On This Day

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On This Day: Wilt Chamberlain Scores 100 Points

March 02, 2011 05:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
On March 2, 1962, Philadelphia Warriors center Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knicks, setting the NBA single-game scoring record.

Wilt Scores 100

Wilt Chamberlain was one of the most dominating forces in the National Basketball Association, “a player of Bunyanesque stature who seemed to overshadow all around him,” writes NBA.com. In the 1961–62 season, his third professional season, Chamberlain averaged a record 50.4 points a game with 25.7 rebounds a game.

Late that year, Chamberlain’s Philadelphia Warriors played the last place New York Knicks in a virtually meaningless regular-season game that wasn’t televised. The game was held in a small arena in Hershey, Pa., known as the Wigwam, where the Warriors occasionally played home games to attract a larger fanbase.

The Knicks were without their starting center, Phil Jordan, who was out with the flu. The 7-foot-1 Chamberlain, known as the “Big Dipper,” had no problem scoring over Jordan’s back-ups, Darrall Imhoff and Cleveland Buckner, and finished the first half with 41 points. After a 28-point third quarter, Chamberlain was just nine points behind the single-game record of 78, set by Chamberlain himself just three months earlier.

The crowd began chanting, “Give It To Wilt! Give It To Wilt!” and the announcer called out his point total after every basket. The Warriors began giving the ball to Chamberlain on every possession as he blew past his own record and continued racking up points.

Imhoff described the scene to NPR: “Now they were making a farce out of it because normally when a player scores that many points and he just broke the scoring record, they’d give him a standing ovation, he’d leave the game and that was it. But he was left in the game and continued to score.”

The Knicks tried to slow the game down on offense and began fouling other Warriors players on defense, but the Warriors responded by fouling to get the ball back. The outcome of the game, which the Warriors were winning in a rout, was completely overshadowed by Chamberlain’s quest for 100 and the game became “almost like a circus,” according to Chamberlain.
Chamberlain had 98 points with under a minute to play. On the Warriors’ final possession, he missed two shots, but two offensive rebounds gave him a third chance, which he hit for an even 100 points. Broadcaster Bill Campbell cried, “He made it! He made it! He made it! A Dipper dunk! He made it!

Fans rushed the court and swarmed around Chamberlain, forcing the referees to call the game with 46 seconds left. The Warriors finished with 169 points—just four shy of the NBA record—to the Knicks’ 147. Chamberlain scored his 100 points on 36-for-63 shooting from the field and 28-for-32 from the foul line.

In the locker room after the game, the Warriors’ public relations director handed Chamberlain a piece of paper with “100” written in marker. A photograph of Chamberlain holding up the paper has become an iconic image.

Biography: Wilt Chamberlain

Wilt Chamberlain was a Philadelphia native who outclassed his high school competition and became one of the most sought-after schoolboy players ever. He was recruited to play at the University of Kansas in 1955 while the Philadelphia Warriors, in an unprecedented move, claimed him as a territorial pick, ensuring that Chamberlain would join the team in 1959. Chamberlain spent three years at Kansas before leaving to join the Harlem Globetrotters so that he could get paid.

Joining the Warriors in 1959, Chamberlain immediately excelled in the NBA. In his second season, he became the first player to score 3,000 points in a season and the following year he became the first to score 4,000. The NBA changed its rules to curb Chamberlain’s dominance, widening the lane and banning offensive goaltending

He was a larger-than-life figure on and off the court. “No other player in NBA history has spawned so many myths nor created such an impact,” says NBA.com. His sexual exploits are as legendary on his performance on the court, as he claimed in a 1991 biography to have slept with 20,000 women.

Though he was one of the NBA’s best players, he struggled to lead his team past Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics and was called “selfish” and a “loser” by some critics. He finally overcame Russell in 1967, leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA title. He won a second title in 1972 and played his final season the following year.

Chamberlain retired with the most career points and rebounds in NBA history. He was inducted in 1979 to the Basketball Hall of Fame, which writes, “Big, strong, fearsome, and determined, few athletes have matched the fantastic abilities of Wilt Chamberlain.”

Opinion & Analysis: The 100-point game’s impact on basketball

Gary Pomerantz argues in his book “Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era” that Chamberlain’s 100-point game helped usher in the modern era of basketball.

Chamberlain and Imhoff, Pomerantz argues, “symbolized pro basketball’s accelerating generational shift writ large: the agile black athlete, swift and strong, moving freely against a white opponent who, though young, earnest, and determined, seemed … a handsome blond shrine to a bygone era when all of the players were white.”

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