March 2, 1962, was one of the most unbelievable, unforgettable nights in professional sports history. This was the night Wilton Norman "Wilt the Stilt" Chamberlain scored 100 points in a professional basketball game.
The 7'1" star center of the Philadelphia Warriors was then in his third season of complete NBA domination, leaving opposing centers in the dust in the face of his awe-inspiring presence. Chamberlain had already set several scoring records in his first two seasons, including averaging 37.6 and 38.4 points a game respectively. Wilt had also set the single game scoring record less than three months previously, pouring in a record 78 points in an overtime game on December 8, 1961.
When Lakers star Elgin Baylor, whose record of 73 points Wilt had broken, was asked if he was upset, Baylor answered as if he had a crystal ball. "Someday that guy's going to score 100," he prophesied, almost eerily.
Wilt had already broken several records, but the 1961-62 season was to be his crowning glory, a season in which he would average a jaw-dropping 50.4 points per game.
The night before Wilt's historic game, he was in New York, having spent the night (not unusually) in the company of a female companion. At 6 AM on the morning of March 2nd, Wilt dropped his lady friend off at her home. He hadn't slept a wink and was suffering from a hangover. He boarded the train to Philadelphia at 8 AM.
After meeting several friends at the Philly train station, he had a long lunch with them and almost missed the team bus to Hershey. The night's scheduled game at the Hershey Sports Arena was an unimportant one. Wilt's Warriors had a record of 46 wins and 29 losses and were entrenched in second place, a full 11 games behind the champion Boston Celtics. The game promised a dull time for all. Wilt's teammate, York Larese, commented, "There was nothing exciting about the Knicks playing the Warriors in Hershey. Chocolate was more exciting."
On that cold, rainy night only 4,124 fans showed up (the Hershey Arena seated 8,000). The game was so unimportant, only two photographers showed up to cover it. The Knicks' starting center, Phil Jordan, was out sick and was replaced by second-stringer Darrall Imhoff. Also, tellingly, the third-string center was Cleveland Buckner, who had "defended" Wilt just two days earlier and was smoked for a record 28 points in one quarter.
The game began and Wilt got out of the gate quickly, scoring 23 points in the game's first quarter. Even stranger, he was nine for nine at the free throw line. A notoriously poor free throw shooter, Wilt's first thoughts that night were of possibly setting some kind of free throw record.
The Stilt added 18 points in the second quarter, giving him 41 at the half.
In the third quarter, Knick center Imhoff got into foul trouble and poor Cleveland Buckner took over in the post. Wilt scored another 28 in the third quarter, versus both Imhoff and Buckner. Wilt's point total now stood at 69.
The fourth quarter soon became, by all accounts, a farce. Sensing Wilt's potential record, the crowd kept chanting "100!" over and over. They screamed for Wilt to get the ball. The Knicks players, trying to avoid acute embarrassment, started fouling every other player, trying to keep the ball out of Chamberlain's hands. Philadelphia coach Frank McGuire soon responded in kind, sending in his substitute players to immediately foul the Knicks players as soon as they got the ball.
The Knicks tried madly to just "eat up the clock," not shooting the ball, but passing it around to cause long delays and keep the ball from Wilt. The other Warriors passed up easy shots and lay-ups and passed the ball to their center every possession. With about one minute left in the game, Wilt had 98 points. The Warriors got the ball and passed it to Wilt, who missed his shot. They grabbed the rebound and the ball again went to Wilt, who missed again.
Warriors substitute player Ted Luckenbill got another rebound and the ball was passed to Philly sub Joe Rucklick. With less than a minute left in the game, Joe Rucklick passed the ball in to Wilt. With exactly 46 seconds left on the clock, Chamberlain slammed a dunk through the hoop and NBA history was made.
Rucklick rushed to the scorer's table, making sure he got credited with the historic assist.
Two hundred happy, hysterical fans immediately stormed the court, causing a full nine-second delay until order was restored. The game resumed, with Wilt just standing around in the middle of the court, because "100 sounded better than 102."
Strangely, the game's final score has always been reported as being 169-147, Warriors over Knicks. But a recently-discovered recording of the game had the final at 169-150.
Two days later, when Darral Imhoff returned to Madison Square Garden for the next Knicks game against the Warriors, he was given a standing ovation for "holding Wilt to 58 points."
Wilt 100 on the 50th anniversary of this historic game Friday at 4PM.]