Wilt Chamberlain Bio: Life and Career of the Basketball Legend

Wilton Norman Chamberlain was born August 21st, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He overcame childhood illness to excel in sports and thanks to his 6'11” frame, earning the lifelong nicknames like “Wilt the Stilt,” “Goliath,” and “The Big Dipper.” In 1959 he was first drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors and on March 2nd, 1962, before setting one of the most impressive records in basketball history: scoring 100 points in a single game against the New York Knicks. Throughout his career he broke countless other records and earned several MVP awards, making him a basketball legend. Join WatchMojo.com as we learn more about the life and career of Wilt Chamberlain.
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Wilt Chamberlain Bio: Life and Career of the Basketball Legend
He is the only basketball player ever to score 100 points in one game. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be learning more about the life and career of Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilton Norman Chamberlain was born August 21st, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Chamberlain overcame childhood illness to excel in sports like track and field.

Thanks to his 6'11” frame, Chamberlain earned lifelong nicknames like “Wilt the Stilt,” “Goliath,” and “The Big Dipper,” and proved himself a dominant high school basketball player. After leading his team to two city championships, Chamberlain chose the University of Kansas as his next step.

Opposing teams quickly noticed his skills, and stepped up their defense by often sending three players to guard him. This frustrated Chamberlain, and pushed him to go pro at the end of his junior year. Because they NBA required its players to finish their senior years before entering the league, Chamberlain joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958 for the enormous salary of $50 thousand.

By 1959, Chamberlain's NBA eligibility kicked in, and he was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors. During his rookie year, he averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds, and won the league's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year awards.

However, Chamberlain's weakness was free throw shooting, as he averaged just 51 percent over his career. He was regularly triple teamed or fouled hard, which provoked him to contemplate retirement after his rookie season.

But Chamberlain stayed on thanks to a salary hike to $65 thousand, and posted an even more impressive sophomore year. However it was during his third season that he accomplished the unthinkable.

In 1961-62, Chamberlain averaged an incredible 50.4 points-per-game, and surpassed four thousand points for the year. The climax of that legendary season came on March 2nd, 1962, when Chamberlain set one of the most impressive records in basketball history: he scored 100 points in a single game against the New York Knicks.

But the franchise suffered financial turmoil that forced a move to San Francisco in 1962 and Chamberlain's trade to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1965. Chamberlain's strong defense led the team to a 68-13 season in 1966-67.

After seven years in the NBA, Chamberlain finally overcame Bill Russell and his dominant Boston Celtics in 1967's Eastern Conference Finals. The 76ers then defeated Chamberlain's old team, the San Francisco Warriors, to win the championship.

During 1967-68, Chamberlain earned his fourth MVP award, became the only center in league history to finish as the leader in assists, and was the first NBA player to reach 25 thousand points.

Though there was talk of cancelling the 1968 playoffs because of Martin Luther King's recent assassination, the 76ers and Celtics played an emotional series. Russell and Boston prevailed in seven.

That collapse urged Philly to trade Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers that off-season. His first disappointing season there was capped off by another Game 7 loss to Russell's Celtics in the playoffs.

Chamberlain sat out most of 1969-70 due to a knee injury, but returned just before the playoffs. The Lakers faced the Knicks in the Finals, and after splitting the first six games, LA was on the wrong side of history as New York completed one of the greatest playoff upsets in NBA history. Chamberlain was criticized for his inability to capitalize on Willis Reed's injury, which inspired his team to victory.

As newly-named Lakers captain, Chamberlain led his team to a then-record 33-game winning streak in the 1971-72 season, and soon the franchise's first championship.

However, a loss to the Knicks in the next year's Finals proved to be the end of Chamberlain's playing career. He briefly coached in the ABA the next season, but then retired from professional basketball.
Following his basketball career, Chamberlain dabbled in real estate, discovered a passion for volleyball, and tried acting. He also claimed to have slept with 20 thousand women in his 1991 autobiography, “A View From Above.”

Unfortunately, by 1992, Chamberlain began having heart troubles. He finally succumbed to congestive heart failure on October 12th, 1999.
As one of history's most talented and dominant NBA players, Chamberlain still holds some of the league's most jaw-dropping records. Even with his career ups-and-downs, Wilt Chamberlain will always be a legend.

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