Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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WILT'S 75th

Philadelphia's all-time greatest athlete, Wilt Chamberlain, would have turned 75 on Aug. 21. Here's a story and a list of facts about the incredible Dipper.

WILT'S 75th

The iconic image of Wilt Chamberlain taken after he scored 100 points in Hershey, Pa. (Paul Vathis/AP file photo)
The iconic image of Wilt Chamberlain taken after he scored 100 points in Hershey, Pa. (Paul Vathis/AP file photo)

Philadelphia's all-time greatest athlete, Wilt Chamberlain, would have turned 75 on Aug. 21. Here's a story and a list of facts about the incredible Dipper:

By Frank Fitzpatrick , Inquirer Staff Writer

 Tonight, when his No. 13 is hoisted to the Spectrum ceiling and is officially retired by the 76ers, Wilt Chamberlain will at last be certified as a Philadelphia legend. And the legend of Wilt Chamberlain is as large and imposing as the man himself.

 It is filled with incredible shining moments that the intervening decades have failed to dull: the night he scored 100 points in Hershey, Pa.; the 90 points he scored against Roxborough as an Overbrook High senior; his memorable battles with Boston's Bill Russell; the season he averaged more than 50 points a game.

 But to judge this 7-foot-1 native Philadelphian only by his remarkable accomplishments on the basketball court is to sell him short. Chamberlain is a man of rare talents, talents that led him to flirt with careers in other sports, such as football, soccer and boxing.

 Chamberlain is also an enigmatic, complex individual who at the end of several seasons - seasons in which he had won a championship or a scoring title - threatened to quit. He spent some summers touring the museums of Europe, and others playing in a Harlem playground league. He scored 100 points in one NBA game, but took not one shot in another. He could be friends with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. while supporting Richard Nixon for president.

 "Don't try to psychoanalyze Wilt ," said former Lakers teammate Harold ''Happy" Hairston. "Just when you think you have him figured out, he'll fool you. "

 WILT

 BY THE NUMBERS

 FOUR THINGS PEOPLE SWEAR THEY SAW WILT DO

 1. Pluck a half-dollar off the top of a backboard - former Sixers trainer Al Domenico.

 2. Block a soaring slam attempt by Gus Johnson by grabbing the ball and returning it and Johnson to the ground - Baker League founder Sonny Hill.

 3. Break the bank playing craps at a London casino in 1967 - former football great Jim Brown.

 4. Get 55 rebounds against the Boston Celtics - 11,003 fans at Convention Hall.

 THREE RULES CHANGES NECESSITATED BY CHAMBERLAIN

 1. On free throws, players could no longer take a running leap from the foul line and dunk the ball, as Wilt did.

 2. On inbounds plays, players could no longer lob the ball over the backboard from behind it so a teammate could catch the ball and dunk it, as

 Wilt did.

 3. Players could no longer guide the ball into the basket by touching it while it was above the cylinder, as Wilt did.

 FOUR OTHER SPORTS WILT FLIRTED WITH

 1. Track and field: Won the Big Eight Conference high-jump championship with a leap of 6 feet, 6 3/4 inches in 1956.

 2. Soccer: Was offered $100,000 to play goal for the New York entry in a professional soccer league in 1964. (Reason for turning it down: "I'd come to cherish those few months when we weren't playing basketball.")

 3. Football: Was offered a chance to play flanker with the Kansas City Chiefs by Hank Stram in 1966. (Reason for turning it down: "It was a little late for me to start all over in another sport.")

 4. Boxing: Signed a contract, guaranteeing him $500,000, to fight Muhammad Ali in 1971. (Reason for backing out: "I wasn't worried that he'd hurt me

 physically. . . . I could always fall down. The possible humiliation did bother me. ")

 FIVE THRILLS THAT TOPPED SCORING 100 POINTS

 1. Getting 55 rebounds in a game.

 2. Being the NBA's all-time rebound leader.

 3. Averaging 50.4 points a game for a season.

 4. Never fouling out of a game.

 5. Averaging more than 48 minutes a game one season.

 THREE THINGS WILT DID ON THE DAY HE SCORED 100 POINTS

 1. Made love to a beautiful woman in New York City before catching a train to Hershey, Pa.

 2. Played an air-rifle game in a pinball arcade and set a scoring record.

 3. Read in the New York papers that Knicks players predicted they were going to "run Wilt ragged" in that night's game.

 BUSINESS VENTURES

 1. Owned several harness horses, including an outstanding one named Rivaltime.

 2. Owned a Harlem nightclub called Big Wilt 's Small Paradise.

 3. Was offered a share in the Globetrotters by Abe Saperstein.

 WILT 'S THREE FAVORITE MOVIES

 1. Bridge on the River Kwai

 2. Ben-Hur

 3. The Guns of Navarone

 THREE TYPICAL CELTIC WHINES ABOUT WHY RUSSELL WAS BETTER THAN CHAMBERLAIN

 1. Red Auerbach: " Wilt was a giant among giants, a great athlete. But he should have been so much better. Bill Russell was a better player because he played with his head, was better motivated and, most of all, had a bigger heart. Bill Russell was the greatest rebounder who ever lived, and don't give me any of that crap about Chamberlain's statistics. Those are just numbers. When the game was on the line and the ball was up for grabs, Russell had no equal."

 2. Bob Cousy: " Wilt 's incessant search for individual records indicated to me that he never really understood how the game should be played. Russell had much more intensity than Wilt , and skills that were better-suited to basketball. Russell made us better players. Wilt , in my opinion, had the opposite effect."

 3. Tom Heinsohn: "In the third periods, the Celtics would be up by 20 and Russell would have outscored and outrebounded Wilt . He'd go to the bench and then Wilt would score 20 in the final period. Then Wilt would go the locker room and bitch about his team not being as strong as the Celtics. "

 WHY CHAMBERLAIN WAS BETTER THAN RUSSELL

 (Refer to the NBA record book. )

 FOUR AMAZING FEATS AT OVERBROOK HIGH

 1. Scored 71 points in 24 minutes against Roxborough as a freshman.

 2. Scored 90 points, including 60 in one 10-minute span, against Roxborough as a senior. This despite the fact that Roxborough was attempting to stall by holding the ball.

 3. Scored 32 points in a city championship loss to West Catholic at the Palestra despite being covered by four players the entire game.

 4. Scored 800 points in his first 16 games as a senior (50-point average), just 12 fewer than the total of Overbrook's opponents in those games.

 FIVE LITTLE-KNOWN CHAMBERLAIN FACTS

 1. In his bare feet, defeated a sneaker-clad Jim Brown twice in impromptu races at a Beverly Hills party.

 2. Recorded a record, "That's Easy to Say" with "By the River" on the flip side, and sang on American Bandstand.

 3. Hosted his own radio show, Flippin' with the Dipper, at the University of Kansas.

 4. Was not selected by NBA players as a first-team all-star following the 1961-62 season, in which he averaged more than 50 points a game and set 10 league records. (Walt Bellamy was their choice.)

 5. Supported Richard Nixon for president in 1968.

 SIX ATTEMPTS TO EXPLAIN HIS POOR FOUL SHOOTING

 1. "My arthritic knees made it too painful to use my natural (knee- bending) motion at the line."

 2. "My natural outside shot had too much English on it."

 3. "Most tall men don't shoot free throws well because their height prevents them from putting the kind of arc and trajectory on the ball that makes most good shots go in."

 4. "I started lifting weights . . . the strength I got from that destroyed my touch."

 5. "My hand is too big and I don't get a natural grip on the ball."

 6. "The problem is in my head, because I shoot free throws well in practice. "

 SEASONS BEFORE WHICH WILT THREATENED TO RETIRE

 1. 1960-61

 2. 1962-63

 3. 1965-66

 4. 1967-68

 5. 1968-69

 6. 1971-72

 SIX THINGS A TEENAGE LEW ALCINDOR ADMIRED ABOUT WILT

 1. His fuschia Bentley.

 2. A photo of himself that Chamberlain had autographed for Alcindor's parents.

 3. His apartment on Central Park West ("I didn't know what cool was until then.")

 4. His great jazz record collection.

 5. His harness horses.

 6. The beautiful women he attracted.

 FOUR INTERESTING THINGS PEOPLE HAVE SAID ABOUT WILT

 1. Sonny Hill: "In the 1950s, big men were gawked at. It was all they could do to walk. Wilt came along and ended all that. He brought a grace and dignity to being big."

 2. Bill Bradley: "If he had been a part of a team, he alone would never have been blamed for defeat. But since he sought statistics to justify his superiority in every aspect of his game, he could not avoid responsibility for the game's outcome."

 3. Elvin Hayes: "He was the only player I ever saw who could not be stopped. If Wilt got stopped, it was because Wilt stopped himself."

 4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "One time (when as a teenager he saw Chamberlain playing in a Harlem summer league) I can remember like a photograph: His head was almost above the rim; there were players draped all around his neck, and it looked for all the world like the end of Moby Dick, with Gregory Peck lashed to his prey, beckoning his crew to join the quest. Wilt Chamberlain as the White Whale. "

 THE 100-POINT GAME

 This historic game was played March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa.

 PHILADELPHIA WARRIORS (169)

 PLAYER MIN. FG-A FT-A R A PF PTS

 Arizin 31 7-18 2-2 5 4 0 16

 Conlin 14 0-4 0-0 4 1 1 0

 Ruklick 8 0-1 0-2 2 1 2 0

 Meschery 40 7-12 2-2 7 3 4 16

 Luckenbill 3 0-0 0-0 1 0 2 0

 Chamberlain 48 36-63 28-32 25 2 2 100

 Rodgers 48 1-4 9-12 7 20 5 11

 Attles 34 8-8 1-1 5 6 4 17

 Larese 14 4-5 1-1 1 2 5 9

 TOTALS 240 63-115 43-52 57 39 25 169

 NEW YORK KNICKS (147)

 PLAYER MIN. FG-A FT-A R A PF PTS

 Naulls 43 9-22 13-15 7 2 5 31

 Green 21 3-7 0-0 7 1 5 6

 Buckner 33 16-26 1-1 8 0 4 33

 Imhoff 20 3-7 1-1 6 0 6 7

 Budd 27 6-8 1-1 10 1 1 13

 Guerin 46 13-29 13-17 8 6 5 39

 Butler 32 4-13 0-0 7 3 1 8

 Butcher 18 3-6 4-6 3 4 5 10

 TOTALS 240 57-118 33-41 56 17 32 147

 SCORE BY PERIODS

 Warriors 42 37 46 44-169

 New York Knicks 26 42 38 41-147

 WILT 'S PERFORMANCE BY PERIODS

 PERIOD MIN. FG-A F-FT R A PF PTS

 First 12 7-14 9-9 10 0 0 23

 Second 12 7-12 4-5 4 1 1 18

 Third 12 10-16 8-8 6 1 0 28

 Fourth 12 12-21 7-10 5 0 1 31

 TOTALS 48 36-63 28-32 25 2 2 100

 Attendance: 4,124.

 CHAMBERLAIN VS. RUSSELL

 A recap of the NBA duels between Chamberlain and Bill Russell from the 1959-60 season to the 1968-69 season. During the period covered by the statistics, Chamberlain played for the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors, the 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers, and Russell was with the Boston Celtics.

 VS. EACH OTHER GAMES PTS. AVG. REB. REB. AVG.

 Wilt Chamberlain 142 4077 28.7 4072 28.7

 Bill Russell 142 2060 14.5 3373 23.7

 Chamberlain scored 62 points at Boston on Jan. 14, 1962, and had six games in the 50s. Russell had 37 vs. Chamberlain on March 5, 1961, and had two other games in the 30s. Chamberlain had 55 rebounds vs. Russell on Nov. 24, 1960, and had six games in the 40s. Russell's high rebounding game was 40 on Feb. 12, 1961.

 A recap of the series shows Boston leading the Philadelphia Warriors, 32-19; leading San Francisco, 21-6; tied with the 76ers, 28-28, and trailing the Lakers, 7-6. (Chamberlain missed two games, Russell three. )

 

Frank Fitzpatrick Inquirer Sports Columnist
About this blog
Reporter Frank Fitzpatrick, a 2001 Pulitzer Prize finalist, is covering his eighth Olympic Games and has yet to win a medal in anything except caffeine consumption. He has also been the beat writer for the Phillies, Eagles and Penn State football.

Frank Fitzpatrick Inquirer Sports Columnist
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