PHILADELPHIA -- Eighteen years after his career ended, Wilt Chamberlain returned home at last to see his No. 13 lofted into the Spectrum rafters and to thank the people who made his career possible.
In a 45-minute ceremony before Monday night's game against the Orlando Magic, the Philadelphia 76ers retired the number Chamberlain wore during his four seasons with the 76ers and his five years with the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors.
'This is a special occasion for me,' said Chamberlain, who spent the last five years of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and had his number retired by that franchise.
'This will be a night of thank yous for No. 13. It's been a long time coming but good things come to those who wait and I am the recipient right now of all those good things.'
Chamberlain took the occasion to pay tribute to those who helped him become arguably the best player in NBA history.
'What I don't owe to my mother and father, I owe to the game of basketball,' Chamberlain said. 'And I learned the game of basketball in the great city of brotherly love. There are many friends in the audience that had as much to do with raising No. 13 as I did. They taught me and they taught me well.'
Chamberlain grew up in Philadelphia and attended Overbrook High, where he was honored in ceremonies earlier Monday.
'That was very emotional for me, being in a place where I had not been for 36 years and the place where it began for me,' he said. 'It was quite a treat.
'I had the chance to show the people of Overbrook High that if you're willing to sacrifice, work hard and do things the right way, you can do anything you want. I've found in my travels around that world that people relate to me in one of two ways.
'They either tell me they saw me score 100 points or that they went to Overbrook High with me.'
On March 2, 1962, Chamberlain scored 100 points as the Warriors topped the New York Knicks 169-147 in a game played in Hershey, Pa.
That is one of the many records set by Chamberlain during his career. He still holds the mark for most career rebounds (23,924) and is second to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in career scoring with 31,419 points. His 55 rebounds in a single game were the most ever and he holds the NBA records for most average points per game in a season, 50.4 in 1961-62, and rebounds per season, with an average of 27.2 in 1960-61.
The 76ers had been attempting to retire Chamberlain's number for several years but he balked, leading to speculation he still held a grudge since he left the 76ers on bad terms.
Chamberlain was reportedly promised by former owner Ike Richman that he would be able to purchase part of the 76ers but Richman died before that could happen.
Chamberlain, who agreed last year to attend retirement ceremonies, attempted to deflect that controversy.
'A lot of people think this was a long time in coming,' he said at a news conference. 'But I was in no way negative to allowing my number to join the other ones up there. Things sometimes take longer to happen. For whatever reasons, this was one of those things.'
Chamberlain's number was the fifth retired by the 76ers, joining Billy Cunningham's No. 32, Hal Greer's No. 15, Bobby Jones' No. 24 and Julius Erving's No. 6.
'I never dreamed of a night like tonight,' he said. 'When you look up at the number in the years to come, don't think of it as (representing) a guy who had a lot of points and a lot of rebounds. Think of it as a guy with a lot of friends and I want to count you all among them.'