It’s a special moment in sports that has truly stood the test of time. On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain, former Overbrook High standout, put together a tremendous performance scoring 100 points in one game to lead the Philadelphia Warriors over the New York Knicks, 169-147, in Hershey at the then Hershey Sports Arena.
Chamberlain’s NBA record 100-point game remains the most amazing accomplishment in the world of sports. That outstanding game was 50 years ago. The 50th anniversary of Chamberlain’s 100-point game holds a unique place in NBA history. He shot 36-for-63 from the field and made 28-of-32 from the free throw line.
Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers all-star guard, is the only player to get close to Chamberlain’s scoring mark. Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. He was still 19 points away from the Big Dipper.
Al Attles, former head coach and general manager of the Golden State Warriors, played in that 100-point game 50 years ago. Attles was a brilliant guard for the Warriors. He played in the backcourt with former Northeast High and Temple star Guy Rodgers, who was one of the NBA’s most outstanding playmakers. Attles was 8-for-8 from the field and 1-for-1 from the free throw line that night. Rodgers handed out 20 assists.
“I did all right, but Wilt had a big game,” Attles said. “He was really dominant. It’s been 50 years since that big game. It’s the 50th anniversary of this game. Wilt was a fantastic player. He did it all that night. It’s a record that has been around for a long time. We had some good players on both teams. Guy was an exciting player. Paul Arizin was a great player. But Wilt was really special that game against the Knicks.”
The Knicks did everything they could to stop Chamberlain. Darrall Imhoff was the center for New York. Although Imhoff guarded him around the basket, he had plenty of help from his teammates like Richie Guerin, Willie Naulls and Cleveland Buckner. They all had huge games. Guerin had 39 points to lead the Knicks in scoring. Buckner and Naulls tallied 33 and 31 respectively. In any other game, this would have been enough for the Knicks to edge the Warriors, but Chamberlain was too strong inside.
Chamberlain had 23 points in the first quarter. He had 41 points at the half. He scored 28 points in the third quarter. Chamberlain tallied 31 in the fourth quarter connecting on 12 of 21 shots from the field and 7-of-10 from the free throw line.
Although Rodgers had 20 assists in that game, it was Joe Ruklick, former Northwestern University star, who made the big pass to Chamberlain for the 100th point. Ruklick, a reserve guard for the Warriors, earned a spot in NBA history with that assist.
“After the game, I went over to the scorer’s table,” Ruklick said. “I told the official scorer to give me the assist. I wanted that. I don’t remember the year, but I said to Wilt, ‘what was I doing in that game when you were trying to get 100. Wilt said, ‘I told Frank (McGuire, Warriors head coach) to put you in the game.’
“Wilt and I were friends. He gave my son the jersey he wore in his first college game. I’m the only opposing player he invited to Kansas when they retired his jersey number.”
This game didn’t mean much in the standings. It wasn’t a playoff or championship game. The attendance for that game was 4,124. Bill Campbell, veteran Philadelphia sports radio announcer, called the game on the old WCAU radio station. Campbell regrets that he didn’t make a copy of the broadcast.
“I didn’t tape it,” Campbell said. “That’s what really stuck out in my mind. That was a dumb error on my part. I got so consumed with trying to keep track of the points and making sure I did it correctly. I thought about it when I was driving home that night. I wasn’t a rookie in this business. I had been around for a while.
“I remember Wilt called me from Los Angeles after he went to the Hall of Fame. He asked me if I had a tape of the fourth quarter. I told him some of the fourth quarter. He said send it to the Hall of Fame.
“The next day, I got a call in the office from a guy. He asked me if I had a tape of the game. I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t have one. He said he had one on his homemade recorder. He said he had a couple minutes of the fourth quarter, including the period when Wilt got his 100th point. So, he sent it to me. That’s all we have. There was no television coverage of the game.”
Harvey Pollack, director of statistical information, covered the game as a stringer for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Associated Press and United Press International. He was also the Warriors public relations director. But Pollack is known for one of the most popular photos in sports history. He was responsible for writing the number “100” on a plain white sheet of paper, which was handed to Chamberlain for a classic photo. Pollack, 89, has been involved with the NBA since it started in 1946. He still has vivid memories of Chamberlain’s unforgettable performance.
“The Inquirer decided not to send their beat writer to cover the game,” said Pollack, a Hall of Famer, who regularly puts out “Harvey Pollack’s NBA Statistical Yearbook” each year. “They asked me to cover the game. I got my portable typewriter. Then, the Associated Press and United Press International had staff members in Harrisburg, but they didn’t know a lot about basketball.
“I’m actually the guy who let the whole world know about this game. It’s the biggest night I’ve ever had in all my 65 years in the league. I had to send a one paragraph lead along with the game story. They wanted to know how Wilt made every shot. After the game, I checked everything out with Dave Richter who was the official scorer. Once I got finished with Richter, I went to the locker room. We had one photographer (Paul Vathis) at the game who worked for AP, he came there with his son. He saw by halftime that Wilt was going to do some fantastic feat. So, he went to the car and got his camera.
“I asked him did he get a shot of Wilt. Then, I said ‘did something happen here tonight that was unusual?’ He said, ‘yeah, Wilt scored 100 points.’ I said let’s do something to indicate that. I grabbed an 8 ½ by 11 page out of the notebook. I wrote 100 on it. I said to the guy get the ball. He asked me ‘would Wilt do that?’ I told him Wilt would do anything for me.”
The 1961–62 season may have been Chamberlain’s greatest individual year. He averaged 50.4 points a game. He scored an incredible 4,029 points while averaging 48.5 minutes a game. During that season, Chamberlain had games where he scored 78, 73, 67 and 65 points that year. As a prep star at Overbrook High, he scored 90 points in a Public League basketball game in 1955.
Chamberlain, who died in 1999, played in the NBA from 1959 to 1973. He played for the Philadelphia Warriors, which later became the San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers. He led the 1966–67 76ers to an NBA championship. Chamberlain also guided the 1971–72 Lakers to a league title. He scored 31,419 points in his NBA career. He never fouled out of a game. Chamberlain holds the rebounding record with 23,924.
“Wilt is by far the greatest player of them all,” Pollack said. “I’ve seen just about every great player who has ever played in this league. When he retired in 1973, the NBA record book for that year listed 128 records that he held. As of last year, 98 of those records still stood and that’s 39 years after he retired from the NBA.”