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 Thursday, October 14
Wilt, West led Lakers to their first title
Associated Press

 LOS ANGELES -- Jerry West remembers how pleased he was when he learned Wilt Chamberlain was joining the Los Angeles Lakers. Then, he picked up a newspaper and was sick to his stomach.

Jerry West
Jerry West on Chamberlain: "His greatness as a basketball player can't be questioned."

The story in the paper said West didn't want Chamberlain as a teammate.

He doesn't know where the story came from, but "it was the most ridiculous thing I've ever read in my life," West said Tuesday after learning of Chamberlain's death.

To the contrary, he said, it was a momentous day, because "we had one of the true, great centers."

The Lakers, close but never champions during West's first 11 years with the team, acquired Chamberlain from the Philadelphia 76ers on July 9, 1968.

The title both yearned for finally came four years later, capping a season in which the Lakers won an NBA-record 33 straight games.

"The frustration of playing here and not being able to win a championship had really left me pretty bitter as a player," West said. "That was the only thing that mattered to me after a while. I was obsessed with it.

"When I started to play with him, he helped make me a better player. We seemed to have a real good feel together. All players are generally judged by the number of championships they won. Unfortunately, he only won two. Nevertheless, his greatness as a basketball player can't be questioned."

Both Hall of Famers would retire at the end of the 1972-73 season. Chamberlain became coach of the San Diego Conquistadors for a year before turning to business and entertainment. West has been a Lakers executive for nearly two decades.

"One of the things when you got to know him a little bit is he had a very strong opinion about everything, a very strong opinion about himself as a player," West said. "I think all of us who played with him realize the tremendous impact he had.

"I would run into him from time to time; he was one of those guys who was a nomad. One of the things I admired about him, you see the players of today, they have the entourages, he was the common man. He had no problem going places, no problem being recognized as Wilt Chamberlain."

West recalled being on a team flight to St. Louis on March 2, 1962, and the subject was Chamberlain, then a 25-year-old member of the Philadelphia Warriors.

"We were talking about Wilt, how he was going to score 100 points in a game real soon," West recalled. "When we got off the airplane, somebody said, 'Hey, did you hear about Wilt Chamberlain? He scored 100 points in a game.'

"That's one record that will never be broken, I can assure you."

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