Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-Point Performance Shrouded In Too Much Mystery to Be Fully Celebrated

Wilt Chamberlain's 100-Point Performance Shrouded In Too Much Mystery to Be Fully CelebratedWilt Chamberlain died 13 years ago, but with the 50th anniversary of his 100-point game coming Friday, he'll be all over the place this week.

It's unlikely NBA fans will be able to avoid mention of the Big Dipper's record-setting night in Hershey, Pa., on March 2, 1962. It remains the record for scoring in a single game, obviously, and 76ers plan to commemorate the achievement during their game Friday in Chamberlain's hometown of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has dubbed this "Wilt Week," while NBA TV will premier Wilt 100 at 7 p.m. Friday. We've barely recovered from our Linsanity and already we're ask to be Stiltzophrenic.

And rightfully so. Dropping a buck on another team of professional basketball players is an accomplishment worth celebrating, and it's fitting that Friday's game is against the Warriors, the team Chamberlain played for when he reached the 100-point milestone.

But…

The point total is all we really know about the 100-point game. The NBA was less than a niche sport then, and no film footage of the game exists. The crowd was small and few reporters traveled from Philadelphia to Hershey to cover the game. No one from New York was represented on press row. The Warriors played the Knicks in New York two days later, and Chamberlain's 100 points were mentioned mainly as a form of derision.

If one man could score more points than an entire team does on some nights, the logic went, how legitimate can this hoopty-doopty new league be? At that time, if it didn't involve a bat, a square ring, a thoroughbread horse or leather (college) football helmets, it hardly qualified as a sport.

When it appeared that LeBron James had a chance Sunday to break Chamberlain's record for points scored in a single All-Star game, the broadcast ran some highlights from the 1962 game in which Chamberlain scored 42 points. The record was one thing, but the most revealing nuggets of information were that Chamberlain's East All-Stars still lost, and that Bob Pettit was named All-Star MVP after leading the West to the win. If that doesn't sum up Chamberlain's legacy, nothing does.

Too much mystery surrounds the game to declare it the greatest single-game performance in history, as some people will claim, or a selfish fluke, as Chamberlain's many critics have argued. It may be legendary, but without proof, it's just another thing that happened in the early days of the NBA, like netting around a raised court and hockey-style "enforcer" fights. They are a part of the league's history but at the same time they're not. The game was different, the league was different, and those things could never happen in the NBA today.

Chamberlain, despised by most fans during his career and life, will finally get just due for his memorable game. Watch, read, Google and learn this week, but take it all with a grain of salt. If the people who were there say it was the most incredible thing they ever saw, good for them. They saw what they saw.

But most of us didn't see it, or even a single part of it beyond the box score, and you can't cheer what you can't see.

Yardbarker

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