Trade Was the Start of Something Big for Lakers


A big news story broke 31 years ago today.

Ralph Bernstein, a veteran AP sportswriter in Philadelphia, filed a late-night story that reported the Philadelphia 76ers had traded 7-foot-1 center Wilt Chamberlain to the Lakers. Bernstein cited “unimpeachable sources.”

In Los Angeles, the media couldn’t find Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke or General Manager Fred Schaus. They were “out of town,” a Laker spokesman said.

The Times sports desk scrambled that night and managed to get Chamberlain on the phone. He was in San Francisco.


“I don’t know where this story came from,” he said. “It certainly didn’t come from me. I’d like to play on the West Coast, but I don’t know anything about this.”

Three days passed before Bernstein’s scoop became official. Finally, it was announced that the Lakers were sending Darrall Imhoff, Archie Clark and Jerry Chambers to the 76ers for the Chamberlain, then 31.

Cooke bubbled over in announcing he had signed Chamberlain to a five-year deal worth $1 million.

“Mr. Chamberlain has been kind enough to renew my contract as president of California Sports Inc.,” Cooke quipped.


Why would the 76ers let the game’s most dominating player go? It was said team owner Irv Kosloff refused to meet Chamberlain’s demand for a three-year, $1-million deal.

Said Chamberlain: “Physically, I’m capable of playing another 10 years. What my mental outlook will be then is something else again.”

Chamberlain played out that five-year contract with the Lakers, then retired. In 1972, he led the team to the NBA championship.

Also on this date: In 1947, Cleveland’s Larry Doby, the American League’s first black player, struck out as a pinch hitter in Chicago in his debut. Doby, with the Negro League’s Newark Eagles, had signed with the Indians three days earlier. . . . In 1974, UCLA hired UC Irvine’s Gary Adams as its baseball coach. . . . In 1974, Chris Evert, 19, became the second youngest player to win the women’s championship at Wimbledon when she defeated Olga Morozova, 6-0, 6-1. . . . In 1998, Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman died at 81. Also in 1998, Toronto’s Roger Clemens became the 11th pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts. . . . In 1980, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe played a classic 3-hour 53-minute Wimbledon men’s final, with Borg winning his fifth consecutive title, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6.