When you think of physically dominant NBA players, Wilt Chamberlain has to sit near the top of the list. The legend not only possessed a massive frame, but he knew how to use it; you don’t score 100 points in a single game by accident, after all. Beyond scoring and rebounding, though, the center also knew how to flex his muscles and make a bit more space for himself on the floor.
Just ask Bob Lanier about that reality.
While the Detroit Pistons big man was no stranger to scrapping, even he knew better than to mess with Chamberlain. All it took was a single show of strength to end the conflict before it even began.
Wilt Chamberlain got his point across by literally picking Bob Lanier up and moving him aside
In the 1970s, the NBA was a rough-and-tumble league where enforcers patrolled the paint. Bob Lainer, who clocked in at approximately 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds, was one of those men. Someone who’s prepared to punch Bill Laimbeer, after all, probably isn’t one to mess with.
Even Lanier, however, had his limits. He experienced them firsthand when he crossed paths with Wilt Chamberlain.
“We were playing at LA, and they had the ball on an inbounds play,” the Piston explained in John Papanek’s 1977 Sports Illustrated story about NBA enforcers. “Wilt and I were jockeying for position. The ref stepped in and told us if we didn’t cut it out, he’d call a double foul.”
While that might be enough to cool the tensions for a few minutes, Lanier didn’t back down…at least not immediately.
“Well, I stepped in on Wilt again, and he just picked me up and moved me out of the way,” he continued. “And that was it.”
Elsewhere in the piece, Lanier also sent some heavy praise Chamberlain’s way.
“When he picked me up here and put me down over there, I thought he was the baddest,” the enforcer added.
If a tough guy is admitting that someone is badder than him, that’s quite the compliment.
Lanier’s story is just one chapter in the tales of Wilt Chamberlain and his physical strength
While the two men didn’t properly tangle, Lanier’s limited interaction with Wilt Chamberlain isn’t an aberration. If anything, it’s a relatively mild entry into the tales of the big man’s strength.
In 1981, for example, Cal Ramsey told the New York Times that Wilt had once been attacked by a mountain lion and grabbed the big cat off his back before tossing it into the bushes by the tail. While Ramsey did concede he wasn’t with Wilt when it happened, he did explain that the center had massive scratch marks on one shoulder that seemed to suggest the tale was genuine.
Beyond that, Arnold Schwarzenegger has told tales about Chamberlain outperforming the strongest guys in the weight room and lifting the Austrian actor up with one hand. If we assume those encounters took place while filming Conan the Destroyer, Wilt would have been well into his 40s.
Based on those stories and the fact that he was willing to fight Muhammad Ali, perhaps Bob Lanier made the wise decision by backing down.
Discretion, as the saying goes, is the better part of valor.