Wilton Norman Chamberlain, well-known as Wilt Chamberlain, was an American professional basketball player. He played in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 14 years and stood at 7 ft 1 in tall. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the sport’s history.
Born on August 21, 1936, Chamberlain reportedly was said to be a frail child, nearly dying of pneumonia in his early years and missing a whole year of school as a result. In his early years, Chamberlain was not interested in basketball because he thought it was “a game for sissies”.
As an avid track and field athlete, Chamberlain high jumped 6 feet, 6 inches, ran the 440 yards in 49.0 seconds and the 880 yards in 1:58.3, put the shot 53 feet, 4 inches, and long jumped 22 feet.
After his frustrating junior year, Chamberlain wanted to become a professional player before finishing his senior year. At that time, the NBA did not accept players until after their college graduating class had been completed and Chamberlain was prohibited from joining the NBA for a year; he decided to play for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958 for a sum of $50,000, equal to about $470,000 in 2019.
During his basketball playing career, Chamberlain was known by several nicknames. He disliked the ones that called attention to his height, such as “Goliath” and “Wilt the Stilt”. A Philadelphia sports writer coined the nicknames during Chamberlain’s high school days. He preferred “The Big Dipper.”
After his professional basketball career ended, Chamberlain played volleyball in the short-lived International Volleyball Association (IVA), was president of the IVA, and is enshrined in the IVA Hall of Fame for his contributions. The former NBA player was a successful businessman, authored several books, and appeared in the 1984 movie Conan the Destroyer.
Chamberlain was also a lifelong bachelor and became notorious for his statement of having had sexual relations with as many as 20,000 women.
Chamberlain had a history of cardiovascular disease. In 1992, he was briefly hospitalised for an irregular heartbeat. The former NBA player eventually began taking medication for his heart troubles.
In 1999, his condition deteriorated rapidly. During this time, he lost 50 pounds. After undergoing dental surgery in the week before his death, he was in great pain and seemed unable to recover from the stress.
On October 12, 1999, Chamberlain died in Bel Air, Los Angeles, at the age of 63. His agent Sy Goldberg stated Chamberlain died of congestive heart failure.