When Basketball Legend Wilt Chamberlain Was In Our Farmhouse Kitchen
Wilt Chamberlain was one tall dude. Man oh man, I mean waaay up there! When I was just a little kid, Wilt the Stilt had his head in the clouds. How tall? Well, it seemed like a hundred feet, but actually, he was seven foot something.
And he was in our kitchen in that ramshackle little farmhouse a mile south of Leota, Minnesota. Now, I know, I know, the question is:
What in the world was Wilt Chamberlain doing in a farmhouse in southwest Minnesota??
Playing basketball, of course.
He was there, along with the legendary Bill Russell, John Havlicek, K.C. and Sam Jones, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West...heck, just about all the NBA greats were there playing basketball. In that kitchen and in a little boy's imagination.
Outside, the cold winter wind blew snow in deep drifts around the straw bales that lined the foundation of the house. Plastic covered the windows, and a big oil burner was warm in the living room.
But in the kitchen....oh, in that kitchen was where the action was.
A brown paper grocery bag with the bottom cut off was taped to the west wall, way up high, probably at least 5 feet or so. And over there, on the metal kitchen table, was Mom's kitchen timer. Crank that baby to 8 minutes (or however high it would go!). A tablet of paper had the line-ups for the two teams going head-to-head on this cold Minnesota winter night. Usually, it would involve the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers...but maybe Philadelphia when Wilt played there.
And then...the tip-off and the game was on!
Well, actually it was two or three socks rolled up into a 'ball', fake dribbling, slashing through the defense, maybe a dunk into the basket...uh, I mean bag. Not too hard though, we didn't want to 'rip the rim'!
Jerry West would hit a long jumper from back by the fridge, John Havlicek would bank one in off the wall, Elgin Baylor would pop one from way back by the stove, Sam Jones would feed Bill Russell for a thundering dunk....no wait, blocked by Wilt!! There's a whistle! Foul! Two free throws from the throw rug by the kitchen counter.
Yep, the best of the NBA would play two or three nights a week while the temperature outside hovered near (or below) zero.
Crazy? Maybe, but a dog named Sarge was a great audience laying there in the doorway. He thought it was pretty cool.
And the cost? Well, a paper bag, scissors, some tape, a timer, and some balled-up socks.
But now, all these decades later? Priceless.
Oh, and about Wilt the Stilt? He really was something. Check out his story below.