Directed by Caroline Laskow & Ian Rosenberg
What I have found about the ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts series that they often aim to capture a small unknown story about a famous athlete. A trivial nugget worthy of such a short format. Wilt Chamberlain, however, was not short. One of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game, Chamberlain was know both for on the court and off the court achievements. But one thing I never know about him, was the time he spent as a bellhop at a luxury hotel/summer resort in upstate New York, a place called the Borscht Belt for its popularity among vacationing Jews from New York City.
It is hard for me to imagine a time where something like this would ever happen, which is why seeing how things were back then is a good way of gaining perspective on today’s athletes. Imagine LeBron James working at a hotel in the off season, or Miguel Cabrera pumping gas. Back then it was a different culture. Athletes were celebrated, but they were held as kings, worthy of a king’s salary. Chamberlain was young when he made a special relationship with the Kushner’s, but that relationship lasted him a lifetime. The genuine affection depicted in this film is refreshing from seeing athletes so dedicated just to playing their sport, making millions of dollars they can easily waste in a matter of years.
The film itself is nothing more than a special report. It does nothing new, nor does it present groundbreaking principles, but it gets the job done to show us this side of Chamberlain we’ve never seen before. It serves as a moment of pause to stop and reflect on the way things were, the way things are. It also serves as a reminder to build relationships everyday. To cherish them, and value them as much as possible. Some people will come in and out of our lives, and each one of them helps mold us and our experiences. But the ones who stay are friends forever, the ones who give as much as they take. Those are the relationships we need to be building everyday, the kind we need to strive towards and work for.