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Lakers trade for Wilt

July 6, 2008 |  6:30 am
1968_0706_chamberlain

July 6, 1968

By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

1968_0706_runover Dropcap_t_bonnieclyde he Lakers, always a team with a certain amount of star power, acquired one of the game's biggest stars in Wilt Chamberlain.

Chamberlain would join Jerry West and Elgin Baylor and the Lakers hoped he would be the difference in turning a good team into an NBA champion. The Lakers were a premier franchise, playing in their new home the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, but had trouble getting past the Boston Celtics in the finals. Sound familiar?

The first story in The Times heavily credited an Associated Press report and even quoted AP writer Ralph Bernstein.

Chamberlain, reached in San Francisco, said: "There will be no announcement Monday or Tuesday concerning me unless it is the fact that I will be in New York on those days helping Mr. Nixon with his campaign." So the Lakers were getting not only a post player but a budding politician?

Chamberlain had long been one of the game's top personalities. No other NBA player had on their resume a 100-point game, let alone time spent with the Harlem Globetrotters.

The Times confirmed the trade in a July 9 story. One part of the story that really shows how long ago this was: Chamberlain's salary was estimated at $250,000, "but Wilt himself has claimed that even those estimates are low."

One of the players sent by the Lakers to the Philadelphia 76ers, center Darrall Imhoff, had some interesting comments about mixing Chamberlain in with the team's established stars.

"I don't know if you can have any happiness with three superstars on one team," Imhoff said. "One of the great things about our team is that we've had no dissension and have had great camaraderie on and off the court."

The Lakers continued to have disappointments in the finals but did win a title with Chamberlain, defeating the New York Knicks in 1972. By then, Baylor had retired. Chamberlain was the championship series' most valuable player.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

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