Wilt Gets Ovation, Plays in Stokes Game
August 14, 1974,
MONTICELLO, N. Y., Aug. 13—Wilt Chamberlain and Dave DeBusschere, who between them spent 25 seasons in pro basketball as outstanding players with high salaries, are on the opposite side of the fence these days as part of management.
DeBusschere, the new general manager of the Nets, is in contract negotiations with the Boston Celtics for Kevin Stacom, the Providence College guard. The negotiator for Stacom is Larry Fleisher, who is also DeBusschere's lawyer.
Chamberlain played the management role today in his capacity as part‐owner of the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association. He talked about his uncertain future, a possible merger and inflated basketball salaries. For the moment he forgot he once took pride in being the highest paid pro basketball player, whose legendary contract disputes during 13 seasons with three National Basketball Association teams, filled columns of newspaper space.
Chamberlain, who once was a bellhop at Kutsher's Country Club, returned here to play tonight in the 16th annual Maurice Stokes Memorial benefit basketball game.
It will be a cameo appearance,” said Chamberlain before the game. “I'll jump center and run up and down the court a couple of times and let the younger guys take over. This old man hasn't played basketball in more than a year and a half, and hasn't really missed it.”
But Chamberlain made more than a cameo appearance. Obviously buoyed by a standing ovation from the fans, Wilt played half the game, did some good rebounding, but didn't score, missing two free throws. Wilt played with the all‐star team coached by Ray Scott, the coach of the Detroit Pistons, and was a winner once more. Scott's team beat a team coached by Red Auerbach, president and general manager of the Celtics, who has coached in this game every year since it started 16 years ago.
Larry McNeill of the Kansas City‐Omaha Kings was the game's most valuable player, scoring 15 points for the winners. The score was 79‐48.
In disclosing that his $600,000 deal with San Diego last season included part‐ownership of the team, Chamberlain said. “The future of the A.B.A. is merger with the N.B.A. The two leagues may kill off the entire game if they don't merge. Didn't I just read lately that only three teams, in all of basketball, made money last season?”
Chamberlain left the Los Angeles Lakers last season and signed as player‐coach of the Conquistadors. He never got to play for the Q's. A judge ruled he could not play because he owed the Lakers an option year on his contract.
“The contract I signed with San Diego was for one season and a two‐year option,” said Chamberlain. “I have given them that year and I'm now free to do as I please.”
Does he owe San Diego an option season? How about the reports that he would return to the N.B.A.? If so, would he divest himself of his, interest with San Diego?
“Wilt has a lot of options open,” he said. “I honestly haven't settled any of them, but my contract is a tricky one, and I am lucky that it leaves me well protected. It's coming down to those days when I will have to decide whether it's time for me to retire, stay around and play for the Q's, play for the Globetrotters or in the N.B.A.
“Without even seeking them out, I have had several offers from N.B.A. teams, some for a lot of money. No, there have been none from the Knicks. I'm flattered that there have been reports that New York wants me. New York is probably the only city I would play for other than in California.”
Chamberlain said he was tired of traveling.
“I have too many air miles in, maybe it's old age creeping up,” he said. “San Diego hasn't named a coach, or done much anything else, until I make my decision. I think Dr. Leonard Bloom [the other San Diego owner] expects that I will be back playing and coaching. I just don't know as I coached the Q's last season, I just didn't have that edge to play.”
Chamberlain said his newest interest was in a pro volleyball league, scheduled to begin next year.
“We have 10 franchises and we will play in June, July, August and September,” said Chamberlain. “Volleyball is not the game we played in elementary and junior high school. It's not a game for little girls either, though our league will have no less than one woman on each team.”
Just then the telephone rang and it was Jack Twyman, the legal guardian for Stokes when he was alive, calling from Cincinnati.
To the question from Twyman concerning Chamberlain's future, Wilt said, “Were getting to be your age. And that could mean retirement.” Chamberlain will be 38 years old on Aug. 21.
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