By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

Editor's note: If Wilt Chamberlain were playing in the NBA today … ahhh, how many times have we wondered what that would be like?! On the court and off. When we put the question to Scoop Jackson and Eric Neel, they came up with this mind's-eye journal of a hoops writer's Travels with Wilt and the Sacramento Kings during the 2004-05 season. Part 1 appeared Thursday. Here is the rest of the story.

I still don't completely understand why he chose me to do his book, to chronicle this season with him. Maybe it's because he signed that new contract over the summer that makes him the A-Rod of the NBA. Seven years, $220 million. Maybe he feels it's time to talk to somebody other than Ric Bucher or Jeremy Schaap.

Or maybe it's because I challenge him and he lives to prove people wrong.

He keeps telling me this: Just to prove a point, he's going to lead the league in assists one day – that he can do more than 40/20 a night. Like that's really going to happen? I tell him the only 7-footer capable of that is Kevin Garnett, and even KG will never do it.

"KG is half the player I am," he always answers.

And I always say, "I can't tell."

The Lakers are in town a day early for tomorrow's TNT game. When I meet up with Wilt, he's on the phone with Jerry Buss. I can't hear it all, but I do catch Wilt saying, "You had your chance to get me."

Wilt: Past and Present
Travels with Wilt: A Fanciful Journal of a Fictional Season, Part 1.

Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era.

A visit to Wilt's bedroom: Andy and Brian Kamenetzky visit the famous palace of love.

Listen to the broadcast of the fourth quarter of Wilt's 100-point game

I ask Wilt later: Was that about the rumor last year? Word is, Wilt was part of the Kings' deal they supposedly put on the table for Shaq. Story goes that Laker GM Mitch Kupchak vetoed it because he doesn't want to have to face Shaq unless it's in the Finals.

"It wasn't that simple," Wilt says to me. He tells me I'm close though. I pry for more. Nothing's happening.

"Let me just put it to you this way," he says. "There were more than two teams involved and the Lakers don't do threesomes."

A strange thing happens the next day. Hours before the game, Kobe stops by Wilt's house for a visit. The rumors – once again, from the summer – were that Kobe was the one trying to swing the deal to replace Shaq with Wilt. Both Kobe and Wilt have denied it. But they've had a friendship that goes back to their days in Philly. When Kobe was a senior in the suburbs at Lower Merion, setting state scoring records, Wilt was the freshman prodigy at Overbrook High in the city, already rewriting Kobe's records.

Wilt once told me that he reached out to Kobe when the drama of Eagle, Colo., hit. Kobe has said on the record that Wilt was one of the few people he was able to talk to. But to show up at Wilt's crib on game day? Something extra must be going on.

The Kings/Lakers rivalry ain't the same anymore. Without Shaq, the intensity isn't there like it was. Plus, rumors are swirling around Arco Arena that Geoff Petrie is going to deal Chris Webber before the trading deadline tomorrow. Wilt scores 51. The Kings win. He leaves the building without speaking to the media.

I'm with him alone, away from the mikes and the mix. We're in the H3 stretch, waiting on the driver. There aren't many moments like this. Not for him.

"Turn down the music," he says. "I need some quiet, just for a minute."

I don't know whether to sit still or get out the car. He's looking out the window at nothing in particular, curling his bottom lip. Thinking, I guess.

"You wanna hear something?" he says. "I mean something real?"

Damn straight I do.

"What do you want to say?" I ask.

"Nah, it's not me. It's this guy . . . "

He reaches down into his bag and pulls out a beat-up copy of Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." Poetry.

He starts reading, out loud, to me, in the stretch.

"You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books," he reads. "You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me, You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self."

And then he closes the book. And just sits there, still.

"That's it," he says. "That's what I'm about. The living, you know?"

It's been a long time since I read my Whitman – freshman English is a foggy memory – but I gotta say, there's a kind of rightness in it, right? The omnivore reading the poet of great hunger, the bigger-than-life center resting his weary head with the words of the breathless bard.

Then the door opens. The driver slides in and turns The Game back up. And it's over, just as quick as it came.

There's a Bobby Jackson sighting at practice. Wilt's whole attitude changes. During the five years Wilt's been here, BJ has been the player he most likes to play with. He likes Mike Bibby, but the connection he has with Bobby on the court, according to him, is "magic." Bobby has been out damn near the entire season, yet Wilt's numbers haven't slipped. He's still leading the league in scoring, rebounds and field-goal percentage. But they aren't over-the-top like they were before he re-upped.

"People can say what they want," he yells while working on a finger roll he calls "the Big Dipper." "But the money ain't change me. I'm still the same player I was last year and a fraction of the player I'm 'bout to be."

The other players stop shooting.

His voice gets louder.

"The only reason my numbers aren't crazy is because this team is in transition. Management is trying to figure it out."

Petrie and Gavin Maloof are standing less than 25 feet away. The players all look at them. Wilt's still practicing. You could hear lint drop.

Then Wilt breaks the silence.

"What are you all so quiet for? I'm not the one that chose Peja over C-Webb."

Adelman cuts practice short.

Wilt's in a good mood today. Although he's never really in a bad mood, overtly good moods don't come often.

He and Pam are in L.A. His appearance in the new movie, "Hustle and Flow," is creating a buzz. Mike Ditka is getting some buzz in L.A., too, because he plays himself in "Kicking and Screaming," but Wilt's buzz is bigger. It's a post-basketball buzz.

"I ain't no actor," he says to me on our way to the premiere. "But I can act."

Then he takes a shot.

"Trust me, you won't be seeing me in no 'Kazaam,' though."

The White Lotus is filled with what's being called "the new Black Hollywood." Terrence Howard, the star of "Hustle and Flow," is at one end of the bar, while Derek Luke is at the other end. Jamie Foxx and Ludacris walk by. Give Wilt love. Jamie whispers in Wilt's ear, hands him a bottle of Cris. I don't see Wilt for the rest of the night.

Neither does Pam.

He finishes the season on an up note. In their last game against the Suns, they win 132-107. Wilt scores 38, grabs 19; but finishes the season with the lowest free-throw number of his career, 46 percent. They secured the sixth seed and have to play the surprisingly overachieving Seattle Sonics in the first round.

And this is where the truth be told.

Unlike LeBron, who failed to get into the playoffs again this year, Wilt is making his fifth appearance. He's taken the Kings deep, but never into June. In three out of those four years, his battles with Shaquille produced some of the most memorable basketball seen since Walt Bellamy vs. Nate Thurmond.

But Wilt's numbers drop every year.

While posting 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds during the regular season, his playoff scoring drops to 22.5. While his rebounding goes up to 24.5. When I ask him why, he gets defensive. Changes the subject.

I want to say it's because of Shaq. I want to say it's because Shaq's just better than him.

I don't have to say it when a week later, they get knocked out of the first round by Ray Allen and the Sonics in five games. On the air, Charles Barkley says it for everyone to hear.

He's on a mission, Wilt is, now that the season's over.

He didn't like the skit Dave Chappelle did on him. The whole Mandingo thing with Pamela and home movies didn't make him laugh. He started looking for Chappelle last month. I show him the May 23 issue of Time magazine. They found Dave. Wilt reads the Christopher John Farley opus. There's no mention of the truth, that Dave's on the run from him. Wilt just throws the mag down on the floor.

"If he knows what's best, he'll stay his [bleep] in Africa."

Pam's bouncin' around the house, talking about babies. She's ready to have one, one with Wilt. She's like the female Brad Pitt.

Wilt pays it no mind, without totally ignoring her. I mean, who could?

I ask him if he's ready for fatherhood.

"You know what?" he says while he asks Pam to tell the Reebok people at the door that he'll be a little late to the photo shoot. "Kids are not the farthest thing from my mind, but I'm trying to get some other things done."

I can see it in his eyes that he wants to talk. Not subject-to-reporter, but man-to-man, friend-to-(maybe) friend.

"Like what?" I say.

He looks around, checking to see if we're alone. We are.

"Like owning a jazz club in Kansas City, like owning my own team in another league if this collective-bargaining agreement doesn't work out this summer," he says. "Like playing another sport professionally."

I look at him. He's dead serious.

"You know you're strange," I tell him.

He shakes his head in agreement, with a little smirk.

"Playing another sport?" I ask. "What other sport beside basketball could you possibly play and still be you?"

His answer is quick.


"Have you told anybody else this?"

He says only one person. The only person in his life who really understands him.

"Who?" I ask.

He says, "Kobe."

Scoop Jackson is an award-winning journalist who has covered sports and culture for more than 15 years. He is a former editor of Slam, XXL, Hoop and Inside Stuff magazines; and the author of "Sole Provider: 30 Years of NIKE Basketball," "Battlegrounds: America's Street Poets Called Ballers" and "LeBron James: the Chambers of Fear." He resides in Chicago with his wife and two kids. You can e-mail Scoop here.


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