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Was Wilt Chamberlain in Conan?

NBA star Wilt Chamberlain played Bombaata in 1984’s Conan the Destroyer. The sequel to 1982’s Conan the Barbarian. Featuring alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Grace Jones and Mako Iwamatsu. It grossed $31million in the US.

Wilt Chamberlain is an NBA player of semi-mythical status. His love life is the stuff of legend, he claimed to have once killed a mountain lion with his bare hands. Operating in a time before camera phones and social media it’s impossible to know the truth behind the legends of Wilt. But let’s take a look anyway.

How did Wilt Chamberlain end up in Conan?

If you Google Wilt Chamberlain Conan and hit images. You’ll be bombarded with images of Wilts massive frame next to Conan star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger is known for being a massive action star from the 80’s and 90’s. Quite literally. Starting as a body builder, he rose to fame before jumping into the acting he is most known for. If you’ve ever watched an Arnie film (and if you’re still reading, I’m assuming you have) you’ll know that he’s usually cast as the BIG, STRONG toughest man in the room. Think Terminator – hulking metal robot, Commando, Predator, the list goes on. The first thing to notice in the photos of Arnie and Wilt then is that Arnie looks tiny. It illustrates just how massive Wilt was. At 7 ft 1 and almost 300lbs – Wilt was a giant of a man. (more on that later).

In the film he was cast as Princess Jehnna’s (Olivia d’Abo) bodyguard, Bombaata. Towering above every other human character on set, Bombaata dominated the screen. For much of the movie Wilt and Arnie team up on their shared quest to find and retrieve a magic horn. Chamberlains two key scenes run quite contrary to each other. The first will see him defending the entrance to a crypt alongside Arnie, through which the rest of their party have just escaped. In this we get to see Chamberlain fight using his brute strength. Wielding a mace and generally fighting with the same power and ferocity he often played with in the NBA. The second scene comes near the climax of the film and see’s him and Arnie face off. A battle for the ages as the biggest action star fights to the death with the biggest sports star of the time. Who wins? Well I don’t want to ruin the whole movie for you!

Conan the Destroyer was Chamberlain’s only credited onscreen role, although he appeared uncredited in 1999’s Any Given Sunday, as the one and only Wilt Chamberlain.

Was Wilt Chamberlain the biggest human in Conan?

If you did indeed Google Wilt Chamberlain Conan and hit images you would not only have seen images of Wilt hulking (pun intended) over Arnie. You would have seen some stunning images of them both joined by Andre the Giant. André René Roussimoff was literally the biggest wrestling star of the 80’s. Andre the Giant makes almost all other humans look small. Wilt stands up to him pretty well, he loses out on girth, but almost matches him for height. Andre makes a very subtle cameo playing the monstrous deity Dagoth.

Although many deleted scenes are available on You Tube there are rumours of some absolutely classic scenes that never made it to the final cut and seem to be lost forever. One of which is rumoured to be a sex scene between Schwarzenegger and Sarah Douglass in which somehow Wilt Chamberlain ended up getting slapped. Very on brand for Wilt.

Sounds epic, was there a follow up movie?

Sadly there wasn’t. Arnies’s movie schedule in the late 80’s and 90’s didn’t allow room for it and then later politics scrapped another attempt at a sequel. Original director John Milius came close to making a third Conan movie with Schwarzenegger in 2002. His script, entitled “King Conan: Crown of Iron,” was to be directed by The Matrix’s Andy and Lana Wachowski, but was scrapped after Schwarzenegger was elected governor of California. Sadly, Wilt had died of heart failure in 1999 and would not have been able to re-prise his role. However, could we have seen another bemouth NBA star of that era take his place? Could Shaq have taken up the mantle alongside Conan?

Other NBA Stars in Movies

There has been a whole host of notable NBA stars appearing in movies over the years. Including the above-mentioned Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq starred in ‘Blue Chips’ which is the story of an NCAA coach breaking the rules in order to acquire players to stay competitive. Since Blue Chips Shaq has starred in a number of movies within the comedy genre.

Ray Allen appeared in Spike Lee’s social commentary ‘He Got Game’, which tells the story of the number one high school prospect trying to decide which college to choose.

Kareem Abdul-Jabber appeared in Airplane with Leslie Nielsen.

More recently Lebron James appeared in Train Wreck and plans to follow this up with Space Jam 2. Which brings us to The GOAT, Michael Jordan and his major movie contribution, the wonderful, original and surely the best – Space Jam.

WAIT! Did Wilt Chamberlain really fight a mountain lion?

Like many stories about Wilt, this one emanated from Wilt himself. The basics go like this:

Wilt was driving across Arizona and pulled his car momentarily to the side of the road for reasons that are now lost forever. He was then attacked by a mountain lion. He claimed the mountain lion jumped on his shoulder scratching him up badly. He grabbed it by the tail and flung it into the bushes, where presumably it scampered off to tell all it’s friends he’d just had a scrap with the greatest NBA centre of the era.

The only real corroboration for this story comes from Cal Ramsey, former New York Knicks announcer. He opened with a disclaimer, ”Well, I wasn’t there,” said Cal ”but Wilt says it happened, and I’m not about to say it didn’t. Besides, he showed me these huge scratch marks on one shoulder. I don’t know any other way he could have gotten them.”

So, there you are. Either Wilt fought a mountain lion or he’s a liar. Seeing him tower over Arnie in set photos from Conan the Destroyer I’m not about to call him on it.