Harden, Chamberlain and ‘Silver Anniversary Team’ among historic December NBA Milestones
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by Henry L. Liao
Dec. 3, 2019 – Houston’s James Harden (50 points) went 24-for-24 from the free-throw line in a 135-133 double-overtime loss to San Antonio to set a new NBA record for most free throws made in a game without a single miss. That eclipsed the old league mark of 23-for-23 established by Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins in the Hawks’ 123-114 win over Chicago on December 8, 1992.
Dec. 4, 1948 – The 1948-49 Washington Capitols edged the Baltimore Bullets, 83-82, to improve their record to 15-0, the best start in NBA history at the time. The eventual NBA champion Houston Rockets also opened the 1993-94 season with 15 consecutive victories. The 2015-16 Golden State Warriors now own the best start in NBA history, capturing their first 24 games behind interim coach Luke Walton, who temporarily took over from head mentor Steve Kerr who was sidelined by complications from a 2015 back surgery. The Warriors’ streak, which shattered a 131-year-old record of 20-0 set by the 1884 St. Louis Maroons baseball team to secure the best start to a season in all of the four U.S. major pro team sports leagues, ended on December 12, 2015, when Golden State was beaten by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Dec. 5, 1996 – Portland’s Jermaine O’Neal, who celebrated his 18th birthday on October 13, became the youngest player ever to participate in an official NBA game.
Dec. 6, 1986 – The Seattle SuperSonics (the forerunners of the Oklahoma City Thunder) registered a 136-80 victory over the Houston Rockets at the Summit in Houston. The 56-point margin was the most one-sided road win in NBA regular-season history at the time. It would later be equaled by the Boston Celtics in their 133-77 road triumph over the Chicago Bulls on December 8, 2018. The record now belongs to the Indiana Pacers, who won by 57 points (152-95) over the host Oklahoma City Thunder on May 1, 2021.
Dec. 11, 1971 – The NBA’s Silver Anniversary Team was announced. The squad included Bob Cousy, Bob Davies, Paul Arizin, Joe Fulks, Sam Jones, George Mikan, Bill Russell, Dolph Schayes, Bill Sharman, and Bob Pettit. The coach was Arnold (Red) Auerbach.
Dec. 13, 1983 – The Detroit Pistons posted an epic 186-184 triple-overtime victory over the Denver Nuggets at the McNichols Arena in Denver, Colorado. It set NBA records for most points scored in a single game, both one team and combined (370), most field goals made by one team (Detroit, 74), and combined (142) and combined assists (93).
Dec. 16, 1961 – Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors chalked up 50 points against the Chicago Packers to begin an NBA record-setting streak of seven consecutive games in which he netted 50 or more. During the stretch, he went 50, 57 (vs. Cincinnati, Dec. 19), 55 (vs. Detroit, Dec. 20), 59 (vs. New York, Dec. 25), 51 (vs. Syracuse, Dec. 26), 53 (vs. New York, Dec. 27) and 60 points (vs. LA Lakers, Dec. 29).
Dec. 17, 1996 – The list of the Top 10 Coaches in NBA history was announced: Arnold (Red) Auerbach, Chuck Daly, Bill Fitch, William (Red) Holzman, Phil Jackson, John Kundla, Don Nelson, Jack Ramsay, Pat Riley, and Lenny Wilkens.
Dec. 19, 1956 – Upon his return from Melbourne, Australia, where he powered the U.S. men’s basketball team to an Olympic gold medal, Bill Russell signed his first NBA contract with the Boston Celtics for the sum of $19,500.
Dec. 22, 1956 – After missing the first 24 games of the season because of his Olympic stint, Boston’s Bill Russell collected 16 rebounds and six points in 22 minutes during his NBA debut, a 95-93 Celtics victory over the St. Louis Hawks.
Dec. 26, 1976 – Larry Kenon of the San Antonio Spurs established an NBA record with 11 steals in the Spurs’ 110-105 victory over the host Sacramento Kings. New Jersey’s Kendall Gill would duplicate the feat in an 88-77 home win over the Miami Heat on April 3, 1999. The NBA did not record stats for steals and blocked shots until the 1973-74 season.