Wilt Chamberlain (born Wilton Norman Chamberlain) was an American basketball star who played for several NBA teams. Chamberlain was born on August 21, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied at Overbrook High School where he played on his school’s team for three years, scoring more than 2200 points. During high school, he measured 6 feet, 11 inches tall, and after finishing school he grew a further 2 inches to reach an astonishing height of 7 feet, 1 inch. He was a popular member of his team and was given a number of nicknames by teammates, media reporters and fans such as “Wilt the Stilt” and “The Big Dipper”.
After a successful high school career, Chamberlain was sought out by many of the top universities on a basketball scholarship. He finally chose to join the University of Kansas where he began to play for their team, the Jayhawks in 1956. He led his team to the NCAA finals the following year, but they lost the game to North Carolina. Nevertheless, Chamberlain had made his mark and was given the title of “Most Outstanding Player” of the tournament. The very next season, he made it to the all-America and all-conference teams. He left college without graduating in 1958 but had to wait for one season before going pro because of NBA prohibitions regarding recruitment of seniors who hadn’t finished college. In the meantime, he decided to play for the Harlem Globetrotters for a sum of $50,000.
He turned pro in 1959, starting his professional career with the Philadelphia Warriors. In his first game, the Warriors played the Knicks, and Chamberlain scored 43 points. For that season, he was named NBA Rookie of the Year and NBA Most Valuable Player. In 1962, he made history by becoming the first NBA player to score 100 points in a game, a record which stands to date. He also became the first NBA player to score more than 4000 points in a season. His average score was 50.4 points per game. During this time, he was selected for the All-NBA first team for three consecutive years. Chamberlain had a long standing on-court rivalry with a Boston Celtics player Bill Russell. Despite their professional rivalry, the two became and remained great friends off the court.
In 1965, Chamberlain left the Warriors to join the Philadelphia 76ers, where he helped his team to win the NBA championships against the Warriors and the Eastern Division Finals against the Boston Celtics. In 1968, Chamberlain moved to the Los Angeles Lakers and helped them win the 1972 NBA championship against the New York Knicks. He was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. He retired in 1973 at the age of 38. He had extremely impressive career statistics, with 1045 games and a career average of 30.1 points per game. This record stood was 25 years, when it was broken by Michael Jordan in 1998. After his retirement, Chamberlain coached successfully for a while and pursued other interests such as acting, making an appearance in the 1984 action film “Conan the Destroyer” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. He published his autobiography in 1973, titled “Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door” as well as the book “A View from Above” in 1991.
To this day, Wilt Chamberlain remains one of the all time greats of basketball. He was named one of the 50 best all time NBA players in 1996. He died in October 1999 at the age of 63. His unparalleled records ensure his position as one of the most respected players of all time. His death was lamented by the basketball community of fans and critics such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan.