On This Date in Sports October 24, 1959: Wilt's Debut

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Wilt Chamberlain makes his NBA debut with the Philadelphia Warriors. Due to NBA rules at the time, Chamberlain had to wait until his senior class graduated to join the league, and this led to him spending a season with the Harlem Globetrotters. Wilt Chamberlain’s debut is one for the ages, as he scored 43 points with 28 rebounds as the Warriors beat the New York Knicks 118-109 at Madison Square Garden.

At 7’1,” no player cut a more intimidating pose than Wilt Chamberlain. Nicknamed “Wilt the Stilt,” Chamberlain was born in Philadelphia on August 21, 1936. After staring at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, Chamberlain chose to attend the University of Kansas coached by Phog Allen. At the time, a freshman was not allowed to play in the NCAA. Finally, getting on the floor, Wilt Chamberlain led Kansas to the NCAA Championship Game, where they lost a heartbreaker in triple overtime to North Carolina. Despite the loss, Chamberlain was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Wilt the Stilt found himself frustrated by his junior season as teams played keep away to prevent the Kansas Center from dominating. This led him to lead college after the season, accepting $10,000 from Look Magazine to explain why he left college.

Unable to play in the NBA right away, Wilt Chamberlain spent a year with the Harlem Globetrotters, earning $50,000. A significant part of his year with the Barnstorming Princes of basketball was a tour of the Soviet Union. Once his senior class graduated, Wilt Chamberlain was free to join the NBA. At the time, teams had territorial rights over players; thus, Chamberlain ended up on the Philadelphia Warriors.

As the 1959/60 season tipped off, all eyes were on “The Big Dipper” as a loaded Philadelphia Warriors team began the season at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. Regarded as the most outstanding debut in NBA history, Wilt Chamberlain scored 43 points and had 28 rebounds as the Warriors beat the Knicks 118-109. He would go on to win the Rookie of the Year, with a league-best 37.6 points per game and a league-best 27 rebounds per game. The Warriors would finish the season with a record of 49-26 but lost to the Boston Celtics in six games during the Eastern Division Finals.

Losses to Bill Russell and the Celtics would be the only flaw of Wilt Chamberlain’s career as he became one of the greatest ever to play the game. He would lead the league in scoring in seven of his 15 seasons and led the league in rebounding 11 times. At the time of his retirement, Chamberlain held the record of most points at 31,419, while his 23,924 remains the record for rebounds in an NBA career.