Wilt Chamberlain is someone who features regularly in the NBA’s GOAT discussions.
Wilt was a statistical outlier. His numbers do not seem real as he dominated his era. Wilt Chamberlain was one of a kind and was a physical specimen as skilled as any in the league.
After stints with the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers, the biggest star in the league moved to the biggest market in the league, Los Angeles. Wilt was an NBA champion with the Philadelphia 76ers and picked up another ring with his Lakers stint.
Chamberlain spent 5 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. His career with the Lakers concluded with an NBA Finals loss to the New York Knicks.
Heading into 1973-74, Chamberlain decided to join as a player-coach with the San Diego Conquistadors. The Conquistadors were an outfit in NBA’s rival league, the ABA. The Lakers sued Chamberlain on the grounds that the “option” clause in his NBA contract ensured that he “owed” the Lakers one more season.
This wasn’t the only career move plotted by Chamberlain however, that saw a legal hassle. Chamberlain was also blocked from joining the New York Knicks.
What happened to Chamberlain’s decision to join the New York Knicks?
Wilt Chamberlain, upon the failure of his ABA plan, decided to join the Knicks. However, the league’s reserve clause prevented him from joining the Knicks.
Chamberlain, angered by the move, even sued the NBA and the Lakers for violating the Antitrust Act. The Antitrust Act ensures that anti-competitive practices may not exist in any commercial activity.
Wilt Chamberlain joining the NBA champs would have been monumental. The move would have elevated the Knicks into serious contention for another season. However, it was not to be.
Chamberlain believed that the league’s reserve clause “coerced” players to sign a new contract with the owner of his team on the “owner’s terms”.
As a result, the NBA Finals series against Knicks proved to be the last organized bit of basketball Wilt played. While it probably would have hindered his 30-22 career points-rebounds average, another ring would have solved the hard feelings caught there.
Did the league do right by Chamberlain? It would seem not. In today’s player power era, such an incident is almost unprecedented. The Knicks missed out on another legend, while exited the sport.