Wilt Chamberlain Says Boosters Paid Him to Play Basketball for Kansas in the 1950s

Associated Press

Wilt Chamberlain says he was paid to play basketball at the University of Kansas in the 1950s, but the amount “would make it look like I was not worth very much” compared with the illicit payments to today’s college athletes.

Noting allegations that Kenneth Davis was paid $38,000 to play football for Texas Christian University, Chamberlain said he got “one-tenth of that” at Kansas.

Chamberlain, in town Thursday to promote an advertising calendar for a cat-food maker, said the payment system was “much more sophisticated” than just giving an athlete cash.


“The boosters were delegated by a little group,” he said. “They would say, ‘OK, we will allow you, A, B and C, to go out and help to recruit Wilt Chamberlain, and you become like his godfather.’

“I had two or three godfathers. That way it wasn’t sure where it was coming from. Everyone was assigned at least one godfather when I was at Kansas.”

Chamberlain, who was recruited at Kansas in 1955, went on to become a two-time All-American in 1957 and 1958 and a Hall of Famer in professional basketball.

The amount of payments are relative, Chamberlain said, but the problem is that athletes are forced to take money improperly--”and illegally, as far as the IRS is concerned”--because the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. will not let colleges pay them above board.

“It’s time to revamp the codes and be more honest,” he said.

He said when he was at Kansas, in addition to money from boosters, he received $30 to $40 a month from the school for selling programs at football games.