PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Big Dipper was larger than life. His size, his statistics, even his voracious appetite for running up big numbers off the court.
Wilt Chamberlain didn’t just tower over his peers, he left records that endured for decades.
And for 50 years, one mighty number has stood as the Mount Everest of sport’s magic numbers.
At 25, Chamberlain had already crafted a career built on steady, sustained and spectacular excellence. Playing at 7-foot-1 and 260 pounds for the Philadelphia Warriors, Chamberlain held the single-game record of 78 points (in three overtimes) and the regulation mark of 73 in January 1962.
One hundred points was no flash of momentary greatness. It was a fireball of scoring that will likely never be topped _ and put Chamberlain everywhere from the record book, to “The Ed Sullivan Show,” to an unmatched spot in the short list of sport’s all-time unbelievable performances.
But on March 2, 1962 at the Hershey Sports Arena, hardly anyone noticed.
There were no TV cameras. Sports writers were scarce _ and so were the fans. Only 4,124 (at $2.50 a ticket) attended the game, in fact, between the Warriors and the New York Knicks as the final stretch of the 1961-62 season dwindled down. The number of people who claimed they were there to witness history, however, could have stretched the East Coast.
And why not? The milestone, after all, changed the game forever.
“The 100-point game was a hyperbolic announcement of the rise of the black athlete in basketball,” said author Gary Pomerantz, who wrote the complete narrative of that game in the 2005 book, “WILT, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era.
No NBA star has really come close to scoring 100 points. Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant had the luxury of the 3-point shot (he hit seven) when he scored 81 on Jan. 22, 2006. Michael Jordan never topped 69. Allen Iverson hit 60. David Robinson scored 10 less field goals than Chamberlain made in the 100-point game when he scored 71 in 1994.
Chamberlain played all 48 minutes in Philadelphia’s 169-147 win over the Knicks. He shot 36 of 63 from the floor and an un-Wilt like 28 of 32 from the free-throw line. Chamberlain, a woeful 51.1 percent career shooter from the line, attempted his free throws underhand against the Knicks.
Oh, the game came during a season when Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points a game.