Roger Maris’ home-run record has fallen. Once-untouchable records set by legends such as Walter Payton have disappeared in a haze of never-ending athletic improvement and inflated modern statistics. But out of the few remaining milestones still on top of the professional sports mountain, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point night stands tallest.
Fifty years ago Friday, Chamberlain hit the century mark as a one-man show, single-handedly carrying the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 victory against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962 in Hershey, Pa. Chamberlain’s 100 has been cemented ever since, rarely threatened and always a conversation-stopper whenever the number is mentioned.
Kobe Bryant came within sight of the mark, scoring 81 points against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2006. But while 50- and 60-plus-point games occasionally decorate box scores, and there have been eight outbursts between 70 and 78 points in NBA history — five by the man who scored 100 — no one has ever come close to touching Chamberlain’s monument.
“That could truly be the one individual record that we may never, ever see broken,” NBA-TV analyst Greg Anthony said.
Part of Chamberlain’s ascension is often attributed to different time, different era. Towering over the competition and possessing an underrated basketball IQ, the 7-foot-1 center averaged 50.4 points, 25.7 rebounds and 48.5 minutes during his near-unbelievable 1961-62 season. And while Chamberlain’s teammates in ’62 acknowledged he was force-fed the ball in Hershey and Philadelphia coach Frank McGuire refused to pull his scoring machine from the game, the NBA’s all-time leader in average rebounds (22.9) and second-leading scorer (30.1) was also in a once-in-a-lifetime zone.
Chamberlain hit just 51.1 percent of his free throws during his 14-year career. But during his 100-point game, he sank 28 of 32, shooting old-school underhand to make sure the net swayed. The second-most made field goals for the Warriors that evening belonged to Al Attles, who hit 28 fewer than Chamberlain. And the center’s 32 attempted free throws topped the rest of his teammates combined, with seven shooting two or less.
It was all Chamberlain, all night. By the time it was over, 100 was born.
“Unbelievable. No one will do that again. That’s just unreal,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “I can’t even imagine — 100 points in a game is ridiculous. But he has statistics that, when you look at them, they warp the whole statistical categories. … He’s just a phenomenal player.”
Chamberlain’s best mind-benders: he led the NBA in total assists during 1967-68 (702), while topping the league in average minutes nine separate seasons.
Little documentation exists of Chamberlain’s 100-point outing, though, and many modern players only know about him because of the lingering aura of his name. Chamberlain died in 1999 at the age of 63, and his off-the-court exploits in some ways now outshine his Hall of Fame career.
Jazz center Al Jefferson, 27, acknowledged Chamberlain was almost foreign to him while growing up in small-town Monticello, Miss. Big Al randomly heard about the legend’s name and numbers. But specifics — such as whether Chamberlain’s team actually won or lost the 100-point game — and actual images were hard to come by.
Fifty years after Chamberlain hit the century mark, though, his record still leaves Jefferson in awe. During his senior season at Prentiss High School (Miss.), the Jazz center said he scored 66 of his team’s 72 points in a playoff contest. But 100 in an NBA game, when everyone knows you’re shooting the second the ball touches your hands and there’s nothing they can do to stop you?
That’s unbelievable. Untouchable. Truly once-in-a-lifetime.
“That was amazing just to hear about some of the things he did and what he averaged some years,” Jefferson said. “It’s kind of sad that people actually forget about some of the things that he did.”
Wilt Chamberlain file
Position • Center
Vitals • 7-foot-1, 275 pounds
Career stat averages • 30.1 points, 22.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 45.8 minutes (1,045 games from 1959-1973)
Highlights • Hall of Fame (1979), four-time NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, Rookie of the Year, All-Star MVP, 10-time All-NBA, two-time NBA champion
Career marks • Average rebounds (1st: 22.9), minutes (1st: 45.8), points (2nd: 30.1)
College • Kansas
Date • March 2, 1962
Result • Philadelphia Warriors 169, New York Knicks 147
Location • Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pa.
Attendance • 4,124
Chamberlain line • 100 points, 36-63 FG, 28-32 FT
Wilt’s 1961-62 season
Points • 50.4
Rebounds • 25.7
Minutes • 48.5
Games • 80