Wilt, 49, Remains a Wanted Man in NBA : Nets Offered $362,500 for Last 7 Games of Season and Playoffs

Associated Press

The offer was a compliment if nothing else.

With seven games left in the National Basketball Association season, the New Jersey Nets contacted Wilt Chamberlain’s agent and diplomatically inquired if the big fellow might be interested in playing a little basketball.

The fee would be sizable--$362,500, half of the salary the Nets were not paying Micheal Ray Richardson, who was under suspension for drug problems. For seven games and the playoffs. Not bad.

Understand, this is the same Wilt Chamberlain who will celebrate his 50th birthday next month, the one who scored 31,419 points in 14 NBA seasons, who averaged more than 50 points a game 25 years ago and scored 100 points in one game the year after that. The one who had been retired for 13 years.


That Wilt Chamberlain.

Now really. Be realistic.

“It is realistic,” Chamberlain said. “I work out with pro athletes all the time. I know what my body can do and what I can do.”

Then, 7-foot 2-inch Wilt Chamberlain looked down, his sleek body encased in stretch leotards as he prepared for a volleyball clinic at the Mobil Big Apple Games. “I work out every day,” he said. “Sometimes I swim, sometimes I run. I do aerobics, calisthenics. I lift weights three or four times a week. I play volleyball and racquetball. I’m 25 to 30 pounds lighter now than when I played.”

He glared ever so slightly. “What do you think? Do you think I could do it?”

At that particular moment, he looked as if he could do any old thing he wanted to.

So how about it, Wilt. Why didn’t you take the Nets’ money?

“I did not consider it at all,” Chamberlain said evenly. “It sounded like a ploy, a joke to ask a guy in the last part of the season without any consideration to the effect on the team.

“It was not a fair proposal. They didn’t ask what kind of shape I was in, whether I had a cold or a toothache. I respect pro basketball players too much to think I could go out and be competitive with them after they’ve been playing all season, doing what they do better than anybody else in the world.


“You don’t take a guy and throw him out there with nine others, four on his team, five playing against him, and expect anything like you used to get.”

But given the proper circumstances . . .

“It’s an honor that someone thinks you’re capable of doing it,” he said. “I stopped playing because I was no longer mentally capable of going out there every day. I don’t want to play. I’m quite happy doing what I am doing.”

Chamberlain operates his own film and video production company in Los Angeles. He produces and writes and has acted, most notably in the Conan the Barbarian films. In the next few weeks he hopes to embark on a project that will take him to Africa with comedian Dom DeLuise.

Chamberlain watches NBA games with understandable interest and says he sees nothing that he has not seen before, including the flowering of new giants like Ralph Sampson in Houston.

“The big guy dribbles the ball behind his back and people say, ‘Wow, a 7-4 guy dribbling behind his back.’ ” Chamberlain said of Sampson. “It’s been done before. I did it.”

And what was the reaction when he did?

“I got kicked in the (butt) by my coaches and my teammates,” he said.

Even at 49, the competitive fire still burns bright in Chamberlain and he toys with trying out for the U.S. Olympic volleyball team. How about the NBA, then?

“If I wanted to play,” he said, “I’d go out and make a concerted effort.”


“And, I’d play.”