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Could Wilt have saved the ABA? Could anyone?

  • Broadcast in Basketball
Over and Back NBA Podcast

Over and Back NBA Podcast


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We look at Wilt Chamberlain’s time in the ABA as coach of the San Diego Conquistadors in the latest episode in Over and Back’s Basketball Mysteries of the 1970s.

We discuss how Chamberlain, fresh off leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the 1972 title and 1973 Finals, jumped to the ABA as a player-coach but was unable to play because of contract issues and what a difference he might have made had he been able to play in the league. We talk about the San Diego Q’s infamous marketing campaign of “the tallest coach in the smallest arena,” how much actual coaching Chamberlain did, how Wilt related to the Q’s players (including Caldwell Jones, Bo Lamar, Gene Moore, Stew Johnson, Red Robbins, Travis Grant, and Flynn Robinson), celebrities visiting San Diego’s practice, a confrontation involving Chamberlain and Indiana’s Mel Daniels, the ABA commissioner asking Wilt not to wear sandals, and the best Wilt in the ABA stories. 

We also talk about other NBA stars who jumped to the ABA, including Billy Cunningham and Joe Caldwell to the Carolina Cougars, and Dave Bing’s near-jump to the Virginia, and speculate if there were truly an NBA stars who could have tipped the scales in the war between the two leagues, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Havlicek, Pete Maravich or Earl Monroe.