How could there be a more appropriate e-mail handle for the devoted sister of the late Wilt Chamberlain? She’s a basketball and track historian, a fine writer. There is no greater source for information about The Big Dipper, whom she chooses to call Dippy or Dip, his favorite nicknames, which came from having to dip his head in doorways. Wilt hated “The Stilt.” He also loved Uncle Dippy, a nephew’s concoction.
The subject is Barbara O. Lewis of Philadelphia and Las Vegas — Barb. Then there is the “dip” and the “13”, which was Wilton Norman’s jersey number. They were among nine children in the family household in Philly years ago. Barb’s now 71; Wilt would be 73 this August. He died at 63 in 1999 due to heart difficulties.
Recently, I noted that even though shot-block totals then were unofficial, KU stars B.H. Born (1953) and Uncle Dippy (1956-57) registered triple-doubles more than five decades before KU’s Cole Aldrich did in recent NCAA Tournament play. I also noted that it was the ’57 KU-North Carolina NCAA title game, 54-53 in triple overtime, that did far more to thrust college basketball into public consciousness than that over-hyped 1979 Michigan State-Indiana State bit of drabness.
Chamberlain teammate Monte Johnson sent the pieces to Barbara; she responded with some gems.
In ’62 with Philly, Wilt averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds for a whole season and once scored 100 points. Nobody will top that trifecta. Dippy still holds some 50 NBA records.
Ever heard of a quadruple-double? Chamberlain got at least one, though, again, unofficially.
He scored 24 points, nabbed 32 rebounds, had 13 assists and 12 blocks as the Philly Sixers beat Boston in the division playoffs in ’67. The pros didn’t record blocks officially until ’73; colleges were much later, cheating both Born and Wilt. One season (’68) Chamberlain also led the NBA in assists, something no other center has ever done.
Sister Barbara jokes that Dippy told her if he’d known statistics were so important, he’d have put more of them so far beyond reach nobody would top them. He could have. And did. For starters, those 50-point, 25-rebound, 100-point feats in ’62 may be indelible.
Writes Barb: “How could anybody forget that KU-Carolina game? It changed the dynamics of college basketball from holding the ball, playing 4-on-1, and so many other things. … I think what I loved best about the old days was not having to watch the players beating on their chests when they score, the bumping and now jumping on the benches and expecting accolades from the fans. Are they not paid very well to make defensive plays and score points?
“The entertainment before the games, especially since it is encouraged by the analysts, might be something the fans like now. But can you imagine Wilt, Bill Russell, Paul Arizin, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, etc., pulling those stunts? They would have been ridiculed. What will come next for the younger generation to copy? It’s scary.”
One of the most notable traits about truly great athletes is that they continue to do amazing things, yet tend to act as if they’ve “been there.” Just another reason for modern hot-dogs to view, and copy from, more of the old films.