Wilt Chamberlain captured America’s imagination for two decades. With his 7-foot-1 frame, his commanding presence on the basketball court, his ability to rebound and score and his astounding athleticism, he became one of the most memorable players in NBA history.
Now, Chamberlain, the only man to score 100 points in an NBA game, will become the first player from the league to be honored with a postage stamp in his image. And fittingly enough, the two versions being issued by the Postal Service are nearly two inches long, or about a third longer than the usual stamp.
It would not be right any other way for the player known as Wilt the Stilt and alternately as the Big Dipper. Chamberlain died in 1999 at 63, but his name still resonates in the sport. And even at its atypical size, the new stamp could barely contain Chamberlain’s dimensions. “We still had trouble fitting him into those proportions,” said Kadir Nelson, the artist who painted the images.
Nelson created two versions of the stamp. One shows Chamberlain in the act of shooting with his first NBA team, the Philadelphia Warriors, for whom he started playing in 1959. The other depicts him rebounding for the Los Angeles Lakers, his final club, for whom he played from 1968 to 1973.
The ceremony comes at a frustrating time: The 76ers avoided tying the record for the worst start to a season in NBA history Wednesday night when they ended their 0-17 run with a victory at Minnesota.
But for a few minutes Friday night, Philadelphia fans old enough to remember can think back to the days when Chamberlain — first as a Warrior and later as a 76er — engaged in epic battles with the Boston Celtics’ Bill Russell. In 1967, Chamberlain led Philadelphia to an NBA title, the first of two in his career.
But just how did Chamberlain end up on a stamp?
The creation of a postage stamp is a process that takes years and begins with the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, a volunteer group appointed by the postmaster general. The committee evaluates roughly 40,000 proposals annually before recommending about 30 people or subjects for the postmaster general’s review.
A Chamberlain stamp was originally envisioned as part of a set of four basketball players who made history, said William J. Gicker, the creative director for the stamp program. A campaign engineered by Donald Hunt, a sportswriter for The Philadelphia Tribune, in support of Chamberlain led to thousands of letters and petition signatures being delivered to the committee. Continue reading “NBA Legend Wilt Chamberlin 1st Player to be Commemorated on U.S. Postage Stamp”