FBI Reportedly Investigated Wilt

Tuesday, September 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The FBI investigated Wilt Chamberlain in the late 1960s because of rumors that the basketball great was fixing games, the Philadelphia Daily News reported Tuesday.

Investigators never found any evidence that the late Hall of Fame center threw a game, and his friends and family members say he didn't.

``He was just way too honest to do that,'' Chamberlain's younger sister, Barbara Lewis, said.

The FBI also looked into claims from informants who said the 13-time NBA All-Star bet on basketball — always on his own team to win — according to Chamberlain's FBI file.

Chamberlain loved to gamble, but Wilt ``never bet on basketball to my knowledge,'' said Vince Miller, 62, who knew Chamberlain since the third grade and shared an apartment with him in the late 1960s.

The FBI file was obtained by the Daily News through a Freedom of Information Act request. It contains about two dozen documents covering the years from 1966-69 containing mostly rumor, innuendo and second hand (n.) secondhand (adj. and adv.) allegations.

Heavily edited sections of the file indicate that other basketball players were suspected of betting.

The FBI investigation ``certifies'' Chamberlain was ``Mister Clean,'' said Seymour Goldberg, 69, Chamberlain's longtime attorney and the executor of his estate.

``This is magnificent,'' Goldberg said. ``Who else can you describe in the NBA who's been investigated'' by the FBI — especially at a time, he said, when blacks were special targets. J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director at the time, has long been accused of trying to quell black activism during the civil rights era.

It was not clear if the FBI ever shared its findings with the NBA. A player betting on basketball would face suspension or expulsion under rules in place since ``at least the early '50s,'' said NBA senior vice president Brian McIntyre.

The NBA was unaware of the FBI investigation or of any alleged wrongdoing on Chamberlain's part, McIntyre said.

Chamberlain died in October 1999, at age 63. He starred in the NBA from 1959-73 for the Philadelphia (later San Francisco) Warriors, 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. He scored 31,419 points during his career, a league record until Kareem Abdul-Jabbar broke it in 1984.