I wasn't the first seven-footer. There were lots before me. But they didn't have the mobility or the stamina. And I could pass. I could jump. And I never got credit for my speed. In Philadelphia I used to race little guys like Larry Costello and Hal Greer, and enjoy whipping their butts. The only guy who ever tied me was Al Attles, and he was a speed demon. A girl on our track team, Patty Johnson, the fastest woman hurdler in America, says, "I'll race you." I'm a big old 300-pound 38-year-old man, and she's amazed when, hey, at my size I beat her. A lot of things I could really do have been lost in the shuffle because of my size.
But I don't want to leave basketball without saying this: Aside from all my mother and father gave me, I owe everything to the game. And if any sport's done what it should have in race relations, basketball has. I'm still dismayed about the lack of black managers and head coaches in baseball and football. I hate to say this—I have a lot of friends who play baseball—but I believe basketball players are a little more intelligent. And basketball is the freest team sport. The individual isn't completely lost in the shuffle. In football, a coach can't listen to 47 guys.
I haven't been gifted with Wilt Chamberlain Nights, and that might be interpreted to mean that people don't care much. But that's not true. I know plenty of people who would have been only too happy to give me a Night. It would've made me self-conscious. I want to thank all those fans—the ones who've thanked me verbally or just silently, those people who may not think that I know they're there. I hope some of them will get behind my Wonder Women now.