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Useful Notes / Wilt Chamberlain

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"He was basketball's unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen."
—Introductory line of Chamberlain's NBA Encyclopedia biography.

Wilton Norman Chamberlain (August 21, 1936 – October 12, 1999) was an American professional basketball player for the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors (1959-65), the Philadelphia 76ers (1965-68), and the Los Angeles Lakers (1968-73). He is widely considered the most dominant player in the history of the NBA on a purely individual basis, with a treasure chest of awards and statistical accolades unlikely to be matched in the foreseeable future. He is best known for three things: his numerical dominance, his 100-point game against the New York Knicks in 1962 (played in Hershey, Pennsylvania), and the number of women he claimed to have slept with (over 20,000, for those of you keeping count; those close to him figure that's only probably an exaggeration).

Chamberlain was a two-time champion ('67 with the Sixers and '72 with the Lakers), four-time MVP ('60, '66-'68), and one-time Finals MVP ('72). An offensive juggernaut, he took entire teams to contain him due to both his massive height (at over seven feet he towered over many contemporaries), remarkable strength despite a superficially lanky physiquenote , and incredible accuracy (he led the NBA in field goal percentage nine times). This earned him the nicknames "The Stilt" and "Goliath" (which he thought sounded lame) and "The Big Dipper" or "Dippy" among friends (which he liked). He was the first, and for a long time only, player to have his jersey (#13) retired by three different NBA franchises. Wilt has since been joined by Pete Maravich, Shaquille O'Neal, and his longtime rival Bill Russell in this club.note 

Growing up in a family of nine children, his height and stupendous athletic abilitiesnote soon made him an America-wide phenomenon in the 1950s. Despite not being able to bring his college team in Kansas to a championship (a common criticism in his early years), Chamberlain stood out on the stat sheet even then, and he dropped out of college a year before he could enter the NBA (very uncommon at the time), instead choosing to make money playing basketball with The Harlem Globetrotters (he would frequently return to perform with the Globetrotters in future offseasons). When he was eligible, Chamberlain was picked up by his hometown team, the Warriors, with a special "territorial" draft pick, instantly becoming the game's highest paid player. He proceeded to win not just Rookie of the Year but league MVP, and in following years broke single-season scoring and rebound records that remain outmatched decades later. However, the NBA remained run by the Boston Celtics, who knocked the Warriors out of the playoffs and fostered a strong rivalry between Chamberlain and the Celtics' leader, Bill Russell.

Chamberlain left Philadelphia when the Warriors moved to San Francisco in 1962, only to be traded back to his home city's new team in '64. After a few more years of coming up short in the postseason, Wilt shifted his playstyle towards supporting his teammates and defending. While his offensive numbers got slightly less gaudy, this helped him lead the Sixers to end the Celtics' 8-year championship streak and then defeat his former team in the NBA Finals to win the 1967 championship. Despite finally bringing a title to Philly, Wilt left for L.A. after the following season. While age began to diminish his talents somewhat, he continued to put up staggering performances, notably gaining a new rival in his former mentee Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and winning his second championship after putting up a stunning performance in the Finals with a broken hand. He retired after the following season.

The list of records Chamberlain accumulated—and still holds well over half a century after he played—is so long that one might struggle to fit it between his massive wingspan. Besides his 100-point game, he is the only person to score more than 70 points in a game more than once (he did so six times). He also had 32 total 60-point games, with the closest runner-up Kobe Bryant only having six, and is the only player to average more than 50—or even 40—points a game in a season. His rebound records are somehow even more staggering; while he led the NBA in scoring seven times, he led it in rebounds eleven and holds the record for single-game rebounds (55) and total career rebounds (23,924). While often accused (somewhat rightfully) of being a ball-hog, he even led the league in assists one year. He had the only "double triple-double" (at least 20 in three statistical categories) in NBA history (until Russell Westbrook achieved it as well) and long held the record for most consecutive triple-doubles (9) until Westbrook broke it in 2019. Blocks weren't officially recorded during his career, but surviving unofficial records show him averaging an unreal 8.8 blocks per game; if he did that his whole career he would easily be the league leader in the stat. Some even believe he managed the league's only quintuple-double, with at least 10 in all five major statistical categories. To rack up all those stats, he had to stay on the court for full games, and he likewise led the league in minutes played in nine different seasons. However, despite being on the court all the time, he rarely ever committed a foul and never was fouled out of a game. He was such a Game-Breaker that the NCAA and NBA changed multiple rules to reduce his effectiveness, and even those barely made a dent in his scoring output.

Basically, the only thing that he wasn't good at was free throws, and even with those he was bad: for decades, his free throw percentage was the worst ever for a player with over 1,000 attempts, at just over a 50% rate, and that number is still in the bottom 5. Wilt himself said that this was due to finding it weird to shoot a basketball stationary instead of in motion due to his unusual strength, whereas in normal play he could mostly just let momentum do the work, which his many, many fadeaways can attest to. Oddly, despite that, he went an impressive 28 of 32 on free throws in the 100-point game, which still ties him for most free throws made in an NBA game.

He also made an unexpected foray into coaching, as the head coach of the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors in 1973-74. The original plan was to have Chamberlain as a player-coach, but the Lakers claimed he still owed them a season as a player under his NBA contract, and a judge ruled in their favor, meaning he could only coach for San Diego. He quickly got bored with it, though, and basically outsourced his coaching duties to his assistant Stan Albeck.

Following his retirement, Chamberlain spent his career trying to make up for all the hurt feelings his Awesome Ego had caused in his career with various players, coaches, and executives. He remained very committed to physical fitness, with serious offers of an NBA position still rolling into his mailbox when he was pushing 54. Chamberlain had a history of heart conditions and died of a heart attack after dental surgery in 1999. The NBA's Rookie of the Year award is named in his honor.

He also made a guest appearance in animated form on Goober and the Ghost Chasers and had a role in Conan the Destroyer, where he performed his own stunts.