If Wilt Chamberlain were alive, he’d be turning 77 today. The basketball behemoth passed away at his Bel Air mansion in October of 1999, at the age of 63. Wilt “The Stilt” as he was pegged by one Phildealphia sportswriter, loathed that nickname and many others like it. When you look at his fourth grade picture, you can probably see why.
It can be tough when you’re bigger than everyone. Maybe some can handle the speculation and attention that comes when you’re a genetic outlier who towers over everyone around them. But most crumble under the weight of other’s whispers and pointing fingers. Not Wilt.
Wilt Chamberlain is considered by many to be one of the strongest and most imposing forces in NBA history. But like everyone, he had to grow into that role. Now we get a peek at what Wilt was like before he even hit middle school.
Wilt Chamberlain would've turned 77 today. Here he is in fourth grade. Can you spot him? pic.twitter.com/ZybwJFUF9I
— Andy Gray (@si_vault) August 21, 2013
When you’re growing up, being different isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Wilt Chamberlain was different, as the above photo shows. Perhaps that’s why he’s always detested the “The Stilt” nickname bestowed on him by a Philadelphia sportswriter when he was still in high school. He wasn’t a fan of “Goliath” either, another moniker attached to his impressive physique.
No, Wilt preferred “The Big Dipper,” coined by friends who always saw him dipping his head to get through doorways. Perhaps his preference for that nickname stems from the fact that his friends gave it to him, rather than some sportswriter looking to cash in on the impressively tall basketball player who dominated basketball â€” from an individual standpoint â€” throughout the 1960s and early 70’s.
While some have questioned Chamberlain’s ability to win (he won two titles in ’67 and ’72) or to sacrifice for the betterment of his teams, he was always dealing with the simple fact that he was just bigger than everyone else. People expected him to dominate and win every game, just like we do now with LeBron James.
That’s a lot to handle â€” just ask ‘Bron about the time period between the summer of 2010 and the summer of 2012 â€” and so Chamberlain’s grace later in life should be applauded. Maybe he could have avoided some of the mockery directed at his legendary sex claims, by failing to feed the frenzy around his larger-than-life persona, but one of the most dominating centers in NBA history should be afforded some space for braggadocio.
On the Big Dipper’s birthday today, maybe refrain from asking a taller person how the weather is up there. It’s condescending and annoying to the people posed with the question. But Wilt would appreciate that small gesture, at least.
What would you do if you were as tall as Wilt Chamberlain?
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