Wilt Chamberlain was one of basketballs most formidable players who at 7’1″ towered over his opponents and mates alike. A scoring machine, Chamberlain scored 31,419 points underlying his efficiency including the time he actually scored 100 points in one game, a record which is yet to be broken.
While his feat on the court is well known, a few are aware that in his 1991 book, A View From Above, he revealed he had slept with 20,000 different women during his life.
At a time where the AIDS crisis was ravaging, he was attacked by activists for his promiscuity. He was damned in African-American circles for promoting black racial stereotypes while feminists resented his blatant sexism for using women in such a manner.
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But Chamberlain stood by his account noting, “I was just laying it out there for people who were curious.”
He was even emphatic he never went to bed with a married woman. “I was just doing what was natural – chasing good-looking ladies, whoever they were and wherever they were.”
The math inclined quickly went to work summarizing that if Chamberlain started the deed at 15 till 55 (when the book was published), he would have had 40 years to sleep with 20,000 women or 500 different women a year.
According to close friends, Chamberlain loved threesomes and was even intimate with 23 different women on a 10-day road trip indicating that indeed he had good libido.
Given Chamberlain was also insomniac, sometimes not sleeping at all, he had time on his hands in those late hours and he was sure to take a woman to bed.
The doubting Thomases say he couldn’t have the time to lay with that many women given the six-month schedule he had for 14 seasons playing professional basketball amounting to 82 games a season, plus playoffs, exhibitions, practices, and travel time.
Despite his reported 20,000 sexual liaisons, Chamberlain unlike Magic Johnson is not known to have contracted any serious sexually transmitted diseases nor did a woman emerge an unplanned pregnancy or a paternity suit.
In a 1999 interview, shortly before he died, Chamberlain made the following revealing statement: “Having a thousand different ladies is pretty cool, I’ve learned in my life. I’ve (also) found out that having one woman a thousand different times is more satisfying,” perhaps giving us a clue that some of the ladies might have been on repeat visits after all.
Chamberlain co-owned a nightclub in Harlem, Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise, where he socialized with entertainers and when a beautiful woman caught his eye he sent an emissary to quietly let her know of his interest serving as fertile hunting ground.
Chamberlain, who never married, wrote that once, when he attended a birthday party in San Francisco with 15 women, “I got all but one before the rising of the sun.” Curiously, he is on record not to have had a child although a man claims him as his father, a product from one-night stand.
The sowing of wild oats aside, Chamberlain also authored four books.
Back to the basketball court, he dominated the game as few players in any sport ever have, capable of scoring and rebounding at will, despite the double- and triple-teams and constant fouling tactics that opposing teams used to try to shut him down.
He was the only NBA player to score 4,000 points in a season. He set NBA single-game records for most points (100), most consecutive field goals (18) and most rebounds (55).
Chamberlain retired as the all-time leader in career points with 31,419, which was later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. He is tops in rebounds with 23,924, led the NBA in scoring seven years in a row while still having the NBA’s highest assist total in 1967-68.
Chamberlain was one of the few players of his day who had the sheer strength to block a dunk.
The “Dippy” or “Dipper” as he was also known played for the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA. He played for the University of Kansas and also for the Harlem Globetrotters before playing in the NBA.
He retired from the NBA at the end of the 1972-73 season.
In 1978, his first year of eligibility, Chamberlain was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996-97 he was selected to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.
On Oct. 12, 1999, Chamberlain passed away at the age of 63 due to heart failure at his home, which he named Ursa Major after the constellation containing the stars forming the Big Dipper, his trademark.