On the 11th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s death, the Sixers’ Harvey Pollack Lists the Big Dipper’s Most Unforgettable Performances
By John Hareas
The news was as stunning and jarring as one of his typical NBA box scores. The most dominant player the NBA has ever seen died 11 years ago today.
Bill Russell may be considered the NBA’s most influential player and Michael Jordan perhaps the greatest but what is undisputable: No one rewrote the record books like Wilt Chamberlain.
As former teammate Billy Cunningham once said, “The NBA Guide reads like Wilt’s personal diary.”
And Wilt’s impact resonates to this day. Thirty seven years after he retired at the age of 37, Chamberlain’s name appears in the NBA’s record book a whopping 97 times.
When he retired following the 1972-73 season, it was 128 times.
On the 11th anniversary of his death, a man who was courtside for many of Wilt’s majestic performances weighs in on a daunting task: ranking Wilt’s most memorable achievements.
Harvey Pollack, the Sixers’ Director of Statistical Information joined the NBA in 1946-47, keeping statistics for all of the Warriors and Sixers home games. You can spot Harvey courtside this season, jotting down stats.
Here are Pollack’s most memorable Wilt games he’s seen in person.
Harvey Pollack’s Most Memorable Wilt Performances
1.Wilt’s 100-point game (vs. New York Knicks, March 2, 1962, Hershey, Pa.)
Harvey’s Take: “Wilt’s 100-point game was part of his transcendent season in 1961-62 where he averaged 50.4 points and played all but eight possible minutes for the Philadelphia Warriors (3,882 of a possible 3,890).
“Wilt actually averaged 48.5 minutes per game that season.
“Against the Knicks, Wilt took 63 of the team’s 115 field goal attempts and made 36 of them. The next highest field goal attempt number on the Warriors was Paul Arizin, who had 18.
“Perhaps most impressive was Wilt’s proficiency from the free throw line that game. A career 51 percent free throw shooter, Wilt made 28 of 32 attempts.
“When someone asked Wilt to explain why he did so well from the line, he responded: ‘I can’t.’
“We knew something big was in store because earlier that day, Wilt lit up the arcade in Hershey, taking on all comers and knocking ’em down whether it was shooting clay pigeons or pinball.”
“I’m glad I wrote ‘100’ on a piece of paper for Wilt to hold up after the game for The Associated Press photographer because otherwise, I’m not so sure people to this day would believe he actually scored 100.”
2. 55 rebounds vs. Bill Russell (vs. Boston Celtics, 11/24/60)
Harvey’s Take: “Wilt and Russell played against each other 142 times throughout their careers. In those head-to-head matchups, Wilt averaged 28.7 points and 28.7 rebounds while Russell posted averages of 14.5 and 23.7.
“I’ve had never seen Russell more distraught than that game when Wilt grabbed 55 rebounds. Wilt dominated the paint, taking everything in sight.
“That record still stands to this day and no one will come near it.
“Not to be overlooked but Wilt also scored 34 points.”
3. 78 point Game (vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Dec. 8, 1961)
Harvey’s Take: “Look up in the NBA Guide and you’ll find Wilt has four of the top highest single-game performances. One of my favorites was when he scored 78 points against the Lakers in a triple overtime game.
“Little did we know that this game would be a precursor to his 100-point game only a few months later.
“It was unimaginable to think someone could score 100 points in a single game. Even after Wilt scored 78, no one was thinking about 100.”
4. 73 & 62 on Back-to-Back Nights (vs. Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, January 13 & 14, 1962)
Harvey’s Take: “Wilt scored 135 points in a 24 hour span -- 73 against the Bulls and 62 points against the Celtics.
It would take 22 years for someone to score 50 or more points on consecutive nights. Bernard King did it – back to back 50s -- versus San Antonio and Dallas in 1984.
5. 118 Career 50-Point Games (1959-73)
Harvey’s Take: “To give you some perspective, Wilt scored 50 or more points 118 times in his illustrious career. The second highest total is Michael Jordan with 31.
“I traveled with the Warriors during these peak years when Wilt was dropping 50 or more points. Forty five of those came in the 1961-62 season when he averaged 50.4 points.”
6. Wilt goes 18 for 18 from the field (vs. Baltimore, February 24, 1967)
Harvey’s Take: “Even though the game was in Pittsburgh, it was considered a Sixers home game and Wilt treated the fans to an unforgettable performance.”
“Wilt also had games of 15 and 16 field goals without a miss.”
7. Wilt’s Triple Double Double: The Only One in NBA History (vs. Detroit Pistons, Feb. 2, 1968)
Harvey’s Take: “Everyone makes a big fuss out of a triple double. How about a triple double double! Wilt’s line from that game – 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists.
“The 21 assists was a Sixers single-game assist mark for many years. Maurice Cheeks eventually tied it.”
“Wilt was the only player to play all 48 minutes in that game.”
8. Wilt Scores 58 … as a Rookie (vs. Detroit Pistons, Jan. 25, 1960)
Harvey’s Take: “Another away home game, this time it took place in Bethlehem, Pa. Wilt scores 58 points and a little less than a month later he did it in New York versus the Knicks.
“In Wilt’s rookie season, he not only led the league in scoring (37.6) and rebounds (27) but also in minutes per game (46.4)
9. 50 or More Points in Seven Straight Games (Dec. 16 to Dec. 29, 1961)
Harvey’s Take: “I was at every one of those games and no matter what defenses they threw at Wilt, he either willed his way to the basket or dominated from mid range. It was one of many incredible scoring runs I’ve seen from Wilt.”
10. 220 – Most rebounds in a 7-Game Playoff Series (1965 Eastern Division Finals)
Harvey’s Take: “Bill Russell is considered, by many as the greatest defensive player in the game. Well, in a seven-game series versus Russell, Wilt averaged nearly 29 rebounds per game against him and in the final Game 7, grabbed his 200th of the series.”
“The Sixers lost Game 7 on Sam Jones’ shot, 110-109.”
11. 21 Assists in Game (vs. Detroit Pistons, Feb. 2, 1969)
Harvey’s Take: “Often overlooked in the enormity of Wilt’s scoring records was his ability as a passer. Twenty one assists in a game is simply unheard of for a center.
“Dave DeBusschere, Terry Dischinger, Joe Strawder all tried to stop Wilt that game and it was pointless. Wilt did what he wanted, when he wanted.
“People forget, Wilt led the NBA in total assists in the 1967-68 season. Imagine any center today leading the NBA in assists.
“Alex Hannum, the great Sixers’ coach told Wilt that the team didn’t need him to dominate with his scoring but to get his teammates more involved. Wilt adjusted his game and sure enough, led the league in assists.”
The greatest NBA record book ever is Harvey Pollack’s NBA Statistical Yearbook. The 2010-11 edition was just released. The book contains 330 pages of historical and current NBA statistics and is a must for any diehard NBA fan.
To order, mail a check for $20.00 to Harvey Pollack, Philadelphia 76ers, 3601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148. Or call 215-389-9761.