“Wilt was one of the greatest ever. We will never see another like him.”
One of the most dominant players in NBA history, Chamberlain redefined not just what it meant to be a big man, but what it meant to be a basketball player. With his ability to score, rebound, and assist at a ridiculously high level, Chamberlain was a threat to take over any given game on any given night. To this day, Wilt is revered by fans, both new school and old school.
ABOUT THE ASSET
Joel Platt, founder of Sports Immortals, Inc., the uniform’s current owner, obtained it directly from Chamberlain’s mother during a visit to her home in Philadelphia on June 26th, 1961. Wilt was not there, so she signed a letter stating, “It’s a pleasure to hand over Wilt’s Overbrook High School Uniform, Good luck!” [sic] Included with the uniform is both this letter and a notarized letter from Sports Immortals.
While wearing this Overbook High School jersey and shorts on March 6, 1954, Wilt Chamberlain scored 32 points, leading the Overbrook Rams to a Philadelphia high school title. The magnificent performance helped earn him the Philadelphia Inquirer’s MVP award.
During the 1990s, there was a restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida called Wilt Chamberlain’s. One day, a Platt employee met Chamberlain and had him autograph the Overbrook jersey on the front and back. Both autographs are certified by James Spence Authentication (JSA).
Sports Investors Authentication notes, “This jersey is a white nylon dureen pullover. On the front, the school’s name “OVERBROOK” is radially arched in black felt. Centered on the front and back is the player’s number 5, also in black felt. Collar and shoulders are trimmed in sewn-in two-color knit orange-black elastic trim
The shorts have a Rawlings manufacturer tag with a dry-cleaning tag sewn into the inside waistband. “CHAMBERLAIN” is handwritten in an unknown hand under the manufacturer tag.
A three-color black-orange-black ribbon goes down both sides of the shorts and wraps around each leg at the end of the shorts. The uniform matches school style from the mid-1950s when Chamberlain went to school at Overbrook High School.
Concludes Sports Investors Authentication, “[The] uniform is in review is properly tagged, lettered, and numbered. It is consistent with known exemplars. It exhibits use, appears to have no alterations of any kind, and it came directly from the family. Therefore it is the considered opinion of Sports Investors Authentication that this uniform is genuine and was used by Wilt Chamberlain when he was in high school in the mid 1950s.”
Uniform shows evidence of laundering and heavy game wear. There are loose threads and some puckering throughout the uniform. It shows signs of shrinking from incorrect washing. Minor staining is present.
Resolution Photomatching has magnified a photo of Chamberlain in this jersey in that particular game. to conclusively determine its authenticity, saying, “A conclusive photomatach was made based on fraying threads and stitching imperfections on the custom stitched letters and number on the front of the jersey, and stitching imperfections on the piping on the left side of the front of the jersey.”
The uniform will include both Letters of Authentication from Sports Investors Authentication and Resolution Photomatching.
High school jerseys are prized, and often rare possessions from pre-rookie collegiate and professional careers. In 2003, another Chamberlain game worn Overbrook High School jersey (just top, no shorts) sold for $51,487 in a Lelands Auction without a definitive photo match.
Wilt Chamberlain jerseys from his NBA career rank among basketball’s most coveted, though more common. In 2017, his Western Conference All Star game worn jersey sold for $121,304 in an SCP auction, well more than double the price paid for 1968-1972 Los Angeles Lakers game-used road jersey ($50,362) in 2013. A 1965-1966 Chamberlain signed game worn Philadelphia 76ers jersey from his second MVP season commanded $97,500 in a 2017 Heritage auction.
Jerseys are considered by many as the most valuable sports memorabilia because they are the closest thing to athletes, literally the shirts off their backs. The world’s priciest piece of memorabilia is a 1920 game worn Babe Ruth uniform top, which SCP Auctions sold for $4,415,658 in May, 2012.
Since 2014, Chamberlain’s mint Fleer rookie card has skyrocketed from $11,000 to $85,000.
Written By Alan Goldsher
Wilt Chamberlain: Myth, Legend, or All of the Above?
Yeah, yeah, we all know that Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game. Old news.
We’re also well aware that during his third year in the Association, the Hall of Famer, the 13-time All-Star, and the never-to-be-equaled-let-alone-topped stat machine averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 boards. Solid numbers, but we’ve been there, and we’ve done that.
And you don’t have to dive too deeply to learn that the man they called Wilt the Stilt (or the Big Dipper, or Dippy, or Dip, or The Load, or Big Musty, or The Record Book) won seven scoring titles, 11 rebound titles, and five MVP awards.
But you probably didn’t know that Wilt Chamberlain killed a mountain lion with his bare hands.
Or so he says.
Y’see, Wilt was great at mythologizing himself.
Thing is, the additional hyping was completely unnecessary. The Philly native was mythical from the moment he first set foot on the Overbrook High School court. But for Chamberlain, too big was never big enough.
You couldn’t look away from Wilton Norman Chamberlain, not even if you tried.
At 7’1”, 285, Chamberlain was among the most massive players of his era—hell, even in today’s NBA, it’s not like there are a whole lot of centers who could successfully chest him up in the paint. Think about it: The Miami Heat’s Bam Adabeyo, an All-Star center who landed on the 2019-20 All Defensive Team, is an awfully good ball stopper, but he’s 6’9”, 255, four inches shorter and 30 points lighter than The Dipper. Wilt, in his prime, would’ve bammed Bam into submission, right?
Admittedly, unless you were a fan of the Philadelphia Warriors, or the San Francisco Warriors, or the Philadelphia 76ers, or the Los Angeles Lakers, or the Harlem Globetrotters, Chamberlain was tough to love. He was a wrestling heel, the 1985 Chicago Bears defense, and that neighbor who plays their music too loudly, but they have great taste, so you don’t get as mad as you would’ve had they cranked Limp Bizkit albums, all wrapped up into one. Wilt drove opposing fans nuts, and he was a tad frightening, and he beat up on every team in every league, but, as noted, they couldn’t look away…nor did they want to.
Before he retired and mellowed out, the Dipper wasn’t exactly a prize off the court either. In 2015, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told a story that summed up why Wilt elicited fear and loathing amongst both his opposition and the general public:
“I got on an elevator with Wilt Chamberlain, and as the elevator is going down, someone gets on and says, ‘Oh wow, how is the weather up there?’ Wilt spat on the dude and said, ‘It’s raining.’”
On one hand, we can forgive that, as Wilt was probably asked some iteration of that vaguely insulting question about eight-zillion times. Come eight-zillion-and-one, anybody would snap.
On the other hand, seriously, who does that?
Actually, come to think of it, you know who does that? A man who dominates.
Founded and built in 1924, Overbrook High has churned out more than its fair share of celebs. Will Smith, he of Hancock and Hitch fame, is an alumnus, as was soul singer Solomon Burke (“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”) and the entire original lineup of The Delfonics (“Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time”).
Overbrook also funneled a goodly number of hoopsters to the NBA. Journeyman and future UCLA head coach Walt Hazzard and well-traveled super-sub Malik Rose were the most notable; other names included Wali Jones, Wayne Hightower, and Mike Gale, and Andre McCarter. (Oddly enough, Gale and Hightower made marks in the ABA, notable because having two quality ABA performers graduate from the same high school is, well, odd.)
Wilt—who stood 6’11” in his senior year, and thus probably endured far too many questions about how the weather was up there, even back then—played three years on the Overbrook varsity squad, and racked up over 2,200 points.
Cecil Mosenon, who coached Chamberlain during his senior year, extolled the Stilt’s virtues, noting that the raw center was an eager learner, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer, “[One day], practice started, and I see [Wilt] shows up, has a ball in his hand. He’s coming over to me. I figure he was going to throw the ball at me, [but] he says, ‘Coach, will you teach me how to shoot a hook?’”
Apparently, Mosenon was a great hook teacher, as the next game, Wilt dropped 90 points. Mosenson noted, “I [even] took him out the last three minutes.”
Now racking up 90-points in approximately 30 minutes smacks of exaggeration, and exaggeration on somebody’s part wouldn’t at all be a surprise, as when it came to Wilt, making myths was almost as much fun as reporting the news.
Another reason one could question the numbers: Faulty memory. Moneson gave the above interview in 2017, and the 90-point explosion exploded in 1955, a 62-year difference. That’s a huge chunk of time, so the former coach could be forgiven for inaccuracy.
But no, this game was a thing, as breathlessly described the following day by journalist Les Ribler:
“Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain, Overbrook High School’s seven-foot basketball star, yesterday erased lingering doubt to who holds the State scholastic individual record for points scored in one game. In an almost unbelievable performance, Wilt settled the issue by registering a record-shattering 90 points yesterday. The amazing 18-year-old senior paced the Hilltoppers to a 123-21 romp over Roxborough High — their 11th victory in an unbeaten Public Conference season — and added a host of records to his mounting collection. It erased Chamberlain’s conference mark of 74 set last Jan. 15 against Roxborough.”
(Interesting side note: The reason Mosenon was concerned that Chamberlain was going to toss a ball at him was that a few days prior, the coach threw Wilt off of the team for, “…crapping around in practice.” The incident took place the day following Wilt’s 75-point explosion against rival Roxborough High.”)
(Uninteresting side note: During his tenure as a resident of Philadelphia, the author of this article lived two blocks away from Roxborough High. He sensed the Chamberlain-induced PTSD whenever he walked by, even decades after Wilt abused the Roxborough squad.)
Adding to Wilt’s Overbrook myth/legend, he was also a standout track and fielder who high jumped a whopping 6’6”—seriously, imagine the sight of a skinny 6’11” high school kid flying six-feet in the air— broad jumped 22 feet (again, imagine that), put the shot almost 54 feet, and ran the 440m in 49.0 seconds and the 880m in 1:58.03.
Armed with undeniable basketball skill, a newfangled hook shot, and athleticism to burn, nobody at Overbrook should have been surprised when Wilt dominated the NCAA at the University of Kansas, helped bring the Harlem Globetrotters to new heights of popularity, and racked up numbers that the NBA will never, ever, ever, ever see again.
Being that he was an overachiever for the ages, they also shouldn’t have been surprised that Chamberlain became a movie star.
Okay, star is an overstatement, and a vast one at that—but almost certainly an overstatement that Wilt, a next-level self-myth-maker, probably would’ve made himself.
Chamberlain’s IMDb page gives the big guy four credits: An uncredited cameo in the Oliver Stone-directed flick Any Given Sunday, four guest shots on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and an appearance as himself on the Michael Chiklis vehicle, The Commish.
But it’s credit number four that justifiably gets all the attention, a credit that has him playing the role of Bombaata in the 1984 cult classic, Conan the Destroyer, a film featuring literally the greatest above-the-line cast ever assembled. Seriously, go ahead and top a film starring Big Musty, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Grace Jones. You can’t do it. It’s impossible.
For a neophyte thespian, Wilt came off relatively well. In a three-star review, legendary film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “The filmmakers to abandon the usual overexposed Hollywood character actors and go for really interesting types like Chamberlain and Jones. Chamberlain gives a good try at the thankless role of the turncoat guard.” And a 1984 review from a local Philly paper noted, “Just seeing [Schwarzenegger] next to Wilt ‘The Stilt’ and the rail-thin Grace Jones with her Chicago boxcar Afro is incredible in itself. You have as unlikely a trio here as the three who skipped down the yellow brick road with Dorothy.”
So ignore the 25% score on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer. Forget the 53% Metacritic Metascore. Disregard the 5.9/10 IMDb rating. Go ahead and bask in the glory of Conan the Destroyer, an epic film in which Wilt Chamberlain delivered a performance worthy of Oscars, of Golden Globes, of Palme d’Ors.
Okay, maybe you’ll embrace the previous paragraph, and maybe you won’t, but regardless, it’s probably what Wilt would’ve told you.
Now comes the awkward part. But when you’re talking about Chamberlain myths, you can’t avoid it. It is a topic has to be broached. It must be discussed. It is Wilt’s claim in his 1991 biography, A View From Above, that he had intimate relations with over 20,000 women.
To nobody’s surprise, this, um, “fact” has been of fascination to journalists, even decades later. In 2012, the Atlantic’s Eddie Dreezen ran the numbers to great effect, writing,“If Wilt started at the age of 15, from then up to the age of 55 (when the book was published, he would have had 40 years to sleep with 20,000 women, or 500 women a year—easy math. That works out to 1.4 women a day.”
Six years later, Ken Jennings—who, it could be said, is the Wilt Chamberlain of Jeopardy—banged out a 600-plus-word blog post entitled “The Debunker: Did Wilt Chamberlain Sleep with 20,000 Women.” Among the highlights…
- “I can’t speak with every woman alive on earth from the early 1950s up through 1991 and ask whether or not they would describe their relationship with Wilt Chamberlain as ‘sexual.’”
- “[Chamberlain’s friend] Rod Roddewig [said] he counted 23 women coming and going during a ten-day stay at Chamberlain’s Honolulu penthouse. Wilt used that 2.3-women-a-day average—scaled down by almost half, to stay on the conservative side—to get his total of twenty thousand over the course of a lifetime.”
- “In 1999, Chamberlain said that, looking back, he valued his longer relationships more than having had ‘a thousand different ladies’—cutting the original claim by 95%.”
Re: the last bullet point, ya gotta give credit where credit is due. Chamberlain passed away that same year, and it’s possible that he knew he might be moving on, thus he wanted to set the record straight. That being the case, maybe, deep down in his soul, Wilt wanted the public to know the truth about him, to distinguish the truth from the myth, the legend from the man.
Maybe, deep down in his soul, he was just like you and me. Except way taller and way way better at basketball.
Which brings us back to Wilt’s mountain lion attack…or alleged mountain lion attack. Whether it happened or not, it’s time to drop some mountain lion science.
Let’s start with NPR, an uber-reliable news organization that tells us, “The potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards. There is a far greater risk, for example, of being killed in an automobile accident with a deer than of being attacked by a mountain lion.”
So yeah, a mountain lion attack on a human being isn’t common. But it still happens.
In 2019, ABC reported, “On March 29, a Canadian mother fought off a juvenile male mountain lion that was attacking her seven-year-old son outside her home, but that’s not the only dangerous encounter humans have had with mountain lions, also known as cougars, in recent months. In February, a trail runner in Colorado choked a juvenile cougar that attacked him as he ran, and in September, authorities said a hiker found dead in Oregon was likely killed by a mountain lion.”
To get the definitive skinny on the reality and danger of a lion attack, we turn to the Interwebs’ most noteworthy source of mountain lion facts and figures, MountainLion.org, who asks and answers the question, “Are mountain lions dangerous?”
“To deer, yes! To people, not so much. Human encounters with mountain lions are rare and the risk of an attack is infinitely small. You are more likely to drown in your bathtub, be killed by a pet dog, or hit by lightning. If lions had any natural urge to hunt people, there would be attacks every single day. Instead, they avoid us.”
Apparently one of them didn’t avoid Wilt.
Let’s turn it over to the late former New York Knicks announcer, Cal Ramsey:
“Wilt was driving across Arizona or New Mexico and stopped by the side of the road for a minute when he was attacked by a mountain lion. Wilt says the mountain lion jumped on his shoulder, and he grabbed it by the tail and threw it into the bushes. I wasn’t there, but Wilt says it happened, and I’m not about to say it didn’t. Besides, he showed me these huge scratch marks on one shoulder. I don’t know any other way he could have gotten them.”
But wait. There’s more.
- Like there was the time Wilt claimed that, while playing with the Harlem Globtrotters, he got into a vodka drinking contest with Nikita Khrushchev, during which the Soviet premier, yelled, “Nobody leaves until only one man is sitting up straight!”
- And then there was the time in 1953 that the teenaged Chamberlain destroyed B.H. Born—who happened to be the MVP of the 1953 NCAA Finals—in a game of one-on-one, a game so humiliating to Born that he decided to forgo a professional basketball career altogether.
- And then there was the time that he dunked a ball so hard that when the ball landed on the foot belonging to Chicago Bulls Hall of Famer Johnny “Red” Kerr, Kerr’s toe broke.
- And then there was the time in the early-1980s when, during a pickup game in which Wilt and four UCLA freshman took on a team comprised of Magic Johnson, Bernard King, James Worthy, Byron Scott, and A.C. Green, Wilt decided he would block every one of Magic Johnson’s shots. He blocked every one of Magic Johnson’s shots. At the time, Wilt was, give or take, 43-years-old.
- And then there was the time when, while filming Conan the Destroyer, Chamberlain picked up Arnold Schwarzenegger with one hand.
- And then there was the time Wilt lifted 6’7”, 235-pounder Paul Silas into the air with one arm.
- And then there was the time Wilt got into an argument with NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown about who was faster, an argument that was settled with a foot race, a foot race won by Chamberlain. Brown thought it was a fluke, so they raced again. Again, Wilt won.
- And then there was the time Wilt hauled 600 pounds of office supplies out of a broken elevator.
- And then there was the time during his rookie season when, before his first game against Walt Bellamy, future Hall of Famer offered his hand to Chamberlain and said, “Hello, Mr. Chamberlain. I’m Walter Bellamy,” to which Wilt replied, “Hello, Walter. You won’t get a shot off in the first half.” Bellamy didn’t get a shot off in the first half. At the start of the second half, Chamberlain told a shell-shocked Bellamy, “Okay, now you can play.”
- And then there was the time the New Jersey Nets offered him a contract for $362,000 to play seven games. Wilt, at the time, was 50.
- And then there was the time when, while still an NBA star, Chamberlain decided he wanted to become a professional volleyball player. He became a professional volleyball player. Years later, he was inducted into the Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Though these all smack of exaggeration, some of these Chamberlain tales are legit. The contract offer from the Nets, for instance, was a thing; the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls also made overtures to ink The Dipper, post-retirement. And Paul Silas seems like a pragmatic, grounded dude, so we’ll take his word about the Wilt-ian lift-off.
But the mountain lion? Or the booze battle with Khrushchev? Or the Magic Johnson pickup game? Until we see concrete documentation—preferably something on film—we’ll go ahead and call a soft B.S.
The question then becomes, who cares? Who cares if Wilt, his teammates, his opponents, his friends, sportswriters, and his fans are prone to exaggeration? Who cares if some (or all) of these Wilt-centric tall tales are half-truths? As long as we know for certain that Wilt Chamberlain was a singular basketball talent (he was), a freak of an athlete (true dat), and one of the most compelling figures of his generation (totally), keep the stories coming.
We can’t look away. Not even if we try.
Alan Goldsher is Collectable’s Head of Content, as well as the author of 16 books.