Wilt Chamberlain, one of the most dominant players in the history of basketball and the only one to score 100 points in an NBA game, died Tuesday at 63.
Chamberlain's body was found by authorities who were called to his Bel-Air home shortly after noon PDT, said John Black, a Los Angeles Lakers spokesman.
A fire department spokesman, Jim Wells, said there were signs that Chamberlain might have had a heart attack. Chamberlain, who stayed active after his career as a long-distance runner, was hospitalized with an irregular heart beat in 1992.
Known as "Wilt the Stilt" and "The Big Dipper," the 7-foot-1 Chamberlain starred in the NBA from 1959 through 1973, when he played for the Philadelphia (later the San Francisco) Warriors, the 76ers and the Lakers.
He scored 31,419 points during his career, a record until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke it in 1984. Chamberlain, who never fouled out in a 1,205 regular-season and playoff games, holds the record for career rebounding with 23,924.
|Chamberlain's sister, Barbara, told reporters at his home that when she saw him over the weekend, "he looked worse than I have ever seen him." Chamberlain's agent Seymour Goldberg looks on.|
"Wilt was one of the greatest ever, and we will never see another one like him," Abdul-Jabbar said.
Long after his career ended, Chamberlain made news by claiming in an autobiography that he had had sex with 20,000 women.
"The women who I have been the most attracted to, the most in love with, I've pushed away the strongest," the lifelong bachelor said in a 1991 interview with The Associated Press. "There are about five women I can think of I could have married. I cared for them a lot, but not enough to make a commitment."
Chamberlain, who began his professional career with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958, was one of only two men to win the MVP and rookie of the year awards in the same season (1959-60). He was also MVP in 1966 through 1968. He led the NBA in scoring seven straight seasons, 1960-66, and led the league in rebounding 11 of his 14 seasons.
Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points a game in his career, including a record 50.4 in the 1961-62 season with Philadelphia. He also was one of the most versatile big men ever, leading the league in assists with 702 in 1967-68.
He led his team into the playoffs 13 times, winning two world championships. The first came in 1966-67 with the Philadelphia 76ers, the second in 1971-72 with the Lakers, which won a record 33 straight games.
His teams lost in the finals four other times and were beaten in the conference final six times.
Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics almost always seemed to be the nemesis of Chamberlain-led teams, beating them twice in the championship series and five times in the conference finals. Three times, a series was decided by a seventh game that Boston won by either one or two points.
"We've lost a giant of a man in every sense of the word," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "The shadow of accomplishment he cast over our game is unlikely ever to be matched."
Wilton Norman Chamberlain was born on Aug. 21, 1936, in Philadelphia. He didn't begin playing basketball until he was in the seventh grade. He grew 4 inches in three months when he was 15, and was 6-11 when he entered Philadelphia's Overbrook High School.
After leading Overbrook to three public school championships and two all-city titles, Chamberlain became one of the most recruited players ever with over 200 colleges interested.
He chose the University of Kansas and Hall of Fame coach Phog Allen. In his first game against the Kansas varsity - freshmen weren't allowed to compete against other teams then - he scored 50 points before a packed Allen Fieldhouse crowd of more than 15,000.
|Wilt Chamberlain (right) spent his entire career battling Cltics legend Bill Russell.|
As a junior, he led the 1957 Jayhawks to the NCAA tournament finals, where Kansas lost to unbeaten North Carolina in triple overtime in his final college game. Disgusted by being smothered by the zone defenses, Chamberlain left Kansas the next year and joined the Globetrotters.
Extremely agile for his size, Chamberlain ran cross-country in high school and was an outstanding high jumper and shot-putter at Kansas.
He had remained active after his NBA career and was considered an outstanding volleyball player. He also ran in the Honolulu marathon recently and competed in a 50-mile race in Canada.
In January 1998, Chamberlain made his first official visit to Kansas since his college career ended. His jersey was raised to the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.
"I've learned in life that you have to take the bitter with the sweet, and how sweet this is," Chamberlain said at the ceremony.
He seemed genuinely surprised at how much he was loved by the rabid Kansas fans, especially after staying away for 40 years.
"Forty years ago I lost a heartbreaking battle, losing to North Carolina by one point in triple overtime," he told the crowd, referring to the NCAA title game his sophomore season in 1957. "It was a devastating thing for me because I felt like I let the university down, I let KU down."
The crowd interrupted, yelling, "No, no," before resuming another standing ovation. His huge hand brushed his cheek as he paused again, drowned out by more applause.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
for more features.