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Unearthly

Basketball is a sport which uses many elements of both mind and body. A player must be physically capable of sprinting full speed for almost an hour, grabbing rebounds, and shooting at a basket that can be more than twenty feet away from him. Not only does the athlete need to be extremely fit, he has to have the mentality to conquer his opponents. When an athlete masters control of these two things, he will be physically unstoppable. Wilt Chamberlain used his unnatural altitude and self-confidence to rearrange the entire idea of basketball, as well as set the majority of NBA records.

From birth, Wilt Chamberlain was a miracle. Not only was he larger than life, he had an uncanny talent even from a young age. On August 21, 1936, Wilt Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were William and Olivia Chamberlain; the couple had eight children in total (Wright). This famous athlete’s birth name was Wilton Norman Chamberlain; he was named after the street his family lived on in Philadelphia (Knight). According to Knight, his mother worked part-time as a maid, while his father was employed at a publishing company.

During high school, Wilt was often made fun of for his extreme height of 6’11”. In adulthood he gained two more inches, completing his growth at 7 feet, 1 inch (Knight, Wright). Due to his unusual height, he gained multiple nicknames such as “The Stilt” and “Big Dipper”. He wasn’t fond of “The Stilt”, but liked “Big Dipper”, which was created by his friends. To enter a room he would have to duck to avoid head trauma, thus, “Big Dipper” was born (“Wilt Chamberlain”). Beginning in 1952, Wilt began playing varsity basketball for Overbrook High School. He played on the team for three years (Knight, “Wilt Chamberlain”). But his talent and athleticism was not limited to one sport. Knight mentions that he participated in other sports, such as cross country and track and field. He even received a conference title for long jumping. Over two-hundred universities begged Wilt to play basketball for them. He eventually chose the University of Kansas (Knight). Classmates confirmed that Wilt was not a scholar; he showed up for roughly one-tenth of his classes (Pomerantz 43). Though he was not academically inclined, Wilt was definitely athletically gifted. He was certainly good enough to play on Kansas’ varsity team, but the NCAA enforced their rules that a freshman could not play on the varsity team. Unfortunately for the varsity team, they played the freshmen, led by Wilt. They were trampled by the younger team, 81-71 (Knight).

After high school, Wilt’s adventurous spirit kicked in; he faced obstacles which tried him both physically and mentally. Once he was a sophomore, he began to play for the varsity team. Knight says, in his first game, he set the school record for most points scored in a single game, totaling 52 points. The Jayhawks (Kansas’ mascot) were victorious over Northwestern, ending the game with a final score of 87-69. Chamberlain also participated in track and field during his time at The University of Kansas. Though he enjoyed playing basketball for Kansas, he quit after his junior year to go professional; he wanted to earn money from his efforts (Knight). Sadly, the NBA would not allow players whose class had not graduated yet to play for them; therefore, Wilt had to find some other way to play. He joined the Harlem Globetrotters from 1958-59. The job earned him $50,000 per year (about $400,000 today) (Knight).

After his experience with the Globetrotters, he was chosen to play for the Philadelphia Warriors. The owner wanted him personally, due to being a Philadelphia native (“Wilt Chamberlain”). During his first season, he was named National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, and National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player (Knight). Also during his first season, he picked up his first rival, Bill Russel. Bill played for the Boston Celtics and was known for his defensive skills (“Wilt Chamberlain”). While playing for the Warriors, Wilt managed to score 100 points in a single game against the Knicks. This was surprising since he had spent the night before partying (Knight). In 1965, after five seasons with the Warriors, Wilt was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. According to Knight, he was not traded easily. The Warriors received three other players, as well as $150,000. During his time with the 76ers, he won the NBA championship. Ironically, the championship game was against the Warriors (Knight). In 1968, he was once again exchanged, this time to the Los Angeles Lakers. With this team, he helped win the 1972 NBA championship. He stayed with the Lakers until he retired in 1973 (“Wilt Chamberlain”). Though he retired, his work was far from over. He dabbled in many fields, such as writing, coaching, and even television. Wilt starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer, and was the star of many commercial ads (“Wilt Chamberlain”).

There is not a man walking this earth that will leave a footprint as large at Chamberlain. Wilt holds seventeen out of the twenty-six NBA records, including the most points ever to be scored in a single game (“The Greatest Player in NBA History”). According to Admin, Wilt also changed a few rules in the game of basketball, such as the qualifications for shooting free throws. He would miss the shot purposely so he could immediately rebound and dunk. This led to a rule change proclaiming a player could not step over the line until the ball came into contact with the rim. In 1979, Wilt was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was also proclaimed one of the fifty best basketball players of all time in 1996 (Wright). Shortly after these events, Wilt died. On October 12, 1999, he passed away due to heart failure. He was only sixty-three when he passed on (Pomerantz 1). His achievements and overall performance will not be forgotten for years to come.

A good athlete is common, but a great athlete is rare. It takes the perfect blend of strength, agility, will power, and self-confidence to be something memorable. Wilt Chamberlain is the perfect example of an amazing athlete. Not only was he capable of all of these things, he loved basketball with all of his heart. Perhaps this is why he never married; he knew he could never love someone as much as he loved the game of basketball.

Works Cited
Admin. "How Wilt Chamberlain Changed Basketball Forever." 26 Mar. 2012 www.sportslegendsclassic.com. 29 July 2011. Web.
Knight, Judson. "Wilt Chamberlain." 26 Mar. 2012. www.encyclopedia.com. The Gale Group, Inc., 2004. Web. <http://www.encyclopedia.com/utility/printdocument.aspx?id=1G2:3407900100>.
"Our Story." The World Famous Harlem Globetrotters. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://www.harlemglobetrotters.com/our-story>.
Pomerantz, Gary M. Wilt, 1962, The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era: Crown Publishers, 2005
"Wilt Chamberlain Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://www.biography.com/people/wilt-chamberlain-9243766?page=2>.
"Wilt Chamberlain." Wilt Chamberlain: The Greatest Player in NBA History. Web. 23 Mar. 2012. <http://pw1.netcom.com/~bjalas/basketball/wilt.htm>.
Wright, Tim. "Chamberlain, Wilt (Wilt the Stilt)." 21 Mar. 2012 www.pabook.libraries.psu.edu. 2004. Web. <http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/palitmap/bios/Chamberlain_Wilt.html>.



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