50 years ago today Wilt scored 100 points against the Knicks, The number is inconceivable, really, as were all the numbers he put up in 1962- a ppg average of 50.2, 25.7 rebounds per game (please do not go there with the ‘yeah, but he was a giant playing against pygmies’ routine, when he finally registered in my adolescent consciousness seven or eight years later he was still obviously the best athlete in any sport with the possible exception of Pele – who we only saw every four years in Wide World of Sports highlight shorts. He could do anything – in ’68 he told his critics he would lead the league in assists and he led the league in assists in a league studded with great guards: Wilkens, Robertson, West, Bing, Monroe,Frazier).
While I find the concept of a hundred points in a game incomprehensible in 2012 when the average NBA team scores in the 90s and it was huge news last week when two members of the Thunder scored a combined 94 points, what I find simply unfathomable is the fact Wilt accomplished this in a virtual vacuum. Less than 4,200 fans were in the stands in Hersey(!), there was no television coverage(!), no film, there was radio coverage of the game (the Knicks were 29-51 that year without a single recognizable name in the lineup, so my guess is not a whole lot of New Yorkers had the motivation to drag themselves away from McHale’s Navy to listen to what was sure to be another Knick loss) and there was no sports talk radio.
So, not only did Wilt do the impossible in relative anonymity and get the chance to celebrate with the crowd and his teammates pretty much unencumbered by stupid questions and mindless interjections (“Hey, Wilt, did it feel good to score a hundred? Did you stop there on purpose or could you have scored a few more? How’d you guys let Richie Guerin score thirty-nine against you?”), he did not have to endure the endless dissection of what he did – and did not do – for the next week. And make no mistake, there would have been plenty of ‘why didn’t Wilt do this or that instead of a finger roll, dunk, or reverse lay-up’ for days in the current environment. (Mad Dog Russo, 1962 version, “Hey, hey, Wilt, hey, why’d you go to the hoop with a minute six left only up three when ya’ had Conlin wide open at the top of the key . . .yeah, I know ya’ scored, but . . .?”
Then, of course, there would have been a frenzy two days later where the lead would have been “What’s wrong with the Dipper? Has he hit the wall? Is he on the downward slide? Was it just a stunt?” after the Knicks held him to 58 in the rematch in the Garden.