Kansas City has a rich sports history that’s worth celebrating. With 2022 marking the 100th anniversary of 810 WHB, local author and historian David Smale will look back into Kansas City’s history and pick a significant sporting event that happened during that week in past years.
Wilt Chamberlain’s list of basketball accomplishments is longer than anybody’s. He’s 27th on the University of Kansas’ all-time scoring list in just two seasons. The 48 games it took him to compile 1,433 points are less than half the number of all but three of the men listed above him. The next fewest games among the men with more points is 80. Of the 83 men who have scored 1,000 or more points, he’s the only one to have played just two years.
When Ochai Agbaji passed Chamberlain on the list during the recent Sunflower Showdown in Lawrence, he did so in his 109th game.
Chamberlain scored an even 800 points (in 27 games) in 1956-57, his second year in the program. That total is fourth all-time for a single season behind Danny Manning’s 942 and 860 (in 38 and 36 games, respectively) and Clyde Lovellette’s 886 in 31 games. Chamberlain owns the first (52), third (46) and fifth (45) highest single-game marks in school history.
But all those numbers pale in comparison to what he did on March 2, 1962, as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors. He scored 100 points, an NBA record that still stands.
The game was not televised, and only 4,124 fans attended the game in Hershey, Pa., about 80 miles from Philadelphia. The NBA was not a big deal at the time, and often teams played in remote areas to attract new fans.
Chamberlain not only was talented, but he was an iron man. Heading into the game against the Knicks, he had missed a total of 8:33 all season, and that missed time was because of being ejected for technical fouls. In the three games he played in earlier in the week, Wilt had scored 67, 65 and 61 points, giving him 15 games with at least 60 points in his career, another NBA record, in less than three full seasons.
The record for points in a game heading into that season was 71, but Chamberlain already beat that with a 78-point effort against the Los Angeles Lakers in December.
Going into the game with the last-place Knicks, the Warriors had little to be excited about. Even Chamberlain’s 41 points in the first half was not out of the ordinary. But he scored 28 points in the third quarter, a big game for most players, and his new scoring record was in jeopardy.
With just over 8 minutes left, Chamberlain still needed 25 points to get to 100, the equivalent of a 150-point game, but he got his 79th point with 7:51 left to establish a new record. With 6 minutes remaining, the Knicks began to intentionally foul any Warrior except Chamberlain to keep him from hitting the century mark against them. But the Warriors retaliated by fouling the Knicks to get the ball back after the free throws. The Warriors ended with 25 personal fouls, and the Knicks with 32.
With 2:12 left, Chamberlain scored on a fadeaway for his 96th point. His next basket at 1:19 came off a lob pass for a powerful dunk that was rare for Chamberlain—Chamberlain’s usual dunks were less emphatic. With less than a minute left in the game, Chamberlain missed two easy shots inside before getting free from the five Knicks who were guarding him and put the ball into the basket for his 100th point.
Chamberlain ended the 1961-62 season averaging 50.4 points per game, still an NBA record. (He owns the five highest single-season marks. The highest total among all others was Rick Barry’s 35.6 in 1966-67.) Chamberlain also averaged 25.7 rebounds per game that season, the lowest total of his three-year career to that point. He led the NBA in scoring in each of his first six seasons, seven overall. He led the league in rebounding in each of his first four seasons, 11 overall.
His 30.07 points per game in second all-time to Michael Jordan’s 30.12. His 22.89 rebounds per game is the all-time best, ahead of Bill Russell’s 22.45 and more than 6.5 boards per game ahead of third place (Bob Pettit).
Chamberlain obviously had many great nights on the basketball court. But none was better than a game 60 years ago this week.
David Smale has published two dozen books, mostly on sports history. He has written thousands of articles for various publications. He also hosts “Sports Connections with David Smale,” which is available at 810whb.com under the podcasts tab.