Which is, of course, exactly the point that Chamberlain, the Philadelphia native and basketball legend, makes in his new book, A View From Above. He claims to have made love to 20,000 different women over the last 40 years - "just a drop in the bucket," he said.
This averages out to 1.2 sexual encounters every day since he was 15, he wrote. But for the sake of all these women, let's hope that his lovemaking is better than his math: 20,000 women over 40 years comes to 500 a year or 1.37 women a day.
At any rate, Wilt wants you to understand that this was a modest pace, a mere fraction of the lovemaking that was available to him. "The average guy may meet 100 women a year," Wilt explained. "He may have a sexual encounter with 10. Wilt Chamberlain, in my lifestyle, gets to meet 10,000 to 20,000 women a year. If I have an encounter with the same ratio as the average guy - that would be 80,000. So 20,000 could be rather paltry."
(Paltry? John Holmes - the late porn star who died of AIDS - said he had sex with only 14,000 women. Granted, that was in just 18 years, but that was his job.)
Chamberlain, 55, retired from basketball for 17 years but still holding on to the NBA record for rebounding, feels no obligation to furnish proof or name names. After all, he's just trying to sell books. But he will explain how he arrived at this number. "I went back through all my date books and counted how many women I dated in July of '74 or May of '69. You prorate them, multiply that number by 12 and then again by 40. . . ." Points, rebounds, blocked shots, trysts - Wilt has always loved statistics.
But this is the old Wilt. Meet the new Wilt, the Wilt who would rather curl up in bed with Smithsonian magazine - "I find it's just as rewarding." This
Wilt longs for a meaningful relationship, quotes Shakespeare, and says he
admires the Pope more than any other man alive.
This is Wilt the author, who says he actually wrote this book himself, longhand, and that he's also writing screenplays. (No conquests here yet.) "I always knew I loved chasing ladies," he said, "but I had no idea how much I would love sitting down to write."
Wilt Chamberlain has gone through a metamorphosis.
He's still 7 feet tall. He still has that immense frame that seems to collapse into a limo like a folding ladder. But he's balding and his chin seems to wrinkle and disappear when he talks.
Yet he still has an upper body worthy of a tight T-shirt. His sexual appetite is just as great, he assures us, although he has cut way back on the portions. AIDS has forced him to be more "selective." As this new literary man puts it: "The physicality is venting away to a little more mental usage."
Wilt spent much of the 1980s in Hawaii chasing bikinis. It was, in retrospect, an empty, meaningless decade. "I really kind of wasted it," he acknowledged. "I had no real purpose, no real job."
He said he wanted to move back East now, to spend a lot more time in Philadelphia and New York, to get much more involved in charities. It's not that he got religion. He just got older. And he said people change with age.
In fact, Wilt said, "the most moving day of my life" took place in March when the 76ers retired his number, 13, and the city honored him. "I had tears in my eyes the whole day," he said. "I really felt the sincerity behind it, and all the people saying 'Thank you.' And I should have been the one saying 'Thank you.' "
But don't be fooled, he hasn't changed completely. In this book, and in conversation as he raced around New York Monday to promote it (he'll be in Philadelphia Friday and Saturday), he's still the opinionated, egotistical, herculean Wilt who has stirred controversy for 40 years.
As if you had any doubts about his ego, he begins his book by urging readers not to confuse him with "the Big Man," and he said with the most modesty he can muster: "I think it's obnoxious for me to write that I was the best ever, but just look at the numbers." Were he 30 years old today, he said, he would command $20 million per season in the NBA. He said teams tried to sign him as recently as 1989.
But he wants people to remember what he did: scored 100 points in one game, averaged 50 points for a season, led the league in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocks. He won two NBA titles, set bunches of records and redefined the game.
And he enjoys recounting plenty of other amazing athletic achievements, such as: During the filming of Conan the Destroyer, with Arnold Schwarzenegger, he put five 50-pound weights on his rib cage, elevated his feet on an incline board, and did 30 sit-ups.
"Arnold couldn't believe it," he said. "He wouldn't even try it."
Wilt said players today are no better than players in his day. In fact, he said, most players are not as good. They're too specialized, not well-rounded. Basketball today, he said, has become more show than sport. In his day, he said, players would have been considered hot dogs for such aerial theatrics a la Michael Jordan, and be ostracized by teammates.
He said he doesn't resent the huge salaries of the best players, just the millions a year paid to all the hacks and chumps. In his last season, Wilt earned $450,000 a year.
Wilt said, bluntly, that blacks are "blessed through heritage" with strength, quickness, speed and a certain flair that makes them better suited than whites for basketball, but not necessarily better. "Physically, Dominique Wilkins should be a much better rebounder than Larry Bird, but he's not even close."
Wilt insisted that he has nothing to prove, that he has no chip on his shoulder, that his career speaks for itself. But he does resent that he was always portrayed as a Goliath, as a "villain," while others - namely Celtics star Bill Russell - were always cheered on as the Davids.
"I am the yardstick," he said. "I did a lot more things than Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) or Russell. And I was asked to do a lot more things. . . . Every artist wants his due for his painting - especially if it's the Mona Lisa."
Excluding himself, Wilt said Russell was the best center of all time, followed by Bill Walton, Jabbar, George Mikan and Robert Parish. He said if he needed a basket in the last second of a game, he'd give the ball to Kareem. His only complaint about Jabbar was that he didn't have enough heart, he never gave the game everything he had. He also said the biggest waste of talent in NBA history was Ralph Sampson.
* He considers his greatest athletic achievement that he missed only eight minutes of play during the entire season of his third year in the league.
* The most unbelievable athlete he ever saw was Meadowlark Lemon, the
Harlem Globetrotter who could, night after night, year after year, sink hook shots from midcourt.
* The five best athletes he ever saw, in order: basketball star Rick Barry, football star Jim Brown, jockey Willie Shoemaker, track star Jackie Joyner- Kersee and himself.
All these things are interesting, but it is his sexual exploits that have people talking - and the book selling. And he no doubt will be asked about this subject over and over when he appears Friday at Encore Books, 2005 Market St., at 12:30 p.m.; at Gene's Books in King of Prussia at 4 p.m., and at Borders Book Shop at noon on Saturday, as well as assorted radio and television appearances.
Wilt wants the world to know that he has included his sexual exploits in his book not to brag, but to be truthful. "For me to have left sexual encounters out of the book would have been like leaving basketball out; both consumed tremendous amounts of my energies.
"I'm not a stud, not a Don Juan," he insists. "It's just that I'm different. . . . (Women) are intrigued, and they wonder if they can handle a man of my physical size."
(For the record, Wilt has size 14 1/2 shoes, downright small for a big man.)
Most of this cavorting, Wilt said, took place in the '60s, '70s and early '80s. "I can't dismiss the social diseases running rampant," he said, referring to AIDS. "It has curtailed my sexual activities. I practice safe sex."