Wilt Chamberlain, 1936-1999

Wilt Chamberlain, the mighty 7’1,” 275-pound center who once scored 100 points in a single game and so dominated basketball that the National Basketball Association changed some of its rules (such as widening the box on the court) to make it harder for him to score, was found dead Tuesday. He was 63. The legendary player was discovered by rescuers called to his home in Bel-Air, Calif., shortly after noon, and a Fire Dept. spokesman said Chamberlain might have suffered a heart attack. His sister told reporters that Chamberlain, who had a history of heart problems, had not been feeling well since Thursday.

  • Known as “Wilt the Stilt” and “The Big Dipper,” Chamberlain began his professional career with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958 and was one of only two men to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season (1959). He was also MVP from 1966 through 1968. He led the NBA in scoring for seven straight seasons (1960-66) and led the league in rebounding 11 of his 14 seasons.
  • Chamberlain towered over other members of the NBA from 1959 through 1973, playing for the Philadelphia (later San Francisco) Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Chamberlain scored 31,419 points during his career, a record broken only by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1984. Chamberlain, who never fouled out in his 1,205 regular-season and playoff games, still holds the record for career rebounds with 23,924.
  • In his 1991 autobiography, Chamberlain, a lifelong bachelor, stirred up controversy with boasts of his sexual exploits with 20,000 women. After Magic Johnson revealed that he had the AIDS virus, Chamberlain changed his tune and preached abstinence to young people.
  • President Clinton on Tuesday evening mourned the death of Chamberlain, calling him “one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century.” Speaking at the latest in a series of White House events marking the new millennium, Clinton asked guests to keep Chamberlain “in your thoughts and prayers tonight.”
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