Why didn't Wilt Chamberlain win more championships

NBA record from Wilt Chamberlain: "Why don't we give him 100 points right away?"

On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain signed the NBA history books. His 100 points against the New York Knicks will probably remain a record forever. We look back on this memorable game that nobody wanted to see back then.

This article first appeared in March 2018.

Pretty much every NBA fan has heard of the legendary 100 points from Wilt Chamberlain, but very few have seen it. Also, the game was not televised, there was only a single photographer present. There are only small audio snippets from the final quarter.

This seems confusing in retrospect, but the NBA was still in its infancy in 1962. College basketball dominated, the NBA was of little relevance, so no member of the New York press made the trip to Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Warriors were playing some games there at the time. The press preferred to follow the spring training of the Yankees and the Mets, which were founded in the same year.

The Warriors' opponents, the New York Knicks, were the worst team in the league at the time with a record of 27-45. Chamberlain didn't seem to really care about the game either. He preferred to party the night before in New York with a woman whom he brought home at 6 a.m. At 8 he took the train to Philadelphia to have an extended hangover breakfast with some friends.

Wilt Chamberlain: A record night

In the evening, only 4,124 souls officially lost themselves in the 8,000-man hall, which was actually built for ice hockey. It would have been less if the Philadelphia Eagles football players hadn't played a fun basketball game against the Baltimore Colts beforehand.

Those who came certainly didn't regret it, seeing one of the craziest stories the league has ever produced. The hungover Wilt, who averaged 50.4 points in this historic 1961/62 season, led his team to a 169: 147 success and cracked the 100 points with statistics that are completely absurd these days.

The Big Dipper took a total of 63 throws (36 hits) and converted 28 free throws in 32 attempts. Two facts catch the eye. Wilt was actually a historically bad thrower off the line with a meager 51.1 percent, in the meantime he also tried the underhand throw before he decided against it again because he didn't think the throw looked cool.

Chamberlain himself recognized the curiosity. "I am the worst free thrower in the world," said the Center in his autobiography Wilt to. "That evening I met 87.5 percent, which shows that everyone can be lucky once."

The box score of the starters of the Warriors

playerMINFGFGAFTFTAREBASTPTS
Wilt Chamberlain4836632832252100
Guy Rodgers481491272011
Tom Meschery40712227316
Al Attles3488115617
Paul Arizin31718225416

The 100-point game turned into a farce

There were two reasons why Chamberlain got so many attempts at all. The dipper's teammates constantly fouled the curtsey in the fourth quarter so they could get the ball back and Wilt could chase his record. But New York did not want to be completely humiliated either and also deliberately fouled Chamberlain in the hope that Wilt would miss the line as usual.

"The game was a farce," said Knicks coach Eddie Donovan afterwards. "They fouled us and then we fouled them." Warriors coach Frank McGuire even changed some backups at the end so that they could give a few fouls and serve Chamberlain the ball. It is interesting that Wilt's fouls were not mentioned at all in his biography. Instead, the record man spoke of the fact that the Knicks always tried to let the shot clock run down so that he could not score.

The fact that Chamberlain even came into the position to score three-digit points had to do with the level of the league. Wilt was an exception of his time and towered over most of his opponents by a head, including the center. In addition, only 37 African-American players played in the NBA at the time, the Bigs, with the exception of Bill Russell, were mostly white, stiff hips and certainly not athletic.

NBA: These records will last forever - right?

Chamberlain: No opponent was up to him

The Knicks also had to do without their starting center, Phil Jordon. He was officially stated to have the flu, but his backup Darrall Imhoff later admitted that Jordon was just downright hungover. Imhoff had grown quite tall with 2.08 meters, but had no chance against Chamberlain and only played 20 minutes due to foul problems.

Although Imhoff achieved All-Star honors in 1967, he only put on 5.9 points and 6.2 rebounds in 1962. Allegedly he said the following after a foul whistle against him: "Why don't we just give him 100 points and everyone goes home?" As a result, Imhoff was replaced by the even smaller rookie Cleveland Buckner.

The Warriors always gave their star the Spalding, who then tortured his opponents in the then still smaller zone (it was enlarged and widened in 1964 because of wilting). 63 attempts to throw are unmatched to this day, not even Michael Jordan took more than 49 throws in one game. For comparison: In his farewell game, Kobe Bryant hit the basket 50 times for 60 points. The Black Mamba, with 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006, is also the player who came closest to Wilt's point record.

100 points from Chamberlain: Media react cautiously

"My teammates wanted it that way," Chamberlain later reported. "They kept giving me the ball even though they had completely free throws. I think I really threw too much, especially in the fourth quarter when everyone wanted me to score 100." Such behavior in this day and age? Unthinkable.

It was also unimaginable how the media perceived this milestone. In Philadelphia there were minor references to the front pages of local newspapers that Philadelphia Daily News didn't even have it on the cover, the agency report was enough for the New York media. At the time, the United States couldn't identify with a black athlete who was two heads taller than the average person.

Also, people seemed a little tired of Wilt, who had torn the league apart this season. "It was only a matter of time," said teammate Al Attles. "We were all just waiting for it." On the other hand, the Knicks, whom Chamberlain later described as unsporting, were not at all happy.

Standing ovation for 58 points

Player Richie Guerin suggested that Chamberlain would only have scored 85 if the game had ended normally, Wilt countered, saying that he would have given the Knicks 140 points if they had played "honest basketball". Either way, we'll never find out, also because of the lack of images that gave Chamberlain's performance a mystical touch.

Two days later, the two teams met again in Madison Square Garden and Imhoff had to assert himself again against Wilt. The Warriors won with 129: 128, Chamberlain scored "only" 58 points. Imhoff was bid farewell to the audience with a standing ovation.