Full court press to put Wilt on stamp

April 1, 2008 1:34:48 PM PDT
Wilt Chamberlain's next enduring stamp on basketball might come on the upper right corner of an envelope instead of a 100-point game. Wilt the Stilt could become Wilt the Stamp if a grass roots effort to get the Hall of Famer and the only NBA player to score 100 points in a game on a commemorative U.S postage stamp is approved by postal officials.

Chamberlain's image on a stamp might be the only way the 7-foot-1 basketball icon could ever be cut down to size.

"I'd be very proud if that happens and I'm sure he would be, too, if he was alive," said Selina Gross, Chamberlain's sister. "I think he'd be very honored. He probably wouldn't believe this could happen to him."

The cause was started by sports writer Donald Hunt of The Philadelphia Tribune, a 123-year-old newspaper that primarily targets the black community. Hunt, who recalled as a child watching in person Chamberlain play for the 76ers against Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals, believes "The Big Dipper" has the credentials to join Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Joe Louis and Jesse Owens among the sports legends with their own stamps.

"People should remember the great ones," Hunt wrote for a Feb. 15 story. "They don't come any bigger or better than Wilt Chamberlain."

Hunt said has already received support from Chamberlain fans and former teammates and opponents, and hoped the stamp would be issued during Black History Month or possibly the anniversary of Chamberlain's 100-point game on March 2, 1962 against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa.

"I don't think a lot of kids today know how great he was," Hunt said. "It's good to know the history of the game and Wilt's a big part of the history."

Chamberlain starred in the NBA from 1959 through 1973, when he played for the Philadelphia (later the San Francisco) Warriors, 76ers and Lakers.

The 31,419 points Chamberlain scored during his career stood as a record until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke it in 1984. Chamberlain, who never fouled out in 1,205 regular-season and playoff games, also holds the rebounding record with 23,924.

The best way for Chamberlain, who died in 1999, to earn a sticky square is for supporters to write letters to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. The committee reviews proposals four times a year and passes their recommendations on to the postmaster general. The earliest Chamberlain could appear on a stamp is 2010, said Roy Betts, a U.S. postal service spokesman.

"It would be hard not to pay attention if you generate the volume advocating this particular subject," Betts said.

The 76ers will lobby for Chamberlain with a letter from team president Ed Stefanski on behalf of the organization, Comcast-Spectacor spokesman Ike Richman said Tuesday.

Chamberlain still has his fans at the University of Kansas, where his retired No. 13 jersey hangs in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse. As a sophomore, Chamberlain led the 1957 Jayhawks to the NCAA tournament finals, when Kansas lost to unbeaten North Carolina in triple overtime.

Jayhawks coach Bill Self, who is preparing his team to play the Tar Heels on Saturday in the Final Four, said Chamberlain deserved the recognition.

"Anybody who can drop 100 in a game deserves something," Self said. "Still, to this day, you can make a strong case that he is the most dominant basketball player of all time. And not only was he a dominant basketball player, he was maybe as good an athlete as there's been, period. The fact he went to school here, we're biased, but we would love to see that."

John Hadl, a two-time football All-America selection and KU's associate athletic director for major gifts, gives the idea his stamp of approval.

"He's as good as anybody who's already on there, except maybe George Washington," Hadl said.


AP Sports Writer Doug Tucker in Lawrence, Kan., contributed to this report.


Fans interested in having a Chamberlain stamp should write a letter to the following address:

US Postal Service Stamp Development
Attn: Stamp Development
1735 North Lynn St., Suite 5013
Arlington, VA 22209-6432