A View from Above Essay - Critical Essays

A View from Above

Despite his enormous basketball achievements and his literally larger-than-life presence, Wilt Chamberlain has never been taken to heart by the public. Such similarly outspoken sports heroes as Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali became objects of great affection, but that kind of acceptance has always eluded Chamberlain, who has remained, like Ted Williams and Jim Brown, much admired but little loved.

A VIEW FROM ABOVE explains a lot about why that is. Chamberlain’s egotism, unrelieved by charm or compelling wit, spills off page after page. According to Wilt, he could have beaten Ali in a boxing match, could have been the world’s greatest track and field athlete, intimidated Arnold Schwarzenegger during the filming of CONAN THE DESTROYER, and was (and is) extraordinary in just about every way. His comments about today’s NBA are especially self-aggrandizing (and especially ridiculous). He claims that “Today I could probably average seventy-five points a game” and that if he’d come out of retirement in his mid-forties he could have led the NBA in rebounding. He claims, too, that players today are not, by and large, bigger that they were in his day, a claim bluntly refuted by the facts. (When Wilt averaged fifty points a game in 1961-1962, he was one of three players in the league seven feet or taller, a situation that doubtless helped him to run up some of his eye-popping numbers. In the 1981-1982 season, there were twenty seven-footers in the NBA; by...

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