Roundtable: Reliving Wilt's feats
In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA single-game scoring mark with 100 points
His 100-point game stands tall among his 71 other all-time league records
Could he be as prolific in today's game? Given his size, strengths, it's debatable
1. Forty-eight years ago on Tuesday, Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA's single-game scoring mark with 100 points in the Philadelphia Warriors' 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. Where does this rank among the league's greatest records?
Ian Thomsen: The greatest NBA record is the 11 championships earned by Bill Russell, who won them over a 13-year career. That is the Holy Grail against which Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and all the other elite players judge themselves.
Chamberlain's 100-point game is the most phenomenal achievement in the NBA books. (I strongly recommend Gary Pomerantz's book, Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era, which explores all facets of Chamberlain's singular achievement). It's the one record that is instantly recognizable and understood, the basketball equivalent of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams' .406 average. It has become an elusive target for the NBA's most prolific scorers, though it comes attached with the understanding that too much scoring by one player can cause more harm than good. As dominant as Chamberlain was individually, his teams won but two championships and only when he limited his scoring -- in 1966-67 (when he averaged 24.1 points for Philadelphia, his career low at that time) and 1972-73 (14.8 points with the Lakers). So that 100-point record defines the yin/yang of Chamberlain's career.
Jack McCallum: Maybe at No. 10, but only because it's so iconic -- triple figures in one game! The thing is it's not even close to Wilt's best record. I'd go with his career record of 118 games with 50 or more points or the single-season record of scoring 50 or more points in 45 games. Simply mind-boggling.
Frank Hughes: It is right up there, for sure. I still think the most amazing thing I have heard is that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double over the course of an entire season. Say what you want about fewer teams, less defense -- whatever you want -- but averaging a triple-double for an entire season is getting it done. Having said that, nobody has really even come close to Wilt's 100-point game, so it has to be one of the greatest feats in the game.
Chris Mannix: It's certainly the sexiest. Ask any player which individual record he would most like to topple and I'd wager most would tell you it's Wilt's 100-point mark. It's that one perfect night that defined Chamberlain, who, decades later, referred to it as his "handle" for the rest of his career. The fact that Kobe crept to within shouting distance of it four years ago only makes it more appealing to players and fans alike. It's like Roger Maris' home run record before the Steroid Era, a moment every fan of that time remembers years later as if it just happened.
2. Kobe Bryant came close when he scored 81 points against the Raptors in 2006. Do you foresee any current player ever topping Wilt's record?
Thomsen: The NBA plays to a much slower pace today. The Warriors averaged 111.6 shots per game that season, and they got up 115 attempts that day in Hershey, Pa., while playing through Chamberlain, who was 36-of-63 from the floor. Compare that to the Lakers' totals in the Jan. 22 game against Toronto in 2006: L.A. managed 88 field-goal attempts as Bryant went 28-of-46.
While players today can exploit the bonus of the three-point line -- Bryant essentially earned seven extra points by going 7-of-13 from that distance against Toronto -- the pace of play makes it difficult. This season the Bucks lead the league with 86.3 attempts per game -- 20 more shots than Chamberlain attempted when he set the record. Right now, half the teams in the league are failing to average 100 points.
Maybe Bryant or LeBron James or another tremendously conditioned scorer could challenge the record in a shootout against a defenseless opponent like the Warriors, who are surrendering 110.6 points this season. Another necessity would be efficient free-throw shooting, as Chamberlain (a career 51.1 percent foul shooter) was 28-of-32 from the line to set the record. (Kobe did make 18-of-20 in his 81-point performance.)
McCallum: Foresee it? No. But I'd give Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant a chance. Kobe's best chance seems behind him, and LeBron seems far too selfless to ever go after it; he can't stop making nice passes when a teammate is open. But no such restraint impedes Carmelo and Durant, both of whom would have a shot on a night when their three-ball was going down. But I wouldn't touch that bet without huge odds.
Hughes: I don't really consider Kobe coming close. Yes, he was in the same zip code, I guess. Kobe made it only 80 percent of the way to Wilt. He still had 19 points to go. Nineteen! He missed only two free throws in the game, so it's not like he could have picked up much there. He would have had to hit another nine or 10 baskets, or seven more three-pointers, to reach Wilt. I don't think anybody is going to eclipse 100 points. Hell, many teams don't even get to 100 points in a game. The Warriors scored 169 in Wilt's game. When was the last time that happened in the NBA? Defenses are too good, and back then, Wilt was physically imposing, overmatching people. I don't see that type of physical dominance any longer. Yes, LeBron has an incredible basketball body, but I'd have to think that if he started driving to the basket time and again, somebody would crack him eventually.
Mannix: LeBron could do it. Put him in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, play him all 48 minutes and tell him the only time he's allowed to pass is if he sees four defenders coming at him and he would break Wilt's record. James' shooting has improved to the point where he could rack up 25-30 points on threes alone, and it's possible that if he attacks the rim on every other possession, he could pile up 70 points. He never would, of course, because LeBron has always been more Magic than Michael. But he could.
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