Where were you 48 years ago today?
If you were sitting in the Sports Arena in Hershey, Pa., you would have witnessed one of the most storied — if not THE most storied — basketball games ever played.
On the night of March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored exactly 100 points to lead the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks.
If you HAD been there, you would have been one of only 4,124 fans watching the Warriors play one of their home-away-from-home games. Playing outside your home city wasn’t unusual in those days. Anybody remember the old Kansas City-Omaha Kings?
Today the venue where Chamberlain reached the century mark is known as Hersheypark Arena and is used mostly by a couple of area colleges for hockey games.
Frankly, I think the city of Hershey should designate it as a tourist attraction, if they haven’t already.
Nearly 20 years ago, I was driving my youngest daughter back from art school in New York City, and she wanted to stop at Hershey Chocolate World. After we had finished touring that tourist trap, I noticed a large structure across the parking lot that looked like an inverted half-pipe.
So we walked over to the building and peeked inside. At the time, I knew Chamberlain had scored those 100 points in Hershey, but I didn’t know the arena. Was this the place? Later I learned, yes, indeed it was.
Can you imagine the hoopla today if a basketball player scored 100 points? Not only would ESPN’s multimedia outlets beat it into our heads, I wouldn’t be surprised if a 100-pointer was the lead story on the national TV news.
Back in 1962, however, Chamberlain’s unprecedented and still untouched professional scoring record was hardly Second-Coming stuff because no one was really that astonished.
Chamberlain was so dominant in his fifth year removed from his college days on Mount Oread that a 100-point performance was almost taken for granted. Three months earlier, the Big Dipper had scored 78 points in a game.
During that monumental 1961-62 season, Chamberlain averaged — are you ready for this? — an NBA-record 50.4 points a game. He also led the league in rebounding at 25.7.
Even more amazing, the Dipper averaged 48.5 minutes on the floor even though NBA games last 48 minutes. Overtimes accounted for the discrepancy. Wilt went the distance in 79 of the Warriors’ 80 contests that season.
On the historic night nearly a half-century ago, Chamberlain shot 36-for-63 from the field and 28-for-32 from the foul line, a remarkable feat considering his career free-throw percentage was a bricky .511.
Before he died in 1999 at the age of 63, Chamberlain realized the 100-pointer was the signature game of his career, saying: “It has become my handle, and I’ve come to realize just what I did.”
Two years from now, wouldn’t it be great if the NBA celebrated that game’s 50th anniversary by staging another game in the Hersheypark Arena? The place seats only about 7,000, but what the heck? Think of the positive publicity.