From Cat-Food to Laxatives, Wilt Had Some Strange Endorsement Deals

Wilt Chamberlain liked to slap his name on shit.

His tastes were outlandish – bedspreads made from wolf’s noses; purple shag carpeting; retractable mirrored ceilings; a shower that simulated a rain-storm; million dollar mansions; customized sports cars – and endorsement deals were an easy way for Chamberlain to bolster the lifestyle.

If the paycheck was right, chances were The Dipper would hawk your product. Among some of Wilt’s more notable endorsements were TWA Airlines; BVD Underwear; Volkswagen (several times); Miller Lite; Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign; Purina, and, strangest of all, Castoria Laxative.

In a T.V. spot straight from the mind of Rod Serling, Chamberlain’s mother Olivia talks for 25 seconds about the problems a young Wilt had staying regular. Wilt stands behind his mom playing dipzy-doodle with a basketball, and delivers his only line of the commercial “You tell em mom.” Not Don Draper’s finest work. Though it is a nice to know that even our athletic super heroes suffer from the occasional bout of constipation. In terms of accomplishments, doing a commercial for a laxative with his mother must be up there with his 100-point game.

Can you imagine how effective Wilt would have been as a spokesman for Viagra? I’m guessing, with his ego, he would have drawn the line at sexual enhancement products.

Forgotten in the treasure trove of Wilt-centric products is Wilt Chamberlain Basketball, made by Coleco. A board-game that functions as a hybrid between Foosball and basketball, the game was simple: 20 cardboard/plastic players on the game’s table top, functioning in nearly identical fashion as their Foosball counterparts, with the exception being that they can move vertically as opposed to horizontally. Little divots lined the board – these were used for shooting – employing a bumper-type control of them. Though, based on the gameplay, shooting seemed harder in the board game than it was for Chamberlain from the free throw line in real life.

Released in 1973, shortly before Taito Games put out the first true (albeit crude) Basketball, the first true (albeit crude) basketball video game, Wilt Chamberlain Basketball is important to the genesis of basketball gaming – one of the first dominos to fall that lead to NBA Live and 2k.

As an interesting footnote, prior to tipoff on the night Chamberlain scored his mythical 100 points, he was in an arcade in the bowels of the Hershey Sports Arena, setting the high score of a popgun bear shooting game.

Noah Perkins
Noah has had articles published by a variety of publications including The Bangor Daily News; The NENPA Bulletin; and Monthly Basketball (Japan). His column ‘Heaven is a Playground’ has been featured on ESPN Radio. Noah was also called a "thirst troll" by Tom Arnold once.