Archive for Sunday, June 16, 2002

Columnist uncovers records that shows Born, Chamberlain accomplished feat

June 16, 2002


Don't count on the NCAA to officialize them, but Kansas basketball has registered at least three triple-doubles since 1953. The late Wilt Chamberlain didn't bag them all, though two belong to him.

Trouble is, the NCAA may not accept the data since it didn't formally register blocks until 1985-86. Just as silly is that assists weren't included until 1983-84. How many wondrous players like B.H. Born, Chamberlain, Bob Kurland, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and Oscar Robertson did that short-change?

But back to the trio of KU triples I CAN validate, thanks to the late Don Pierce's attention to significant detail. For years, KU hasn't thought it owned even a single three-ply wallop.

Recently I've been poring over some old material for four chapters in a Journal-World book that's due out this October. It turns out All-American Born probably was the Jayhawks' first triple-doubler in the 1953 NCAA title game against Indiana. Maybe somebody else accomplished such a feat earlier; this is the first one I could find.

Born, fighting a horrible cold, wound up on March 18, 1953, with 26 points and 15 rebounds and was credited with 13 blocked shots. B.H. at 6-9 was the only Jayhawk starter taller than 6-2. Indiana chose to drive as much as possible to foul him out.

It worked but it also produced 13 swats by a superb defender. The slender, exhausted Bert had to sit out the final 5:36 of the 69-68 defeat of KU. Yet he became the first player on a team that lost a title game to be voted the tournament's most valuable. He and teammate Dean Kelley were on the all-tourney team.

Another bit of NCAA tardniness was that individual rebounds were not tabulated until the 1950-51 season. At least Born's 15 boards against Indiana were official even if his 13 rejections weren't.

The Jayhawk media guide points out that KU never officially has had a triple-double performer but that if blocks could be run down, the incomparable Chamberlain would have at least one. I found at least two because Pierce, the wondrous KU sports publicist in those days, doggedly kept track. I'd forgotten that.

Pierce was no hypester who manipulated statistics just to glamorize. Nobody could promote an athlete, a team or an event better than Don, but he was as honest as Shaquille O'Neal is massive. If a statistic wasn't legit, Pierce wouldn't try to slip it by someone. When he noted that B.H. Born got 13 blocks against Indiana, you can bet your bippy he did.

Same with Chamberlain. Asked if he ever padded the stats, a droll Pierce growled: "With a guy like Wilt, you don't have to exaggerate."

OK, in Chamberlain's varsity debut against Northwestern on Dec. 3, 1956, he scored 52 points, grabbed 31 rebounds and Kansas romped 87-69 against a top 10 opponent. Allen Fieldhouse was splitting at the seams with 17,000-plus spectators. No mention of shot-blocks.

Comes Chamberlain's second varsity game, Dec. 8, 1956  the opponent potent Marquette. The Big Dipper scored 39 points, nailed 22 boards and blocked 14 Warrior shots. How's that for an encore  a rather impressive triple-double even though it's not formally in NCAA books?

Wanna know another nutty statistic about that night in an arena where a full house is a certainty anymore? Only 11,000 were counted in the seats for a 78-61 KU romp. It'll take a lousy team to see the local crowd drop that low again.

Wilt's triple-double No. 2 came March 9, 1957, when Colorado visited to close the regular season. Before a sellout local crowd, which had become common by then, Uncle Dippy poured in 40 points, hauled down 13 rebounds and blocked 12 Buffalo shots. KU entered NCAA play with a 21-2 record and an 11-1 conference championship mark.

Block-wise, the Chamberlain statistics are tremendously impressive, thanks to the dedicated and diligent Pierce who went out of his way to keep good records.

For the 1956-57 season, the 7-1 Chamberlain wound up with 182 confirmed blocks for an average of just under seven a game. The official season block record is held by Greg Ostertag, with 97 in 1994, just over half of Wilt's '57 total.

Came the '57-'58 junior year for Chamberlain. He missed two games but had 120 rejections for a career tab of 302. Ostertag's four-year total (1992-95) is the accepted record of 258, 44 shy of Wilt's two-year figure.

Wrote Pierce after Wilt's final season: " Â blocked or deflected 302 enemy shots (in two years) which could be translated into a saving of 212 points since the combined opposition shot 35 percent against the Jayhawkers. And Wilt discouraged at least thrice that many."

That gives The Dipper an average of just over six blocks per game for two years. The current NCAA block average is 5.9 by Keith Closs of Central Connecticut State in 1995-96. The NCAA single-game block record is 14, held by several guys including Navy's David Robinson. Uncle Dippy hit that in his second game.

Atlantic Coast Conference experts went bonkers a couple years ago when North Carolina's Brendan Haywood registered absolutely the first official triple-double in Tar Heel history  18 points, 14 boards, 10 blocks (har-har-de-har-har!).

Even if that's "official," Bert Born and Wilt Chamberlain did it, and better, some 45-50 years sooner. KU is still teaching Old Carolina quite a bit about history, hubris and heritage, huh?

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