The talk throughout the arena all day Friday, from the morning's shootaround to just about game time has been about the 100 points Wilt Chamberlain scored 50 years ago today as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa. Everyone in attendance received a 2x2 piece of the floor in which that game was played, as well as a scoring breakdown of Wilt's night.
Reporters were asking reporters and players were asking players what the most points they ever scored in a game, no one coming close to Chamberlain's total. Almost all feel the feat will never be accomplished again. Many thought the 81 Kobe Bryant scored for the Lakers in 2006, the second-highest total in NBA history, might not even be reached.
Stories about Chamberlain have circulated through the years, some myth, many real. One of the stories my dad used to tell me was how Chamberlain could palm a 16-pound balling ball. According to my dad, he could pick the ball up off the floor without using the holes.
I always wondered about that tale, but never really wanted to look it up to see of the authenticity. But the proof was given to me tonight as the legendary Stan Hochman confirmed to me that the story was true.
The debates can go on and on about which feat of Chamberlain's was the greatest - 55 rebounds in a game, a 50-point average one season, leading the league in assists - but the one that always makes me shake my head was the year he averaged MORE than 48 minutes a game. Chamberlain played in every game, plus those that went into overtime, thus giving him the average. The stories that were passed down through the years were that Chamberlain said if he came out of a game, it would take him a long time to get warmed up again, so he preferred to keep playing.
There's no question as to how great he was and that he certainly liked to post mind-boggling numbers. Of course, the knock is that he only won two titles. I remember my dad telling how great Wilt was and saying that he led the league in assists on year. I asked why, wondering if his skills had deteriorated and passing was what he had left? My dad said no. He did it because he wanted to.
That begs the question; Was he in it for him or for his team? Probably both, but who isn't? I totally understand people who believe Michael Jordan is the greatest ever, as he won six titles and may be the clutchest player ever to step on a court.
Me? I go back and forth. Having only seen Chamberlain play the last few years of his career certainly doesn't allow me to make a solid statement of who was better, he or Jordan. I like what Sixers coach Doug Collins said when I asked him who he thought the greatest was.
"I don't get into superlatives," he said. "When you enter that level of greatness that those two are in, no one is greater than the other."
To keep my dad from rolling over in his grave, my vote goes to Chamberlain.