'GOLIATH' OF NBA IS GONE\
CHAMBERLAIN IS DEAD AT 63
world is made up of Davids, and I am Goliath.'' - Wilt Chamberlain
was Goliath. Maybe in more ways than he ever realized.
Norman Chamberlain, who died Tuesday of an apparent heart attack
63, towered over his sport the way he towered over the average
street. The way he towered over an entire generation.
was the strongest man in basketball history. The most unstoppable
the sport has ever seen. And probably one of the half-dozen
athletes of the 20th century.
my opinion,'' said John Wooden, ''he was the most dominant physical
who ever played the game.''
was an American original, the first true 7-footer who
a goon. He could run a quarter-mile in 50 seconds, high
jump well enough to win most track meets, play volleyball at
level and he once considered getting into the ring with
The Stilt,'' they called him, and he catapulted the game to
new level. From the time he first emerged, as a precocious
at Overbrook High in Philadelphia to his explosive but
college career at Kansas until that extraordinary evening
in 100 points in a single NBA game, Chamberlain managed to
sculpted, mountain of a man, he made it look too easy, too simple.
changed the rules because of him. But they couldn't stop him.
averaged 50.4 points per game in 1961-62. His rebound average a
was more than 27 a night. He scored 50 or more points 118
the league in just about every category imaginable, including
time or another in his remarkable career.
a basketball player, no one has come close to doing the things
done,'' said Bill Russell, his great adversary who will forever
Chamberlain and Russell gave us perhaps the finest, sustained
rivalry we've seen in any sport.
greatest player of his time against the greatest winner of all
were a basketball junkie's delight.
then, everything about Chamberlain was captivating, or at least
From his ferocious dunks to his supposed voracious
From his well-advertised clashes with head coaches to his sometimes
sudden reversals into a team player.
was probably at his best on that marvelous Philadelphia team in
one with Lucious Jackson and Billy Cunningham, the one that went
captured Chamberlain's first elusive NBA title.
it wasn't until Chamberlain was traded to Los Angeles,
the late Jack Kent Cooke got together in 1968, that the full measure
personality seemed to burst forth, like one of his
two first got together at Cooke's Bel-Air mansion and found they
in common besides their ample egos, beginning with the fact each
talked about antique furniture, art, even the English language,
would relate later.
also talked money. Lots of money. Wilt received a five-year deal
him $250,000 per season, which made him the highest-paid athlete
at the time.
Cooke knew what he was doing. With Chamberlain to go along with
All-Pros, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, the Lakers, playing
plush new showplace, the Forum, became the glamour team of
might have won all the championships, but the Lakers grabbed
Chamberlain was always in the middle of it. Getting into loud
with his first LA coach, Butch van Breda Kolff, who would
to his stubborn center as ''The Load.'' Complaining off the
that West and Baylor received preferential treatment. Failing
to beat Russell and the dreaded Celtics one year, then falling
Willis Reed, a future presidential candidate named Bill Bradley
Knicks in an unforgettable seventh game at Madison Square Garden
after Russell and Baylor had retired, Chamberlain reconfigured
once again, concentrating on defense, rebounding and passing,
win 33 consecutive games and their first NBA championship in
the headband-wearing non-scorer? Believe it or not, he somehow
riveting as he was on the court, Chamberlain could be even more
off it. He spoke several languages, dined in only the
and generally enjoyed being in the spotlight.
remember being invited to his open house,'' Wooden said. ''And
late wife) didn't care for him because of his stories about
so many women. But then he came over and he was the most gracious, nicest
you could ever hope to meet. Nellie was very impressed.''
was, too. In fact, a Chamberlain statement once made UCLA's
Hall of Fame coach change a passage in a book he was writing.
was at a function when someone asked Wilt if his new coach would
to handle him,'' Wooden said. ''Wilt replied: 'You handle things.
with players.' I went back and changed the wording in my book
of handle, players.''
comment was pure Chamberlain. Insightful, thought-provoking and, most
man,'' he would say, with that rich baritone of a voice, ''you
you usually did. Maybe you didn't always agree with everything
he made you listen.
he was, whatever he was doing, Wilt Chamberlain demanded
Hannum, his old 76ers coach, once said:
these years, and all those staggering achievements later, you
will be missed.
We've lost a giant of a man in every sense of the word. The
he cast over our game is unlikely ever to be matched.'
were talking about Wilt, how he was going to score 100 points in
soon. When we got off the airplane, somebody said, 'Hey, did
Wilt Chamberlain? He scored 100 points in a game.' That's one
will never be broken, I can assure you. - Jerry West, Chamberlain'
with the Lakers
The Arizona Republic (1999)
By Steve Bisheff, Orange County Register, 'GOLIATH' OF NBA IS GONE\
CHAMBERLAIN IS DEAD AT 63. , The Arizona Republic, 10-13-1999, pp C1.
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