Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain didn’t have the ability to use the “100” emoji on March 2, 1962, so he had to settle for a simple piece of paper to illustrate his level of dominance that night.
“The Big Dipper” dropped 100 points in 48 minutes of work as the Philadelphia Warriors defeated the New York Knicks, 169-147. In leading the Warriors to victory, Chamberlain broke his own single-game scoring record of 78 points set on Dec. 8, 1961, against the Los Angeles Lakers, a game that included multiple overtime periods. Only one player has even eclipsed the 80-point threshold since Chamberlain’s historic night — the late Kobe Bryant poured in 81 against the Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006.
Aside from the fact that Chamberlain hit triple-digits, what do you really know about the game? Let’s go back 59 years to learn more about Chamberlain’s iconic performance.
1. Wilt Chamberlain’s stat line was insane, even beyond the 100 points.
Chamberlain finished with 100 points on 36-of-63 shooting from the field (57.1 percent) and 28-of-32 shooting from the free throw line (87.5 percent). Keep in mind Chamberlain shot 51.1 percent from the line for his career, so hitting nearly 90 percent of his free throws in one game is some kind of anomaly. Miss only one extra free throw, and he’s stuck on 99. (Not impressive at all!)
Along with all of the buckets, Chamberlain also grabbed 25 rebounds and found time to dish out two assists. The NBA did not record blocks until the 1973-74 season, so it’s likely he also had a few of those. Heck, Chamberlain might have posted a 100-point triple-double.
2. This was the perfect matchup for Wilt Chamberlain to score 100 points.
All the pieces fell perfectly into place. The Knicks finished as the worst team in the Eastern Division that year, and they didn’t have their full frontcourt to challenge Chamberlain in the paint. New York’s starting center, Phil Jordon, was out with the flu, though it may have been something else keeping him on the sidelines.
“The inside scoop was he was hungover,” said Darrall Imhoff (via the Los Angeles Times), the man who took Jordon’s spot in the starting lineup. Imhoff struggled with foul trouble throughout the game, leaving 6-9 rookie Cleveland Buckner to battle Chamberlain, and as everyone now knows, that didn’t go well.
But hey, let’s at least give Buckner credit for scoring 33 points of his own. He just happened to come up 67 points short of his opponent.
3. The Warriors started force-feeding Wilt Chamberlain once they realized 100 points was possible.
Chamberlain scored 41 points in the first half, not all that surprising considering he averaged 50.4 points per game over the entire season. Chamberlain routinely went off for 50 or 60 points throughout his career, but this one felt different, especially when the crowd got behind the chase for 100.
He scored 23 points in the first quarter and had 41 by halftime, then tallied 28 in the third quarter, when the fans began to chant, “Give It To Wilt! Give It To Wilt!”
That’s exactly what the Warriors did, feeding Chamberlain at every opportunity in the fourth quarter. The Knicks tried fouling other Philadelphia players to keep the ball away from Chamberlain, but the Warriors countered by committing fouls of their own to get the ball back.
Chamberlain took a pass from Warriors guard Joe Ruklick, who played only eight minutes off the bench, and scored his final two points with 46 seconds left to the delight of the fans in attendance. (And you guys complain about Russell Westbrook chasing triple-doubles.)
4. The 100-point game was played in Hershey, Pa., not Philadelphia or New York.
The Warriors were playing a “home” game, but the team had to travel to Hersheypark Arena. Uh, what?
Back in those days, the NBA was working to gain a larger audience, and without the benefit of a massive TV deal, teams had to reach the fans directly. Neutral site games were not all that uncommon, but the schedule did present a challenge for players.
“There were no hotels for us to go to or stay in because we didn’t do those kinds of things in those days,” Chamberlain said. “We went straight to the arena where we had to wait around for five or six hours for the game. But it happened to be in this arena they had a shooting gallery, old penny arcade, so some of the guys went there, and I started shooting rifles and so forth.
“And I couldn’t miss anything. So if there was ever a clue that I was going to have a hot day, this was definitely the clue.”
5. The only thing more absurd than Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game was his stat line for the entire 1961-62 season.
Seriously, just take a moment and think about this: 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game on 50.6 percent shooting from the field and 61.3 percent from the line (a career high, by the way). Chamberlain attempted nearly 40 field goals and shot 17 free throws per game.
But that’s not the best part. Chamberlain averaged 48.5 minutes per game. If you’re scratching your head now, yes, NBA games are only 48 minutes long. However, the Warriors also played 10 overtime periods that season, and Chamberlain logged 3,882 of a possible 3,890 minutes.
It’s safe to say we won’t see any NBA players eclipsing those season numbers or the famous 100-point total any time soon.