|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
"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
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
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
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