Mike Vorkunov of Athletic discovered a gem in the New York Times on Tuesday, where he found a 1975 article that told of the Knicks‘ failed attempt to try adding a then-thirty-one-year-old Chamberlain.
MSG President Mike Burke and GM Eddie Donovan were looking for a new center to add to their team before the start of the 1975-76 season. While they had other players like Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and George McGinnis in mind, they couldn’t make it happen. So the thought outside the box brought Chamberlain to the table, while the Knicks were trying to get him out of retirement.
In turn, a meeting with Chamberlain’s attorney Sy Goldberg led Burke and Donovan to travel across the country to meet the seven-time scoring champion and 13-time All-Star. But there’s a problem.
Chamberlain was in Hawaii.
“I’m annoyed,” Burke told the New York Times after Chamberlain didn’t show up for the meeting. “We came here on a silly errand. We met Sy Goldberg for several hours on Friday. During the meeting we were told many times that Wilt was expected to be at any time. He never showed up. We arranged for another meeting to today and Goldberg was told that Wilt was still in Hawaii and would be back late today. “
Burke told Goldberg that he would leave, and if Chamberlain had an interest in playing for New York, they would meet in the Big Apple later.
But while it all seemed like a total waste of time, the trip to the west coast eventually ended. Burke and Donovan ended up having a coffee with the owner of Seattle Supersonics and then GM and coach Bill Russell, another NBA legend. It was in that meeting that Spencer Haywood, a 25-year-old who had been voted on for four consecutive All-Star games, was on sale. The Knicks made it happen and found their new center.
Haywood did not live up to those All-Star standards with the Knicks, but it was still a valuable contribution. Imagine what it could have been if Chamberlain was in blue and orange, leaving the guesthouse to beautify New York City with its regular post presence and bouncing wonder.