On the night of March 2, 1962,  I was far too young to comprehend basketball’s most stunning individual accomplishment – Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game.

But a few years later when I could read, what I learned about that game established the foundation of my nearly unquenchable appreciation of sports.

March 2, 1962

Growing up I devoured just about everything I could about sports.  And reading the story of Wilt’s 100 points was probably the first sports treasure that truly captured my imagination.  It certainly hooked me on Wilt Chamberlain.

For those who don’t know the basic facts about that night, 50 years ago; the game was played in a little arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was personally witnessed by a small crowd of just over four thousand people. It was Wilt’s third season with the Philadelphia Warriors. The opponent was the New York Knickerbockers.

Because the game was not on television and was not recorded on film, what Wilt did that night largely lives on through a box score never before or since experienced in the NBA.

Not only did Wilt score 100 points.  It was also the game in which he hit a remarkable 28 free throws on 32 attempts.  That by itself was unbelievable considering Wilt was a career 50 percent free throw shooter – not good by any measure.  It is also the NBA’s highest combined scoring game – final score Philadelphia 169 – New York 147.  It is a combined scoring mark that still stands.

1962 was also the season Wilt averaged an unprecedented 50 points and 25 rebounds per game.

Wilt Chamberlain is one of the great mythical figures of professional sports. The one and only time I ever saw him, up close and personal – long after his career was over – he seemed even taller than his listed 7 feet 1 inches.  He was indeed larger than life.

At his peak Wilt was virtually unstoppable.  He holds just about all of the game’s most jaw-dropping scoring marks – the most games scoring over 40, 50 and 60 points.  He also holds the record for the highest career rebounding average – over 22 per game during his 14-year career.  And one season, 1967-68, Wilt led the league in assists.

Was he the greatest NBA player of all-time?  These days most people believe that honor belongs to Michael Jordan.

While Wilt may not have been the best ever, he certainly heads the list as the most dominant, mythologized, and misunderstood player to ever suit up.

But for one night, he set one of sports’ most indelible standards – 100 points – a mark that just a few thousand actually witnessed, but millions more will forever recognize and celebrate.

 

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