By: Matt Doeden
Publisher: Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 2010
Wilton Norman Chamberlain, a man who would eventually have the moniker “Wilt the Stilt,” was simply a normal sized, average baby whose size did not indicate that he would one day tower over his peers. By the age of ten his phenomenal growth spurt made him taller than his parents William and Olivia. One would think that basketball would be his sport of choice, but initially he actually “preferred track and field.” Later, when he took up basketball he quickly became a star at Overbrook, his high school. Things were not all roses for him. A childhood friend, Sonny Hill, once said, “Wilt had three things to overcome: he was tall, he was black, and he had a speech impediment [stutter].” Confidence would eventually come to him, but in the meantime Wilt had to struggle.
At the end of high school, Wilt was an astonishing 7 feet tall and was averaging 47 points a game. The “stampede to recruit Wilt was on” and he received more than one hundred scholarship offers. He opted for the University of Kansas and would soon be a Jayhawk. Unfortunately he soon experienced racism and segregation, something he was unaccustomed to. The NCAA had changed rules in anticipation of his arrival, yet when the team was in Texas, it didn’t stop people from throwing things at the Jayhawks nor shouting “racial slurs.” His college career was short lived as Wilt opted to join the “high-flying exhibition team,” the Harlem Globetrotters. Perhaps $65,000 was more of a draw than anything Kansas had to offer.
Wilt would still have to wait before he could play for the NBA as a ruling stated he was ineligible until his high school class graduated. When he finally made it, he was pulled into the fold of the Philadelphia Warriors. His talents soon became evident and exploded onto the professional basketball scene. He experienced some “rough treatment” and shocked everyone by saying, “I quit. I’ll never play basketball in the NBA again,” but as we all know, he did. In this book you’ll read about the game in which he scored 100 points, you’ll learn why people continually called him a “loser,” why the Warriors moved to San Francisco, you’ll meet Alex Hannum (the only coach who could keep him in line), you will “see” him slug Clyde Lovellette, you’ll learn about how he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, how he learned the “team-first” approach,” and you’ll learn many interesting things about this amazing, one of a kind player!
This is a fascinating look at “Wilt the Stilt” Chamberlain, a player who dominated basketball like no one else in the sport’s history. Chamberlain, a player quite unlike any other who ever played the sport, comes to life in these pages. We are able to catch a glimpse of him from the time he entered the sport in high school to when he retired from the sport and dabbled in such diverse things as writing and playing a bit part in the movie, “Conan the Destroyer.” This is a sports biography and we learn very little of his personal life outside the game.
There is very little mention of his family life. Although the biography focuses primarily on his basketball career, I did enjoy getting a feel for his personality through quotes that he made and through those other people made about him. For example, such sentences as, “He was labeled a self-centered play and “ He was contentious and, in many ways, a coach’s worst nightmare,” are quite telling. In the back of the book is an index, a glossary, source notes, a bibliography, and additional recommended websites to explore.
Quill says: This is a fascinating look at "Wilt the Stilt" Chamberlain, a player who dominated basketball like no one else in the sport!