Wilt Scored 100
The following is taken from the book Tall Tales by Terry Pluto. I don't know enough legal stuff to know if there are legal issues in quoting this passage. I'm not making any money off of it, and while I'm on my stump, I'll use this moment to endorse Pluto's basketball books and recommend that you check them out. I have Tall Tales, Loose Balls (about the history of the ABA) and Falling from Grace (the problems associated with the modern NBA).
It begins with an into, by Pluto, to put the game and season, in its proper context. Then the story is told by those involved in the game. After their name, I put their relationship to the game in parenthesis:.
Wilt Chamberlain said scoring 100 points in a game was "inevitable." Of course, Wilt has also said it was "a fluky thing." Actually, it was a metaphor for the changing game of pro basketball, the emergence of not just the black athletes such as Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, and Chamberlain, but great athletes, period--certainly Jerry West and John Havlicek could run with anyone.
The NBA had become a teenager, feeling its legs, testing its limits and often taking things to extremes, as was the case the night Wilt scored 100. Players fell in love with the fast pace, with getting up a lot shots in very little time. They were cut free of the ball and chain that was college basketball without the shot clock, and were making up for lost time (and shots) in the pros.
Baylor came into the league with the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958-59. He averaged 25 points as a rookie, but had a night where he scored 55, the third highest total in NBA history.
Baylor was just a rookie, but he was scoring in ways no one had seen before -- off the run, gliding through the air and changing hands on his shot, even changing the direction of his whole body in midair to beat the defense. At the end of Baylor's rookie season, his Lakers got into a 94-foot track meet with Boston, the final score being Boston 173, Lakers 139; Boston's total was the highest for a 48-minute game in NBA history.
It was just beginning.
In 1959-60, Chamberlain came into the league and the NBA became infatuated with scoring. The young Chamberlain broke league records for scoring (37.6) and rebounding (27.0), and he did it in his rookie season. Baylor averaged 29.6 points, but that only placed him third in scoring -- Jack Twyman (31.2) was second to Chamberlain. Twyman and Chamberlain became the first players in NBA history to average 30 points a season...The average NBA team was scoring 115 a night, Boston leading the way at 124.5.
Danny Biasone had dreamed of a quicker game when he invented the 24-second shot clock, but he'd never imagined this. Most teams got off a shot within 10 seconds. Rather than worry about shooting percentages, most teams approached the game like Billy the Kid. Billy was a blaster, not a marksman. His idea was to swiftly empty both of his six-shooters, figuring that at least one of the 12 bullets would hit the target.
In 1960-61, West and Robertson entered the NBA--and Robertson averaged 30.5 points as a rookie. Chamberlain led with 38.4, followed by Baylor at 34.8. the lowest-scoring team in the league was New York, and the Knicks averaged 113.7 points.
By 1961-62, a star scoring 40-50 points was not big news. Chamberlain didn't even draw much attention unless he scored 70. that was the setting the night Chamberlain did the unthinkable.
During the pregame warm-ups, Chamberlain was laughing and singing as he shot around. that's because the 7-foot-2 Chamberlain had recently cut his first and last record, "By the River," and it was blaring over the public address system. Wilt could dig it, even if everyone else was underwhelmed. There were five games left in the 1961-62 regular season, and Chamberlain's Philadelphia Warriors were securely in second place. The New York Knicks were dead last as they took the court in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on March 2, 1962. They had no way of guessing that Chamberlain would shoot 36-of-63 from the field and a remarkable 28-of-32 from the foul line. Wilt also had 25 rebounds that night -- a great game for most guys, but one under his season's average.
He started fast with 23 points in the first quarter and was 9-for-9 on free throws. He also made his first six jump shots as his team jumped to a 19-3 lead. to reach the century mark, Chamberlain scored 31 points in the fourth quarter, 12-for-21 from the field and 7-for-12 from the the foul line. He played all 48 minutes in the Warriors' 169-147 win. While Chamberlain took 63 shots, the rest of his teammates combined for 52. Chamberlain's 63 shots and 21 in a quarter are both NBA records. In NBA history, there have been eight games in which an NBA player has scored at least 70, and six of those eight belong to Chamberlain.
Wilt Chamberlain: What I like best about the 100-point game is that there is no videotape or film of it. There is just a scratchy radio tape. The game is shrouded in myth and mystery, and over the years people have been able to embellish it without facts getting in the way. As I've traveled the world, I've probably had 10,000 people tell me that they saw my 100 point game at Madison Square Garden. Well, the game was in Hershey and there were about 4,000 [actually 4,124] there. But that's fine. I have memories of the game and so do they, and over the years the memories get better. It's like your first girlfriend--the picture you have in your head is always better than how she looked in real life.
Harvey Pollack (PR Man): It is a mythic game because Wilt scored exactly 100, no more, no less. And the game ended after Wilt scored his 100th point even though there were 46 seconds left on the clock. Those things will never happen again.
Pete D'Ambrosio (official): I officiated that game with Willie Smith and there was nothing special about it. The season was almost over. The playoff spots had been decided. the only reason it was played was because it was on the schedule. the last thing anyone expected was basketball history.
Harvey Pollack (PR Man): this was supposed to be the classic NBA nonevent.
Hardly any New York reporters were there. The biggest paper in Philadelphia--the Inquirer--didn't
even send a reporter. I was the public relations man for the Philadelphia Warriors
and I also was covering the game for the Inquirer, Associated Press and United
Press International. I also was keeping the stats and my son sat next to me at
courtside, keeping the running play-by-play.
I remember hearing Wilt say before the game that he had been out all night with a beautiful woman. In the Hershey arena lobby, hey had a pinball machine and one of those target practice machines, and Wilt said he set records on both of those.
Wilt Chamberlain: I lived in New York and I was out with a friend. I mean, I got no sleep at all before that game. I was up for at least 24 hours. I drove New York to Philly, where we caught a bus to Hershey. I tried to sleep on the bus, but I couldn't. You should have seen me on the rifle machine--I was hitting everything. I'm talking about a world record.
Frank McGuire (coach): Eddie Donovan was the coach of the Knicks and he is a special friend of mine. I had said earlier in the season, "Just you wait, Wilt is going to get 100 one of these nights." But that was because Wilt was the greatest offensive force this game has ever seen. Sixty, 70 points was common for him. We did not set out to get Wilt 100.
Tom Meschery (teammate): Hershey had one of those dreary, old, dungeonlike arenas with overlapping rafters. Because the Hershey Company was there, the whole town smelled like fresh chocolate. We had trained in Hershey, so we were acquainted with the gym. Right away, I knew Wilt was in for a big night because he was making all of his free throws.
Wilt Chamberlain: To me, the 100-point game was inevitable that season. I was averaging 50 point. I had 78 in a game [three months earlier]. In high school, I once scored 90 [in 32 minutes] and shot 36-for-41. I always scored a lot, so I figured that 100 would come. But I certainly did not decide to go for it that night in Hershey. Even by halftime, I had 41 and it wasn't that big of a deal. I had scored 40 in a half before.
Al Attles (teammate): Wilt just kept scoring. He had 69 after three quarters. Dave Zinkoff was doing the PA and after every basket Wilt scored in the fourth quarter, he'd announce, "That's 82 for Wilt." So everyone in the game knew the situation and it just evolved to the point where we wanted Wilt to get 100.
Wilt Chamberlain: When I got into the 80s, I heard the fans yelling for 100. I thought, "Man, these people are tough. Eighty isn't good enough. I'm tired. I've got 80 points and no on e has ever scored 80." At one point, I said to Al Attles, "I got 80, what' the difference between 80 and 100?" But the guys kept feeding me the ball.
Tom Meschery (teammate): By the fourth quarter, the Knicks were waiting until the 24-second shot clock was about to expire before they shot. When we had the ball, they were fouling everyone except Wilt so he wouldn't get 100. So we would take the ball out-of-bounds and throw high lobs directly to Wilt near the basket. When Wilt wanted the ball, he was big enough and strong enough to go get it. Guys were hanging on his back, and he was still catching the pass and scoring. I knew it was going to happen when with about five minutes left Wilt dunked one and nearly threw two New York players into the basket with the ball, and Dave Zinkoff yelled over the PA, "Dipper Dunk for 86!"
Richie Guerin (Knick): they can complain about us fouling people, but Frank McGuire sent some subs into the game and they were fouling us immediately to get the ball back and give Wilt some more chances.
Pete D'Ambrosio (official): The game was a real pain in the neck to call. The last three minutes of the game took about 20 minutes. The Knicks were jumping on guys just to keep the ball away from Wilt. Then New York would get the ball, and Philly would foul.
Al Attles (teammate): Frank McGuire told Wilt, "You bring the ball up the court." Wilt liked to think he could play guard, so he loved it. But Frank did that down the stretch so that if New York wanted to foul someone, it had to be Wilt.
Harvey Pollack (PR Man): Darrell Imhoff started at center against Wilt, but he fouled out and played only about half the game. By the end of the game, all of their big men had fouled out.
[Chamberlain was guarded by Cleveland Buckner, who was listed as 6-foot-9 but was closer to 6-foot-7. Chamberlain scored his 98th point with 1:19 left]
Marv Albert: the irony is that Darrell Imhoff's strength as a player was his defense, but he is forever the butt of the joke that "Here's the guy who held Wilt to 100 points," even though he wasn't on the court when it happened.
Harvey Pollack (PR Man): There are several fascinating things about the end of this game. First, the few reporters who were there disagree on how the final basket was scored. Some say it was a dunk, others say it was a tip-in.
Pete D'Ambrosio (official): I was looking right at the play, and I don't remember what happened.
Wilt Chamberlain: I keep trying to remember, but I can't. I do know that they had build a fort around me when I caught the ball. It seemed like about 30 of my 36 field goals were fadeaway jumpers, because that was all I could take. What does stick in my mind was that I made 25 of my 26 free throws, then I missed two.
Harvey Pollack (PR Man): Here is exactly what happened for the 100th point.
Wilt took a shot and missed and missed. It rebounded out to Joe Ruklick. Even
this has been disputed, because the NBA said it was Paul Arizin, but I called them and
they changed it.
Rulick got the ball, passed it to Wilt and Wilt made a layup, not a dunk as some people reported.
The ball went through the rim with 46 seconds left, the fans rushed on the court and the game ended there.
Frank McGuire (coach): After he scored 100, Wilt was trying to get off the court and there were four little kids hanging on his shoulders and waist. It was as if he were giving them a piggyback ride.
Al Attles (teammate): After the game, Wilt was in the dressing room and he
wasn't celebrating like the rest of us.
I said, "Wilt what's the matter?"
He said, "I never thought I'd take 60 shots in a game."
I said, "But you made 36--that's better than 50 percent."
He said, "But Al--63 shots, Al."
Then he just shook his head.
Frank McGuire (coach): I do think that we were more excited about the game than Wilt was. I do recall him sitting in that little locker room--it was nothing more than a high school dressing room with one long wooden bench in the middle where everyone sat. Wilt was holding the stat sheet, sweat pouring off his face, just staring at it.
Harvey Pollack (PR man): The one famous picture from the game is Wilt in the dressing room holding up a little sign that said, "100." The photographers wanted something special and I just grabbed a piece of paper, wrote 100 on it, Wilt held it up and it went all over the country.
Wilt Chamberlain: The 100-point game will never be as important to me as it is to some other people. That's because I'm embarrassed by it. After I got into the 80s, I pushed for 100 and it destroyed the game because I took shots that I normally never would. I was not real fluid. I mean, 63 shots? You take that many shots on the playground and no one ever wants you on their team again. I never considered myself a gunner. I led the league in scoring because I also led them in field goal percentage. I've had many better games than this one, games where I scored 50-60 and shot 75 percent.
Al Attles (teammate): Wilt gave me the ball that he scored the 100th point with, even though some kid claimed to have run off with it.
Wilt Chamberlain: I wanted Al to have that ball because he's a great friend and he spent his whole career sacrificing to make other guys better players.
Richie Guerin (Knick): I'm not saying this to take anything away from
Wilt. I think Wilt is the best big man to play the game--ever. I am convinced
that he can go out there today at 50-some years old and be better than most of the guys
But that game was not played as it should have been played. The second half was a travesty. I don't care what the Philly people say, I'm convinced that during the half they decided to get Wilt 100. He took nearly every shot. In the normal flow, Wilt would have scored 80-85 points which is mind-boggling when you thing about it. I'm sorry, this may be basketball history but I always felt very bad about that game. I got so sick of it that I intentionally fouled out.
Alex Hannum (Wilt's coach, 2 years later): I think the only guy who feels a stigma from that game is Richie Guerin. He is a combative ex-marine who never took any crap from anybody, and having Wilt score 100 against his team had to hurt. But there was no stigma against him or the Knicks. The rest of us in the league knew that Wilt was going to score 100; it just happened that night.
Pete D'Ambrosio (official): Wilt was such a phenom that we took it for granted. When he scored 100, it was mentioned on the news and in the papers, but it wasn't the kind of huge event that it would be today. That's because we weren't able to put Wilt into context like we can now.
Wilt Chamberlain: I have to admit that as the years have passed, I like the
100-point game more than I did at the time. To me, averaging 50 points in a season
or being the only center to lead the league in assists are more indicative of the kind of
player I was. but the 100-point night...The good thing is that everyone has their
stories and I can't disagree with many of them because I don't even know how I scored the
last basket. It has reached fabled proportion, almost like a Paul Bunyan story, and
it's nice to be a part of a fable.
FG Pct: Phil. .548, NY .483. FT Pct: Phil. .827, NY .805. Team Rebounds: Phil. 3, NY 4.
Officials: Willie Smith and
Pete D'Ambrosio. Attendance: 4,124.
|Wilt's quarter-by-quarter stats|
Wilt, after the 100-point game.
For more information, go the books section and check out the book Wilt, 1962.