Work in Sports
Wilt Chamberlain, the 7-foot-1 center who set NBA records that may never be broken and whose dominance of the game forced the league to change some of its rules, died at his Bel-Air home Oct. 12, 1999. He was 63.
The cause of death was congestive heart failure, his agent, Sy Goldberg, said. Chamberlain was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat in 1992, and Goldberg said he was on medication at the time of his death.
Chamberlain, who began his professional career with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958, starred in the NBA from 1959 through 1973, playing for the Philadelphia (later the San Francisco) Warriors, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers.
He scored 31,419 points during his career, a record that stood until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke it in 1984, and he held the current record for career rebounds, with 23.924. Through 1,205 regular-season and playoff games, he never once fouled out.
But the record for which Chamberlain was best known was the 100 points he scored in the Philadelphia Warriors' 169-147 defeat of the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa. His rivalry with Bill Russell and the Celtics was also widely publicized, as were reports of his personal exploits. In his 1991 biography, he claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.
Other milestones include his being one of only two men to win the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same season (1959-60) and the league's MVP from the 1965-66 season through 1967-68. He led the NBA in scoring seven straight times, 1960 through 1966, and in rebounding 11 of his 14 seasons.
Chamberlain was such a force that the NBA changed a few of its rules in direct response to his game. These included widening the lane in an attempt to keep him and his finger-roll farther from the goal, implementing the offensive-goaltending rule and revising the rules regarding inbounding and free throws.
"We've lost a giant of a man in every sense of the word," said NBA commissioner David Stern in a statement following Chamberlain's death. "The shadow of accomplishment he cast over our game is unlikely ever to be matched."