Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The 7-foot 2-inch (2.18 m) Chamberlain, known as Wilt the Stilt (a nickname he loathed) or The Big Dipper, holds nearly 100 NBA records, including the record for most points in a game -- 100, which he scored on March 2, 1962, against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game for his career. He led the NBA in rebounding 11 times, led in shooting percentage seven times, led in scoring seven times, and even led in assists one season. In his 14 years in the NBA, he never once fouled out of a game, despite being the centerpiece on defense for each team he played for. His 1961-62 scoring average of 50.4 ppg, accomplished with the Philadelphia Warriors, is by far the NBA record. Chamberlain also holds the next three spots on the NBA's season scoring average list with 44.8, 38.9 and 38.4 points per game. The next closest player is Elgin Baylor, who averaged 38.3 ppg in the same '61-62 season in which Chamberlain set the record.
Chamberlain scored 31,419 points in 1,045 professional games. This was the best in the league when he retired in 1974, though his scoring total has since been exceeded by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone, both of whom played several more seasons than Chamberlain. His career scoring average of 30.06 points per game (ppg) is second-highest in league history, fractionally behind Michael Jordan (30.12 ppg).
In the years following his retirement, several teams tried to lure Chamberlain back onto the court. Although he seemed to enjoy the attention these offers generated, he apparently never seriously contemplated a comeback.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Chamberlain drew national attention playing at Overbrook High School in the city, played two years for the University of Kansas, where he earned All-American honors twice (losing a national championship in triple overtime), and went professional in 1958. He played two years for the Harlem Globetrotters before becoming eligible for the NBA, then played for the Philadelphia Warriors (later San Francisco Warriors) from 1959 through 1964, Philadelphia 76ers from 1965-1968, and the Los Angeles Lakers from 1968 until his retirement in 1973. He won two NBA championships: in 1967 with the 76ers, and in 1972 with the Lakers,during his career.
His battles with Boston Celtics center Bill Russell were legendary; they were fierce competitors on the court, yet were close personal friends off the hardwood. Wilt also earned accolades for other sports, including track and field, volleyball and auto racing, among others. He flirted with boxing, and was offered a pro football contract by the-then AFL (American Football League) Kansas City Chiefs in 1966. He also was an actor, celebrity and businessman after his playing career concluded. In 1984, he co-starred (along with future Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Conan the Destroyer.
He authored four books before his death on October 12, 1999, including an autobiography, A View from Above , in which he controversially claimed to have had sex with almost 20,000 women — this would have averaged 1.2 women per day from age 15 until his death. Many people doubted his specific number, though few questioned the fact of wild sexual behavior. He drew heavy criticism from many public figures, who accused him of fulfilling stereotypes about African-Americans, and of behaving irresponsibly (especially given the AIDS crisis, which was well underway by the 1980s, when many of the conquests were made). Chamberlain defended himself, saying "I was just doing what was natural — chasing good-looking ladies, whoever they were and wherever they were available". He also noted that he never tried to sleep with a woman who was married.
Chamberlain always wore a rubber band around his wrist, due to a superstition, and was fond of saying that "Nobody roots for Goliath." He died unexpectedly of a heart attack in his sleep in his Los Angeles, California home.
- ESPN News story about sexual criticism
- Basketball Hall of Fame biography
- University of Kansas Men's Basketball
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