Friday, March 02, 2007

Wilt Chamberlain

The Night Of

100 Points

Today is the anniversary of the game in which Wilt Chamberlain, the greatest basketball player of all time, scored 100 points in a single game:

On March 2, 1962, a giant rolled into Hershey, Pa., and rolled up 100 points on the New York Knicks.

The giant, of course, was the legendary Wilt Chamberlain, the center for the Philadelphia Warriors of the NBA. The Big Dipper, as he liked to be known, was changing the game of basketball every time he stepped onto the court.

Author Gary Pomerantz says Chamberlain's performance was on par with Babe Ruth breaking the home run record. He chronicles the game in his new book, Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 points and the Dawn of a New Era.

Read an excerpt from Wilt, 1962, setting the stage for one of the most storied nights in basketball history:

'Wilt, 1962'
At the moment of his great glory, a minute twenty-five to play, the kids in Hershey screaming, "Give it to Wilt! Give it to Wilt!" we see Wilt Chamberlain running the floor, a force of nature gathering power with each stride, and recognize him for what he is: unprecedented.

He came with a body and an ego perfectly sculpted for dominating his game. The ego was essential: For a player to score one hundred points in an NBA game, he must not only want to do it, he must, on a deeper level, need to do it -- to take an opponent, an entire sport, and bend it to his will -- to show that it could be done and only by him. In one hundred there was hubris but also a symbolic magic. In our culture the number connotes a century, a ripe old age, a perfect score on a test.

Scoring one hundred points meant infinitely more than scoring, say, ninety-seven. One hundred was a monument.

Writers and players and coaches prophesied sucha anight for the young Wilt Chamberlain. He was a one-man revolution. he entered what was still largely a white man's game, took it above the rim, and made it his. The game's traditionalists, seeing the future, blanched. He was, at the core, an individualist (Pastorius note, an American), the ultimate alpha male.

He was averaging fifty points per game during that 1961-62 season, and as his scoring numbers grew so did the prophecy. Pity the average NBA center of the day: Several inches smaller, not nearly as agile or strong or well conditioned, they became, against Chamberlain, desperate underdogs, some even sassing him by calling him "Globetrotter."

Chamberlain luxuriated in the prophecy and admitted coyly that if he kept his cool, made his shots, then, yes, one hundred points was possible.