June 30, 2011
Would Wilt Chamberlain, NBA superstar, hero to many, and perhaps the greatest all-around athlete (if not basketball player) of the 20th century be at home on a United States Postal Service stamp? Several writers and Wilt-backers in the Dipper's adopted hometown of Philadelphia think so.
Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Mike Jensen quotes a Postal Service spokesperson as saying that the idea to put Wilt on a stamp is "under consideration," which as Jensen explains is hardly something to gloss over:
That's no small thing. A committee sends 20 to 25 suggestions each year to the postmaster general, from "thousands of suggestions annually," said Roy Betts, manager of community relations for the Postal Service. According to Betts, stamp selections will be announced in August, but the committee, which meets four times a year, also is talking about possibilities for the next few years. A campaign started by Philadelphia Tribune sports editor Donald Hunt resulted in a steady stream of Wilt supporters, including NBA officials, contacting the Postal Service.
This seems like a good place to start. For one, anyone appearing on a stamp has to have been deceased for more than five years, and sadly Wilt (who passed away in October of 1999) fits that criterion. So choosing someone like Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson or Marty Conlon just wouldn't work.
Best, Wilt was this sport's first iconic figure. Sure, George Mikan was quite the draw and a dominant force in the years leading up to Chamberlain's first season, but Wilt absolutely destroyed the pro game as it was known back then. Playing nearly every possible minute, he put up per-game stats that will never, ever be topped. The man was amazing, and though his teammates often couldn't be compared to those that supported his rival Bill Russell in Boston, Chamberlain more than held his own.
Perhaps most importantly, though? Wilt's iconic photo of him holding the piece of paper with "100" written on it, following his 100-point game against the Knicks in March of 1962. Jerry West's and Michael Jordan's silhouettes may have made for arresting images in the NBA's history, but nothing tops Wilt's picture, as shown above.
And I think it is well worth the U.S. Postal Service's consideration, at the absolute least.
(Photo courtesy The Associated Press)