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He certainly has been a big man in the news lately. His second volume of autobiography, A View from Above, was published last month to a lot of noise. It contains Chamberlain's candid observations concerning his 7'1" height, his celebrity, his 14 years in the NBA, his former opponents, today's athletes, George Bush, gun control and much else. It also contains his astonishing claim that he has slept with 20,000 women since age 15. That boast landed Chamberlain in the tabloids, on TV and, after Magic Johnson's disclosure that he was HIV-positive, in the middle of a brouhaha over promiscuity among big-time athletes.
Having had time to reflect upon his claim, Chamberlain explains why he regrets the way he discussed sex in the book. Further, he elaborates on what's wrong with pro basketball today, and what should be done to make it right. He says he has problems with the way the Olympic team was chosen. Lastly, he talks about a new lovable Wilt—at only age 55, already, as he sees it, the George Burns of basketball.
Sports Illustrated: In A View from Above, you confess that you were not entirely satisfied with the hedonistic life-style you lived in the '80s. Why not?
Wilt Chamberlain: I had a home in Hawaii, homes in Vancouver and Los Angeles—all very idyllic spots. I was still active in sports. I played a lot of racquetball. I was doing things that kept my body pretty busy, but my mind was going to pot. If you're the type of person that enjoys accomplishing things, you find that kind of life extremely boring after a short time.
SI: And you didn't have to work?
WC: A celebrity can make money doing nothing these days. I was just vegetating in Hawaii.
SI: So 18 years after you wrote Wilt, with the assistance of David Shaw, you decided to do a hook on your own.
WC: Right. And I tell you, it was a fantastic experience. It's therapeutic to put yourself down on paper. Writing is like looking into a mirror: You start to realize who you really are.
SI: Is it true that you wrote the entire book in longhand?
WC: Longhand, yeah. I can't type. I'd keep some paper with me, and as thoughts came, I'd write them down wherever I was. I'd get back home and transcribe them onto another piece of paper, because it's hard even for me to read my handwriting. My secretary would come over, and I'd read to him what I'd written. He'd record what I said on tape and transcribe it, and I'd look at that as if I were reading a book. Then I would correct it. It's a long process.