WILT AT 50
Frank Deford's article (Doing Just Fine, My Man, Aug. 18) provides some long overdue insights into Wilt Chamberlain's lack of acceptance by both the media and fans during his playing career.
Chamberlain didn't just break records, he obliterated them. In his third season in the NBA, he averaged 50 points a game; the record prior to his arrival in the league was 29.2 points a game. This is the equivalent of a baseball player hitting 100 home runs in a single season.
The mind simply cannot accept such enormous achievements. By scoring 100 points in a game, grabbing 55 rebounds in another (against Bill Russell, no less), leading the league in assists one season (1967-68) and playing all but eight minutes of the entire 1961-62 season. Wilt created a superhuman image that no one could relate to or even aspire to. Chamberlain's crime was that he shattered our ideas of just how dominant one man could or should be.
His anger and bewilderment over why he wasn't better accepted as a player are understandable. It's heartening to see that these feelings haven't carried over into his life after basketball.
It is nice to know that one of the most misunderstood sportsmen in history has accepted the praise and criticism that came his way and that he has found inner peace and harmony.
As a basketball fan who grew up just as Wilt's brilliant career was ending and who has since watched the equally brilliant career of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, I find myself hoping that as Kareem comes to the close of his reign as the dominant big man, he, too, will find happiness in his life outside basketball.
It would be great to see Chamberlain playing for the U.S. Olympic basketball team in 1988. If anyone can make a comeback after the age of 50, it's Wilt.
JOHN R. HUSETH
My favorite basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, shows yet again why Boston's Bill Russell usually got the better of him. Despite Russell's phenomenal basketball success, he never lost sight of the sad fact that America's general black populace was blatantly denied equality. But Chamberlain believes that America has treated this problem as well as possible. How, Wilt? With prejudice, police dogs, water hoses? The martyrdom of the many who have stood and marched for racial equality?
It is Chamberlain himself, not the youth of today, who lacks a concept of history. Can he not see that over the years America has fallen far short of our Constitution? The height that Chamberlain has attained over the years has obscured his view of the little guy's troubles below.
CHARLES A. WADE
As a longtime fan of the Boston Celtics and of their president, Red Auerbach, I applaud Chamberlain for denouncing charges of racism against Auerbach, "the man he doesn't like." Red does not see any color beyond the green and white of the Celtics uniform. Auerbach is a winner, and so is Chamberlain.
GERALD JOSEPH BUONOPANE
State College, Pa.