Fifty years later: Wilt's 100-point game
Key participants reflect on Wilt Chamberlain's amazing feat a half-century ago
When you think about some of the most amazing individual accomplishments in sports, very few, if any, are more remarkable than Wilt Chamberlain's NBA-record 100-point game. Chamberlain put on a performance that more than likely will never be eclipsed by any NBA player.
The 7-foot-1, 275-pound center scored 100 points in leading the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962, at the Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pa. The "Big Dipper" shot 36-for-63 from the field and an incredible 28-for-32 from the free throw line. That was really something because Chamberlain was only a career 51.1 percent from the foul line. He played all 48 minutes.
That amazing game was 50 years ago. Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard, is the only player to get within hailing distance of Chamberlain's mark. Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. He was still 19 points from the century mark, and that's with the 3-point shot.
Al Attles, former coach and general manager of the Golden State Warriors, played in that game. Attles, a 6-foot-4 guard, played in the Warriors' backcourt with Guy Rodgers, who was one of the NBA's most outstanding playmakers. Attles shot 8-for-8 from the field and 1-for-1 from the free throw line. He didn't miss a shot. Rodgers handed out 20 assists that night.
"I did all right, but Wilt had the big game," Attles said. "He was really dominant. Wilt had a tremendous game. It's been 50 years since that happened. It's the 50th anniversary of that game. It's truly stood the test of time. The thing I remembered about the game is Wilt didn't want to score 100. He wanted to come out of the game. Frank [McGuire, the Warriors' coach] kept him in the game. Wilt was very careful. He didn't want to rub it in. He was very conscious of that. We had some good players on both teams. Guy was a fantastic player. But Wilt was really special that game."
The Knicks did everything they could to try to slow Chamberlain down. Darrall Imhoff was the center for New York. Although Imhoff guarded Chamberlain around the basket, he had plenty of help from his teammates such as Richie Guerin, Willie Naulls and Cleveland Buckner. They all had big games. Guerin had a team-high 39 points. Buckner and Naulls scored 33 and 31, respectively. In a normal game, this would have been enough for the Knicks to defeat the Warriors, but Chamberlain's power dunks and finger rolls were just too much.
Chamberlain scored 23 points in the first quarter. He had 41 points at the half. He scored 28 points in the third quarter. And he tallied 31 in the fourth quarter, connecting on 12 of 21 shots from the field and seven of 10 shots from the free throw line.
Although Rodgers had 20 assists that game, it was Joe Ruklick, former Northwestern star, who made the pass to Chamberlain to score his 100th point. Ruklick, a reserve guard for the Warriors, carved out a spot in NBA history for himself.
"After I made the pass to Wilt for his 100th point, I went over to the scorer's table," Ruklick said. "I told the official scorer to give me the assist. I wanted that. I don't remember the year, but I said to Wilt, 'What was I doing in the game when you were trying to score 100?' It was before the basket. Wilt said, 'I told Frank to put you in the game.'
"Wilt and I were friends. He gave my son the jersey he wore in his first college game. I'm the only opposing player he invited to Kansas when they retired his jersey number."
The game didn't mean much in the standings. It wasn't a playoff or championship game. The attendance was just 4,124. Bill Campbell, a longtime Philadelphia sports radio announcer, called the game on the old WCAU radio station. Campbell is sorry he didn't make a copy of that historic broadcast of Chamberlain's legendary game.
"The thing that really stuck out in my mind is that I failed to tape it," Campbell said. "That was a dumb error on my part. I got so consumed with trying to keep track of the points and making sure I did it correctly. I thought about it when I was driving home that night. I wasn't a rookie in this business at that time. I had been around for awhile.
"Wilt called me from Los Angeles after he was elected to the Hall of Fame. He asked me if I had a tape of the fourth quarter. I said some of the fourth quarter. He said, 'Send it to the Hall of Fame.' As a matter of fact, the next morning in the office, I got a call from a fan.
"[The fan] said to me, 'I'm sure you have a tape of the game.' I pretended that I did. I couldn't bring myself to tell him that I didn't. He said, 'On my homemade recorder here at home, I managed to tape a little bit of it. I have a couple minutes of the fourth quarter, including the period when he got his 100th point.' He said, 'If you would [like] to have it, I can send it to [you].' He did send it, as I told Wilt this is the only thing we have pertaining to the 100-point game."
There is a book on the game. Gary Pomerantz is the author of "Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era," which provides a great deal of insight into the night when Chamberlain turned in his amazing performance.
"It's really something when you think about it," Pomerantz said. "There's no television coverage of the game. There are only a few photos. Wilt had this sensational game that only a few people saw that night. When Kobe scored 81 points, there was television coverage of that game. You can get a DVD of his game.
"Wilt's 100-point game really helped the NBA. He was such a gifted athlete. After he scored 100 points, people around the league wanted to come out and see this guy play the game."
Chamberlain has a special place in history. The Philadelphia 76ers clearly understand that. They have obtained the original court on which Chamberlain scored his 100 points. The historic court was purchased from Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, which had stored the court previously throughout the years.
A majority of the court will be preserved for posterity, and will be used and displayed at several venues. These include the Wells Fargo Center where the 76ers play and the team's practice facility in Philly as well as in Hershey. Also, the Sixers will donate some of the court to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Harvey Pollack, who is now director of statistical information for the Philadelphia 76ers, covered the game for the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Associated Press and United Press International. He was also the Warriors' public relations director. But more than writing a game story, Pollack is known for one of the most popular photos in sports history. He was responsible for writing the number "100" on a plain white sheet of paper and handing it to Chamberlain; the photo was taken by Associated Press photographer Paul Vathis and is now a classic. Pollack, 89, has been involved with the NBA since it started in 1946. He has vivid memories of Chamberlain's unforgettable performance.
"The Philadelphia Inquirer decided not to send their beat writer to cover the game," said Pollack, a Hall of Famer. "They asked me to cover it for them. I brought my portable typewriter. Meanwhile, Associated Press and United Press International had staff members in Harrisburg, but they didn't know much about basketball.
"I'm actually the one who let the whole world know about this game. It's the biggest night I've ever had in all my 65 years in the league. I had to send a one-paragraph lead along with my game story. The Inquirer wanted to know every kind of shot that Wilt made.
"After the game, I checked everything out with Dave Richter, who was the official scorer. Once I got finished with Richter, I went to the locker room. We had one photographer [Vathis] at the game who worked for AP; he came there with his son. He saw by halftime that Wilt was going to do some fabulous feat. So, he went to the car and got his camera.
"I asked him, 'Did he get a shot of Wilt?' Then I said, 'Did something happen here tonight that was unusual?' He said, 'Yeah, Wilt scored 100 points.' I said, 'Let's do something to indicate that.' I grabbed an 8½-by-11 page out of the notebook. I wrote 100 on it. I said to the guy, 'Get the ball.' He asked me if Wilt would do it. I told him Wilt would do anything for me."
Pollack chronicled Chamberlain's NBA career. He knew Chamberlain as well as anybody who ever covered him in the NBA.
The 1961-62 season might have been Chamberlain's greatest individual year. He averaged 50.4 points a game. He scored an incredible 4,029 points while averaging 48.5 minutes a game. During that season, Chamberlain had games in which he scored 78, 73, 67 and 65 points.
As a prep star at Philadelphia's Overbrook High School, he scored 90 points in a Public League basketball game in 1955. In his first varsity game as a sophomore at Kansas, he scored 52 points against Northwestern. Chamberlain, who died in 1999, played in the NBA from 1959 to 1973. He played for the Philadelphia Warriors (which later became the San Francisco Warriors), the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. He led the 1966-67 76ers to an NBA championship. Chamberlain also guided the 1971-72 Lakers to a league title. He has the second-highest scoring average (30.1 points per game) in NBA history, second to Michael Jordan by fractions of a point. Chamberlain was a four-time MVP.
"Wilt is by far the greatest player of them all," Pollack said. "When Wilt retired in 1973, the NBA record book for that year listed 128 records that he held. As of last year, 98 of those records still stood, and that's 39 years after he had retired."
And one of them is his 100-point game.
Donald Hunt is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune. His HBCU Notebook on ESPN.com can be found here. Got a story idea for Hunt? Email him at email@example.com.