The most dominant player the NBA has ever seen was a literal video game cheat code. He could score better than anyone while rebounding better than the next player.
If they counted block shots during his playing days, his name would likely be at the top. That's right, the player I'm speaking about is the late, great, Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt Chamberlain's Beliefs
Many NBA players today are big on speaking out about politics, this was also the trend in the 1960s, during the height of the civil rights movement.
Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were two of the biggest NBA players who were outspoken about civil rights. They both also just so happened to be basketball rivals to Chamberlain.
What was Chamberlain's stance on civil rights? Well, for one, when asked if he had any racial bitterness, Wilt claimed he had “none.”
(Time stamp 11:51).
Chamberlain went on to say, “I understand, I think, what all that racial malarkey is all about. I've been lucky enough to see people come into love. And that's what it's all about.”
Chamberlain didn't want to get involved with the whole social justice movement of the time. For one, he wanted to play basketball because that's what he was, a basketball player.
The second reason why Chamberlain never spoke out on issues like his counterparts is that Chamberlain happened to belong to the “wrong side”, or that's how the other players saw it as.
When told about how his opinion went against the norm of an African-American athlete, Chamberlain responded by saying:
“I believe strongly today that being conservative is the way to go… I believe in love.”
Chamberlain was a Republican, and he supported then President, Richard Nixon.
“I've never gotten involved in politics before. But you have to get off the fence and declare yourself sometime, and this is the time for me," Chamberlain said. “I've known Nixon and been impressed by him for 10 years and I decided to join him. It's intriguing to know that I might have some hand in shaping the future of this country.”
To Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and the other outspoken athletes of that time, Nixon was associated with the problems African-Americans were facing.
To have Chamberlain support President Nixon was a slap in the face to these athletes.
This even had Russell, who was at one point good friends with Chamberlain, to say this about Chamberlain's friendship and support of President Nixon:
“You notice how little [Chamberlain] smiles. That's not because he's angry all the time. It's because he's lonely. An outsider.”
Chamberlain would go on to describe himself as an “ultra-conservative”.
These views by Chamberlain led to one of the longest basketball feuds we've ever seen. This feud would be between Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Wilt Chamberlain vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
As a teenager, Lew Alcindor, who would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, met Chamberlain and the two became close.
Chamberlain took young Jabbar under his wing, and Jabbar loved to hang around Chamberlain and participate in his wild lifestyle.
Then, on July 18, 1964, Jabbar was working part-time for a newspaper company, and he went to, what he believed to be a peaceful protest for the murder of a 15-year-old African-American boy killed by a police officer.
At the protest, things weren't so peaceful. Bricks were being thrown and bullets were being shot by the police.
This incident changed Jabbar for life. From this day on, he dedicated his life to the rights of African-Americans and all people who are being deprived of their rights.
When the Black Panthers were heavily protesting equality in America, Jabbar was right there to support the cause.
Chamberlain, on the other hand, had a different opinion. He condemned the Black Panthers, which wasn't a popular stance for him from African-Americans.
In 1976, Chamberlain released his first autobiography, titled “Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7 Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door”.
In his autobiography, Chamberlain made some harsh comments about African-American women. He said African-American women weren't “sophisticated” enough for him.
He went on to say: “Black women also tend to have more sexual hangups than white women do… and I don't like sexual hangups.”
These comments didn't sit well with Jabbar, and this is where their long-lasting “beef” began.
The two basketball centers would trade harsh remarks about the other for Jabbar's entire career, long after Chamberlain retired.
Jabbar knew Chamberlain was one of the biggest names in all of sports, especially basketball in the 1960s and 1970s, and he knew Chamberlain's voice could be a big help in the civil rights movement.
So, when Chamberlain came out with different views, this upset Jabbar, and the two lost their friendship.
Believe In Love
Chamberlain may have been criticized for his political stance and for what other athletes saw, as a lack of using his platform to promote change.
But Chamberlain wanted everyone to get along, this is what he believed. He may have been for himself, on many occasions, but what Chamberlain said about people, is inspiring.
“I think that I believe in love,” Chamberlain said. “And I believe that we all have to reach out to everybody, whether that's color, race, sex, this country, or whatever. And just touch and see. I was fortunate enough to travel the world a number of times with the [Harlem] Globetrotters, and see that we're all really alike. We all need the one basic thing and that's love.”
So, the next time people celebrate the pioneers of the NBA who did incredible things on and off the court, it's a good thing not to forget Mr. Wilt Chamberlain.