Wilt Chamberlain lived large in every sense of the term. As an NBA star he scored a record 100 points in a game, and he was a multiple-time champion and MVP. Off the court he shocked people with the claim in his 1991 autobiography A View from Above that he had slept with 20,000 women in his life.
In 1972 the 7’1″, 275-pound center for the Los Angeles Lakers built a house which matched the proportions of his life—and lifestyle. And his new home, which he called Ursa Major (after one of his many nicknames, the Big Dipper) was featured in the March 24, 1972 issue of LIFE.
The magazine explained why Wilt the Stilt needed a special refuge:
Even when he isn’t on the court contending with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain endures endless irritations—ducking through doorways, showering in a crouch, trying to sleep in beds designed for ordinary citizens. So in an understandable indulgence he has built a bachelor pad big enough “to really turn me on.”
He spent $1 million (the equivalent of about $7.2 million in 2023) building the Bel-Air home, which was photographed for LIFE by Ralph Crane, and from the moment you arrived, you had no doubt you were at Wilt’s house. The front door at Ursa Major was 14 feet high, and the swimming pool 15 feet deep. He had a wine rack built at his eye level. Then there was Wilt’s “X-rated” room, as LIFE termed it, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and a fur-lined waterbed built into the floor.
If you want to hear more about the home from Wilt himself, he talked about Ursa Major in this video as a dream come true. Chamberlain died in 1999 of congestive heart failure at age 63, in bed at his Bel-Air home.