African American professional basketball player. Born: August 21, 1936, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Died: October 12, 1999. Bel Air, California.
Born in Philadelphia in 1936, Wilton Norman Chamberlain was sickly as a child. He had no interest in basketball but was participated in track and field instead. He was always tall, reaching a height of 6 feet by age 10 and 6 feet 11 inches when he entered high school. Eventually he grew to be 7 feet 1 inches tall. He turned to basketball in high school. As a young player he earned nicknames that followed him the rest of his life: Wilt the Stilt and Goliath, both of which he detested, and Dippy, Dipper, or Big Dipper (his favorite), which referred to his dipping his head as he went through doorways.
Chamberlain moved to Kansas in 1955 to play basketball at the University of Kansas where he averaged 30 points per game. He was twice named All-American. He decided to turn pro after his junior year but could not enter the NBA because of their regulations. Instead he joined the Harlem Globetrotters for a year.
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959. He was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965, and eventually to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968. He was a dominant force in basketball during his 14 year career, creating many records. One of his greatest games was on March 2, 1962, when he scored 100 points against the New York Knicks. During his entire career, he never fouled out. His dominance of the game precipitated several rule changes, including widening the lane, instituting offensive goaltending and revising rules governing inbounding the ball and shooting free throws.
Chamberlain retired from basketball in 1973. He branched out into numerous pursuits, including coaching basketball, investing in stocks and real estate, playing professional volleyball, running marathons, writing his memoirs, opening a Harlem night club, making various commercials, and playing a villainous warrior and counterpart of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film Conan the Destroyer (1984). He died at his home in Bel Air, California, of congestive heart failure on October 12, 1999.
Entry: Chamberlain, Wilt
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2010
Date Modified: January 2016
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