From basketball to the bedroom

In his latest book, "A View From Above," former basketball great Wilt Chamberlain claims to have had sex with close to 20,000 different women and my question is this: Why so few, Wilt?

Why not claim to have had sex with a million or two, since you were the only one counting?


For that matter, why not claim to have had sex with every woman of age in New York City, since it would be your word against theirs and the outrage of their menfolk would only add to the sensation?

"I believe that lust is more a natural part of us than love," writes Chamberlain, "and that one can spend every waking moment falling in and out of lust.


"There are a few of us who are fortunate enough to be in a position to fulfill our lustful desires. I'm one of those lucky ones," he continues.

"So don't be shocked to hear that if I had to count my sexual encounters, I would be closing in on 20,000 different women. . . . At my age, that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was 15 years old.

"I'm not boasting," he goes on to say proudly, "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."

We live in a genteel age and so people are reluctant to call Chamberlain a liar to his face.

So the questions, as Chamberlain tours the talk-show circuit, have focused on the quality of his relationships. Chamberlain insists he has respected each and every woman he has ever enjoyed, regardless of how brief the affair.

Besides, Chamberlain expected a certain amount of skepticism: "I give the numbers here not to impress. I give them because it's like when I played basketball-- many of my numbers were so unbelievably high that most people dismissed them as fables or found them impossible to relate to.

"Hell," he says, "I've done a lot of things that are hard to believe. Does that mean I should stop talking about them? Or that I should worry whether people believe me or not? I think you know the answer to that."

So, far be it from me to call the man known during his playing days as Wilt the Stilt a liar. He wouldn't care anyway.


Let me just say that his is a Really Incredible Story and I'd like to see this question of quantity cleared up before we hear too much of Chamberlain's views on how to maintain relationships of quality.

I'd like to see some corroborative evidence -- an auditor's report, perhaps, or the results of a lie-detector test.

Chamberlain claims that his closest friends know that he is telling the truth. Well, let's get their testimony on the record. We might have to hold a congressional hearing on the topic.

Our reluctance to challenge a Really Incredible Story tends to distort public discourse on a number of important issues, but most particularly with regard to sexual relationships.

A couple of years ago, an autobiography by the late Ralph D. Abernathy painted Martin Luther King Jr. as a womanizer, sparking a fierce national debate over whether such things should be revealed about national heroes.

Last year, people used Sharazad Ali's "A Blackman's Guide to Understanding Blackwomen," as a springboard for discussions about male/female relationships. There were more Really Incredible Stories in that book than can be listed here.


One such Really Incredible Story, by the way, was Ali's assertion that her ugly little book was the result of years and years of careful scholarship.

Chamberlain, I might point out, has taken pains to explain his great sex appeal to women: "Coupled with the self-assurance that I project, I become like a majestic mountain many feel they'd like to scale and conquer. Wilt as Mount Everest."

Naturally, I surveyed a couple of women to see if this could be true. Sorry, Wilt, they found your explanation of your sex appeal REALLY INCREDIBLE.