The number is so ludicrous that it still elicits smiles of disbelief and shakes of the head in amazement.
The 57th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is Saturday. Many of those who played have died, including Wilt in 1999.
He may be gone, but his legacy lives on.
“Hearing about it as a kid that someone scored 100 points in a game,” said current Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, his voice trailing off at the thought. “It’s just that legend. And then you read about the stories and the people that were part of that moment. Just incredible to even hear about it.”
» FROM THE ARCHIVES: Meet one of the referees from the 100-point game
Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champ, has hit 50 in a game just six times, with a career best of 54.
“You see the records that guys are breaking now,” Durant said. “Wilt Chamberlain was the first name on the list. He dominated the game for a long time.”
James Harden averaged 52.2 points over five games in January. It was tied for the second-longest span averaging 50. Wilt was first with a 50-point average that once lasted 116 games.
On March 2, 1962, the Philadelphia Warriors played the New York Knicks in what was thought to be just another game. Tickets ranged from $1.50 to $3.50 (approximately $13 to $30 by today’s value). Bill Campbell called the game on local radio, but there was no TV.
The game was played 80 miles outside of Philadelphia, in front of a crowd listed at a shade over 4,000. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who was a teammate of Michael Jordan’s for four seasons, said those unique factors just enhance the legend.
“It’s almost mythical, given that there’s no tape of the game, and that it happened in Hershey,” said Kerr, who won five NBA titles as a player and three more as coach of the Warriors. “We’ve got the photo of Wilt at our facility of him holding up the iconic ’100′ sign. The fact that you don’t see any footage, but a handful of photos and a box score, it’s almost got a mystical quality to it.”
(The wild story about how the audio of Campbell’s call was recovered is below. It enhances the coach’s point.)
Kerr stressed that Wilt’s achievement doesn’t just belong to our region, but also to the Warriors franchise, which moved to the West Coast following the 1961-62 season.
“It’s a big part of our history and Philadelphia history. I think it’s just a coincidence that we’re playing here [on the anniversary], maybe it’s not. But I think it is fitting.”
“When that 100th point went in,” Chamberlain once said, “I was just thinking, 'Now I can stop running up and down this court like a fool. '”
Obviously the game has changed dramatically in 57 years, so the thought of a 7-foot center scoring 100 points in a single outing is preposterous. Wilt happened long before the three-point shot, AAU programs producing prodigies, and analytics that tell us the mid-range jumper is obsolete.
Kobe Bryant came closest with 81 in a 2006 game. He averaged 35.40 that season. Wilt averaged 50.36 in 1961-62. David Thompson (1978) put up a 73, David Robinson (1994) and Elgin Baylor (1960) a 71, and Devin Booker (2017) a 70.
Only five players have scored 60 in a game more than once: Bryant (6 times), Jordan (5), Baylor (4), Harden (2 entering Saturday), and Wilt (23).
Today’s players, particularly the veterans, generally speak reverently about those who came before -- except maybe Dennis Rodman, whose wedding dress recently got all bunched up after Joel Embiid suggested Wilt Chamberlain was the greatest player of all time, not Michael Jordan.
There are arguments to be made on all sides. But no one can debate the dominance of 100.
Andre Iguodala, who played for the Sixers from 2004 to 2012, and has been a catalyst for the Warriors’ current dynasty, mentally thumbed through the history.
“We’ve seen an 81, a couple of 70s – Booker had 70, right? You see some 60s ... And those guys couldn’t miss. And they were still 40, 30, 20 [points] away from 100,” Iguodala said, grimacing in disbelief. “It just shows how dominant he was and that he basically scored at will. That’s just a crazy number to think about.”
Iguodala pointed out that Chamberlain, just a 51 percent free-throw for his career, drained 28 of 32 from the line during the 100-point game.
"What’s he, second all-time in missed free throws after Shaq?” Iguodala asked. (Actually, Wilt missed more than 500 more.) “See, if you make your free throws, you can get a hundred.”
Wilt and the Warriors played the Knicks again two nights later in New York. He had 58. And 35 rebounds.
The story of how a college kid in Massachusetts preserved history forever.
Originally published in the Inquirer on May 11, 2005
By Frank Fitzpatrick, Staff writer
"Here’s the big fourth quarter and everybody’s thinking, 'How many is Wilt going to get? ' He’s got 69 going in. Here’s the pass to him. [The crowd roars.] He’s got another one! "
Those words from Philadelphia Warriors broadcaster Bill Campbell at the start of perhaps the most remarkable quarter in NBA history -- and all the words that followed in the next 20 minutes or so -- were presumed lost for more than a quarter-century.
And, if not for a water pipe, a starry night, and several fraternity parties, they might have been.
On March 2, 1962, the night of Wilt Chamberlain’s memorable 100-point performance, Jim Trelease, a 20-year-old English major at the University of Massachusetts, taped the radio broadcast of the fourth quarter on a reel-to-reel recorder in his dormitory room.
Assuming thousands of fans had done likewise during that historic Warriors-New York Knicks game, Trelease soon forgot about the recording. A quarter-century later, he learned that his was believed to be the only existing electronic record of Chamberlain’s historic final period.
That recording of Campbell's play-by-play on WCAU radio has helped author Gary Pomerantz accumulate valuable details from that historic Friday night at the Hershey Arena in Hershey, Pa., for his new book, Wilt, 1962.
"It was absolutely invaluable," Pomerantz said.
Trelease, now a 63-year-old education consultant in Springfield, Mass., conceded that his recording was something of a miracle.
"All the stars," he said, "were aligned just right."
The late-season game between the Eastern Division’s second-place Warriors and last-place Knicks was an unappealing one - especially since the teams would play (two nights) later at Madison Square Garden.
Only 4,124 fans showed up at the Hershey Arena for the contest, one of the occasional out-of-town home games the Warriors played. Only two sportswriters from Philadelphia were present. There were none from New York. And not only wasn't the game televised, it wasn't even on radio in New York.
Trelease was a Knicks fan and a fledgling play-by-play man for the UMass student radio station. That Friday, a warm and perfectly clear night in New England, he couldn’t find the Knicks game on any New York station.
But WCAU in Philadelphia - now WPHT-AM (1210) - was a 50,000-watt powerhouse and, on that cloud-free night, its signal came through loud and clear in Amherst.
“If there had been bad weather, if it had been a less-powerful station, or if it hadn’t been a Friday night, when a lot of guys in the dorm were out on dates or at parties, I’d never have been able to hear it,” Trelease said.
Chamberlain had scored 78 points in a triple-overtime game a year earlier and set a regulation record of 73 just two months earlier, so Trelease wasn't shocked when the Warriors center finished the first half with 41 points. In fact, he fell asleep during the third quarter.
"I woke up during the postgame show, and when I heard he had scored 100, I went crazy," he said.
He then heard By Saam, the Hall of Fame Phillies broadcaster who also did shows before and after each Warriors game, inform his listeners that the fourth quarter would be re-broadcast at 3 a.m.
Trelease taped his portable radio’s antenna to an interior water pipe that ran the full five floors of the dormitory. He set up his clunky reel-to-reel recorder alongside it.
“In retrospect, it’s amazing more people didn’t do the same,” said Pomerantz, a former journalist at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I later heard that someone else had recorded the final minutes on a Dictaphone. But he was running out of tape, so he only recorded the Warriors’ possessions. "
And, according to the author, in 1991, someone sent Campbell a tape of his call of the final basket - when, with under a minute left, Chamberlain scored his 99th and 100th points after receiving a pass from Joe Ruklick.
"I thought that's all there was," Campbell said last week. "I wasn't aware anything else existed. "
An engineer at WCAU had recorded over the game tape, standard practice at the time.
Ten days later, the UMass basketball team played a first-round NCAA tournament game at the Palestra. Trelease did the play-by-play. Without a halftime guest, he replayed the fourth quarter of Chamberlain’s record-setting game.
And then he forgot about the recording.
Nearly 30 years later, attending a librarians' conference in Pennsylvania's Chocolate Town, he found himself sitting next to a trustee of the Hershey Community Archives.
“We got to talking about that game and I casually mentioned that I had a tape of the fourth quarter,” Trelease said. "He couldn’t believe it. "
Trelease, who later wrote a best-selling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook, gave the archives a copy. The NBA also found out and, when he presented a tape to the league, it was digitally restored, filtering out some of the noise from the crowd that had surrounded Campbell during the closing minutes of the Warriors’ 169-147 victory.
“It’s strange how things work,” Trelease said. “Now, if you want to hear a Dodgers game you missed last month, you just go to MLB.com and buy it. The only reason we have a tape of Russ Hodges calling Bobby Thomson’s home run in 1951 (”The Giants win the pennant!" etc.) was because some kid in the Bronx taped it.
"And we wouldn't have a record of this game, either, if not for a lot of fortunate circumstances. "