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Chips off the old block: Colorado Springs brothers share special bond with Wilt Chamberlain

February 25, 2014 Updated: February 26, 2014 at 7:51 am
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Coronado point guard Lyndon Lewis spins a basketball given to him and signed by his great-uncle and NBA star, Wilt Chamberlain, Saturday, February 25, 2014. Coronado opens the 4A boys' basketball playoffs Wednesday at Air Academy. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

A Colorado Springs father puts two photos side by side. One is of his eldest son, Lyndon Lewis.

The other is a black-and-white photo of Wilt, his uncle, taken in the mid-1950s.

"Spitting image," LaMont Lewis said.

His uncle isn't any ordinary Wilt. He's none other than the late Wilt Chamberlain.

Now Lyndon, a senior at Coronado and great-nephew to the NBA superstar, tries to do his part to live up to the family's legacy. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the 6-foot-3 point guard leads the Cougars (8-14) into a 4A boys' playoff matchup at Air Academy (17-6).

"I don't brag about it, but I'm proud to be his great-nephew," said Lyndon, who shares that title with his younger brother, freshman Jaydon. "My grandma is always comparing me to Wilt, from the way I look to things I do on the court. I'm honored to have that."

Lyndon was only 3 when Wilt Chamberlain, known as "The Big Dipper", died of heart failure in 1999, far too young to remember stories of the past, including a firsthand account of March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa., when Chamberlain scored 100 points, a feat that likely will never be repeated.

His grandfather, the late Elzie Lewis Jr., married the former Barbara Chamberlain in 1960.

Like his brother-in-law, he was pretty good at basketball, too. He played on the Harlem Globetrotters.

Of course, basketball brought them together in a love story that lasted 53 years.

"One summer, Wilt invited my father to stay with him one summer to play," LaMont recalled. "He was waiting outside, and got excited when he saw some women walking down the street. He told Wilt, and he said 'Oh, those are my sisters.' I guess the rest is history."

But with the passing of Elzie Jr. in October, Lyndon takes added pride in playing for two generations of former legendary basketball players on the family tree.

"I really miss him," Lyndon said. "I wrote his number (41) on my shoe to play for Grandpa. I just want to carry on the legacy. Everyone played college basketball or track and field in college. I want to do the same."

Lyndon missed most of his junior year with a broken arm. Then, on the eve of his senior season, he suffered a broken wrist in a scrimmage, forcing Lewis to miss six weeks.

Now back healthy, it appears as if Lyndon is making up for lost time. In 14 regular-season games, he ranked among the league leaders in scoring at 21.1 points and also led his team in rebounds (4.4) and assists (3.9) as the Cougars look to reach the second round of the 4A playoffs for a second straight season.

Coronado fell to the same Air Academy team, 64-45, on Dec. 2 in the season opener.

That was without Lyndon.

"He wasn't there for us the first time, and he's our point guard and best ball handler," Coronado coach Myles Johnson said. "He has great length for a guard and can see over the press. We think Lyndon will be a difference maker."

And as great-nephew to one of the most dominant players in NBA history, Lyndon, more than most, knows the family history of athletes who made a difference.

He just has to look at a basketball signed by his great-uncle.

"To Lyndon: Grow strong. You can't go wrong."

Even after this season, there's Jaydon to carry on the family legacy.

"I think Jaydon might be a better athlete than Lyndon," LaMont said, laughing. "But that's still to be determined."

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