This coming March 2 will be the 60 year anniversary of one of the greatest records in sports history. On this day NBA great Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game scoring record in the NBA by scoring 100 points on March 2, 1962. This was the main reason his Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks 169-147, at Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The third-year center also set other records that day including most free throws made in a single game with 28, which is even more amazing in that he was seen as a poor free throw shooter. Also, the teams set the record for most combined points in a game with 316, Chamberlain averaged a record 50.4 points per game for the season and he had already set the single-game scoring record in December of that season by scoring 78.
Only 4,124 were in attendance, the game was not televised, and no video footage of the game has been recovered. Thankfully there are audio recordings of the fourth quarter. No members of the New York press were at the game since, at the time, the NBA was not yet recognized as a major sports league and struggled to compete against college basketball.
At 7-foot-1 inches and 260 pounds, Chamberlain had set scoring records each of his first two seasons with 37.6 and then 38.4 points per game. Frank McGuire, the Warriors new coach, vowed to play Wilt the Stilt every minute of every game, which led to Chamberlain scoring 67, 65, and 61 in three earlier games that week.
This gave him the record of 15 times scoring 60 or more points in his career. With his slam dunks, Chamberlain was given the nickname Dipper, and already was revolutionizing the game. He would dunk regularly, but was still more of a finesse player, preferring fadeaway shots and finger rolls.
There was little excitement for the game, the Boston Celtics were still the toast of the league, and Wilt almost missed the team bus to Hershey. He had spent the night before the game partying in New York City. He stayed out till 6 am and then had a long lunch with friends in Philadelphia before the bus left.
It also hurt the game in that it was played in Hershey Sports Arena, which was in a remote town to try and attract new fans. It was an old drafty gym originally built for ice hockey. The Warriors’ Tom Meschery called the arena “god-forsaken place…. The town of Hershey was built around a huge chocolate factory; everything there became permeated with the smell of chocolate.
It was practically impossible to stay indoors; people felt sick. I was just dreaming to leave the place as fast as I could.” The National Basketball Association was still struggling in year 16, and this game was not televised since NBC was considering not renewing the league’s television contract.
The New York press wasn’t there because they were in Florida covering spring training for the New York Yankees and the expansion New York Mets. Because of this, the Warriors’ publicist had to cover the game for the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Only two photographers attended the game. Their lack of interest was soon proven a huge mistake.
Coach McGuire admitted that they didn’t have a game plan to get Chamberlain 100 points. After the first few minutes of the game, he already had 13, as Philadelphia took a 19-3 lead. At the end of the first quarter, Wilt dominated to the tune of 23 points with his team winning 42-26, as he made all nine of his free throws.
Since the NBA record for made free throws in one game was 24, Chamberlain was more focused on breaking this record at this point in the game. The Stilt’s halftime total was 41 with the Warriors still leading 79-68. His teammates felt little excitement, as he had scored 60 or more points on 15 previous occasions.
“I often came into a locker room with 30 or 35 points, therefore, 41 points was not a big deal,” Chamberlain later explained. During halftime, the Warriors Guy Rodgers said, “Let’s get the ball to Dip. Let’s see how many he can get.” McGuire agreed.
It didn’t take him long to top 50 points, as arena speaker Dave Zinkoff tried to fire the crowd up. In the third quarter, Chamberlain scored another 28 points, even though he was regularly triple and quadruple-teamed by the Knicks.
The Knicks third string center, Dave Budd, who kept cycling in and out, later stated how pointless it was to guard him. “You couldn’t play [Chamberlain] conventionally because he was so big.
The only thing you could attempt to do was either front him, and in that case, they’d try to lob it in to him, or beat him down the floor and set up where he wanted to get and force him out a couple of extra steps. The guy weighed 300 to 270 [pounds], so that wasn’t easy, either.”
In the fourth quarter, public address announcer Dave Zinkoff started announcing Chamberlain’s point total after each of his baskets. With eight minutes remaining he needed 25 points to reach 100. He scored his 79th point with 7:51 left, breaking his own record and sending the crowd into a frenzy.
After he reached 80, the crowd yelled for 100. Chamberlain thought, “Man, these people are tough. I’m tired. I’ve got 80 points and no one has ever scored 80.” Warrior Al Attles later explained, “We wanted that Wilt got the record because we all liked him.” Attles led by example, by passing up on an easy layup so that Chamberlain could score points 88 and 89, five minutes before the end.
With six minutes remaining the Knicks slowed down Wilt by fouling and bringing the ball up slowly to use as much clock as possible. Chamberlain was the only Warrior to score in almost four minutes before Meschery made a basket at 4:15. At around 4 minutes Philadelphia began quickly fouling New York, which would regain more opportunities for Chamberlain to score.
Coach McGuire even desperately took out every starter except Wilt and replaced them with bench players. Each player would foul the Knicks, get the ball back after free throws and give Chamberlain the ball. With all the fouling in the last minutes by both teams, the Warriors ended the game with 25 personal fouls and the Knicks with 32.
After his 96th point with 2:12 left, he slammed home an uncharacteristically powerful dunk with 1:19 left. With less than a minute to go almost all his teammates assisted in getting him the ball three times, as he missed two and made the third for his 97th and 98th points.
With 46 seconds left, Chamberlain got free, jumped high, caught the ball from Ruklick, and put the ball in the basket to hit the century mark. As 200 spectators stormed the floor, Ruklick immediately ran to the scorer’s table to ensure he was officially credited with the assist.
Years later it was disputed whether the final 46 seconds were played because of the celebration on the court. However, a copy of the WCAU radio broadcast, uncovered in 1988, included announcer Bill Campbell resuming his play-by-play call until the end of the game.
Chamberlain made 36 of 63 field goals and 28 of 32 free throws. Playing all 48 minutes of the game, Wilt set NBA records for field goals attempted (63) and made (36), free throws made (28), most points in a quarter (31), and half (59). Rodgers finished with a game high 20 assists and later said: “It was the easiest game ever for me to get assists, all I had to do was pass it to Wilt.”
Attles was a defensive specialist who rarely scored, yet went 8-8 from the field and hit his only free throw. He later reminisced, “In the game where I literally couldn’t miss, Wilt had to go out and score 100.”
The following night, Chamberlain got permission to travel back to New York with three Knicks players. According to Cherry, Wilt drifted in and out of sleep and got a kick overhearing the New York players talk about the “S.O.B. who scored 100 points on us.” On March 4, the Warriors played the Knicks again in Madison Square Garden, and Imhoff got a standing ovation for “holding” Chamberlain to 58 points.
Article by: Chris Steele, iHearts143Quotes Team member