Wilt Chamberlain: My thing I liked was to challenge guys that were smaller, guys that were supposed to be quicker. Because I think self-consciously I was trying to prove to people it wasn’t just my height that was getting me across in these various sports. It was some other intrinsic things that I had that made me a good athlete.
Ann Liguori: You had a nice childhood. A very solid childhood, and that’s very important.
Wilt Chamberlain: Yeah, you know the only thing that was not so nice was that I was this height at 14 years of age.
Ann Liguori: Seven foot?
Wilt Chamberlain: Yeah, and can you imagine going through America at that time, a man of color, a little boy, 14 years old, that height? You know, I was looked upon as a freak. Today, when you see someone close to my size or whatever, people think: “sports,” “basketball,” “zoom dollar signs.” And they don’t think “circus freak” or what have you. The toughest thing for me was growing up and being stared at and being looked at and being talked about in that particular way. Other than that it was a good childhood.
Ann Liguori: Did it give you a complex? I mean, did it make you feel insecure: Wow, I’m so tall?
Wilt Chamberlain: You know, well, not insecure, but, you know, I kind of wanted to hide a little bit. I did not want to bring that notice to me. If I was on like the bus or we had the El, you understand, I would always sit down. I was taught to stand up and give my seat to ladies or women, and I never did. I was always just going to sit there. Because if I stood up, my head would be like almost touching the ceiling and everybody would look, so I was really quite conscious about that.
I was played the villain so much because I was bigger and stronger than most, and they cast me as the villain everywhere I went. And villains are kind of hard to really know on a personal level when you see them as mean, unsensitive-type people. And also when you have this great size, sensitivity once again is not given to you. They talk about all these things that you can do and whatever, but never do they say are you gentle, really sensitive about things. And we are. You know, a big dog tends to be much more at ease with kids and gentle with them than a little one that’s always yelping, yelping, yelping, you know? So I don’t know where they get that because you’re big you have to have this gruffness about you.
Ann Liguori: You do mention the sensitivity issue in the book about sex and how rewarding it felt for you that the woman would find you very sensual and sensitive, that it was a shock to some people that you could be that way.
Wilt Chamberlain: Well, let’s talk about that a second. You know, I say that you want to be treated just like everybody else in that respect, but on the other hand: viva la difference.
I think my attraction, if there was attraction that women had for me, was the fact that I was different. Of course when you’re famous, you have a little more money than some people and you’re involved in something like professional sports: that’s an attraction. But I think a lot of ladies found me so attractive because I was different. And I acted on that in a way.
I think that Wilt Chamberlain, as age has come upon him, is even much more secure. Even though I can do less, I feel much more secure about it.