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."
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."