Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game stands out as one of those sports records that will likely never be broken.
Wilt “The Stilt” reached triple-digits for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 win against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962. The league and the Warriors franchise commemorate the anniversary of this legendary performance to serve as a reminder of Chamberlain’s greatness.
7 Things You May Not Know About Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point Game
Most basketball fans have little awareness of just how impressive this feat is relative to other strong performances for such a fantastic performance. Read on.
1.) More than just an offensive showcase
“The Stilt” could dominate a game in many ways. He even led the league in assists in multiple seasons. With all these things considered, Wilt’s 100 points were just the icing on the cake for Wilt’s career.
During that game, he played for 48 minutes, a rare feat of human endurance. Additionally, he made 36 of 63 shots and 28 of 32 free throw attempts. Chamberlain may have woken up on the right side of the bed that morning since he is a notoriously poor free-throw shooter. Miss one of those gift shots and the triple-digit scoring performance couldn’t have happened.
Aside from the extraordinary FT and FG shooting, Wilt added 25 rebounds and two dimes. The NBA did not officially keep blocks as a stat until 1973-74, but you can bet Wilt had a couple of those.
2.) Pieces Fell Into Place
Scoring 40 in any game is a tall task, let alone 100. But then again, some of the circumstances surrounding their opponents made it a tad easier for Wilt.
First of all, the Knicks starting center, Phil Jordon, did not play. The official report was flu, but it could’ve been a hangover that kept Jordon on the sidelines. That left 6-foot-9 rookie Cleveland Buckner to lock horns with Chamberlain. Buckner scored 33 points himself to his credit, but obviously, that hardly made a dent.
3.) They Let Him Eat
This is probably the most critical part of it all. As soon as his teammates realized that 100 was within reach, they fed the ball to Wilt every single time.
It was routine for Chamberlain to score 50 or 60, but at the end of the third, the guy already had 69! The crowd got into it, chanting, ‘Give it to Wilt!’ adding to the excitement. The Knicks actually tried fouling other players to stop Wilt from scoring, but the Warriors retaliated by fouling the Knicks so that they could have more possessions. Wilt got the coveted 100 after a pass from Joe Ruklick with 46 seconds left.
No offense to Wilt, but this proves that stat-padding has always existed and will always be around.
4.) Wilt saw the sign
The game was played in Hershey, PA, not in Philly or New York. It was not uncommon for the NBA to play in neutral sites back then, especially when they wanted to gain a larger audience.
Playing on these sites always presented a challenge for the players. They had to wait five or six hours for the game to start with nothing to do. Fortunately, the arena had an old arcade and a shooting gallery, so the players decided to pass the time. Wilt started shooting rifles and couldn’t miss!
“So if there was ever a clue that I was going to have a hot day, this was definitely the clue,” said Chamberlain.
5.) The whole season was Wilt’s oyster
It’s not like the 100-point game was an anomaly. If anything, it’s just a confirmation of Wilt’s presence!
For the whole 61-62 season, Wilt averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds on over 50% shooting. He also averaged an insane 48.5 minutes a game due to the 10 OT periods. Of the possible 3,890 minutes, Wilt logged 3,822. To put it in perspective, he had an average of about six seconds of rest per game for the whole season!
If that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.
A 60-point game in the NBA is rare air. Only five players beyond Chamberlain have done it multiple times. They are Kobe Bryant (six times), Michael Jordan (five times), Elgin Baylor (four times), James Harden (four times), and Damian Lillard (three times). Wilt Chamberlain scored 60 points or more in an NBA game 32 times! Crazy! And, only one player has had a 100-point game — Wilt Chamberlain.
See Basketball Jokes.
6.) A figment of imagination?
Many people, New York guys especially, believed this game never happened. After all, nobody has ever done it at basketball’s highest level.
According to Philadelphia Bulletin’s Jim Heffernan, no New York sportswriter ever bothered taking the train from NYC to Hershey, PA, on a Friday night in March. Harvey Pollack, the legendary statistician, covered it for everybody since there were no other press people that night.
Fortunately, there are thousands of eyewitnesses, and there was a radio broadcast of the game that night. And unfortunately for the Knicks, Wilt dropping 100 on their heads was no figment of anyone’s imagination.
7.) What happened to the ball?
No one knows for sure what exactly happened to the game ball that night. There were two versions of the story, one by Pollack and a (then) 14-year-old fan Kerry Ryman.
Pollack’s version was that the referee brought the ball to him at the press table. Ryman’s account of the historic happening was different: When Wilt scored his 100th point, the referee took the ball and threw it to Wilt. Ryman was the first to storm the court, congratulated Wilt, shook his hand, and stole the ball as the Big Dipper bounced it.
Of the two renditions, Ryman’s has more merit. That night, a security officer chased after Ryman but could not keep up. They knew it was Kerry Ryman, but they did not attempt to take the ball back since Wilt himself didn’t want it.
Ryman and his friends played with the ball for years. In 2000, Ryman put it up for auction with a starting bid of $25,000. The whole process was messy since Pollack claimed the one Ryman had was not the actual ball Wilt scored his 100th point with. The ball ended up selling for over $67,000.
How good was Wilt?
Who is Wilt Chamberlain?
Depending on who you ask, Wilt Chamberlain is either firmly entrenched in the GOAT conversation or just someone who dominated an era because he predominantly played against milkmen. Some reluctantly put him high on the all-time list because he lost more than he won championships.
However, in basketball and sports, there is a saying that numbers don’t lie. And Wilt had the figures on his side. Not only is his physical attributes awe-inspiring, but his sheer numbers are also just mind-boggling.
Here are some of his statistical feats, aside from setting the all-time single-game scoring record:
- Averaged 50.4 points in a season.
- Grabbed 55 rebounds in a single game.
- Most points in a season (4,062).
- Seven consecutive seasons leading the league in scoring.
- Had four straight 60-point games.
- Led team in scoring for 116 consecutive games.
- Most points per game by a rookie (37.6) and most points in a season by a rookie (2,707).
- Scored 53 points and pulled down 35 rebounds in a playoff game as a rookie.
- Never averaged less than 18 rebounds in a season and 20 rebounds in the postseason.
- Recorded four consecutive triple-doubles in the 1967 playoffs.
- Only one of two players to win MVP and Rookie of the Year.
These records are not even half of it. The man they called “The Big Dipper” and “The Stilt” owned 68 statistical records by himself, including the epic 100-point game in 1962.
Could Wilt dominate in any era?
The biggest Wilt Chamberlain cynics would always contend that he could not be as dominant if he played in a different era. While there’s absolutely no way of confirming that, it’s likely great players will always be great, no matter when they’re playing. As I’ve mentioned, those records Wilt compiled stood there undisturbed for a reason.
For one thing, Chamberlain is not just a basketball player — he was an all-around athlete. Wilt’s endurance was a thing of legend, not to mention that he was a track and field star who competed in the long and high jump categories. His strength was also uncanny, and he was said to bench press 500 lbs. Therefore, as big and strong as he is, he wouldn’t be game-planned out of the floor as you would other lumbering 7-footers.
Another factor would be Wilt’s underrated passing skills and willingness to sacrifice for the team. The Big Dipper was more than a willing passer and averaged 7.6 assists in 66-67. Even Bill Russell applauded Wilt’s team play: “Wilt is playing better than I used to — passing off, coming out to set up screens, picking up guys outside, and sacrificing himself for team play.” (From the book Great Moments in Pro Basketball)
How to commemorate Wilt’s 100-point game
I couldn’t think of a better way to observe this mythical game than to relive and watch it again. Unfortunately, you can only find some highlights here and there, but there is a 48-minute documentary about it on YouTube. The best thing about the film is that it was narrated by Wilt’s good friend and on-court rival Bill Russell.
Warning: Keep your tissues handy on this one!
Wilt Chamberlain FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about Wilt Chamberlain.
Wilt Chamberlain was 7’1” tall. That made him three inches taller than Bill Russell and one inch shorter than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Look Magazine measured Wilt Chamberlain’s vertical leap in 1958 when he was a college student at Kansas. At that time, his vertical was 45”. Some have reported that his vertical leap was 48”, and others suggest it was closer to 40”. So, while the exact number may be disputed, it’s pretty clear he could jump quite high for a man that stood over seven feet tall.
Wilt Chamberlain could bench press 550 pounds. By way of comparison, Shaquille O’Neal could bench press 450 pounds. Wilt could still bench 465 pounds at the age of 59 years old.
Wilt Chamberlain was the best athlete to play in the NBA. You can make the argument that he’s the best athlete that competed in any sport. He had strength (bench press 550 pounds), vertical leaping ability (40” plus), and speed. Wilt could run the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds. He is said to have beaten Jim Brown (in Brown’s prime) in two races. Wilt ran a sub-eleven second 100 meters and a 49-second 400m.
Changing the rules on Wilt Chamberlain
A player is a real force in the game when complete rules are changed because of you. Wilt Chamberlain’s performance on the basketball court was the reason for offensive goaltending and defensive goaltending rules to be altered.
The width of the lane was extended. Inbound passing rules were changed because his teammates would inbound by tossing the ball over the backboard to Wilt for an alley-oop slam dunk. And, free-throw shooting rules changed to prevent him from jumping across the plane of the free-throw line even if his feet are not touching the ground.
Final thoughts on Wilt and his 100-point game
Wilt Chamberlain was indeed a force to reckon with on the court. When you start talking about the best players ever to play the game, the Big Dipper needs to be part of the conversation.
By Jan Rey
Jan is a sucker for all things basketball and still yells, “Kobe,” every time he tosses a crumpled paper into a trash bin.
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