Nor do I want to be a color man on TV. For one thing it would regiment my time. And people seem to be so critical of color announcers. I thought, honestly, that Elgin Baylor did a good job on CBS last year. But I must have been the only one who thought that. In my humble opinion, which is not humble at all, there is too much talking on those telecasts. I never watched Russell doing color. They say he was good, he was cute. He omitted mentioning my name in obvious situations many times. That's his hangup. He's fantastic in that telephone commercial he does. I get a lot of people saying to me, "I just loved you in that telephone commercial." I say, "Thank you."
And I think I'll stay out of politics. I haven't had any contact with Richard Nixon since I worked in his campaign in '68. After he picked Agnew and did a couple of other things, I didn't see him anymore. I like a couple of politicians in California, Tom Bradley and Edmund Brown Jr., and there are issues like overpopulation and mass transit that I feel strongly about, but politics makes basketball look like elementary school.
This summer Arthur Wirtz came down from the Chicago Bulls and offered me a sensational deal. It was better monetarily than the $625,000 everyone says I was making at San Diego. I listened to him, out of respect, but I didn't commit myself, and then I went away to Europe. I was eating some chocolate ice cream in the Caf� de Paris on the Via Veneto in Rome, and I read that the Bulls signed Nate Thurmond, so that was that. I haven't even answered the calls I've gotten from four or five other clubs, including Philadelphia. Leonard Bloom, who is a big believer in his own selling powers, still thinks he can talk me into coming back and playing with the Q's. But I told him some time ago, I may help the club out some this year, but it won't be playing or coaching.
I want to get something straight about my leaving the Lakers after the '72-'73 season to go to the Q's. Everybody says, "Hey, Wilt asked for too much money, he tried to use the Lakers against the Q's." I decided after that last playoff game with the Knicks that I had had enough with the Lakers. It had got to the point with the Lakers that the only thing you were appreciated for was if you won it all. If you didn't do that you hadn't done your job. That was the attitude of the fans and the press. So I allowed myself to talk to the Q's, and I never did anything to get another contract with the Lakers. The day I decided to sign with San Diego I called Jack Kent Cooke, the Lakers' owner, and thanked him for five years of employment.
I could have flirted with several NBA teams, but I didn't want to leave California. The Houston Rockets actually offered me $200,000 a year more than the Q's, plus a minimum of 25% of the team, and that minimum was open to negotiation. I said I thought it was against the NBA bylaws for players to own part of a team. "Ah, don't worry, we'll take care of that," they said.
I knew the option clause called for me to play with the Lakers another year if I played with anybody. I wasn't sure whether the clause was legal. I was willing to test it, and so were the Q's. We lost. O.K. But the one thing I was upset about was that when the Lakers' season was over, and technically my responsibility to them had ended, the Q's called Cooke and asked him to permit me to play the rest of San Diego's season, and he refused. Maybe it wasn't just him, maybe it was the NBA.
It's true that I once said I was the un-likeliest coach I could think of, but I thoroughly enjoyed coaching the Q's. It was the most exciting team in basketball last year. I signed Caldwell Jones to play center after the 76ers offered him a ridiculously low figure and Virginia let the rights to him go for virtually nothing. He's so good now, I don't think I could beat him out this year. I picked up Travis Grant after he'd sat on the bench for a year and a half with the Lakers.
I also offered Wali Jones a job, although I'd heard he was blacklisted because he was accused of using drugs. He wasn't on my blacklist, except as a black player I'd like to have. If he'd been running our team on the floor we'd have gone all the way. I offered him $75,000. He said he'd been offered $85,000 with Buffalo and were we willing to match that? I said, O.K., I'll get you that kind of money, because I'm looking into the future, but I'll have to go into my own pocket to do it. So his agent calls and says, "Well, can you give him $95,000?" So we just forgot about it. And he didn't play for Buffalo either. That's one of the things that make me wonder about agents. I never used one myself. I figure nobody knows what I'm worth better than I do.
I thought the play in the ABA equated with the NBA, except the ABA doesn't have centers like Jabbar, Thurmond or Cowens. The forwards are as good. With guards, it's longevity. The ABA doesn't have any Walt Fraziers or Jerry Wests, but it does have good young guards.
The biggest surprise to me was the red, white and blue ball. When I first came into the ABA, after so much time with a regular ball, I was almost contemptuous of the red, white and blue one. Gotta be a circus job. After two or three days of working out with it, I began to look at the other one as completely blah. A brown ball blends in with so many things. The colored one you can see so much better. If you're a rotation shooter, you can tell when your rotation's off. You can do a lot more with the ABA ball.