Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100

      Fifty years ago this week

     The evening of March 2, 1962, was cold, and just 4,124 spectators shuffled into the 7,200-seat Hershey Sports Arena in Hershey, Pa., to see a basketball game. What they couldn't have realized was that they were about to witness one of the most historic basketball games of all time.
     The game pitted the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks. The Warriors were led by 7-foot-1 center Wilt Chamberlain, already a star in only his third year in the league. Just three months earlier, he had put together a streak of seven consecutive games scoring 50-plus points. But he also had a notorious weakness -- he could only hit about half his free throws (sound familiar Shaquille O'Neal fans?).
     Early on, it became clear that Chamberlain was in for a big night. His teammates fed him the ball every chance they got. The Knicks responded by double-teaming him and fouling him. But the double-teaming wasn't enough and even at the free throw line Chamberlain was hot, hitting 13 of 14 free throws in the first half.
     Chamberlain had 41 points at halftime, and in the second half public address announcer Dave Zinkoff started announcing the big man's point total after every basket. At the end of the third quarter, Chamberlain had 69 points and, with a 100-point seemingly in reach,  the crowd was getting frenzied.
     Even though they were behind, the Knicks tried to stall to keep Chamberlain from scoring more. The Warriors had to foul to get the ball back. Finally, with just seconds remaining, Chamberlain put in his 100th point and the crowd poured onto the court.
     Altogether, Chamberlain hit 36 of 63 field goals, and a sizzling 28 of 32 free throws. His 100 points still stands as an NBA record. No one has ever come close to topping it.
     In this game, he also set league records for field goals, free throws, most points for a quarter (31), and most points for a half (59).
     The Knicks set a record too in losing 169-147; their point total was the most ever by a losing team.
     Despite the historic nature of this game, you'll never see highlights of it on television, even if you watch ESPN 24 hours a day. As hard as it may be to believe in this age of the omnipresent camcorder, there is no film or videotape of Chamberlain's 100-point performance.

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