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WC: I think everybody enjoys being given his due, and I always felt that I was not given my due. When people talked about Wilt Chamberlain, you tended to hear about what he didn't do—didn't win enough world championships, only two; didn't make his free throws; didn't do this, blah, blah, blah. And you know, I did so many things the other guys didn't do, it's incredible. My winning percentage in the NBA was up there with the very best—like Bill Russell. Lifetime, I think I played .640 ball, or pretty close to it. [Actually, .643.] And Russell's teams [which won at a .705 clip], in my mind, were far superior.
That makes me pretty much a winner. I won eight or nine division championships; I wasn't a dog out there. So now people are starting to look at what I did a bit more positively. Sure, I'm happy about that.
SI: But why were you the heavy in the first place?
WC: The way I see it, Bill was a married man, married to a lady of color and raising a nice family. Also, he was a blue-collar worker—he could rebound and play defense and not take away from the star status of the white players. Along comes this brash, outspoken Wilt Chamberlain, who is dating people of [different] colors and making inroads in what was still [largely] a white sport and making all the white stars look like nothing. All that was too much for them to handle.
SI: So you were pretty threatening?
WC: Oh, absolutely. Wilt was just too big and too threatening. It was kind of like a mirror people didn't want to look into. And also [I represented] a future that maybe they didn't want to see. I was the Michael Jordans of tomorrow, the Kareems of tomorrow, and I don't think they were quite ready for that.
SI: But now you're older and somehow less threatening?
WC: What's the guy's name? George Burns? Everybody loves George Burns. He wasn't loved by everybody when he was doing his show with the cigar—a cocky little son of a gun who was sometimes a bit crass. But now everybody loves him. He's still got the same cigar, but now he's this old guy that you sort of empathize with.
It's almost like the line in my book: "You're only at your best when you're laid to rest." That's a little bit sad, but I fully understand it now. The frustrations that come with not winning as many world championships as I would have liked are behind me. The frustrations of having to answer "Why not?" are behind me.
I'm fortunate that I'm starting to get some real positive attention at this late date. I'm very fortunate. And I am enjoying life.