Wilt Chamberlain Gets the Commemorative Stamp of Approval

(This is the first non-baseball post in the history of the Dazzy Vance Chronicles.)

By Glen Sparks

Wilt Chamberlain spent some time with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Wilt Chamberlain spent some time with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Wilt Chamberlain did a whole lot of “are you kidding me?” sort of stuff in his NBA career.

He scored a record 100 points one game, grabbed a record 55 rebounds in another game, averaged a record 50.4 points one season. … This 7-foot-1-inch center even led the league in assists, a point guard stat, in 1968. … Ok, here is one: An NBA game lasts 48 minutes. Chamberlain averaged 48.5 minutes a game in the 1961-62 campaign. (He played in every minute of 79 of 80 games, plus overtime action.)

So, naturally, he gets to be a 2-inch postage stamp. The U.S. Postal Service and the Philadelphia 76ers plan to dedicate two Wilt Chamberlain Forever stamps during a halftime ceremony at a Dec. 5 game in Oklahoma City versus the Thunder.

Donald Hunt, a writer for The Philadelphia Tribune, led the effort to put Wilt on a postage stamp. The NBA legend joins other so-honored athletes such as Babe Ruth, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens. Kadir Nelson, a San Diego artist, and author/illustrator of We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, designed the stamps. One illustration is of Chamberlain playing for the Philadelphia Warriors in his younger days. The other is of The Big Dipper playing with the Los Angeles Lakers as a veteran.

The story of Wilt Chamberlain is a fascinating one. He grew up in Philadelphia and first drew people’s attention as a track athlete. Wilt high-jumped 6-feet-6-inches at Overbrook High School, ran the 440 in 49 seconds, broad-jumped 22 feet and put the shot 53 feet, four inches. On the basketball court, he once enjoyed a three-game scoring stretch of 74 points, 78 and 90.

The college basketball recruiting frenzy for Wilt went nuts. Schools from New York to California mailed letters to the Chamberlain house. UCLA supposedly told him could play ball, but that he could also be a movie star. Chamberlain opted for Kansas. Some people credit the KU center for single-handedly integrating Lawrence. See, Chamberlain ignored the “Whites only” signs at restaurants. He just walked in and ordered his food. And no one said a word.

He put up 52 points and 31 rebounds in his first varsity game at KU. Wilt battled through triple teams and still led Kansas in scoring most games throughout his college career. Wilt’s sophomore squad lost to North Carolina in the NCAA finals. Even so, who got elected most outstanding player of the tournament? Yep, Chamberlain. Oh, and he also competed on the KU track team. Introducing your three-time Big Eight high jump champion—Wilton Norman Chamberlain.

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