If you’re even a casual NBA fan, you probably know about Wilt Chamberlain‘s historic 100-point game back in 1962. But do you know exactly how he set that seemingly unbreakable record? Chamberlain was an incredible scorer throughout his NBA career, but he never would’ve achieved the 100-point milestone without some help from a hangover and his incredibly unselfish teammates.
Happy anniversary to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game
Wilt Chamberlain was always a prolific scorer in the NBA. During his 14-year pro career, Chamberlain averaged 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game, but that doesn’t even tell the full story about how truly dominant he was in his prime.
When he was just a rookie with the Philadelphia Warriors, Chamberlain averaged a mind-boggling 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds per game. Two years later, Chamberlain put up a seemingly impossible 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game.
Just imagine that. NBA players today are showered with praise and instantly go viral if they can manage 50 points in a single game. Chamberlain scored 50 in 1961-62 and it was actually lower than his season average. Simply absurd.
During that same season, Chamberlain accomplished what no other NBA player has been able to match since. On Tuesday, March 2, we celebrate the 59th anniversary of Chamberlain’s iconic 100-point game.
But there are some details you may not know about that historic performance.
A hangover gave Wilt Chamberlain a dream matchup against the Knicks
Leading up to the Warriors’ March 2 contest against the New York Knicks in 1962, Chamberlain stared down a matchup with 6-foot-10 center Phil Jordan. But Jordan was mysteriously unavailable for the game. The Knicks said Jordan was suffering from the flu, but Jordan’s teammates claimed otherwise.
“The inside scoop was he was hungover,” Darrall Imhoff, the Knicks’ backup center said.
Imhoff started in place of Jordan but couldn’t handle Chamberlain’s size in the post. He played just 20 minutes in the game due to foul trouble, which left 6-foot-9 rookie, Cleveland Buckner, on an island against Chamberlain for most of the game.
Chamberlain torched the pair of backup centers for 100 points on 36-63 shooting. He also made 28 of his 32 free-throw attempts in the contest, which was frankly a shock considering Chamberlain was a 51.1% free-throw shooter throughout his career.
But even with the dream matchup against the Knicks, Chamberlain never would’ve reached 100 without some help from his Warriors teammates.
Chamberlain’s Warriors teammates willed him to 100 points
As Chamberlain approached the 100-point milestone in the fourth quarter against the Knicks, his teammates started to grasp the reality of the situation. Instead of playing the rest of the game naturally, they started passing to Chamberlain nearly every possession to get him to 100 points.
In his self-titled autobiography, Wilt, Chamberlain explains that his teammates willed him to 100.
“My teammates wanted me to do it, too,” Chamberlain wrote. “They started feeding me the ball even when they were wide open… I really think I shot too often in that 100-point game—particularly in the fourth quarter, when everyone was egging me on toward 100.”
Chamberlain attempted a ridiculous 21 shots in the fourth quarter of the blowout as his teammates fed him the ball at will. They even started purposefully fouling on defense so the Warriors could get the ball back quicker and Chamberlain could get more shots off.
Many critics believe the game to be a farce considering how the fourth quarter played out, but 100 points is still 100 points. No one will ever be able to take that away from “Wilt the Stilt.”
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference