A 43-Year-Old Wilt Chamberlain Once Destroyed Magic Johnson in a Pickup Game

Wilt Chamberlain dominated the NBA throughout much of his Hall of Fame career. His journey into retirement featured him remaining close to the game he loved. It led him to once destroy former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson his prime in a pickup game.

Wilt Chamberlain’s illustrious NBA career

Chamberlain quickly became a dominating force in the NBA.

The Philadelphia native set numerous league records that many still stand untouched. Chamberlain won a pair of NBA titles and a Finals MVP award, earned four regular-season MVP awards and 13 All-Star game selections, and received 10 All-NBA Team selections in 14 seasons.

His 100-point performance in a single game remains the gold standard in the record books, while no player has matched him averaging more than 40.0 points per contest in a single season. Chamberlain is the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 points in a single campaign, which he reached the feat seven times.

Chamberlain led the league in scoring seven times and rebounding on 11 occasions and sits as the only player to average at least 30 and 20 rebounds over an entire career. His dominance on the court has kept him squarely in the discussion as arguably the greatest big man and player in league history.

Even in retirement, his greatest shined against a prime Magic Johnson.

A 43-year-old Wilt Chamberlain once destroyed Magic Johnson in a pickup game

Despite stepping into retirement after the 1972-73 campaign, Chamberlain remained around the game of basketball.

The Hall of Famer participated in pickup games well into his 40s, playing against many NBA players past his playing days. During a segment on NBA TV in April 2012, former NBA head coach Larry Brown recounted a story involving a 43-year-old Chamberlain playing against Lakers star Magic Johnson in a pickup game at UCLA in the early 1980s.

Brown, who coached UCLA men’s basketball team at the time, recalled Johnson putting together a team featuring Bernard King, James Worthy, Byron Scott, and A.C. Green. Meanwhile, Chamberlain played alongside four UCLA freshmen.

“It was game point; Magic soars a skyhook and Wilt blocks it, Magic calls game [implying Wilt’s block was a goaltend]. And Wilt says, ‘that wasn’t goaltending, that was a clean block.’ and Magic took the ball and said, ‘game over, next.’”

“And Wilt said, ’hey coach, was it goaltend?’ I said, ‘no, that was a clean block.’ Magic says, ‘what do you think he’s gonna say? they’re his kids.’ And Wilt says ‘alright, look we’re gonna play a game ‘till 12. We’ll do it again. Winners stay and there would be no more shots made at this basket.’”

“He blocked every shot. 43-years old. He was blocking everything. It was unbelievable.”

It speaks to the remarkable talent that Chamberlain despite being nearly a decade into his NBA retirement. He was an imposing figure on the basketball court, and not even a group of players in their prime could work past him.

If the game occurred in the 1980s, it would have put Chamberlain a little older than 43 years old. Nonetheless, the story only adds to Chamberlain’s illustrious NBA legacy.

NBA legacy forever set in stone

Brown’s story about Chamberlain is one of many that fuels his iconic status.

His sheer dominance forever changed the league as he remains a measuring stick of the gold standards for NBA big men. Chamberlain accomplished it all that many of the greatest talents after him aspired to reach.

Beyond that, his place in NBA history is cemented as one of the vital pillars shaping the game of basketball. 

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