Mar 2, 2012, 12:00 PM EDT
Here is the statistic that most amazes me about Wilt Chamberlain’s 1962 season — he AVERAGED 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds a game. Averaged. No player in the history of the league has been as physically superior to everyone around him as early Wilt.
Notice I did not say his legendary 100-point game, which happened exactly 50 years ago tonight. What Chamberlain did on March 2, 1962 in Hershey, Pennsylvania, is certainly and deservedly celebrated. It is an amazing accomplishment that I don’t think will ever be matched (not everyone agrees with that).
I also would also say Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game against the Raptors was more impressive.
I do not wish to disparage Chamberlain, who had scored 73 points in a game a few months before and was having a season for the ages. No doubt when the Warriors faced the Knicks in Hershey he was having a special kind of night, dominating the game in a 169-147 Warriors win.
Chamberlain handled the ball 125 times in that game, had 63 shots, 32 free throws, 25 rebounds, and played all 48 minutes. He overwhelmed the Knicks defenders. Remember that back then the pace of the game was much faster, so he got more attempts in that game than an NBA player would today. But don’t hold that against Wilt — this was about effort and a workman like effort. He stole inbound passes, played defense and showed this was no fluke.
But the fourth quarter was. The Warriors would foul the Knicks intentionally to stop the clock and get the ball back so they could feed Chamberlain. The Knicks fouled him back to create a free throw battle. The game was in the Warriors hands and Chamberlain asked out but his coach wanted the 100 and left him in. The Knicks coach after the game called it a farce.
Kobe’s points came in the flow of the game — the Lakers were on a two-game losing streak and were down 14 at the half to the lowly Toronto Raptors. The Lakers needed Kobe to step up and carry them, they needed him to take over and he did.
Also, Kobe had to create his own shots — Chamberlain got fed the ball in the post, a luxury Kobe did not have.
Chamberlain is a player to be celebrated and his 1962 season may be the best single season a player has ever had. His 100-point game is an amazing performance that will never be matched.
But Kobe’s game was better.
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