Wilt Chamberlain and the 100 Point Game in Hershey Pennsylvania
What is Hershey, Pennsylvania famous for?
Hershey, Pennsylvania is a town of approximately 13,000 people. Despite its small size, this popular tourist destination is home to the Hershey Company, maker of the Hershey Bar and Hershey’s Kisses. The manufacturing community also boasts Hersheypark and Hersheypark Stadium, owned by the Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Company. The name is stamped indelibly on the town.
Hershey is known to sports fans for another reason. It is the place where the Philadelphia Warriors played the New York Knicks on March 2nd, 1962. On that night, Philadelphia beat the Knicks 169-147. Wilt Chamberlain scored an NBA record 100 points, a feat unmatched in the history of professional sports.
Wilt's 100 point game
The night Wilt scored 100
No one gave much consideration to the Warriors-Knicks matchup in Hershey on March 2nd, 1962. The Chocolate factory was the city’s big draw. The game was reportedly played in Hershey as part of an arrangement allowing Philadelphia to use their arena as a practice facility, free of charge. Only 4,124 spectators filled the 7,000 seat arena to watch history being made that night. The game was broadcast on the radio, but there was no local or national television coverage.
It is interesting that this game garnered so little attention at the time. Wilt averaged 50 points a night that year, and scored 78 in a game three few months earlier. He scored 60 points or more a record-breaking 17 times that season. The point production of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and now Kevin Durant are daily fodder for ESPN sports pundits. In 1962, however, little mention was made of Wilt’s amazing feat, reporting it as if it were just another game. But this one wasn’t.
Chamberlain scored 100 points by hitting 36 of 63 shots from the field. He also made 28 of his 32 free throws—a remarkable statistic, considering Wilt only made slightly over half his free throw attempts throughout his career. He grabbed 25 rebounds and recorded two assists in the game, as well.
Chamberlain dominated the Knicks from the outset and scored 41 points in the first half. By the fourth quarter, 100 points was clearly within reach. New York didn’t want history made at their expense, however, and used every tactic imaginable to keep the ball from Wilt. The Knicks held the ball on offense and fouled any Philadelphia player except Chamberlain to keep him from scoring. The Warriors fouled back to regain possession. Chamberlain scored his final field goal with 46 seconds left with a dunk off a pass from reserve guard Joe Ruklick. He had achieved the impossible.
Darrall Imhoff started at center against the Warriors that evening. Phil Jordan, the Knicks regular starting center, was ill and did not travel with the team. Imhoff played only 20 minutes that night and laughingly disputed the notion that Wilt scored 100 on him. Imhoff joked, “Wilt had 18 when I left the game in foul trouble and 89 when I came back, so it wasn’t all against me.” It has been reported that when Philadelphia next met the Knicks, Imhoff played the full forty-eight minutes and received a standing ovation for “limiting” Chamberlain to 58 points.
The press’ lack of interest exemplifies a unique aspect of how Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA career was perceived. Any modern player with such accomplishments would be deified nightly on ESPN. When Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in 2006, sports analysts debated the significance of his accomplishments for weeks. Even in retrospect, Chamberlain is rarely given his due. Wilt Chamberlain holds or shares 72 NBA all-time records, and many of them will never be touched. No player will match 22.9 rebounds per game for a career, 50.4 points per game for a season, or his single game totals of 100 points and 55 rebounds (accomplished against Boston and the great Bill Russell). It has been reported that Wilt grabbed at least 10 rebounds in every game of his professional career. Wilt Chamberlain won seven scoring and eleven rebounding titles, in addition to leading the league in field goal percentage nine times and assists once. He averaged over 45 minutes per game for his entire career, and never fouled out of a contest. Steals and blocked shots were not tracked during Chamberlain’s career, but it is believed Wilt likely blocked 6-8 blocks per game—a number which would shatter any currently held record.
He was so dominant as an athlete and public figure that his accomplishments tend to be dismissed. “Wilt’s bigger than everyone—why shouldn’t he get all those rebounds?” “Chamberlain scored all those points because the NBA was a smaller league then.” The arguments continue to this day, as if we still feel a need to bring Chamberlain down to our level. There were other players as big and as tall and as fast as Wilt, but no one accomplished what Wilt Chamberlain did. His numbers are so amazing they seem abstract. We somehow forget that Chamberlain had to shoot the ball to score all those points; he had to make good passes to lead the league in assists; he had to go after missed shots to collect all those rebounds. The numbers don’t merely represent NBA records—they are a lifetime spent in chasing excellence. They also embody the countless hours Wilt spent in the gym, training and sculpting his body. They stand for numerous sacrifices, thrilling victories and extreme disappointments as he battled Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for fourteen years.
Wilt often lamented that nobody loves Goliath. More than ten years after his death, it is time to spread some love Wilt’s way. It was suggested in my hometown newspaper that the NBA hold a game at Hershey, Pennsylvania on March 2nd, 2012—fifty years after Wilt’s historic game. Perhaps Philadelphia and New York could play again, wearing retro uniforms. Just for one night, have every Philadelphia player’s number on the front of their jersey, but let them all wear number 13 on the back of their shirt—Wilt’s number. All of them together might even score 100 points (no sure thing in today’s NBA).
That would be a fitting tribute.
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