Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com
Wilt Chamberlain’s lair in Bel-Air is up in the air, listed for sale at the now-reduced price of $11.995 mil.
If that isn’t cool enough for you, then please step aside, my man. We’re starting up a collection to secure a piece of this historic erection. Who’s throwing in the first crypto cabbage to reclaim Wilt’s crib?
When we try to size up the life and times of Basketball Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain — a 7-foot-1 skyscraper all to himself — we become humbled as mortals transfixed on a compilation of staggering numbers.
He held 72 NBA records at one time. The 31,419 points he scored in the regular season may not be as iconic as 715 homers, but, accumulated over 14 years, it had been the NBA’s all-time mark (and still holds strong at No. 7, with the top spot soon to be claimed by LeBron James, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, even though both played a far more games than Wilt).
A career 30.07 points-per-game average is now second to Michael Jordan’s 30.12, in 15 seasons. Wilt topped it off at a record 50.4 points a game in 1961-62, at age 25, which was also the season he had a record 100-point game (that almost no one witnessed), all by himself.
Wilt’s 23,924 career rebounds, meanwhile, remains No. 1, more than 2,000 clear of rival Bill Russell, and will likely never be touched.
In ’67-’68, with the 76ers, he not only led the league again in scoring, but also averaged a league-best 8.6 assists a game, and had 31 triple-doubles in that finally Philly campaign. Listen to this: On February 2, 1968, Chamberlain scored 22 points, had 25 rebounds, and racked up 21 assists in a 131-121 Sixers win over the Pistons.
He was then shipped to L.A. as the game’s reigning MVP and its newest star as the Fabulous Forum was newly opened. Remember who he was traded for? Archie Clark, Darrall Imhoff, Jerry Chambers and likely a blank check. We can thank then-Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke, who bestowed Wilt with a ridiculous $250,000 salary (vs. the $100,000 given to Jerry West) and with Wilt as the new team captain, he brought the city its first NBA title, in 1972, as the catalyst of the fast-break offense, ignited by his outlet pass off the rebound. Chick Hearn delighted in him, and we were in awe.
Then there were the digits that defined Citizen Wilt.
The pleasure palace at 15216 Antelo Place, L.A., 90077, was a reflection of his folklore.
Built in 1971 on a World War II anti-aircraft gun site, it cost more than $1 million at a time when the median price of a single-family home in L.A. was less than $25,000. It was said to have enough redwood to build 17 standard homes in the area.
This architectural marvel befitted a person of his stature. Its 9,400-square-feet on a 2.5 acre cul-de-sac has all the right angles figured out into nesting five bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a three-car garage and a five-story fireplace.
A pool table in one room, a with a pool that wrapped around the outside like a moat, plus one damn fine view of a local reservoir. There was the San Fernando Valley to the north and downtown L.A. to the south. The views from above were as spectacular as inside.
Some claim if they were to able to visit just one iconic residence in L.A. proper, it would be Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills.
Maybe even Pickfair, which another Lakers’ owner, Jerry Buss, once purchased in Beverly Hills that was owned by Hollywood’s Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, and Life Magazine referred to as “a gathering place only slightly less important than the White House .. and much more fun.” It is believed to have been the first private property in the Los Angeles area to include a swimming pool.
Wilt’s place, built three years prior to Hef moving into that decadent grotto and eight years before Buss rescued and restored Pickfair, was said to have much more character, conversation and communal love. Wilt cornered the market on earth and soul.
David Tenneson Rich was the designer of this place that ModernLivingLA.com once described as an “inimitable fortress inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright (that) stands as an unmitigated paragon of architectural brilliance.” Steel beams, glass walls, stone floors and cathedral wood ceilings. And zebra-skinned furniture and shag rugs to boot.
If these walls, and extremely high-end doorways, hot tubs, saunas and 16-foot Venetian glass chandeliers could talk. It could have been a monastery as easily as a place for merrymaking.
Rich called it Ursa Major, after like the constellation in the sky we more commonly refer to as The Big Dipper. That was Wilt’s preferred nickname. (His BasketballReference.com bio also lists Wilt The Stilt, Wiltie, Dippy Dip, The Load, Big Musty, The Record Book, Hook and Ladder, Whip and Whipper, none of which we actually heard spoken in public in his presence. Goliath, however, was one we heard, and knew he despised. Because, as Wilt had repeatedly said, “nobody roots for Goliath.”)
The place was also once called a “Brobdingnagian bungalow with a view” in one magazine spread. Now we’ve got the Doors’ “L.A. Woman” and Mr. Mojo Risin’ playing in our head.
There was one more exceptional number forever connected to Wilton Norman Chamberlain.
When he came out with his second autobiography, “A View From Above,” in 1991 – not quite 20 years after he stopped playing in the NBA — the headlines on one particular excerpt focused far too much on sketchy details of his prodigious sexual appetite.
The number of conquests for this one-time player-coach of the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors came from a story that Chamberlain documented his love life using a Day-Timer. Every time he went to bed with a different lass, he put a check in his Day-Timer. Over a 10-day period, there were 23 checks in the book – doing the math, and that’s 2.3 women per day. Chamberlain divided that number in half, to be conservative and to correct for degrees of variation. He then multiplied that number by the number of days he had been alive at the time, minus his first 15 years.
That was how 20,000 came into existence, for those now humming “Californication.”
None of this had been mentioned in his previous autobiography in 1973: “Wilt: Just Like Any Other 7-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door.”
But as you can read into it, the title, of course, was a reference to this fabulous refuge of a home, where Wilt could welcome guests coming past his 2,200-pound swivel front door, with Marvin Gaye music wafting in the background and his Great Dane dogs lying at the foot of his fur-covered 8-foot-by-7-foot waterbeds with the retractable roof panel above it.
The stars always aligned at this place.
Since Wilt left this mortal world in 1999, at age 63, this ironically labeled single-family dwelling had had only two owners/caretakers. The current occupants bought it in 2008 for $6.5 mil, then put it up for sale in 2018 for $18.999 mil. It since was dropped to $14.9 mil (late 2020), then $13.7 mil, and now …
At a time when inflation is taking everything beyond the limits of decency, the $11.995 mil asking price has to be one of the most astounding bargains in this real estate market. For $80 million, UCLA just bought 11 acres in Palos Verdes Estates that recently belonged to the former Marymount California College campus, so it could make room for about 1,000 more students. Buying Wilt’s place would have been more prudent.
A New York Times story recently showed off actor Robert Downey Jr.’s “inflatable bungalow” Malibu mudhut, sitting on seven acres in Malibu. It’s just as one might expect Iron Man to live in. Aerodynamic and aesthetically magnificent. Yet, if he were to sell it today and asked $11.999 mil, we’d pass. There’s something far more near and dear to our imagination at the top of Bel-Air, where the air up there is intoxicating.
Caldwell Bankers has the listing these days on Casa de Wilt. If the concern these days, with climate change and all, that this sits too deep in a fire-risk area, and there’s limited access to emergency vehicles, maybe they can throw in a helicopter pad. With all that’s happened there already, if flames and pestilence hasn’t gutted it by now, it never will. It has built-up immunity in the community.
If we had it in our portfolio, we’d want to make it a Chamberlain Chamber of Commerce. A Shrine to his Eternal Fame. It might be as notorious as the Nixon Library in Orange County to some, but it would have to tell Wilt’s story.
As former SoCal resident Philip Martin wrote recently in the Arkansas Democrat, reviewing the new Leigh Montville book that focused on the 1969 NBA Finals between Wilt’s Lakers and Russell’s Celtics: “Chamberlain was the best basketball player ever. Far from the greatest — whatever that means — just the biggest, strongest and most skilled. And it is an enduring human mystery as to why that was never enough.”
We would have a beach sand volleyball court constructed on part of the grass lawn, a tribute to Wilt’s love of that game. We’d have his jerseys hanging from the rafters — Overbrook High in Philly, the University of Kansas, the Harlem Globetrotters, all the Warriors incarnations … We’d supersize posters of him going up against Alcindor, Russell, Reed, Thurman … A display of the U.S. Postal Service stamps made in his honor — very vertical, of course.
A looking video would show his beauty and grace, the finger roll, the pivot in the key, how he once shot free throws by running up the court, flying past the line and dunking. We’d get wax figures to show the pose he once did on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” challenging to fight Muhammad Ali. We have his costume from “Conan the Destroyer.” A wall chart that showed what a 50-foot vertical leap looked like.
This house would honor his legacy. We want a Wilt Museum and Gift Shop. At a time when media folks try to ignite the “Jordan vs. LeBron” debates, there was no debate when Wilt was around. He was the unicornicopia pull for any such ridiculous argument. His memory must be preserved and clarified in the context of what Naismith intended. This is the place to do it, and we’d figure out a way to shuttle people up there on a giant magnetic tram like they do at the Getty in the Sepulveda Pass, just across the way.
Maybe this three-minute drone show is about as close as we’ll come to feeling as if we have a chance to own it.
Let’s strap on a Forum-gold headband and enjoy the ride on a stairway to the heavens.