without him, Kansas lost two pivotal conference games, knocking them off the top spot in the polls.
In 1958, Look Magazine posted an article in which Wilt Chamberlain announced he was leaving Kansas, unhappy with the dirty play being used against him. Instead of hopping to the NBA, Wilt instead polished his skills with the Harlem Globetrotters. Coach Abe Saperstein placed Wilt as a guard, allowing Wilt to work on skills he never used too much as a center. Also, it did increase the comedy of the event, seeing a 7 foot, 2 inch man playing the guard position. Wilt loved his time with the Globetrotters, and visited them as many summers as he could.
After his first summer with the Globetrotters, Wilt signed with the Philadelphia Warriors. Wilt proved he was a basketball phenomenon, outplaying everyone during exhibition games. In his first meeting with the Boston Celtics, the media hyped a non-existant feud between Wilt, and Beantown's center, Bill Russell. It was billed as "The unstoppable offensive force versus the immovable defensive object." However, during the game, Russell only managed to block one of Wilt's shots. The press leaped all over this claiming that Russell shocked the young superstar by blocking one shot. To which Wilt responded, "In my third NBA game ever, if the great Bill Russell could only block one of my shots, I imagine he was the one who was shocked, not me." 2. Through the next decade of meetings, it was proved again and again that while Bill Russell had the better team, Wilt was statistically the better player.
During his rookie season, Wilt shattered 9 NBA records, including highest scoring average, 37.6 ppg, most rebounds, 1,941, and highest rebound average with 26.9 boards per contest. He also took the lowly Warriors, a last place team in the previous season, all the way to the playoffs. These achievements guaranteed Wilt the Rookie of the Year award and Most Valuable Player trophy, both of which he won.
Over the following seasons Wilt proved that he was the greatest player to ever put the ball through the hoop. He did nothing except sink shots, grab rebounds and break his own records. Most famously, on March 2, 1962, in a game against the New York Knicks, Wilt proved to the world, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was in a league of his own as he scored 100 points. This is a feat that will most likely never be broken.
Wilt followed the team as they moved to California and were renamed the Golden State Warriors. However, after one season in Cali, Wilt went back to play in Philadelphia, this time as a 76er. During the 1966-67 season, coach Alex Hannum convinced Wilt to cut his amount of shots down by 50%, so he could be a more selective shooter, as well as allow him to focus on his passing and rebounding abilities. He finished that season with 630 assists, good enough for a third place finish in the league totals. Wilt was not satisfied coming in third place. The following season he dished the ball 702 times, 20 more than Atlanta's Lenny Wilkens. The Association may never again see a center lead the league in assists.
Before the 1968 season, Wilt left Philly for California again, only this time he was playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. He won his second championship ring with the Lakers, despite playing the final game with a broken hand. He retired in the following season, saying that he wanted a life "without airline timetables, bus departures, game times and practice schedules."3.
Perhaps Wilt Chamberlain's greatest feat over his NBA career was that in his 13 years of play, he never, not once, fouled out. He was quickly elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1978, his first year of eligibility. On March 18, 1991 the 76ers retired his number, 13. The University of Kansas also retired his #13 Jayhawks jersey later that year. Wilt was elected to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time team in 1996. Both of his championship teams (66-67 76ers, and the 72-73 Lakers) ranked within the top ten teams of the 20th century. On October 14, 1999 Wilt suffered a fatal heart attack while in his Bel-Air home. However, Wilt's legacy will always live on. He was honored as #13 on ESPN's SportCentury list of the greatest North American athletes of the 20th century.
If the record could be broken, Wilt broke it. If it could be done on a basket ball court, Wilt did it. Nowadays, with Michael Jordan's looming retirement, people are wondering when the next Jordan will appear. There will never be another Wilt Chamberlain.