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The story behind Wilt Chamberlain's favorite nickname

Most people don't know the real story behind the only nickname Wilt approved of
Los Angeles Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain a.k.a. The Big Dipper

Wilt Chamberlain is still one of the grandest figures in NBA history. Many who have seen him play say Chamberlain, not LeBron James or Michael Jordan, was the most athletically gifted player ever to play in the Association. At 7'1'' and 275lbs, Wilt The Stilt a.k.a. Goliath, dominated the game with his athleticism. Chamberlain hated those nicknames - he didn't like any reference to his size. Except one.

The Big Dipper

It's one of those things - you heard it many times and assumed the origin of the nickname is obvious. Do you know where does The Big Dipper comes from? As Jackie MacMulan points out, most people get it wrong. 

While many mistakenly thought his nickname The Big Dipper was a nod to his gorgeous finger rolls, it was actually from his childhood.

Jacke MacMullan, Icons Club

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If you tried to google it and check out the origin story on Wikipedia or Biography.com, you found a semi-correct answer saying the nickname was “inspired by his friends who saw him dip his head as he walked through doorways.” It's actually a lot cooler. 

He learned to play basketball in a basement, but was so tall he had to dip his head under the pipes so he wouldn't smash his forehead.

Jacke MacMullan, Icons Club

More than a huge man

Wilt always stood out with his size. At 17, he was a 6'10'' bellhop working in a resort in the Catskills. That's where Red Auerbach saw and coached him in what was basically the prehistoric AAU

But Wilt always fancied him more than a physically dominant player. He understood the game as well as the best did and had a lot of skill. Not just for a man his size, but overall. Everyone considered him selfish and a ball hog, so in '67/'68, Wilt decided to prove them wrong and averaged 8.6 assists a game - convincingly most on the 76ers that year. (After proving his point, he returned to 4.5 assists per game next year.) 

That's why The Big Dipper was the only nickname Chamberlain approved of, despite the fact it also referenced his size. But while the others - Wilt The Stilt and Goliath - were just about his size, The Big Dipper was a reference to a time when his size wasn't an advantage. Actually, it was the complete opposite. 

Chamberlain was a lot more than a big guy with insane athleticism, and a lot of his skill and IQ were developed at a time when he also had to dip his head not to hit it on some pipes.

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