The shadow of a local legend towered over center court at the Wells Fargo Center Friday night.
Hometown hero, the late Wilt Chamberlain, was honored. “The Big Dipper,” who changed the game of basketball in the late 1950s and early 1960s with his 7-foot frame and larger-than-life personality, returned home, this time in the image of two new U.S. postage stamps — the first ever for an NBA player.
The 76ers recognized this feat during halftime at their game against the Oklahoma Thunder, showing video footage of Chamberlain’s historic games and then a brief photo op featuring 76ers legends Wali Jones, Julius “Dr. J” Irving and Chamberlain’s sisters, Selina Gross and Barbara Lewis, holding the framed limited edition stamps.
“It is an honor to be a part of history as we dedicate this stamp and celebrate the great Wilt Chamberlain with his family, friends and teammates,” said Sixers Chief Executive Officer Scott O’Neil. “That he is the first NBA player to be featured on a United States Postal Service stamp speaks to the untouchable legacy he left behind on the court, and we are proud to call him a Sixer.”
The effort to win a commemorative stamp for Chamberlain was launched at The Philadelphia Tribune by sports writer Donald Hunt and Roger Bogle, a special projects manager. They organized a local group and lobbied the postal service for the Forever stamp.
Mark Saunders of the USPS spoke about the significance of Chamberlain’s contributions and the meaning of the stamp.
“We get 20,000 to 40,0000 stamp suggestions a year from the American public and of that only 25 to 30 make the cut so Wilt clearly beat the odds,” he said. “When you look at what Wilt did for basketball, he literally changed the rules. They changed the lane from 12 feet to 16 feet because he was so dominating.”
Saunders added that USPS had an original idea to feature four basketball players for a sheet of stamps, and that Chamberlain was one of those players, but eventually decided that he was deserving of having one all his own.
“We decided to go out with Wilt because he was so important to the game,” he said.
Chamberlain was the first NBA player to score more than 30,000 points during his career, and was the only player to score 100 points in a single game. He was also chosen for the All-NBA first team for three years in a row: 1960, 1961 and 1962.