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 Wednesday, October 13
Sexual claim transformed perception of Wilt
Associated Press

 LOS ANGELES -- The claim was so shocking as to be unbelievable: Wilt Chamberlain said he had sex with 20,000 women. The revelation made him fodder for comedians and turned the NBA Hall of Famer into a reference for sexual braggadocio.

Chamberlain died Tuesday at 63. He had a history of heart problems, and a fire department spokesman said there were signs that Chamberlain might have had a heart attack.

In his 1991 biography "A View From Above," Chamberlain devoted an entire chapter to sex. He said that if he had to count his sexual encounters, he would be closing in on 20,000 women.

"Yes, that's correct, twenty thousand different ladies," he wrote. "At my age, that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was fifteen years old."

The reaction was swift and severe.

Chamberlain jokes abounded. But he also became a lightning rod for those disgusted by his promiscuity.

Arthur Ashe harshly criticized Chamberlain and Magic Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers star who announced that he had contracted the AIDS virus months after Chamberlain's revelation.

In his 1993 memoir, Ashe said he didn't believe Chamberlain's claim.

"I felt more pity than sorrow for Wilt as his macho accounting backfired on him in the form of a wave of public criticism," Ashe wrote in "Days of Grace."

The behavior of Chamberlain and Johnson produced "a certain amount of racial embarrassment," Ashe wrote.

"African Americans have spent decades denying that we are sexual primitives by nature, as racists have argued since the days of slavery," Ashe wrote. "These two college-trained black men of international fame and immense personal wealth do their best to reinforce the stereotype."

Johnson has said he believes he got the AIDS virus by having unprotected sex with a woman who was infected.

"Before I was married, I truly lived the bachelor's life," he said. "I'm no Wilt Chamberlain, but as I traveled around NBA cities, I was never at a loss for female companionship."

Chamberlain knew that many people didn't believe him.

"I'm not boasting," he wrote, "I don't see all this lovemaking as any kind of conquest; all I'm saying is that I like women, people are curious about my sex life, and to most people the number of women who have come and gone through my bedrooms (and various hotel rooms around the country) would boggle the mind."

Chamberlain wondered how many men would be married if they had his opportunities.

"I'm sure plenty who read the numbers will no doubt think my taste is not particularly high or that I am 'easy,' " he wrote. "I am a man of distinctive taste and most of the women I have encountered, the average Joe would have proposed marriage to on the first date."

Chamberlain was a lifelong bachelor and was never engaged. He also denied rumors that he was gay. He said that of the 20,000 women, none was married at the time.

"And I made a conscious effort to find out. Even as a single man, infidelity has no place in my life," he wrote.

Chamberlain said that he dated women of every nationality and color, which helped him become a self-described villain.

"Whites didn't like it, and people of color wanted me to be more attentive to my own kind so they could be `proud' of me," he wrote.

He said he never meant to be disrespectful, insensitive or brazen by dating white women.

"I was just doing what was natural -- chasing good-looking ladies, whoever they were and wherever they were available," he said.


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