Editor puts Wilt the Stilt’s 100-point game into perspective

Last Friday marked the 50th anniversary of arguably the single greatest feat in sports history. It was 50 years ago on that day that the late Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game playing for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks.

At the time, the NBA wasn’t popular in the U.S. The media focused much of their attention on sports like baseball, horse racing and college basketball. Only nine teams existed in the league at that time.

In fact, the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team west of the Mississippi River.

But what conspired on Chamberlain’s historic night changed basketball forever and it helped the league gain more popularity than ever before.

Surprisingly, the game was far from a blowout. Even though the Knicks lost by 22, they still scored 147 points against the Warriors. New York didn’t have a Hall-of-Famer on its roster.

Anybody remember Richie Guerin? Didn’t think so. He was the Knicks’ leading scorer in the game with 39.

The Warriors had two Hall-of-Famers: Chamberlain and Paul Arizin. The latter was a great player in his own right, but this was of course a night that belonged to Chamberlain.

“The Big Dipper,” as he was famously nicknamed, went 36 of 63 from the field and 28 of 32 from the free throw line.

The fact that he shot 88 percent from the charity stripe was a miraculous statistic considering the man was a career 51 percent free-throw shooter.

And all of this scoring took place in an era where the 3-point line didn’t exist.

To put his talent into perspective, Chamberlain was a physical force each and every night he stepped onto the court.

His 7-foor-1, 275 pound frame overpowered many of the league’s best centers, including Bill Russell, who was arguably one of the best defensive big men in the sport’s history. His athleticism and game rivals some of today’s athletes.

He did more than just dunk the ball too. He also exhibited finesse that was similar to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s game.

Chamberlain’s record will never be broken. I can say that with an absolute straight face. It’s one of those marks in sports that are rare and will never be touched.

With the way the game is played today, it makes it almost impossible for a player to score that many points in today’s guard-and defense-heavy league.  The one player to come the closest to Chamberlain was Kobe Bryant in 2006 when the future Hall-of-Famer scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, becoming second to Chamberlain’s 100. And even that record might be safe.

Chamberlain’s 100-point game not only was a symbol of the dominant player that he was, but the performance shaped the league in a way which was unprecedented in that era.

 

JACOB TARR

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