Wilt Chamberlain is best known to sports fans as one of the most dominant basketball players of all time. To people less familiar with sports and basketball specifically, the name Wilt Chamberlain may sound familiar due to his highly publicized personal life. What many people don’t realize is that before basketball became the center of his life, the first sport Wilt fell in love with was track and field.
Chamberlain was born on August 21, 1936, and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he had eight brothers and sisters who came from the same parents as father William and mother Olivia. When he was a young man growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, Wilt said his first reaction to the game of basketball was that he considered it “a game for sissies.” The sport that young Wilt Chamberlain was most passionate about was athletics.
It is reported that, before he even reached high school age, the strangely athletic Wilt Chamberlain jumped 6’6″, which is a mark that would win most high school varsity track meets. Almost at At the same time, Wilt was also pulling off ridiculously impressive long jump numbers that are understood to be up to 22 feet. For comparison purposes, almost all high school track athletes can’t reach 22 feet in a running long jump. and Wit is reported to have reached that length from a stationary long jump position.Wide jumping talents may be expected considering what the public now knows about his success on the basketball court, however the athletic prowess Wilt displayed it was not limited to jumping events.
Thanks to Chamberlain’s long strides and powerful running style, he was a miraculous middle-distance runner, as his tween times of 49 seconds in the 440-yard dash (once around a standard track) and less than two minutes at the 880-yard distance (twice around a standard track) are exceptional numbers even for a college athlete. Chamberlain excelled in all aspects of athletics, including running, jumping, and throwing. It is reported that he threw a shot put over 53 feet in his youth.
Chamberlain matured very quickly and continued to grow at a rapid rate. By the age of 10, the young man was already 6′ tall and when he started high school he was a staggering 6’11”. As a 7’2″ college freshman playing basketball at the University of Kansas ( commonly known as KU) the 240-pound Chamberlain could reach 9’6″ in the air simply by standing flat-footed (no balls of the feet).
Wilt took his first love of track and field at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas while also playing basketball there. The 7’2″ goliath ran a 100-yard dash in less than 11 seconds and also threw the shot put 56 feet. Despite competing and excelling in both sprinting and throwing, his best events were surprisingly not the jumping events, as Chamberlain triple jumped over 50 ft. and successfully won the Big 8 Conference high jump competition three years in a row.In the world of track and field, he is an extraordinarily rare athlete who can compete at the most high level in the shorter sprints, all jumping events and throwing events.In fact, this dynamic collection of talent is so rare that Wilt might be the only man to possess this unique skill set.