Wilt, Wilt the Stilt, the Big Dipper
March 2, 2012 10:04 AM   Subscribe

This much is fact and legend: Fifty years ago today, at the Hershey Arena, Wilt Chamberlain, then 25 and playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, scored an NBA record-100 points in a 169-147 victory against the New York Knicks. A record which remains unbeaten.
posted by three blind mice (52 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
More amazingly, even if apocryphal, is that a man named "Wilt" slept with 20,000 women.
posted by chavenet at 10:10 AM on March 2, 2012


it's cause he had a big stilt
posted by nathancaswell at 10:10 AM on March 2, 2012


I'm pretty sure those two feats of scoring are very, very, very related. Very.

Additionally:

Scanned image of box score

From basketball-reference (previously)

There's something about those three digits that just seems so much like a typo.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:13 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


y = 200x ?
posted by michaelh at 10:14 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not just an unbeaten top record, but also 20% more than the nearest person. And also holds 4 of the top 5 scoring positions. Wow.
posted by DU at 10:17 AM on March 2, 2012


169-147 is an unreal basketball score. Did they just generally score more back then or am I crazy for thinking that's huge?
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:20 AM on March 2, 2012


Basketball was different in the old days.
posted by swift at 10:20 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Part of the reason that this won't ever be repeated, though, is because the way the game is played these days if you had a player who was getting anywhere near 100 points your side would be so far in the lead that you'd pull him from the game. It would be considered incredibly bad form, for one thing, to leave a player in the game just to run up a meaningless statistical milestone if the game wasn't in doubt, and it would be a waste of precious rest-time for a star player.

To imagine a scenario in which this feat would be repeated you really have to conjure up a pretty bizarre game.
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


The record will likely never be broken. And it's not because Wilt was so exceptional a player that there will never be another player capable of going to his level (because, sorry, no) - it's because this was a different era of basketball. Look at those scores! Those are scores from a time when people didn't really know how to play defense yet against the new style of offense that was only just emerging into the NBA. And on top of that, the scores show that Wilt's entire team was just feeding him the ball, over and over again, and Kobe Bryant on his most selfish day wouldn't get fed the ball enough to match that.

There are numerous players in the NBA right now who are better than Wilt ever was, to say nothing of your Michael Jordans and other more recently retired players who were better than Wilt too. But Wilt's record is never going to be broken for the same reason Joe DiMaggio's hitting in consecutive games record will probably never be broken - the game has advanced.
posted by mightygodking at 10:23 AM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Supposedly he didn't score during the last minute or so because he thought 100 looked better than 102.
posted by Fister Roboto at 10:24 AM on March 2, 2012


Unbeaten, hell. Unbeatable. Literally.
posted by absalom at 10:24 AM on March 2, 2012


I don't understand that boxscore at all - what was his PER? Win Shares? Points Per Possession? Usage rate? Rebounding percentage? Even a plus-minus, sheesh! (I kid, I kid)

It's an amazing feat that will likely never be topped, but I'll still take Bill Russell any day of the week.
posted by antonymous at 10:28 AM on March 2, 2012


But Wilt's record is never going to be broken for the same reason Joe DiMaggio's hitting in consecutive games record will probably never be broken - the game has advanced.

Um, I can buy a "the game as advanced" argument about Wilt's record--but DiMaggio's? If pitchers have improved, surely batters have too. I'd have thought the basic statistical improbability of DiMaggio's streak was pretty much the same in his day as it is in ours.
posted by yoink at 10:28 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did they just generally score more back then or am I crazy for thinking that's huge?

Wilt averaged over 50 points per game that season. Yeah, it was a running, scoring game back then.
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on March 2, 2012


There's a great book about Wilt and that game (& all the other players involved, too).
posted by DowBits at 10:31 AM on March 2, 2012


The Sixers recently bought the court the game was played on and gave little chunks of it to fans at last nights game (and mailed a piece to Paul "Uni Watch" Lukas).
posted by Rock Steady at 10:31 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the funnier things Adam Sandler ever did (low bar, I know) was from his stand-up days, when he did imitations of both the players on Wilt's team that day ("Hey, Wilt, how about passing? My mom's in the stands.") and the opposing team's coach ("Who's covering Wilt?")
posted by Bookhouse at 10:33 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just want to say that I grew up about ten minutes from there. The arena is now more-or-less closed, what with the opening of the Giant Center in 2002, but even before that it had been quite a while since any major league sports events happened there. Minor league hockey was about as exciting as it got.
posted by valkyryn at 10:34 AM on March 2, 2012


"Wilt averaged over 50 points per game that season."

To me, that's always been much more impressive than the 100-point game. Go look at the list of 50+ point games in NBA history to see how Wilt wrote the record book for repeated high scoring.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:35 AM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


He was an alien.
posted by pracowity at 10:40 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did they just generally score more back then or am I crazy for thinking that's huge?

Near the end of the season, you'll see some scores like this for teams that aren't playing for anything.
posted by drezdn at 10:46 AM on March 2, 2012


But how many of those were free throws?
posted by drezdn at 10:46 AM on March 2, 2012


But how many of those were free throws?

The line. 36 field goals (72 pts) and 28 for 32 on free throws (28pts). He fouled twice.

The scoring is just insane. 167-149? Truly a different game back then.
posted by eriko at 10:51 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


28 for 32 on free throws (28pts)

That's the really DiMaggio-statistical-fluke part of this. Wilt was a notoriously crappy free-throw shooter. 28/32 is just unreal.
posted by yoink at 10:53 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


NPR said this didn't even make the papers back then. No one cared.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:54 AM on March 2, 2012


My favorite Michael Jordan story is the time he was asked if he would win the scoring title in the upcoming season. He answered, straightforwardly, "If I want to."
posted by Trurl at 10:57 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you're curious, the college points in a game record is held by Bevo Francis who played at Rio Grande College in Rio Grande, Ohio in the 50s and scored 113 points in a game. He also scored 116 points in a game that isn't an official record because he was playing a junior college.

Sadly, it makes him only the fifteenth most famous Bevo.*

*My roommate is from Rio Grande (pronounced Rye-oh Grand) and I'm saying this mainly to needle him.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:00 AM on March 2, 2012


Talk about a changed game. The Knicks had three guys that scored over 30 points? No team today would ever lose in that situation.

Well, maybe the Heat.
posted by rouftop at 11:03 AM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wilt was a notoriously crappy free-throw shooter.

Who needs to shoot when you can dunk from there without a running start?
posted by Talez at 11:05 AM on March 2, 2012


Who needs to shoot when you can dunk from there without a running start?

They changed the rules to state that a player cannot cross the plane of the free-throw line to keep him from throwing it off the backboard to himself.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:13 AM on March 2, 2012


But how many of those were free throws?

Two.

This was really an emergence from the set-shot style of basketball, and in the early 60s you couldn't even accidentally appear to be participating in a zone defense.
posted by rhizome at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2012


Um, I can buy a "the game as advanced" argument about Wilt's record--but DiMaggio's? If pitchers have improved, surely batters have too. I'd have thought the basic statistical improbability of DiMaggio's streak was pretty much the same in his day as it is in ours.

Baseball hitters have improved in terms of power, but pitchers have improved more than batters have (and of course the field has changed). The simple evidence of this is that no batter has hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, and no hitter has hit more than .360 in a season since Ted Williams in 1957. DiMaggio's record will almost certainly never be broken - the last time anybody came within spitting distance of it was Pete Rose, and that was 34 years ago, and Rose didn't even break 80% of DiMaggio's mark.

And if you want an even more unbreakable record: Ty Cobb's 9 consecutive hits in a row over three games. Compared to that record, DiMaggio's hitting streak is downright commonplace.
posted by mightygodking at 11:27 AM on March 2, 2012


The simple evidence of this is that no batter has hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams in 1941, and no hitter has hit more than .360 in a season since Ted Williams in 1957.

I think that evidence might be too simple. If you look at league averages (not outliers) you actually see an overall improvement in batting averages from the 40s to the present (with a bit of a dip in the early 60s). The league average in 2006 was .269, in 1941 it was .262. You're seeing greater variation in the early years, but not overall greater performance.

Of course, career averages were higher for the best batters back then--which is a point in favor of your position: but it's not quite as straightforward as you suggest.
posted by yoink at 11:39 AM on March 2, 2012


I think Dimaggio's record will fall because of the law of large numbers, hitters are developing pretty good eyes these days, and if someone gets far enough in the streak, a scorer could easily turn an E into an H.

On the other hand the media pressure these days would be intense.
posted by drezdn at 11:45 AM on March 2, 2012


"Never" is an extremely strong claim.
posted by Flunkie at 11:50 AM on March 2, 2012


no hitter has hit more than .360 in a season since Ted Williams in 1957.

George Brett, 1980: .390
posted by Edison Carter at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


swift: "Basketball was different in the old days."

Honest to God, the first thing I thought when I saw that photo was "Oh, it's the copilot from Airplane!"

I'll go let myself out now...
posted by schmod at 12:05 PM on March 2, 2012


Chipper Jones hit .364 in 2008
posted by drezdn at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2012


One of the best Weekend Update segments I've ever seen on SNL was when Geraldo Riviera and Wilt Chamberlain's biographies came out at about the same time, in which both men claimed to have slept some fifteen and twenty thousand women respectively.

It was just one line, but it was something like "By carefully comparing these men's biographies, Weekend Update has discovered that unbeknownst to either, Chamberlain and Riviera have actually slept with each other approximately five thousand times."
posted by mhoye at 12:10 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


no hitter has hit more than .360 in a season since Ted Williams in 1957.
George Brett, 1980: .390
  1. Tony Gwynn, 1994, .394
  2. George Brett, 1980, .390
  3. Ted Williams, 1957, .388
  4. Rod Carew, 1977, .388
  5. Todd Walker, 1999, .379
  6. Todd Helton, 2000, .372
  7. Nomar Garciaparra, 2000, .372
  8. Ichiro Suzuki, 2004, .372
  9. Tony Gwynn, 1997, .372
  10. Barry Bonds, 2002, .370
  11. Andres Galaragga, 1993, .370
  12. Tony Gwynn, 1987, .370
  13. Jeff Bagwell, 1994, .368
  14. Tony Gwynn, 1995, .368
  15. Todd Walker, 1997, .366
  16. Wade Boggs, 1988, .366
  17. Rico Carty, 1970, .366
  18. Joe Mauer, 2009, .365
  19. Chipper Jones, 2008, .365
  20. Mickey Mantle, 1957, .365
  21. Rod Carew, 1974, .364
  22. Magglio Ordonez, 2007, .363
  23. Todd Walker, 1998, .363
  24. Jeff Olerud, 1993, .363
  25. Wade Boggs, 1987, .363
  26. Joe Torre, 1971, .363
  27. Barry Bonds, 2007, .362
  28. Norm Cash, 1961, .361

posted by Flunkie at 12:14 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wilt Chamberlain was such an awesome baseball player.
posted by rhizome at 12:43 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Impression of the Knicks at halftime:

Coach: "Uh, guys....who's covering Wilt?"

*crickets*
posted by Smedleyman at 12:47 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wilt Chamberlain was such an awesome baseball player.

One hundred runs in a SINGLE GAME! Beat THAT Ted Williams.
posted by yoink at 12:47 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coach: "Uh, guys....who's covering Wilt?"

STAY ON HIM! It's not a zone.
posted by cashman at 12:50 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Basketball is an interesting sport with which to compare eras. It's not as statistically pristine as baseball, and doesn't (quite) show the ridiculous size and athleticism disparity that American football does. Add in the lack of available footage, and it becomes a debate with many possible avenues.

My feeling is that while on average players are much bigger, stronger, and athletic than in the 50's-70's, when I see, for instance, that footage of Wilt, I see someone who looks as physically impressive as anyone today. The fact that his stats were so mind-boggling makes me think he simply wasn't challenged; his potential wasn't even tapped. I've read a number of criticisms about his poor mental make-up; often these criticisms become the foundation for detracting from Wilt's legacy. This is certainly speculation, but I wonder if Wilt simply wasn't challenged, and if he might have actually been MORE acclaimed in a later era.
posted by teekat at 1:18 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


What impressed me about the scoring by Wilt was the fact that there weren't 3-point shots then. I didn't realize this until looking at the Wikipedia page (I don't follow basketball, really, so I was surprised at that). Pretty much everyone else on that scoring list had the benefit of trying for 3. Wilt did most of it 2 at a time*. And damn, 32 out of the 60 top scores are Wilt's? Even arguing the game has changed, there aren't any other major players from that time period who had as big an impact as he did in the scoring records.

(*Just like his dates, ba-dum dum. Thank you I'll be here all week. Tip your waitress.)
posted by caution live frogs at 2:02 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Near the end of the season, you'll see some scores like this for teams that aren't playing for anything.

No. No you will not. The league hasn't seen a lot of teams averaging over 100 points per game since Pat Reilly went to the Knicks and tried to ruin basketball. I don't think I've ever seen an NBA team score 140 points in my lifetime (I'm 36) outside of an all-star game.
posted by yerfatma at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2012


And I realize both of those statements are indefensible. By "averaging over 100 points per game" I really mean averaging more than 108 or something.
posted by yerfatma at 3:59 PM on March 2, 2012


Of course I forgot about Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni's Suns. Regardless, teams do not score 140 points any more.
posted by yerfatma at 4:02 PM on March 2, 2012


Remarkable stat: Wilt never fouled out of a game in his NBA career. Ever.
posted by Edison Carter at 4:06 PM on March 2, 2012


Wilt never fouled out of a game in his NBA career. Ever

You have to play defense to do that.
posted by Billiken at 4:24 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Go look at the list of 50+ point games in NBA history to see how Wilt wrote the record book for repeated high scoring."

It's missing Andre Miller's 52 points against the Mavericks in Jan 2007.
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 8:32 AM on March 3, 2012


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