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Friday, August 31, 2007
The FBI's Pursuit of Wilt Chamberlain's Alleged Gambling

A while ago, I decided to do a FOIA request of Wilt Chamberlain. The main reason I wanted to do it? Someone showed me this cool website which makes FOIA requests of dead people pretty easy. Chamberlain seemed like he was as likely as anyone to have an interesting FBI file.

It came in the mail yesterday. (And, I later learned, the whole thing was online the whole time.)

What you'll find as you wade through the 40+ pages, is that it's almost all about gambling, and while there are a lot of sources saying Chamberlain was a gambler, and the director of the FBI weighs in with memos more than once, there's no proof or corroboration, and the eventually the investigation is dropped. (In fact, throughout the files many anonymous sources are consulted saying they can not confirm the rumors of Chamberlain's various alleged misdeeds.)

It's really hard to know what all this means, if anything. Gambling has long had a hand in sports? Wilt Chamberlain was a problem gambler? The FBI (or their informants) had it out for an iconoclastic young black man?

Read it, and let me know your take.

I'm not the first person to write about this. For instance, The Smoking Gun has many of these same documents online in an easy-to-read manner. Here are some of the most interesting parts of those documents:

I got several more pages of documents, that are not on The Smoking Gun (but you can wade through a big PDF and see all of the documents I got, I think, on the FBI's website). Some highlights: