Great NBA Shootout
The death of Wilt Chamberlain on October 12 brought back
memories of the man they called "the Big Dipper" and also of one
of the great shootouts in NBA history. It happened 38 years ago today, on
December 8, 1961.
The Philadelphia Warriors matched up against the Los
Angeles Lakers. It was, most of all, a match up of superstars - Wilt
Chamberlain of Philadelphia 76ers versus Elgin Baylor and Jerry West of
the Los Angeles Lakers. It was also another hometown showcase game in the
pros for the Philadelphia Overbrook High School product who had led his
team to a 56-3 record in three seasons.
At half time, Philly fans were in nirvana: their big guy,
the seven-foot-one, 275-pound "Wilt the Stilt" had poured in 28
points. Elgin Baylor had tallied 16.
The game moved along through a high-scoring second half
with Baylor and Chamberlain filling it up. Regulation ended in a tie. Wilt
had 53 points; Elgin had 47.
But the night was still young - there was plenty of
basketball left ahead. In fact, the teams went through three overtimes
before the final score was posted: Philadelphia 151 Los Angeles 147.
Along the way, there were a few records that went by the
boards. Baylor scored 63 points. But Chamberlain poured in 78, breaking
what had been Baylorís record of 73. Wilt took 62 shots and made 31
field goals - both National Basketball Association records. It truly was
The Great NBA Shootout!
Hereís an interesting and special post-script to that
game and time: Chamberlain moved on to the Lakers later on in his career
and was a teammate of both Baylor and West. Both had vivid memories of
what it was like to play with and against him.
Baylor: "I remember one game; we played against
Chicago when he had just joined us at the tail-end of my career. And this
particular game, for six minutes, they never got a shot that hit the rim
or the basket. Wilt just went out and contested every shot, jump shots and
everything. I never saw anything like it."
West: "When you played against him, particularly
during the height of his career when he was scoring and rebounding, it was
really remarkable. He never wanted to come out of a game. He played all 48
minutes. And if the coach would take him out, he didn't like that very
much. It was a testament to him being a great competitor along with the
fact that here was a very proud guy that could do that. "
But perhaps Oscar Robertson put it best when asked whether
Chamberlain was the best ever. His response: "The books don't
That they don't:
Number 13 was the only NBA player to score 4,000 points in
a season. He set NBA single-game records for most points (100), most
consecutive field goals (18) and most rebounds (55). In the 1961-62
season, he averaged 50.4 points per game.
thing is certain. Chamberlain never backed away from a Shootout. He
thrived on them!
# # #
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Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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