Christmas in Wilt’s Heart
by Henry L. Liao
Of the numerous individual feats in the 76-year existence of the National Basketball Association, the late Wilton Norman Chamberlain’s streak of at least 50 points in a league-record seven consecutive games during the 1961-62 season certainly ranks among the more incredible accomplishments.
Coincidentally, that memorable seven-game stretch came during the 1961 Yuletide holidays.
While musician-author Burl Ives immortalized his “Twelve Days of Christmas” in a song, Chamberlain came up with his own “Fourteen Days of Christmas” feat to remember him by.
The 7-1, 275-pound mastodon registered an NBA record when he chalked up 50 points or more in seven straight contests from December 16 through December 29 in 1961.
“The Big Dipper” that Wilt was commenced his explosive offensive feasts by pouring in 50 points in the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors’ 112-110 road decision over the Chicago Packers (the predecessors of the Washington Wizards) on December 16.
Three days later, the Philadelphia native drilled in 57 markers as the Warriors downed the Cincinnati Royals (the harbinger of the Sacramento Kings), 117-110.
Making it back-to-back, Chamberlain collected 55 points in propelling his club to a 117-102 rout of the Detroit Pistons on December 20.
Christmas Day arrived and the University of Kansas and Harlem Globetrotters alum got going offensively only to have his 59-point effort whacked by the Warriors’ 136-135 loss to the New York Knickerbockers in double overtime.
It was to be one point shy of the all-time single-game NBA scoring record on Christmas Day that Knicks forward Bernard King later established when he netted 60 in a 120-114 setback to the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets at the old Madison Square Garden in 1984.
Once again, in consecutive fashion, Wilt produced 51 points in catapulting the Warriors to a 118-111 triumph over the Syracuse Nationals (the forerunners of the Philadelphia 76ers) on December 26.
Chamberlain reached the 50-point plateau for a third straight night on December 27, collecting 53 scores in a 131-119 shellacking of the Knicks that was a sweet payback for a stinging defeat to the Big Apple squad on Christmas.
The climax’s of Chamberlain’s streak of 50 points-or-more games came on December 29 when he torched the Los Angeles Lakers for 60 points in a 123-118 success.
During the seven-game span, he averaged 55 ppg as the Warriors emerged victorious in six of the seven games.
The streak was shattered on December 30 when “Wilt the Stilt” managed “only” 41 markers in a 116-111 overtime setback at the hands of his arch nemesis Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics.
Chamberlain, who also went six straight games with 50 points or more from January 11-19, 1962, eventually annexed the NBA scoring title during the 1961-62 season while compiling numerous all-time league scoring records that remain unchallenged until today.
Chamberlain finished the seson with 4,029 points (a record) in 80 assignments and normed 50.4 points per game (another record). He also established thye league standard for most 50point games in a single season in reaching the half-century mark a total of 45 times.
Included on the list is a mind-boggling 100-point performance – still another NBA record – during a 169-147 blowout of the New York Knicks at Hershey, Pennsylvania on March 2, 1962.
Unmarried, Chamberlain succumbed to congestive heart failure at his Bel Air Los Angeles (California) mansion on October 12, 1999 at the age of 63.