Originally Published: March 2, 2012

1. Fifty Years Ago, One Hundred Set The Bar

Stein By Marc Stein

Wilt ChamberlainAP Photo/Paul VathisWilt Chamberlain in the dressing room in Hershey, Pa., after he scored 100 points.

Fifty years later, so much remains in dispute about what's right there in black and white in the gaudiest box score line in the history of the NBA.

Exactly 50 years since Wilt Chamberlain laid an unfathomable 100 points on the New York Knicks on a Friday night in tiny Hershey, Pa., no one can seem to agree on whether Wilt's final basket came via dunk or layup.

No one can say for sure where the game ball went, either.

Fifty years removed from a magic show that came more than four decades too soon for Flip cams and video phones, 21st-century know-it-alls can't wait to tell you how Kobe Bryant's 81 points against Toronto in 2006 were actually gaudier that the untelevised, unfilmed, completely unrecorded damage Wilt inflicted at the Hershey Sports Arena on March 2, 1962.

So let's do the best we can.

On the 50th anniversary of Chamberlain's historic journey into triple digits -- with the Philadelphia 76ers hosting the Golden State Warriors later Friday and NBA TV ready to roll out its new "Wilt 100" documentary narrated by Bill Russell an hour before tipoff -- let's set the mood with an eyewitness account of what happened on the night that has come to define Chamberlain's harder-to-believe 1961-62 season stats.

In '61-62, you'll recall, Chamberlain averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game.


Al Attles certainly remembers. Now 75 and serving as a Warriors executive, he was one of Chamberlain's Philly Warriors teammates that night. In a recent visit with ESPN.com, Attles shared his 50-year-old recollections from what was just the Warriors' third game that season in their training camp home of Hershey … one that drew a mere 4,124 fans and virtually no media coverage from even the print or photo realms.

Here's Attles on:

The achievement itself

"There's two things that I always talk about when I talk about that game. One is that we won the game. So many people I've talked to over the years say, 'You played in the game where the guy scored 100 points and you lost the game.' We won the game, so that's a fact. It bothers me -- it shouldn't, but it does -- that a lot of people want to put a losing tag on it and say Wilt scored 100 points and they lost the game. We didn't lose the game.

"The other thing is that Wilt tried to come out of the ballgame before he got 100 points. A lot of people thought he was being selfish or trying to rub it in. No. He wasn't trying to do that. He tried to come out, but [then-Warriors coach] Frank McGuire would not take him out. He had driven up from New York [that day], and he was tired. He tried to come out because the game was won, but Frank wouldn't listen. But the thing I'm happiest about is that he didn't score another point after 100. One hundred points sounds a lot better to me than 102 or 104 or whatever it is."

Wilt driving to the game all the way from New York City

"We went [as a team] from Philadelphia to Hershey on a bus, but Wilt rode up from New York with Johnny Green and Willie Naulls [of the Knicks]. Wilt tells the story that, on the way back, he had to sit in the backseat pretending to be asleep because Willie and Johnny were really giving him a hard time. They were saying things like they were going to put him out on the freeway or something. Pretty heavy stuff.

"But he actually told me [before tipoff] that he was going to have a hot game, because when he got to Hershey he went to one of those arcades. You have to remember that a lot of times we didn't have a hotel to go to before a game [on short trips] to take a rest like they do now so [teams] could save a little money. So we would just go straight to the arena. But first he went to one of those arcades to play a rifle game. And he said he was so hot shooting that gun that he knew he was going to have a hot game. Now, he didn't tell me he'd score 100 points, but he thought that was one of the reasons."

Why Wilt was allowed to live in New York during the season and drive to a game separately from the rest of his teammates

"Think about what you just said. There were a lot of things allowed back then that aren't allowed now. How about playing 18 games in 21 days? A lot of things went on back then that wouldn't be allowed today, but you have to understand that the league was in a different place. He followed all the rules he was supposed to follow. They knew that he would get to the game on time. You have to understand that we're talking 1962. There was a lot of that going on back then. For instance, I lived in Newark. If I wanted to go home during the season, I could.

"There's so many things that Wilt never did that people thought he did. He was the star of the team, but he still adhered to all the rules everybody else adhered to. It was kind of a loose business back then. He didn't get on the bus to Philadelphia from Hershey because he came from New York. He was the owner of Small's Paradise -- that's mainly why he lived in Harlem during the season [to run his nightclub] -- but he never missed a practice.

"Newark was 96 miles from Philadelphia, so he had to go another 10 miles to get to New York City. But think about this: After every practice, Wilt drove back to New York. And after every game, Wilt drove back to New York. So he's going up and down that turnpike basically every day, because you didn't have a lot of days off back then.

"But when you tell people that, usually the first thing they'll say is that you're saying that because he's a friend of yours. That upsets me, because it means you're telling me that I can't be objective about a friend, which I can. I only played in Philadelphia for two years, but I don't ever remember Wilt missing a practice. Now sometimes he wanted to be a guard in practice, but he never missed one."

The historic basket to get him to triple digits

"I don't remember the exact number, but what happened was, [PA announcer] Dave Zinkoff started calling out every point [after] every basket. I don't know exactly at what point he started, but Zink was such a great announcer with such a distinctive voice, you can still hear it in your head today. 'Thaaaaat's 82.'"

"But for the longest time -- and I was there -- I had visions of how he scored the 100th point, and I was wrong. I thought he had three offensive rebounds and finally put it in. It wasn't 'til later on that I found out that Joe Ruklick actually passed the ball to him and then he scored the 100th point. But that will happen to you as you get older. You'll see."

The farcical nature of the fourth quarter

"We were obviously trying to get [the ball] to him, and of course the Knicks were trying everything to stop him from getting to 100. The Knicks started holding the ball and fouling other players [besides Wilt], so Frank McGuire tried to counteract that by having us foul back to get the ball back. Wilt's teammates were egging him on to get the 100 and the fans wanted him to get to 100, but the Knickerbockers weren't too thrilled about it. So I can't deny that it turned into a foulfest, but there were fouls on both sides of the ledger.

"Opinions are like a nose -- everyone has one. So I'm sure there are a lot of people you could talk to who have an opinion on that night and were not really thrilled with what happened that night. There's always going to be people knocking [Chamberlain], but you're talking about someone who elevated this game of basketball."

Chamberlain's postgame mood

"He was very disappointed in the locker room. Teammates were going crazy, but he had a mad look on his face. So I asked him, 'Big Fella, what's the matter? He had just gotten the stat sheet in his hand, and he used to sweat profusely. Water was coming down just like he was in a rain shower. Wilt was looking at the stat sheet and he said, 'I never thought I would take 63 shots in a game.' So I said, 'But you made 36.'"

Chamberlain's 28-for-32 showing at the free throw line and the role that the famously forgiving rims at Hershey Arena played in making history

"Evidently you've talked to somebody about that arena. Because we used to say that those rims were like sewers. As long as you got it up on the rim, there was a great chance that it was going in. But you can make any judgment you want. Both teams had to play with those rims, and both teams had to play in that arena. Unless you denigrate it for everybody, you don't denigrate it for him. He just had an incredible night. [Going] 28-for-32 was obviously what got him over the hump, but I feel badly when people try to poke holes in it. Both teams had to play in that gym."

The tragic lack of television footage from the game

"The problem was that they didn't have overhead lights in that arena. Now if that game had been in Convention Hall [in Philadelphia], they would have been able to film it. That picture with Wilt holding up the piece of paper [famed Philadelphia statistician] Harvey Pollack gave him with 100 on it, that's the only thing left that shows what happened.

"I feel badly that for whatever reason people want to knock him. We're talking about a feat that, unless they change the scoring even more dramatically [than adding a 3-point shot], I have a hard time seeing how anybody will ever score 100 points.

"I still talk to Wilt's sister quite a bit. And what I tell Barbara is, those of us who were there that night or even just played with Wilt, we have a story to tell. And it's very, very important to tell that story. First of all, it's important because, as everyone knows, there's no clear film of the game. A number of books have been written, but the thing about books, I've read books from people who were not there that came up with things that just didn't happen.

"But the main reason it's important is to keep his legacy alive. Not just the 100-point game, but his entire body of work. It's just human nature, but as time goes on, people tend to denigrate things that happened a long time ago. 'He scored 100 points, but who'd he play against?' You still hear things like that. People for some reason felt he had an advantage physically over everyone else, so then he should have done all these things. I don't buy that theory."

What happened to the game ball

"For a long time, I was thought to have the ball. [Various reporters] used to crucify me because they thought I had it. I don't have the basketball. And I don't really know what happened to the ball.

"I have a basketball that Wilt gave me, but it's not the 100-point ball. He gave me a ball and signed it and had a plaque made with it. And what it says is: 'To Al … who did all the right things at the wrong time.' And what he really meant was that I didn't miss a shot that night [going 8-for-8 from the field], but no one remembers. It's great to be the second-leading scorer … you think you're doing OK until you see that the guy who was No. 1 had 100 points.

"But when I showed people that ball, they saw the commissioner's name on the ball is Walter Kennedy. The commissioner [when Wilt scored 100 points] was actually Maurice Podoloff. We all signed the ball on the [team] bus, because we were told the ball was going to be sent to the Hall of Fame. But I don't know what happened after that."

Whether anyone will ever duplicate Wilt's feat or get any closer than Kobe's 81 points

"We're talking about something that has never been done before or since. For something like that to happen, lots of things have to fall into place. I just don't think that it can happen again.

"Today's coaches would make it almost impossible. The organized double-teams you see today didn't happen back then. The only team going back to when I was playing that would kind of have double teams would be Boston. For instance, they'd put [Jim] Loscutoff in back of Wilt and [Bill] Russell in front. But it wasn't organized.

"Then you have to talk about the skills Wilt had. I don't know if we'll ever see another guy who has the skills of Wilt playing that close to the basket. If there are 10 things that basketball players are supposed to do, maybe some guys could do seven well or eight well, but Wilt was the only guy I ever knew who could do nine out of 10 well … everything but shoot free throws. I know you've got the 3-point shot now, but I don't know who would physically be able to do it the way he did it.

"So I would be very surprised if it ever happened again. That's the beauty of it."

2. Wilt's World

To further commemorate the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game, we go inside the numbers with assists from our man Peter Newmann from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau:

3. Eastern Conference

Keep an eye on Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich.

If the Lakers can't make a splashy move for the elite point guard they crave -- a long shot at best at this point -- and can't swing a deal for top fallback choice Ramon Sessions, taking Hinrich and his $8.1 million salary into their $8.9 million Lamar Odom trade exception is a natural move to give L.A. some semblance of an upgrade in the backcourt going into the postseason.

The Hawks, as always, want to reduce payroll and would gladly take a future draft pick back for Hinrich, who's no longer part of their plans. The Lakers, though, are rather skittish themselves about adding payroll these days, which is why they gave Odom away to the rival Mavericks in the first place and could actually prevent them from doing anything.

L.A. would naturally want Atlanta to take back some salary in a Hinrich deal, but there's zero chance of that happening. So if the Lakers ultimately prove willing to use their trade exception on the likes of Hinrich or Toronto's Leandro Barbosa (who makes $7.6 million) -- and thus fortify a roster that, to quote Professor Hollinger, currently drops off from the top three to the rest like Niagra Falls -- they'll have to be willing to deal with the tax consequences.

Sources say that the Lakers are also among the teams that have inquired about Raptors guard Jose Calderon, but Calderon's $9.8 million salary is too big to fit into the Odom exception. And Toronto isn't willing to take any salary back for either Calderon or Barbosa to work a trade otherwise. ... Free agents to watch: James Posey, Eddie House and Michael Finley. None of them have played regular-season games in the NBA this season, so all three would be playoff-eligible even if they sign with a team after March 23. Hard to believe Posey, released in December by the Pacers via the amnesty clause, hasn't been picked up. And Finley was recently summoned for auditions by the Clippers and Suns as he continues to search for one more NBA opportunity at 38. ... Maybe it's not a Wilt-sized anniversary, but few websites (especially in the heart of trade-deadline season) mean more to NBA executives, coaches and players than Spain-based HoopsHype.com, which on Monday celebrates 10 years of operation. ... Looking for your Dwight Howard fix? Worth a read even if you've already read it once: My man Chris Broussard's comprehensive roundup of trade-deadline buzz on our Insider page.


You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?