Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most dominant players in NBA history, and to this day, his name rules NBA record books. He was one of the most physically gifted players the league has ever seen. Wilt was a 2x NBA Champ, 13x NBA All-Star, 7x Scoring Champ, 4x League MVP, and in 1962., he set the league’s single-game scoring record by dropping a 100 pts vs. New York Knicks.
Chamberlain played in the NBA from 1959 to 1973. He played for the Philadelphia Warriors (which later became the San Francisco Warriors), the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Los Angeles Lakers. Wilt was such a basketball force that many believed that he could play at the highest level, even years after his retirement. This belief almost realized in 1986, 13 years after he retired when he was 51 years old.
The regular season was coming towards the end, and the New Jersey Nets were fighting for the 6th position in an Eastern Conference. Nets were short of a player that would immediately make an impact, since Michael Ray Richardson, one of their main offensive options, was under suspension for drug problems. Nets decided to inquire about Wilt Chamberlain, and they offered him $362,500 for the last seven games of the regular season plus the playoffs. To put that money in perspective, NBA’s salary cap for 1985./86. season was $4,233,000. Even Chamberlain believed that the comeback was possible.
“It is realistic. I work out with pro athletes all the time. I know what my body can do and what I can do. “
He went on to talk about how he was still actively working out and playing all kinds of sports.
“I work out every day. Sometimes I swim, sometimes I run. I do aerobics, calisthenics. I lift weights three or four times a week. I play volleyball and racquetball. I’m 25 to 30 pounds lighter now than when I played.”
During that period, everything was pointing to a big comeback after years of retirement. But unfortunately for all of the NBA fans and the New Jersey Nets especially, Wilt decided not to accept Nets’ offer, because he didn’t consider it honest and fair.
“I did not consider it at all. It sounded like a ploy, a joke to ask a guy in the last part of the season without any consideration of the effect on the team. It was not a fair proposal. They didn’t ask what kind of shape I was in, whether I had a cold or a toothache. “
Wilt also had too much respect for other players to insert himself like that in the team:
“I respect pro basketball players too much to think I could go out and be competitive with them after they’ve been playing all season, doing what they do better than anybody else in the world. You don’t take a guy and throw him out there with nine others, four on his team, five playing against him, and expect anything like you used to get. “
But Wilt didn’t entirely dismiss the possibility of his NBA return.
“If I wanted to play, I’d go out and make a concerted effort, and I’d play.”
It seemed like there was a real possibility of Wilt’s NBA comeback, but the circumstances in which the contract was offered just weren’t wright. The New Jersey Nets finished 1985./86. Regular season as the 7th seed in the East, and were swept in the first round of the playoffs. If they played their cards a little bit differently and persuaded Wilt out of his retirement, who knows what could have happened with the Nets chances to win the championship that year.