18 Crazy Stories About NBA Legend Wilt Chamberlain
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Wilt Chamberlain is, without a doubt, one of the greatest players that the NBA will ever see. He's a literal and figurative giant in the world of basketball, and even though his stats are legendary, there are definitely some things you still didn't know about Wilt Chamberlain. More so than most celebrities, he seems to have a multi-faceted personality, and a collection of interests that seem at odds with one another. Who was Wilt Chamberlain? How did one man have so many unseen sides?
Wilt Chamberlain NBA stories illustrate the many sides of this legendary figure. There's the one about how the league had to literally change their rules so he wouldn't be so dominating on the court, but there's also the time that he helped some delivery guys move some stuff just because he's a nice guy.
Crazy Wilt Chamberlain stories didn't all take place on the court. Chamberlain made it a point to hang out with some very famous people, and with that kind of lifestyle, insanity is sure to follow. More so than anything else, Chamberlain seems to be a guy who was always searching for something – be it a new game to play, a new lady to spend the evening with, or a new record to break. There was nothing small about Wilt Chamberlain, and these wild stories from his life are direct proof.
Yes, He Really Did Sleep with Around 20,000 Women (He Says)
Perhaps the most famous Wilt Chamberlain's legend is the story of the 7'1" NBA superstar sleeping with something like 20,000 women. Maybe it was 20,001, maybe it was 19,999, but when you've bedded that many people, who's really counting?
In his book A View from Above, Chamberlain made the outrageous claim that he'd slept with thousands of women, but he made sure to let the readers know that he wasn't trying to break up any marriages: "I made a conscious effort to find out [if a woman was married]. Even as a single man, infidelity has no place in my life."
At One Point He Was Going to Box Muhammad Ali
This match couldn't have ended well, right? A fight between one of the tallest professional athletes at the time and one of the greatest boxers ever known sounds great on paper, but it would have been a disaster. This almost-fight was going to happen after Ali returned from his three-year exile and needed some cash, but it never occurred because during a press conference for the BOOKED MATCH that was set to take place on July 26, 1971, at the Houston Astrodome, Ali answered ever question with the word, "Timbeeeeer." After a few minutes of this, Chamberlain left the press conference, spoke with his lawyers, and called the match off.
He Could Have Worked as a Delivery Man
Years after Chamberlain retired from the NBA and went on to make waves as a volleyball player he thought about coming back to the league for another shot at greatness. After a visit to Madison Square Garden to meet with the Knicks' front office, he went out to the elevator and bumped into two deliverymen who were struggling with a giant dolly that was covered in boxes. Rather than make the two men deal with their problem alone, Chamberlain supposedly said, "Gentlemen, maybe I can help." Then he picked up the payload, lifted it out of the elevator, and went on with his business. When a witness at the office asked them how much the package weighed, the men noted that it was "close to 600 pounds."
He Broke a Player's Toe with a Slam Dunk
Many NBAologists have said that the reason Chamberlain faired so well in the league was because he played during a "weak era" of the game. While that's one of the most ridiculous (and disrespectful) things you can say about a group of players that paved the way for the modern era, it might be a little true. According to legend, Chamberlain once dunked a ball so hard that it went through the basket, hit Hall of Famer Johnny "Red" Kerr in the foot and broke his toe. Either Kerr wasn't getting enough calcium or Chamberlain was getting way too much.
The Hall of Famer Was Known to Pick Up Grown Men
Apparently Chamberlain was so strong that he just liked to carry grown men around wherever he went. That seems like an odd thing to do, but when you're 7'1" who's going to stop you? Pat Powers, a 1984 Olympic volleyball gold medalist, once said that while working out on the beach in the '70s, Chamberlain picked up a guy who weighed around 240 pounds who was walking to the outdoor gym, lifted him over the railing and said, there was "no reason to walk." Is it too late to time travel back to the '70s and make friends with Wilt Chamberlain?
He Was a Daredevil - And So Was His Mom
According to Chamberlain's sister Barbara, the former NBA star was known to run across the roofs of Los Angeles on the hunt for a swimming pool in which he could soak his hulking frame. "He would jump off the roof on top of the garage, or jump from one barn across to another. He had no fear. When we lived in California, he had the highest apartment in the building he built. He would jump off that building and go into the pool. My mom would do it with him and she had to be 60 at the time."
Did Chamberlain accidentally invent parkour?
He Was Kind of Like a Character from Revenge of the Nerds
On one of the Harlem Globetrotters' visits to Russia, some of the guys in their Lenin Stadium dressing room were horsing around and they bumped Chamberlain a little too hard. So, like a character from an '80s snobs vs. slobs movie, he grabbed two of the guys by their shirts and lifted their basketball-player-sized bodies off of the ground.
He Was the Coolest Player Ever to Shoot Granny-Style
When you think of Wilt Chamberlain, you might think of his role in Conan the Destroyer, or maybe all those ladies he hooked up with while he was going hard in the paint. But you probably don't think about his free throw style, and if any form of human consciousness exists after we die, he's probably very happy about that.
Despite playing a 100 point game, scoring 36 of 63 shots from the field, and 28 of 32 from the line, he still had to shoot his free throws underhand. While that definitely looked silly, it's important to remember that we're not all great at everything we do - even one of the best players the NBA has ever seen.
He Never Fouled Out of a Game
In the modern era of the NBA, where trash talk and super aggressive dudes seem to be the flavor of the week, it's important to remember that Wilt Chamberlain never fouled out of an NBA game. That's crazy. You'd think that because he was so famous when he was playing that guys would just be gunning for him the entire time. Maybe players didn't think that way during his era, or maybe everyone was just too scared of Wilt.
Wilt Had an Interesting Way of Changing Tires
According to NBA Public Relations Director Haskell Cohen, when Wilt was a teenager working as a bellhop at Kutsher's Hotel, he had a special way to help out patrons who had a flat tire. If someone didn't have a jack handy, the teenage Chamberlain would lift up the back end of the car while the tire was changed.
He Declared "No More Layups" and He Meant It
In the '80s, long after his retirement from the NBA, Chamberlain paid a visit to the men's gym on the UCLA campus to take part in a pickup game with the coach of the Bruins, Larry Brown. According to Brown,
Magic Johnson used to run the games, and he called a couple of chintzy fouls and a goaltending on Wilt. So Wilt said, "There will be no more layups in this gym," and he blocked every shot after that. That's the truth, I saw it. He didn't let one (of Johnson's) shots get to the rim.
Can you imagine having that kind of power to your game?
He Was Kind of Cheap
According to friend and Conan the Destroyer co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wilt Chamberlain may have been fun to hang out with, but he wasn't always great about paying the bill. While setting the record straight about Andre the Giant's need to always pay a bill, he also exposed Chamberlain's cheapskate tendencies.
When asked on Reddit about the famous story of Andre the Giant lifting Schwarzenegger out of the way so he could pay the bill, Arnie said,
I can confirm this story is basically true. It is missing Wilt Chamberlain's involvement, which was never paying and then acting like he had planned to pay this time, and helping Andre carry me all the way outside to drop me on a car.
The NBA Had to Change Their Rules Thanks to Wilt
Chamberlain was such a dominating player in the NBA that rules had to be changed in order to make the game somewhat more fair for people who were playing against him. Not only did the key have to be widened to lessen Chamberlain's effectiveness in the paint, but for a while he was also trying a move where he would jump while doing a free throw and release the ball in a dubious manner across the foul line. After a season or so of doing that the NBA finally put a stop to his not-so-great free throw method.
He Got a Double Triple Double in 1968
To get a double triple double you have to accumulate a double-digit number total in three of five statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots) in a game. On February 2, 1968, Chamberlain scored 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in a 131-121 Sixer win over the Pistons.
The strange thing about this is that if Chamberlain was playing circles around the rest of the players, then why weren't audiences seeing more of this kind of behavior? Maybe it has something to do with Wilt not wanting to show off. Or maybe he always had the flu.
He Played Multiple Street Ball Games with Elgin Baylor
A little back story: Elgin Baylor played in the NBA from 1958-1979. He was an 11-time All Star, Rookie of the Year, and the 1959 All Star game MVP in 1959, among many other accolades. Wilt Chamberlain is Wilt Chamberlain. It turns out that Baylor and Chamberlain played multiple five-on-five street ball games against Baylor while he was in Washington DC in the summer of 1957 and there's almost no record of these titans meeting. Ernie Dunston, who was then a sophomore at Spingarn High School, said of the meetups, "It was people hanging on the fences, on the rooftops, everybody there to watch Elgin and Wilt."
After He Retired from the NBA He Got Really Into Volleyball
You have to stay busy, even if you're a former NBA All Star who probably could have used some rest. After he retired in 1974, Chamberlain became a board member of the International Volleyball Association, a pro coed volleyball league that never really got off the ground. And he wasn't just on the board! Chamberlain joined the the Seattle Smashers' front line and played well enough to be inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame. Truly his greatest accomplishment.
Wilt Chamberlain Hated Being Called "Wilt the Stilt"
How would you like it if you had a nickname that boiled down to one thing about your physical appearance? Even if it was something that made you super popular, having your greatest accomplishment being perceived as simply existing as a tall/short/hairy/albino/whatever person has to be frustrating. It turned out that Wilt Chamberlain really didn't like being called "Wilt the Stilt." Late in life he was known to say that "no one liked Goliath."
Is your heart breaking yet?
Chamberlain's Professional Career Began as a Harlem Globetrotter
It turns out that one of the most important parts of Chamberlain's rise to the top of the NBA is the fact that they didn't draft him as early as they could have. Because of a rule that said that the NBA didn't allow players who hadn't graduated college (my, how times have changed), Chamberlain decided to go and play with the Harlem Globetrotters from 1958-1959 for the sum of $50,000 (which is about half a million dollars today, if you adjust for inflation) until he could be drafted by the 76ers. Do you think he ever tried that basketball on a string trick while he was playing for the Lakers?