Wilt Chamberlain's Love Life: Did He Sleep With '20,000' Women?
CIRCA 1974: Former NBA star Wilt Chamberlain poses for this photo with young women for the Wilt's Athletic Club circa 1974. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
In his 1991 book A View From Above, Wilt Chamberlain claimed he'd slept with 20,000 women over the course of his career. Also known as Wilt the Stilt and The Big Dipper, Chamberlain was one of the greatest scorers in NBA history -- on and off the court, apparently. Of all his impressive statistics, the "20,000 women" number seems the most far-fetched and least verifiable, and the book kicked off a debate over whether such a number was even possible.
20,000 different women is a hard figure to ignore. However, Wilt Chamberlain’s life was filled with stories and facts that seem impossible. The same could be said about his NBA career. Looking at his statistics, they bear no resemblance to anyone else’s. So how much of Wilt’s love life was fact or fiction?
No Such Thing As Boring Mathematics
Wilt Chamberlain unknowingly gave us the most interesting math problem ever posed. Naturally, readers worked out how many women Wilt Chamberlain needed to sleep with to reach 20,000 by the time his statement was published. Apparently, if Chamberlain started his count at the age of 15, he would have needed to sleep with 1.4 women every day until he was 55. On the face of it, that seems impossible and it’s about to get more implausible.
According to his close childhood friend Tom Fitzhugh, "I don't remember him having a date. He was probably a virgin when he left high school." If Tom was right, that means Chamberlain needed to up his number to 1.5 women per day for 37 years in a row.
Chamberlain Loved Record Numbers
Before you dismiss the possibility of Chamberlain’s improbable claim, you should know about how he played the game. Chamberlain loved owning records, more than even winning games. Perhaps the most astounding fact about Chamberlain’s playing career over the 14 years was that he never fouled out of a single game.
That’s because whenever Chamberlain got close to fouling out, he would run from contact like his shorts were on fire. According to basketball writer Bill Simmons, Chamberlain would do anything and everything to avoid fouling out, even if it meant hurting his team’s chances of winning.
Numbers Over Winning
To be fair, Wilt Chamberlain did win two NBA championships. However, for the most dominant basketball player ever, and one of the most dominant athletes in any sport ever, two championships feels low. Especially, when you consider that Bill Russell, a far less talented player by his own admission, won 11 during the same period. So how did that happen? Russell can thank Chamberlain’s obsession with numbers.
In Chamberlain's mind, he already won, so to cement his legacy as the greatest player ever, he should own all the records. One year Chamberlain decided he would lead the league in assists, so he did. He accomplished that goal from the center position, a feat never done before or since. Once Chamberlain put his mind on a number, he got there, at least on the basketball court.
Back To 20,000
So, if Wilt Chamberlain would do anything to own record numbers on the court, would he do the same for off the court? Friends of Chamberlain said he loved threesomes. Perhaps his predilection for multiple partners helped boost his gaudy numbers.
Ultimately, there are too many unaccounted factors to make Chamberlain’s claim remotely feasible. For one, if Chamberlain got sick, or failed to have sex with 1.4 women on any day, he’d have to make it up by having sex with 2.4 women on another day.
Also, there are almost no stories of Chamberlain fathering children with any of these 20,000 women. It also appears that Chamberlain never contracted any diseases through all of these trysts, during the free-love era, a time when safe sex wasn’t exactly a common concern.
In the end, famed Jeopardy contestant, Ken Jennings reported on his blog that, “Robert Cherry quotes Chamberlain's friend Rod Roddewig as saying that he counted 23 women coming and going during a ten-day stay at Chamberlain's Honolulu penthouse. Wilt used that 2.3-women-a-day average—scaled down by almost half, to stay on the conservative side—to get his total of twenty thousand.”
To be fair, Chamberlain was a Hall of Fame basketball player and not a mathematician. Let’s just say he slept with more women than most.
Tags: Love Life | Wilt Chamberlain | NBA
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