100 Facts About Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-Point Game, In Honor of the Record’s 50th Anniversary

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50 years ago this Friday, on a dreary evening in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 100 points in a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks.

Wilt’s century mark broke the NBA single-game scoring record—a record Chamberlain already held—and set a mark that no one in five decades has come close to matching.

In honor of the golden anniversary of Wilt’s 100-point game, here are 100 facts about that March 2, 1962 game, the setting, the players, and the historical significance.

The Setting

1. On March 2, 1962, the Philadelphia Warriors played the New York Knicks at Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was a home game for the Warriors, even though they were away from Philadelphia. Back then, some NBA teams played a handful of home games at neutral cities to attract new fans, especially in cities without NBA teams. The Warriors played three games in Hershey that season.

2. The game was the eleventh between the Warriors and Knicks. The Warriors were 6-4 in the first ten games.

3. The Hershey Sports Arena opened in 1936 as the home of the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. The Bears played at the Hershey Sports Arena from its opening until 2002.

The Hershey Bears at the Hershey Sports Arena on opening night, 1937. (From hockeyscoop.net)

4. The Hershey Sports Arena’s official seating capacity is 7,225.

5. Only 4,124 spectators saw the Warriors play the Knicks in the Hershey Sports Arena on March 2, 1962.

6. The Hershey Sports Arena, now called Hersheypark Arena, is still open today. The venue no longer has a professional tenant, but the Shippensburg University and Lebanon Valley College ice hockey teams both play their home games there.

7. The game was the 76th of 80 games for the Warriors and the 73rd for the Knicks.

8. The Warriors were 46-29 and second in the Eastern Division, with no hope of catching the first-place Boston Celtics or being caught by the third-place Syracuse Nationals.

9. The Knicks were 27-45 and the fourth of four teams in the Eastern Division, with no hope of making the Playoffs or catching the third-place Nationals. In other words, the game was meaningless for both teams.

10. For the 1961-62 season, the Warriors went 12-1 in neutral-site games. They went 37-30 in other games.

11. The night before the game Wilt was out with a lady friend in New York City. Though Wilt played for Philadelphia, he lived in New York and commuted for home games. Chamberlain even owned a club in NYC, Big Wilt’s Smalls Paradise.

Big Wilt's Smalls Paradise, 1964 (Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS)

12. Prior to the game, Wilt played pinball in the Hershey Sports Arena’s penny arcade.

13. The opening act for the Warriors-Knicks game was an exhibition between the Harlem Globetrotters and a team of players from the Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. Watching the Keystone State’s best football players take on the Globetrotters was arguably a bigger draw than a meaningless, late-season NBA game.

14. While the crowd of 4,124 was small, the Warriors were used to playing in half-empty arenas. The team’s average attendance in 1961-62 was 5,579, a five-year low and down from 8,086 two seasons earlier.

15. Wilt was in his third season in the NBA. As a rookie with the Warriors, he averaged 37.6 points and 27 rebounds. He averaged 38.4 and 27.2 in his sophomore campaign. During the 1961-62 season, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points and 27.4 boards.

16. Chamberlain was born and raised in Philadelphia. When Wilt was eligible for the NBA Draft in 1959, the Warriors claimed him as a territorial pick. Territorial picks were usually reserved for players who’d played their college ball in or near an NBA city. (Thus the Cincinnati Royals were able to claim Oscar Robertson from the University of Cincinnati.) Wilt played at Kansas, which is obviously nowhere near Philadelphia, but Warriors’ owner Eddie Gottlieb was able to use a territorial pick on Chamberlain because Wilt had been a high school star in Philly.

17. Wilt began his professional career not in the NBA but with the team that opened for him on March 2, 1962. He left Kansas after his junior year; but at the time only seniors were eligible for the Draft. So Chamberlain spent a year with the Harlem Globetrotters.

18. When Chamberlain was in high school in Philadelphia, the local media nicknamed him “Wilt the Stilt,” a reference to his height and lanky frame. Wilt hated that nickname.

19. Wilt preferred his other nickname, “the Dipper” or “the Big Dipper.” Chamberlain’s friends called him the Dipper because he was so tall that he often had to duck, or dip, his head to get through doorways.

20. Earlier that season, on December 8, 1961, Wilt broke the NBA’s single-game scoring record when he went for 78 in a triple-overtime game against the Lakers.

21. Little over a month later, on January 13, 1962, the Dipper broke the record for most points scored in regulation with a 73-point performance against the Chicago Packers.

22. Before Wilt, the record for most points in a single game belonged to the Lakers’ Elgin Baylor. Baylor scored 71 against the Knicks early in the 1960-61 season.

23. All high-scoring NBA performances, then and now, are a product of the 24-second shot clock. The NBA adopted the shot clock for the 1954-55 season. Prior to that season, teams that had a healthy second-half lead would run out the clock with lengthy possessions, passing the ball back and forth for several minutes at a time. In an infamous 1950 game between the Fort Wayne Pistons and the Minneapolis Lakers, the Pistons used stall tactics from the beginning of the game. Wanting to keep the ball out of the hands of dominant Lakers big man George Mikan, Fort Wayne attempted only 13 shots in 48 minutes. The strategy worked, and the Pistons won 19-18.

The 24-second shot clock was the brainchild of Syracuse Nationals owner Danny Biasone. According to NBA.com:

Biasone chose the unusual number of 24 seconds by figuring that the average number of shots two teams would take during a game was 120. He divided that number into 48 minutes or 2,880 seconds, the length of a game, and ended up with the magical number of 24.

Wilt Chamberlain as a Harlem Globetrotter, 1959 (Photo from Wikipedia)

 
Keep reading to learn some stunning facts about the game itself, including who was hungover, the lengths the Warriors went to in an effort to get Wilt the record, and what the Knicks did to try to prevent him from doing so.
 
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About Josh Tinley

Josh Tinley writes the Away From The Action column at Midwest Sports Fans, covering all aspects of sport aside from what actually happens on the field, court, or track. Josh grew up in Indianapolis and graduated from the University of Evansville and Vanderbilt Divinity School. He is the author of Kneeling in the End Zone: Spiritual Lessons From the World of Sports and the managing editor of LinC, a weekly curriculum for teens that explores the intersection of faith and culture. Josh lives outside Nashville with his wife, Ashlee, and children, Meyer (7), Resha Kate (5), and Malachi (3). He will not allow himself to die before the Evansville Purple Aces make another trip to the NCAA Tournament. Follow him on Twitter @joshtinley or send him an e-mail.

Comments

  1. Fantastic article! nice work!

  2. Maj10030mj says:

    the bigg fellow is the greatest player of all-time !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  3. wilt was the greatest scorer and rebounder ive ever seen,,when i was a boy watched him every chance i could..this man was over 7 foot2 in.tall and was a great leaper..he dunked from free throw line along time before michael..it was said when he was early in career could touch the top of the backboard and i believe it..He was so far ahead of the rest of the big men back then, a mountain of a man! he was litterly unstoppable and if he was starting out today ,he would still be dominant in the post position..

  4. Totowatony says:

    as a celtic fan since 1956, i wouldn’t trade russell for anybody. he was the perfect fit for that team. BUT, Wilt was the best i ever saw at center and maybe the best bb player ever. score ,pass, rebound ,defend, he could do it all when motivated. like surpassing 60 home runs, someone may score 100 or more in a game, but Wilt will still be bigger then life just like the Babe.

  5. The article failed to mention his most amazing statistic of all, I believe the number was 20,000….

  6. I was not a huge basket ball fan in the past but I knew who Wilt was when I ran into him (blocked his car in the drive way actually) a month before he died.  I knew it was him immediately when I saw him duck through the door way of my fathers neighbor’s appartment.  I was freaking out and trying to tell my dad who it was without Wilt noticing.  I did not need to worry, he was being so nice to my three little girls and immediately took them to play some ball and would not have noticed how I was acting.  Unfortunately, my three daughters did not realize they were playing basket ball with one of the greatest until much later.  They were only 3, 7 and 9 which was quite a sight to see them standing next to him.  lol  I think the oldest may have been to his knees if she was lucky.  He was more than just a great player, he was down to earth and a very nice person.

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