Forget the 100 points stat discussion of Wilt begins, ends with 1.3

November 05, 1991|By Mitch Albom | Mitch Albom,Knight-Ridder

DETROIT -- Today we will answer the most talked-about question in sports: Is it possible that Wilt Chamberlain slept with 20,000 women?

Wait. Let me check my watch.

Make that 20,001.

Chances are you have heard about Wilt's claim. He wrote it in his new book, "A View From Above," which I always thought referred to his height. Maybe it refers to the mirror over his bed.

Twenty thousand women. That's what he says. He told me personally, Sunday night, when we did a radio talk show together. I must admit, Chamberlain looked remarkably fit for a guy who has endured so much sexual activity. After 20,000 women, I expected him to be wheeled in on a slab, with a dumb grin on his face. He said he was only in town for a brief stay; I sent the secretaries home, just in case.

"So, Wilt," I began, and here, being the thoughtful, intelligent type of talk-show host who gets no ratings, I paused, looking for important subjects rather than the cheap and tacky sex stuff.

"So . . . is it true, or what?"

"I'm not making it up," Chamberlain insisted. "I went back to my old date books and figured it out."

Which is what people across the country are doing right now. The Chamberlain Equation. America hasn't done this much calculating since the stock market crashed. You see men by the water coolers, counting on both hands. Let's see, if you take Chamberlain's age (55), figure the year he says he started (15), divide it into the total number of women (20,000), you come up with . . . an average of 1.3 women per day.

Personally, it's the .3 that has me confused. Is .3 just a slow dance? Or a soulful kiss?

For me, .3 was high school.

But I was always weak in math.

"I had no idea people would make such a fuss over this," Chamberlain admitted Sunday. "It's a small part of the book. I didn't write it to brag. People are always asking about my statistics, how many points I scored, stuff like that. So I figured they would be interested in another statistic."

Yeah. Wait'll the fantasy leagues get ahold of this.

Actually, it's not the numbers that impress me, but the timing. If you allow for sick days, travel days and the occasional day when he just didn't feel like it (if there ever was such a day) you pretty much figure that, in order to squeeze everyone in, Chamberlain's conversations had to go something like this:

WOMAN: "Hi, aren't you . . . "

CHAMBERLAIN: "Your place or mine?"

Now. I should say here that Chamberlain does not encourage promiscuity, although coming from a man nicknamed "The Big Dipper," you take that for what it's worth. Much of his bedroom activity, he said, came during the '60s and '70s when, as he put it, "there was a sexual revolution going on."

Obviously, Chamberlain made general.

I also should mention that Chamberlain promotes safe sex. As often as you can possibly have it. No. Ha. I just threw that in because, when you sit next to a man who has lost count of how many countries he has had sex in, you feel a little inferior.

And then John Salley showed up.

And I really felt like a monk.

"Hey, big fella,' Chamberlain said.

"Hey, big fella," Salley said.

Was I glad I had sent the secretaries home.

Salley, like Chamberlain, is not married, hovers in the 7-foot range and has a reputation as a ladies' man, although his coach, Chuck Daly, would prefer a few fewer dates and a few more dunks.

Anyhow, I figured Salley dropped by a few tips, or maybe some of Chamberlain's old phone numbers. The two men started talking. Next thing you know, they'd be on the air saying: "Betty from Hoboken? You knew Betty from Hoboken? Last time I saw her . . . "

I tried to think fast: What would Dr. Ruth do?

I went back to sports questions. I asked Chamberlain about the )) NBA. I asked about salaries. I asked about the time he scored 100 in one night. Points, that is.

"Let's go to the phones," I said, feeling satisfied. "Hello, you're on the air . . . "

"Yeah, Wilt? About this 20,000 women thing. That's like, unbelievable!"

Now. I know many women are reading this column, and perhaps some feel Chamberlain's claim is insulting. Perhaps they feel women should not be rung up like some pinball score.

XTC To these women I say: You are right. At least I think you are right. But what do I know? I consider it a good night if a waitress takes my order.

"I love women, and I truly respect women," Chamberlain said. I have no doubt as to the former. And, actually, I can believe the latter. Wilt Chamberlain is not into groping, a la Mike Tyson. (After 20,000 love scenes, how much of a thrill can groping be?)

Chamberlain says he simply enjoys making love, and has done so with women of all races and nationalities. He says as far as he knew -- and he claims he always asked -- none of them were married, because he does not believe in infidelity. And in 30 years, he has never had a paternity suit.

That one really makes me scratch my head.

So is it true? Who knows? Maybe, it's like Chamberlain writes in his book, "There are a few of us who are fortunate enough to be in a position to fulfill our lustful desires. And I'm one of those lucky ones."

Or, as the old song goes:

Wise men say, only fools rush in

But I can't help falling in love with you

and you and you and you and you and you . . .

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