Chamberlain's move from Philadelphia to L.A. was completely different. Although he grew up in Philadelphia and starred at Overbrook High School there, his family left for California five or six years ago and now manages a 32-unit apartment house, the Villa Chamberlain, in an integrated central Los Angeles neighborhood. The Chamberlains are very close and Wilt's father is seriously ill, so there were strong personal reasons for him to want to go west. He had been thinking about it for at least two years.
A business deal was a consideration, too. Chamberlain, who has made at least one trip abroad every summer for 11 years and has been in 63 different countries, had entered into what could be a lucrative arrangement as liaison man between the Diners' Club (headquartered in L.A.) and Fugazy Travel and the Negro market. Diners'/Fugazy wants to open a lot of offices with black managers and black employees.
Philadelphia was pleased to cooperate. There had been bitterness between Chamberlain and 76ers President Irv Kosloff for more than a year, Chamberlain was asking for half of Fort Knox to play and there was that attitude that does not always endear Chamberlain to his teammates. (A few noted how much better practices seemed to go when Chamberlain did not show up, which happened in Philadelphia often enough.)
In between trips for exhibition games Chamberlain drives around L.A. in a Dodge convertible looking for a pad (at last report his Bentley was in San Francisco and his Maserati was in New York). And everybody in the league keeps busy and entertained thinking of reasons why the Lakers' one-two-three punch will miss.
One of the popular theories is that two superstars are company but three will be a crowd, that each guy will bring his own ball. Chamberlain denies this will happen. Baylor and West, as he knows, are fine passers and feed each other often. And for the past three years or so he has been criticized for not shooting enough.
"What I have to learn with this team," said Chamberlain, "is that the guys pass a little better—I don't mean to put Philly's guys down—than I've been used to. They have great peripheral vision."
Another theory has it that Baylor is the team wit and loves being the off-court center of attention; he may resent doing a double with Wilt the Stilt. Could be, but so far the two seem to be getting along, even though Baylor is for Humphrey and Chamberlain is for Nixon. On a flight last week to Phoenix the two were playing crazy eights and good-naturedly accusing each other of cheating. The volume of their accusations increased as they tried to drown one another out. Finally Baylor tried to enlist a third player, West, as a witness to Chamberlain's thievery. West just chuckled and declined to take sides, which might be a good omen.
Several other things are more likely to cause trouble. Chamberlain is a loner. He likes to room alone and he sometimes prefers private transportation over taking the team bus. Baylor and West and probably all the rest would like to room alone, too. Also, though it might seem like a small thing, the Lakers have a clean-shaven image. When Crawford joined them from the Knicks he shaved off his mustache (whether under orders or not he won't say). Chamberlain is still wearing the beard that makes him look like a giant version of Fu Manchu's hyperthyroid son.
There are definite problems on the playing floor, too, but mostly on offense. Chamberlain's 7-feet-plus are such an intimidating defensive factor that opposing teams' shooting percentages are suffering noticeably against L.A. this exhibition season. As with the Boston Celtics and Bill Russell, the Lakers can cover their men more tightly and not worry if they get by because Chamberlain is back there ready to swat their shots into the 18th row. The only trouble with Chamberlain on defense is that often he does not bother to screen out his man after a shot. Usually he does not need to, but his lack of defensive effort spreads to his teammates, who do need to.
On offense, Los Angeles has been a fast-break team, a moving team, the kind of team that Van Breda Kolff loves to coach and watch. With Chamberlain in the lineup last week—and part of this might be the getting-used-to-each-other process—the offense slowed up like a car with sticky valves. For one thing, Chamberlain is not good at taking the ball off the defensive backboard and flipping it out to start the fast break. Some detractors feel he cultivates this deficiency because he knows he has no chance for an assist or a basket on a fast break.