The Robinson Library

The Robinson Library >> Basketball >> Biography
Wilt Chamberlain

the first (and to date only) player to score 100 points in a single game

Full Name: Wilton Norman Chamberlain

Born: August 21, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Died: October 12, 1999, in Los Angeles, California

Adult Height: 7 feet 1 inch

Adult Weight: 275 pounds

Wilt Chamberlain as a Laker
Wilt Chamberlain as a Laker

High School Career

Standing 6 feet 11 inches, Chamberlain towered over his teammates at Overbrook (Pennsylvania) High School. In three seasons (1952-1955) Chamberlain led his team to three winning seasons in a row and two City Championships (1954 and 1955). His coaches there took full advantage of his height and gifts. The team would practice missing free throws just so Chamberlain could grab them and score field goals. He sometimes infuriated his teammates by tipping balls in on their way into the basket, even if they were already on target -- goal tending was legal at this time.

During his high school years, Chamberlain scored a total of 2,206 points. In his senior year he scored 800 points in his first 16 games, and averaged 44.5 points per game. In one game alone, he scored 90 points against Roxborough High School; 60 of those points were scored in one ten-minute span during the second half of the game.

It was also during his high school years that a local newspaper writer gave him the moniker "Wilt the Stilt," a nickname Chamberlain always disliked.

Named to the High School All-America Team in 1955, Chamberlain was understandably the most coveted high school recruit in the country.

College Career

Chamberlain opted to play for the storied basketball program at the University of Kansas, where he played from 1955 to 1958.

Because NCAA rules at the time prohibited freshmen from playing at the varsity level, Chamberlain was placed on the freshmen team upon his arrival at KU. He played his first game on November 18, 1955, against the varsity team, which was favored to win the Big Seven Championship that year. The freshmen team beat the varsity team by a score of 87-71, with Chamberlain scoring almost half the freshmen points and accounting for some 30 rebounds.

Chamberlain scores a point during his first game at KU
Chamberlain scores a point during his first game at KU

Chamberlain made his debut for the varsity team in a game against Northwestern in December 1956. He set a school record in this game by scoring 52 points in KU's 87-69 victory.

In his two seasons on the varsity team, Chamberlain scored a total of 1,433 points, and averaged 29.9 points per game. He also grabbed a total of 877 rebounds, or an average of 18.3 rebounds per game.

Chamberlain led his team to two Big Seven Conference Championships (1957 and 1958). Although KU lost the 1957 NCAA Final Game to North Carolina in triple overtime, Chamberlain was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. In both 1957 and 1958, he was unanimously selected to the First Team All-America, as well as to the All-Big Seven.

Because Chamberlain's skills were so far advanced over his competitors, the NCAA was forced to make several rule changes to harness them. These rule changes included widening the lane, making offensive goaltending a penalty, and revising rules governing inbounding the ball and shooting free throws.

While at Kansas, Chamberlain often found himself guarded by as many as three players at one time. When opponents weren't "gang-guarding" him, they held the ball for long stretches. Frustrated by these tactics, Chamberlain decided to forego his senior year and pursue a professional career.

Professional Career

Because of an NBA rule that prevented college players from playing in the league until their senior class graduated, Chamberlain decided to spend a year with the Harlem Globetrotters (1958-1959).

Chamberlain as a Harlem Globetrotter
Chamberlain as a Harlem Globetrotter

Chamberlain was drafted by the NBA's Philadelphia Warriors (which became the San Francisco Warriors in 1963) in the 1959-1960 season and was an immediate attention grabber and dominating force. He became the first player in NBA history to be named MVP and Rookie of the Year in the same season, and along the way set eight NBA season records, including a points per game average of 37.6 and a rebounds per game average of 27.

Through 14 seasons with the Philadelphia Warriors (1959-1962), Golden State Warriors (1962-1965), Philadelphia 76ers (1965-1968) and the Los Angeles Lakers (1968-1973), Chamberlain was named league MVP four times (1960, 1966, 1967 and 1968) and was an All-NBA First Team selection seven times. Named to 13 NBA All-Star Games, he set All-Star Game career records for most rebounds (197), most points in a single game (42), and in 1960 earned MVP honors. Chamberlain also led the NBA in scoring seven consecutive years (1959-1965), rebounding 11 times and in 1968 led the league in assists. In the 1962-1962 season, he enjoyed a Hall of Fame season, setting a record for points scored in one season (4,029; an average of 50.4 points per game). On March 2, 1962, he scored 100 points against the New York Knicks, a record for points in one game that has yet to be broken.

Chamberlain after his 100-point game
Chamberlain after his 100-point game

By the time Chamberlain retired from playing in 1973, he had led two teams to NBA Championships -- the 76ers in 1967 and the Lakers in 1972. His record total of 31,419 career points scored was later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan, but he remains tops in total career rebounds with 23,924. Other records he had accumulated included: most games with 50+ points (118), most consecutive games with 40+ points (14), most consecutive games with 30+ points (65), most consecutive games with 20+ points (126), highest rookie scoring average (37.6 ppg), and highest field goal percentage in a season (.727).

After retiring as a player, Chamberlain spent a year coaching the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association (1973-1974). San Diego had wanted him to be a player-coach, but legal problems prevented that, and Chamberlain quickly grew bored with a coach-only role. The Conquistadors ended the season with a 37-47 record. He then pursued professional volleyball for a time, as well as tennis, marathon running, and even polo. At one point he even hoped to challenge Muhammad Ali to a world heavyweight fight. In 1978, his first year of eligibility, Chamberlain was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996-1997 he was selected to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.


NBA Encyclopedia

Questions or comments about this page?

The Robinson Library >> Basketball >> Biography

This page was last updated on September 13, 2018.