50 Years Ago

Photo courtesy of pacejmiller.com. 50 years ago today, Wilt Chamberlain (pictured above) accomplished arguably the greatest feat in sports history.

By Josh Kramer

I know that Saturdays are the typical “Throwback” day on “TheSportsKraze.” But today marks a very special anniversary in sports history. Where were you 50 years ago?  I for one was not even born.  And I know for a fact that 99.9999% of you were not in Hershey, Pennsylvania watching the Philadelphia Warriors lay a smack down on the New York Knicks.  Only 9,346 of the 18,496 seat Hershey Sports Arena was filled on that particular night.  These days, a good high school team such as Oak Hill Academy can draw a larger crowd than the one in Hershey, PA 50 years ago for a regular season game.  Well on this particular night, 50 years ago, a goliath man by the name of Wilt Chamberlain, maybe you have heard of him, accomplished one of the greatest feats in sports history.

Wilt Chamberlain dropped a 100 spot on the New York Knicks.  Now to put this number into perspective.  No player in NBA history not named Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more than 81 points in a game (Kobe Bryant).  Not only was this scoring output a truly unthinkable occurrence, but Wilt did it minus the three-point line.  Today, I want you to imagine if Chamberlain had done this in 2012?

In a day and age where “Linsanity” and “Tebowmania” dominate the headlines, Chamberlain highlights and discussions would have taken over the world of media as we know it for at least a week (maybe longer).  “Chambo Time” would have been on full blast 24 hours a day and 7 days a week with the current technologies in place.  SportsCenter would have turned into “ChamberlainCenter” for at least a couple of weeks.  Sure the American public tends to love the underdog, but we also love to hate the favorite (see LeBron James). Now I do not think the present American public would have hated Chamberlain the way they love to hate LeBron, but he would have without a doubt been a media sensation, and rightfully so.  Wilt’s 100 point night is one of the most unbreakable records in sports.  It is in very select company ranking up there with the likes of Cy Young’s 511 wins, UCLA’s seven straight collegiate basketball titles, and Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak.

Now the feat in itself is crazy enough.  But the relative lack of publicity it got is even crazier.  Now, I was obviously not around 50 years ago to give you a first-hand account on how this story was covered.  But I do know via heavy research, that this event occurred with little to no fanfare.  The game was not televised.  There was no video footage.  The arena was barely half full.  Most of the media, even the local guys, were not in attendance.  And not even the Philadelphia Daily News could mention it on the cover.

Think if the media struck out on an event of this magnitude in the present?  Well, I guess that is impossible thanks in large part to current technology, ESPN, and of course Twitter.  Sure people get tired of the same stories running over and over these days.  But you have to admit that you love the media attention that athletes receive and the fact that you will never be in the unknown regarding major happenings in the wide world of sports.  In all honesty, if LeBron James gets an upset stomach tonight, you will probably know about it within an hour.  That is just how our society is today.  We love instant gratification and we love to be on top of the breaking news as it is happening.

Well here is to Wilt for accomplishing one of the greatest feats in sports history 50 years ago today.  The man deserves as much publicity as possible to make up for the lack thereof 50 years ago.  And to think, the guy shot free throws underhand (28 of 32 on this night 50 years ago), which may be a greater feat in itself.  If a player scores 100 points in a game any time in the near future, especially if he goes by the name of Jeremy Lin, the world may shut down for an entire day.  Think about it.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze

5 responses to “50 Years Ago

  1. Gooch from The Bronx

    I remember that game. No, I was not there but the headline on either the NY Daily News or the NY Post was enormous.
    Wilt was a great player with tremendous strength. He wanted to fight for the heavy weight championship. He also claimed to have slept with thousands of women. I believe that if Wilt played today he would still be a great player. As for shooting free throws under hand, many players did back then. Maybe if some of today’s players shot free throws under hand, they might be better free throw makers.
    Anyway, Wilt was a great offensive and defensive player. He could play in any era.

    • Gooch,

      Thanks for the insight. Chamberlain will always be regarded as one of the all-time greats. He had an amazing career. But I do not think any of his accomplishments can rival his 100 point night.


  2. Steve Balberg

    Hey Josh,
    In that game where Wilt scored 100 points, Richie Guerin of the Knicks scored 39 and Willie Naulls of the Knicks had 31. Not many times could you have guys scoring that many points and still lose. I believe there was a season when Wilt averaged over 50 pts.a game. But his greatest accomplishment which will never be broken is that during one NBA season he played every minute of every game except for one where he played 40 minutes. In every other game he played 48, 48, 48, 48, etc. overtime games and every minute. I saw Wilt play many times and when he wanted he was unstoppable. He would be unstoppable today. Here’s a question though, why do you think that in today’s NBA there are few dominant centers wheras in the NBA of the 60′ and 70’s and 80’s, there were many?

    • Steve,

      I guess when I guy drops 100 in a game, others who play very good games will get overlooked. I knew about the accomplishment where he averaged 50 points over the course of a season. I never knew about the minutes played feat though. That is remarkable. These days, if a player plays over 40 minutes a game, it is considered god-like.

      My theory on centers. Even as recently as the 90s, outside of Chicago, every dominant team had a Hall of Fame caliber center. The center was the most important position on the floor. These days, how many legitimant centers are there not named Dwight Howard? It is all about the 1 through 3, with a heavy emphasis on the point guards. Every contending team has a very talented point guard. And then they have a 2 or 3 guy who can really score.

      Today’s game lends to scoring superstars. In the 90s, it was more team oriented, and heavily relaint on a scoring center. I would be game to elaborate more if you would like.

      I appreciate the good insight. Always nice to learn something new.


  3. Pingback: Food for Thought 3-6-2012 | TheSportsKraze

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