Wilt Chamberlain and Richard Nixon, October 27, 1968

By Keith Thursby
Times staff writerWilt Chamberlain tried to explain his political leanings during a turbulent year in American history, particularly his support of Richard Nixon for president.

“I’ve never gotten involved in politics before. But you have to get off the fence and declare yourself sometime and this is the time for me,” Chamberlain told sportswriter Pete Axthelm in a long profile published in The Times. “I’ve known Nixon and been impressed by him for 10 years and I decided to join him. It’s intriguing to know that I might have some hand in shaping the future of this country.”

Axthelm quoted New York Post columnist Milton Gross, who had a different rationale for Chamberlain’s endorsement: “He will be so affluent under his new contract [with the Lakers] he can afford to be a Republican.”

Axthelm had another, simpler theory–Wilt considered Nixon a friend. “You notice how little [Chamberlain] smiles,” said Boston Celtics star Bill Russell, a close friend despite their political differences. “That’s not because he’s angry all the time. It’s because he’s lonely. An outsider.”


$30,000 Bentley convertible He speaks five languages

“Nixon needs a lot of help on his image with black people.”

“Without basketball, Wilt Chamberlain would become just another big man.”

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
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1 Response to Wilt Chamberlain and Richard Nixon, October 27, 1968

  1. Dick says:

    The October 27, 1968 article on the Viet Nam War brings back painful memories. For several years, every day the Times carried one or more articles on the front page covering the latest battles. Further into the first section of the paper was the measure of true cost of the war – the daily list of the American dead. Seeing the list was sobering then, and the memory of it is sobering today. I hope that some of the lists of those who gave eveything to a cause that they may, or may not, have believed in are published here as a reminder of the cost that was paid.
    You might take these to be the thoughts of someone who spent the ’60s protesting the war, but you would be wrong. Forty years and two months ago I took an oath to defend the Constitution as a member of the U.S. Air Force. I served for another 22 years.


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