On this day in 1962, NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain made history. Little did he know, that almost sixty years later, no one would come close to eclipsing what he did on that night.
100 points is the perfect number. Not 98, not 102. 100 points. The black and white image of Chamberlain holding up '100' written in simple marker on white paper is synonymous with sporting history.
To set the scene - it was Wilt's third season in the NBA. After being the first player at the time to win Rookie of The Year and league MVP in 1960, 'The Big Dipper' was setting his sights on another big season.
59 years ago today, Wilt Chamberlain put up an NBA record 100 points in a game 🤯 pic.twitter.com/t5hQ1FzuhR
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 2, 2021
Chamberlain had been named to the All-Star team the previous three seasons, set scoring records and even led the league in rebounds. At 7 foot 1, to say he was a dominant force was understatement.
It was a big man's league. 1962 was far away from the three point focused league we are in today. After all, it would be 17 years before the NBA even introduced a three point line.
The Philadelphia Warriors were a strong 46-29 up until that point, and they faced the New York Knicks, who were bottom of their conference at 27-45.
Philadelphia coach at the time Frank McGuire, had a fairly direct route of trying to win games. Give Wilt Chamberlain the ball. In fact, he admitted in an interview they'd try to run plays through Wilt at least 'two-thirds of the time'.
McGuire was determined to play Chamberlain every minute of every game, and up until that night had only missed over eight minutes of action on the floor. Something unheard of these days.
This is not photoshopped - the manlet in the middle is Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Perspective is funny thing when a world class body building action star is standing next to Wilt Chamberlain and Andre the Giant pic.twitter.com/l8V4ixwY3r
— MarcTheCyborg (@CyborgMarc) February 27, 2021
The game itself wasn't really a spectacle to behold. Warriors player York Larese said in an interview reflecting on the game that 'chocolate was more exciting' than playing the Knicks that night.
The game was held in the remote area of Hershey, 85 miles from the city of Philadelphia. It was part of a league initiative to grow the sport in lesser known areas, and coincidentally Hershey was known for it's chocolate.
A whopping 4,124 spectators came to see Wilt Chamberlain make history. Now, you're probably wondering, is this the greatest offensive basketball achievement, or the worst defensive display in sporting history? Well, there was a bit of a story to that.
The Knicks starting centre at the time was Phil Jordon. Jordon, who was 6 foot 10, played seven seasons in the league and put up respectable numbers. He was a respected name in the NBA.
Jordon had played Wilt earlier in the season, and put up 33 points against him. Chamberlain's total in that game was 34 points. Slightly shy of the century of scores he'd make on this night.
Unfortunately, the Knicks were forced to reshuffle their starting centre as Jordon suffered an illness pre-game. Backup centre Darrall Imhoff was set to start, who said he had heard rumblings that Jordan missed the game because he was hungover.
Nonetheless, Imhoff only played twenty minutes of the game as he got into foul trouble. It then left the Knicks to go to Plan C, and deploy rookie Cleveland Buckner to guard Wilt as the game progressed.
Phil Jordan wasn't the only player that night trying to overcome a night on the sauce. Chamberlain himself had spent the night before partying in New York, having got home at 6am and boarding a train to Philadelphia at 8am.
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) February 23, 2021
Chamberlain started the game hot with 23 points in the first quarter of action. Nine of these were free throws, which are traditionally a struggle for NBA big men. Wilt had only made more than half his free throw attempts up until this game.
Knicks' centre Darrall Imhoff built up the fouls, and rather eerily shouted after a call against him, ""Why don't you just give the guy a hundred now and we'll all go home." Mystic Darrall.
At half-time, the Warriors led the game by 79 points to 68. Wilt Chamberlain had 41 points. He was closing in on a landmark 60 points, a milestone he had achieved fifteen times before.
Guy Rodgers was Philadelphia's talisman at the time. During their half-time team talk, the point guard suggested, "Let's get the ball to Dip (Wilt). Let's see how many he can get."
Nonetheless, it was safe to say this tactic of giving Wilt Chamberlain the basketball paid off. Chamberlain rightfully was targeted defensively by the Knicks, as they put two and three men on him per possession. It wasn't working that well.
By the end of the third quarter, Chamberlain had 69 points. His all-time record up until that point was 78, and that came after triple overtime. At this point, the Knicks had gone to Plan D and played third-choice centre Dave Budd to try and contain the Philly big man.
Arguably the greatest all around Athlete to ever play in the NBA. Wilt Chamberlain Holds 72 NBA records. As a HS & College Athlete ran Track, threw the Discus & played Pro Volleyball after retiring from the NBA #BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/ltgujpKbRm
— PCC Panthers Athletics (@Panthers_PCC) February 24, 2021
The surge in point total didn't go unnoticed. The arena announcer began to mention Wilt's points total after each score in the fourth quarter. With eight minutes to go, Chamberlain needed 25 points to get to a century.
At this point, the crowd were shouting 'Give it to Wilt!' and that's what the Warriors did. The Knicks simply couldn't stop him, and began fouling every player other than him to try and curb the score line.
Not only that, the Knicks also were stalling whenever they had the ball, trying to run down the shot clock so that the Warriors had as little time as possible left in the game to get Wilt to 100.
It didn't make for the greatest last couple of minutes. McGuire, Warriors head coach, started retaliating by fouling the Knicks too, and then giving Wilt the ball at the start of each possession.
The foul-on-foul tactic counteracted the Knicks actions, and Wilt got himself to 94 points with over two minutes left to play. A fadeaway and a powerful dunk got him to 98.
With less than a minute to go in the game, Chamberlain was set up close to the basket, worked a post move and, missed. 98 points doesn't have the same ring to it.
It wasn't long later before Wilt found himself free near the basket. A teammate lobbed him the ball, and he alley-ooped his way to 100 points. The crowd erupted.
— BROTHER (@BrotherHQ) March 2, 2021
The game was not televised, and several eye witness accounts suggest the crowd entered the court and the last seconds of the game weren't played. Other accounts say the crowd were raucous for nine minutes after his 100th point until play resumed.
To make matters worse, there's discrepancies in the post game result, with sources saying it was 169-147 to the Warriors, and others having it 169-150. Nonetheless, all that matter was Wilt Chamberlains 100 points.
He made 36 of 68 field goals, over 85 percent of his 32 free throws and went on to score over 60 points in all four games he played that week. Remarkable.
During the 1961-1962 season, teams were only averaging around 119 points a game. Wilt had scored almost 85% of that on his own.
The late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was the only player to come close to Wilt's total, scoring 81 points back in 2006. Unfortunately, it doesn't even look like Kobe's total will be surpassed in second.
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) January 22, 2021
The way the game is now, teams are more set up defensively than ever. Conversely, players are more diverse offensively than ever. Unfortunately, in 1962, defense was a bit of an anomaly, especially when you have dominant 7 footers attacking the basket.
It's very difficult to see anyone emulating what Wilt did that night. Teams are deeper than ever now, so if a team loses their starting centre or backup, they'll likely have the defensive capabilities to respond.
So on it's anniversary, it's fair to say the Knicks wilted. I had to.