NBA REMEMBERS WILT
By JOHN BRENNAN, Staff Writer, Date: 10-13-1999, Wednesday
N.Y. -- It's been nearly 35 years since Willis Reed first matched
the incomparable Wilt Chamberlain.
Tuesday, Reed recalled the moment as if it were yesterday. "Wilt
was with San Francisco then, and we played a close game and ended
up losing," said Reed, who played his entire career with the
the game, I looked [at the statistics sheet] and saw that I had
scored 32 points against him, and I was really fired up. Then finally
I looked down at his number -- and he had 56!" the Nets executive recalled
at Pepsi Arena an hour before his team's preseason game against the
kinds of games were commonplace for Chamberlain, who averaged
than 30 points for each of his first seven seasons from 1959-
was found dead Tuesday at his home in California. The Philadelphia
native was 63. "He
was such a tremendous athlete," said Reed, who added that there was
"no question" that Chamberlain was the strongest opponent he ever faced.
"I used to think that he'd just see things in the record book that
nobody had ever done, then go out and try to do that."
general manager John Nash, a Philadelphia native who recalls
exploits since he was a youth more than 40 years ago,
although Chamberlain would have been about 50 at the time, Nash didn't
think he would have embarrassed himself.
we felt that Wilt would have been able to accord himself
well as whoever was playing backup for us at that time," said Nash,
said he never scoffed at the many rumored Chamberlain comebacks. "One
thing I never would do is bet against him. He always did keep himself
in great shape," said Reed, who was "shocked" at the news of Chamberlain's
death because he had just seen Chamberlain in June at a tribute
for Russell in Boston. "He was a big, strong personality who
was determined to do things."
recalled that Chamberlain at various times talked about playing
Olympic volleyball, taking up professional boxing, and becoming an
NFL tight end. "The
truth is, he was so physically dominant, who was going to tell him
he couldn't?" asked Nash.
coach Lenny Wilkens played against Chamberlain from 1960-73,
and Wilkens said that while Russell indeed was a better defensive
player than Chamberlain, it's not fair to say that comparing Russell's
11 NBA titles to Chamberlain's two is indicative of the disparity
in performance. "Wilt
said one time that he would have liked to have seen what happened
if he had the same team [as Russell had with the Boston
I think we all would have liked to have seen what happened then,"
assistant coach Stan Albeck was an assistant to Chamberlain in
his lone foray into head coaching, the 1973-74 job with the American Basketball
Association's San Diego Conquistadors. Albeck said that while Chamberlain
was not much for the technical aspects of coaching, he delighted
in Chamberlain's appreciation for the ABA style. "He
was so enamored of the three-point play. It's funny. He
make a free throw, but he liked that shot. He used to say,
1966-67 NBA champion 76ers are considered by many to be the greatest
team ever, and Nash said he used to enjoy getting together with former
Sixers Matt Guokas and Billy Cunningham to talk about their legendary
teammate from that season. "The
conversation invariably would come back to Wilt, and when they talked
about him, even they were in awe of him. So it was easy to understand
how fans could be in awe of this guy, too," said Nash. "He was
MAN, THE LEGEND
was one of the greatest ever, and we will never see another one
like him." -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who broke a Chamberlain record to become
the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
I started to play with him, he helped make me a better player. We
seemed to have a real good feel together, I think it translated into a
confidence with him. All players are generally judged by the number of championships
they won. Unfortunately, he only won two. His greatness as a
basketball player can't be questioned. He was fun. We used to laugh
a lot, some of the things that would happen. I once told him, no
for Goliath." -- Jerry West, former teammate and current Lakers vice
I grew up, Wilt the Stilt was THE player. Just the things he was able
to do. I guess one year they told him he couldn't make as much money
as he wanted because he couldn't pass the ball, so he went out and led
the league in assists. Watching Wilt, you always kind of got the idea
he was just playing with people. That he was on cruise control and
10 times better than anybody else that was playing at that time."
Denver Nuggets coach Dan Issel.
he was both literally and figuratively a larger-than-life
sports figure of the 20th century. He dominated his
was the NBA. He was the guy on the top. Wilt was the guy you talked
about -- he and Bill Russell. He was the most dominating center -- the
best center to ever play in the NBA." -- Former NBA center and Bulls coach
Johnny "Red" Kerr, who played part of one season in Philadelphia with
Wilt and against him for six-plus years.
was always a person that I viewed as being bigger than life in more
ways than one. I had recently heard through friends and associates that
he hadn't been feeling well, but again, I felt Wilt was a person who
was able to overcome anything, so I was totally shocked to hear of his
death." -- Newark native Al Attles, former teammate with the Warriors
now a team executive.
Chamberlain had a great deal to do with the success of the NBA.
His dominance, power, demeanor, and the rivalry with Bill Russell says
it all. He will be sorely missed by myself and everyone in the
community. Wilt was a great performer and a great athlete."
Celtics legend Red Auerbach.
was a terrific guy. It is a great loss to the sports world. Wilt Chamberlain
had a special place in basketball history and he will be missed.
We had many battles with Wilt. He was a fun guy to be around; he was
a `Gentle Giant.' " --Celtics great and Hall of Famer Tom Heinsohn of Union
spent 12 years in his armpits, and I always carried that 100-point
game on my shoulders. After I got my third foul, I said
the officials, Willy Smith, `Why don't you just give him 100 points and
we'll all go home?' Well, we did." -- Darrall Imhoff, who as a 6-foot-10
rookie center for the Knicks guarded Chamberlain during his 100-point
lost a giant of a man in every sense of the word. The shadow of
accomplishment he cast over our game is unlikely ever to be matched."
-- NBA commissioner David Stern.
a shock to all of us in the basketball community. This is a guy
whose impact changed the rules of the game. . . . He changed the interior
part of our basketball game." -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
© 1999 Bergen Record Corp. All
JOHN BRENNAN, Staff Writer, NBA REMEMBERS WILT. , The Record (Bergen County, NJ), 10-13-1999, pp s08.