Unbreakable


chambers-2Some records just can’t be touched. 

By Luke Robinson

There are all kinds of unbreakable records in sports.

Sure, the old cliché says records are meant to be broken, but there are some that will stand the test of time.

UCLA’s seven straight college basketball championships. Oklahoma’s 47 consecutive wins on the football field. Cal Ripken, Jr’s 2,632 continuous games played.

What about Georgia Tech’s 222-0 victory over Cumberland (this one stings for me; I had Cumberland plus 221.5 in a parlay), or the world’s longest tennis match of 11 hours and five minutes between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut—which is 11 hours and four minutes more than anyone watched?

Who could forget Barry Bonds’ 73 home runs? Even though he was more juiced than a Mountain Brook sangria party, it’s still a record…to some people.

Certainly no one will ever top the most unbeatable record of all by Wilt Chamberlain. No, not his 100 points in a game—that’s child’s play. I am talking about his “relations” with more than 20,000 women. Considering Chamberlain played in an era devoid of the three-point shot AND Viagra, those records are truly remarkable.

Earlier this year I was made aware of another holder of a potentially unbreakable record. Quite an astonishing one, really.

Bill Chambers once reeled in 51 rebounds in a college basketball game while playing for The College of William & Mary. To put this number in perspective, North Carolina led the country in rebounds last year with 47 per contest. Chambers topped that by himself without the help of his team (including William OR Mary)!

Even more amazing? Chambers accomplished this feat about 64 years ago on February 14, 1953. That stat has stood at the number-one spot for 20 years longer than I have been alive.

Still even crazier than the record’s happening 64 years ago? Bill Chambers lived here in Alabama. My hometown, actually. America’s crossroads of  the Twilight Zone and the Bermuda Triangle:  Alexander City.

chambers-1I had the pleasure of speaking with Chambers a few months ago. Initially I expected to spend  a few minutes with Chambers discussing his single rebounding accolade. After all, if I held an NCAA record for more than 64 years, I probably would have retired on that accomplishment alone. I would have made a “Got Rebounds?” clothing brand and started a website to match heartbroken lovers who have recently broken up called “OnTheRebound.com.”

I wanted to give Chambers time to gloat appropriately. He deserved it. But as I spoke to him, I realized there was a lot more to his story than a single night of history.

After college Chambers was  drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers. Unfortunately  he was vying for a spot which was occupied by George Mikan; THE superstar of that era. With the Lakers’ not keeping Chambers on the roster but still holding his rights, he really had nowhere to go in the pro game.

But basketball was still in his blood.

He coached Newport News High School in Virginia to a 67-8 record over three years while winning two state championships. Later, Chambers took over head coaching duties at his alma mater of William & Mary where he stayed for nine years. There Chambers accumulated the highest win total in W&M history until 2013 and once guided his squad to an improbable win over the then-No. 4 ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.

After his coaching days he had a successful and decorated corporate career (which I am quite sure was just as big of a source of pride for him). Chambers worked his way up to vice president of sales for Russell Corporation in 1990. He retired in 1994, and he and his lovely wife Betty decided to live the rest of their lives on Lake Martin.

There  is not enough room here to detail many of his other notable achievements. Like how his jersey is retired at William & Mary or his successfully shooting the underhanded free throw during his playing career (which, by the way, is incredibly effective to this day; it’s just that players refuse to be seen in public taking a “Granny shot” despite its obvious benefits).

chambers-retireAbove it all, though, Bill and Betty Chambers made something abundantly clear to me: The rebounding record is nice; his coaching success was great, too. But the best part of his association with basketball was his relationships with his teammates and players. As we talked, their widest smiles came when they told me how former players call Chambers and give them updates on their personal lives. In a time when athletes and coaches like to put the “m-e”  in “team,” it was awesome to meet a coach whose most cherished moments aren’t found in the record books.

Sadly, Chambers passed away last July. He will certainly be missed by many.

I am thankful to have gotten to spend a sliver of an afternoon with such a legend. Just like his indelible mark in the basketball record books, Bill Chambers made an inerasable mark with me as well.

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