March 30, 2004

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Contact: Bill Myers, University Libraries, (785) 864-8921.

CBS' Wilt Chamberlain documentary features KU archival photos, films

LAWRENCE -- CBS Sports will present a new documentary on legendary basketball star Wilt Chamberlain April 4 that features dozens of historic photos and hours of old films from the University of Kansas archives as well as new video footage from 20 interviews conducted last year in the Lawrence area.

The program, "Wilt Chamberlain: Larger than Life," will air at 3:30 p.m. Central time during CBS' coverage of the NCAA national men's basketball championships. Oscar- and Grammy Award-winning entertainer Isaac Hayes narrates the 90-minute program.

Chamberlain came to KU in 1955 to play basketball for legendary coach Phog Allen. His KU basketball career highlights included scoring a college career high of 52 points and grabbing 31 rebounds in 1956. As a Jayhawk, he averaged 29.9 points and 18.9 rebounds per game and led KU to a Big Seven championship and to the 1957 NCAA national championship game against the University of North Carolina. Chamberlain left KU in 1958, returning 40 years later to his alma mater when his jersey was retired in Allen Fieldhouse. He died in 1999. A $650,000 gift from his estate funds scholarships, men's and women's athletics, and a Special Olympics clinic at KU.

KU's University Archives in the Spencer Research Library provided 180 photos and about 25 hours of footage for the documentary filmmakers, Black Canyon Productions. The Office of University Relations also helped the filmmakers identify on-campus locations for filming and other preproduction needs.

"In all my years of television production, which dates back to 1982, I was never more impressed with the level of cooperation that we received from the fine people at the University of Kansas," said producer Bob Bodziner. "Everyone was truly thrilled to help in any way they could, and we were always made to feel at home and welcome.

"The footage that Archives was able to supply helped make our Wilt Chamberlain documentary a special one. And if you don't believe me, please tune in and see Wilt Chamberlain high-jump at the Kansas Relays, circa 1957, in color! It is discoveries like that that enable special documentaries to be made."

The documentary follows the challenges, triumphs and disappointments in Chamberlain's life through rare footage, photos and interviews. Among those featured in the documentary are Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, Elgin Baylor, Willis Reed, Shaquille O'Neal, former teammates from Philadelphia's Overbrook High School and KU, and writer Frank Deford. Lawrence area residents featured include John Hadl, Max Falkenstien and Bill Mayer.

Black Canyon Productions, a unit of Clear Channel Entertainment Television, has won three Peabody Awards and three Sports Emmy awards. The company won its second consecutive Peabody Award this year for "Fists of Freedom," a recollection of the dramatic gloved-fist demonstration at the 1968 Olympic Summer Games that aired on HBO last year. Other notable credits include "When It Was a Game I, II and III" (HBO: 1991, 1992 and 2000); "Long Shots -- The Life and Times of the American Basketball Association" (HBO: 1997); "Babe Ruth" (HBO: 1998); "Pistol Pete: The Life and Times of Pete Maravich" (CBS: 2001); "Glory in Black and White: The Story of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Champions" (CBS: 2002); and "Tragedy to Triumph: The Maryland Terrapin Odyssey" (CBS: 2003).


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