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date: 21 April 2021

Chamberlain, Wiltlocked

(21 August 1936–12 October 1999)
  • Bruce L. Janoff


Chamberlain, Wilt (21 August 1936–12 October 1999), basketball player, was born Wilton Norman Chamberlain in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Chamberlain, a welder and handyman, and Olivia Ruth Chamberlain, a domestic maid and cook. Although his father was only five feet eight inches and his mother five feet nine inches, by age ten Chamberlain was already six feet tall, and he stood six feet three when he graduated from elementary school. His astonishing growth continued through adolescence and he reached a full seven feet by his fourteenth birthday, according to Chamberlain himself. In addition to his extraordinary height, Chamberlain was a natural athlete with fierce competitive instincts. He was a fast runner and was selected to participate in the 1946 Penn Relays when he was just ten years old. His youthful ambition was to be an Olympian. In high school he was undefeated in the shot put; he ran the hundred-yard dash in 9.3 seconds; and he recorded a vertical leap of fifty inches. Later in life Chamberlain boasted that he was perfect for the decathlon and could have been known officially as the world's greatest athlete....

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