Why Chamberlain's 100 Points Was More Impressive Than Kobe's 81 Points

Richard JTContributor IIIAugust 27, 2010


100 points is more than 81 points by default, everyone who knows mathematics knows that. However, I've seen a lot of fans, mostly casual basketball fans who don't know much about the history of basketball, quickly downplay Wilt's 100 points and up play Kobe's 81 points.

Well, they're wrong and here's why....


Let's debunk all of the myths that the casual fans often say, shall we?

"There was no 3 seconds rule during Wilt's era, he could clogg the line and just dunk it"

First off, the 24-sec. shotclock was already in place in 1954. The 3 second rule was introduced in 1936. Illegal defense was already in place since 1947. Defensive goaltending was instituted way back during Mikan's college days (pre-1950's). Offensive goaltending was instituted during Russell's senior year in college (1956).

Wilt debuted in the NBA in 1959. He played with all the rules.

"Wilt had it easy, he was the only 7 footer while every other centers were midgets"

Walter Dukes (7'0", 220 lbs.)

Swede Halbrook (7'3, 235 lbs.)

Tom Boerwinkle (7'0", 265 lbs.)

Bob Lanier (6'11", 265 lbs.)

Darrall Imhoff (6'11", 220 lbs.)

Otto Moore (6'11", 210 lbs.)

Sam Lacey (6'10", 235 lbs.)

George Johnson (6'11", 245 lbs.)

Paul Ruffner (6'10", 230 lbs.)

Dick Cunningham (6'10", 245 lbs.)

Walt Bellamy (6'11", 225 lbs.)

Leroy Ellis (6'10", 210 lbs.)

Nate Thurmond (6'11", 235 lbs.)

Mel Counts (7'0", 235 lbs.)

Nate Bowman (6'10", 230 lbs.)

Clyde Lee (6'10", 210 lbs.)

Walt Wesley (6'11", 230 lbs.)

Henry Akin (6'10", 225 lbs.)

Hank Finkel (7'0", 240 lbs.)

Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (7'2", 225 lbs.)

Neal Walk (6'10", 220 lbs.)

Elmore Smith (7'0", 250 lbs.)

Jim McDaniels (6'11", 230 lbs.)

LaRue Martin (6'11", 215 lbs.)

Tom Riker (6'10", 225 lbs.)

Conrad Dierking (6'9", 225 lbs.)

Johnny “Red” Kerr (6'9", 230 lbs.)

Bob Pettit (6'9", 220 lbs.)

Spencer Haywood (6'9", 230 lbs.)

Rick Roberson (6'9", 230 lbs.)

Luke Jackson (6'9", 240 lbs.)

Duke Hogue (6'9," 240 lbs.)

Zelmo Beaty (6'9", 230 lbs.)

Len Chappell (6'9", 240 lbs.)

Elvin Hayes (6'9", 235 lbs.)

Hub Reed (6'9", 220 lbs.)

Hmmmmm what? How come none of those 60's players put up the same numbers as Wilt did? Height is not the reason for Wilt's dominance.


"Wilt wouldn't be able to score 100, if he's to play today"

Wilt would have one field day after another playing against guys like Eddy Curry and Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a bunch of other guys who wouldn't have made the NBA in the 1970s or 80s.

Wilt averaged 46 min/game over his career... if a center plays 35 min in ONE game today, it's considered to be an iron man performance. Wilt would wear out any center today who tried to keep up with him.

He'd be a 30-35 pt, 18-20 rebound a night player today. He was the strongest player in NBA history...he was a better leaper and also much more fundamentally sound than any center today. Chamberlain is the only non-guard ever to lead the NBA in assists. He was also the greatest rebounder of all time.

Today's NBA has a lot of "midgets" who are under 6'...there were no such players in Wilt's time... Nate Archibald was nicknamed "Tiny" and he was 6'1".

Besides, what does height have to do with anything anyway? Yao Ming is 7'6", and has had his shots blocked by 5'9" Nate Robinson ... that wouldn't have happened with Wilt.

It would be a joke watching these guys try to stop Wilt.

When Wilt scored his 100 point game, the Knicks' center was 6'11"... he was two inches shorter than Wilt. So if Shaq's a 7'1'', what was his high game against a 6'11 guy?

Whatever anyone wants to say about the 6'11" Imhoff, the fact is, he was only 2 inches shorter than Wilt's 7'1... Who was guarding Kobe in his 81 point game? It's not like Toronto is overloaded with Hall of Famers.... So who was the great defensive stopper that Kobe schooled that night?  The fact that no one has come close to Wilt's record even WITH the availability of the 3 point shot just shows how impressive the 100 point game was.

Anyway, back to the point of this article, which performance was better? Wilt's 100 or Kobe's 81?

Short answer, Wilt's 100 is more impressive.


The Knicks guarding Wilt during the night he scored 100pts was Darral Imhoff (6'11") and Cleveland Buckner (6'9") and they were not alone. Unless your team is the Boston Celtics, Wilt was never guarded one on one. There is always a double or triple team waiting for him the moment he gets the ball and getting rough on him immediately. The teams trying to contain Wilt employ an early, more violent version of hack a Shaq. Guards are hanging on his arms, forwards jump up with their knees and elbows flared at him, centers out and out pushing him out of position etc.. There was certainly a serious defensive effort to stop him, far more difficult to crack than what Kobe faced in today's pussified handcheck free era (which makes it easier for offensive perimeter players and slashers like Kobe to score). Clyde Lovellette of the Celtics knocked a couple of Wilt's front teeth into the roof of his mouth on one play. Wilt suffered a serious infection, and the teeth were never set properly in the operation, and this caused Wilt to live with a good deal of pain for the rest of his life.

At the time of his death in 1999, he had been scheduled to undergo surgery to (hopefully) fix those teeth (which had never been properly repaired, and never properly healed), but Wilt passed away before the surgery could take place.

The injury was aggravated later that year by Willie Naulls of the Knicks. Tom Heinson of the Celtics also was involved in some very rough shots. Unfortunately for Wilt, he was not in a position to retaliate. Any double ejection would be an unequal trade, and Wilt was not a mean guy to begin with.

The physical play was so rough against him that Wilt actually retired after his rookie year. He wrote a piece for Look Magazine about the NBA being a bush league, but the Warriors' owner talked him into coming back, even though Wilt was ready to hang it up.

Over the years, many referees have admitted that they let guys get away with clobbering Wilt on the offensive end. The league really didn't know how to handle Wilt, and subconsciously, the refs let the little guys get away with murder.

In earlier years, they did this to make up for the fact that Wilt was so big and talented. In later years, they did this because they felt sorry for Wilt because he couldn't shoot free throws very well. One ref told him, "Wilt, I know you get hacked every time, but the game would be pretty boring watching you go one for two from the line every time down the court."

Wilt gettin Hacked a Shaq'ed for 48 mins and STILL scoring 100pts >>> Kobe scoring 81pts with modern rules in place preventing him from being touched by the defender.

Wilt shot 28 for 32 from the free-throw line. Thats the key to his 100 point game. Very impressive for a career .500 FT shooter.

All too often Wilt would score 60-70 points, impressive numbers to be sure but those could still be higher if it was not for his horrendous foul shooting. Had Wilt been a decent foul shooter, he would have had multiple games between 80 and 90 points. 

The fact that the Knicks were not even trying to win the game anymore in the 4th quarter and instead focused their energies in preventing Wilt from scoring 100 and FAILED is testament to Wilt's ability. Sure the Warriors helped Wilt a lot by passing the ball to him all the time, but then why wouldnt you pass the ball to a player who is on fire? And besides, "give Wilt the ball" was coach Frank Maguire's standard offensive play during his tenure with the Philly Warriors.

In that game in Hershey, Penn., the stars aligned for Wilt to reach 100. He had plenty of field goal attempts (63), he was shooting above 50% from the floor (36/63), he was playing plenty of minutes and of course, he was hitting virtually every shot from free throw line. 

Wilt could jump from the free-throw line without a running start. How many centers today could do that? How many 7'1". 280lbs-300lbs centers in basketball history could do that (His listed 275lbs in his NBA profile is his unupdated college weight)? Wilt was a beast back then and he would still be a beast if he was playing today. How many centers today have a fadeaway from 12-15 feet out?

Wilt was a shotput thrower, a champion high jumper, a track star and a triple jumper back in college. The guy was rumored to have a 54 inch vertical (and indeed was). There's a famous pic of him while he was a track star in college, showing him jumping straight up next to a high-jump bar. He was about 54 inches off the ground when the photo was taken (it won the photographer an award). Wilt wasn't sure if he was on the way up or on the way down. Even when he was playing volleyball, he'd often be photographed spiking the ball, and his waist would be over the net. Wilt is described by Sports Illustrated as the finest athletic construction made of flesh and blood. The Nets were seriously considering adding him to the roster in the 80's, when he was already in his 50's.

During one game of the 1962 season, Wilt was ejected (with two technicals) with 8 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. Those turned out to be the ONLY 8 minutes he sat out during the ENTIRE season. He played 79 complete games (80 game season at the time), and averaged 48.5 min/game that year.

Kobe hit 7 three-pointers in his 81 point game. It was against Toronto...not all that competitive.

There will be other 81 point games. There will NEVER be another 100 point game. Truth is, it would be easier today for Wilt, not harder.

To the people out there who said Wilt only dunked it the day he scored 100, how would you possibly know that Kobe's 81 point game was "more artistic" when there's no footage of the 100 point game? 

Wilt hit several long jump shots in that game... including a couple of his baskets while his score was around 90... long after anyone today would have collapsed from exhaustion.

Contrary to what a lot of so called fans think, Wilt didn't dunk all that much... he never wanted to be known just as a big guy who could only dunk... he had a deadly turn around jumper when he was younger. As far as the Warriors (Wilt's team) fouling the Knicks a lot to try to get the ball back, that works both ways... the Knicks were also fouling other Warriors in order to keep the ball away from Wilt.

That strategy works both ways folks, you only picked up on half of the equation.

And as far as his teammates feeding him the ball...well, no clue Sherlocks... Kobe didn't have to be fed the ball because he'd bring the ball up and fire away. He didn't have to try to establish position and hope his teammates got him the ball.

Centers are at the mercy of the guards to get them the ball... any guard can just bring the ball up and shoot it...

And this is my favorite one, to the people who said "Put Shaq, Olajuwon or any great center in the 60's, and they would've averaged 50 PPG too, or even more"

How good would Shaquille O'Neal have done, had he played in the 60's?

Shaq would still be good but he ain't doing Wilt-style numbers, Shaq would flat out struggle. Folks before you think Shaq is a one of a kind player go watch Darrell Dawkins in the 70's. He was the mirror image of young Shaq with one major difference. Dawkins couldn't make a career out of dipping his shoulder and bulldozing his way to a dunk! Now imagine 60's ball when the game was called really tight and think about what Shaq could do offensively. The guy would be called for traveling or charging damn near every time he touched the rock. Now on alley oops and dish-offs from dribble-drives the rim is coming down baby. He would be good for about 20-25 pts. a game and thats it.

Facts: in the 60s the refs gave more slack to the defenders against dominating centers, so they would hack and claw and double team Shaq like they did Wilt. Shaq would be able to overpower most defenders but I doubt if he could outwit Bill Russell and Nate Thurmond. 

He'd get fouled and killed a lot but if he makes half his free throws he'll be fine.

The problem is that defenses can collapse on him more because he had absolutely no midrange game. Wilt scored the bulk of his points on fadeaways and finger rolls. What does Shaq have in that aspect? An ugly jump hook that Russell could probably block without blinking.

If Shaq or any of today's pampered modern players had the misfortune of playing in the 60's with its outdated training methods and nutrition, they're physical skills and abilities would be impaired to the point that they would do no better if not only slightly better, than your average 60's player. The modern players will not dominate the 60's competition who are using the same 60's training methods and nutrition as they are.

Particularly, Shaq. I doubt that 60's training methods and nutrition could hold Shaq's body fat in check like modern ones could. Anyway, lets compare Shaq and Wilt. Shaquille at 34 years old is in a physically deteriorating state. Wilt meanwhile at the same age, was still happily blocking Kareem's skyhooks, grabbing a career LOW of 18 rebs.(!),and shooting at a ridiculous percentage (iirc, it was 65 percent, the next year it was 72 percent). Wilt in his prime was dropping 50 points and 25 rebs. Half of those points came from his mid range fadeaway shot...what surprise that Wilt has a perimeter game? Wilt has a more varied shot selection than Shaq and also in his prime, Wilt was dunking free throws from the charity stripe with hardly any running start.

As for Olajuwon, first of all, given the strictness of ball handling rules were implemented back then, Hakeem's Dream Shake would be counted as travelling back then. He wont be as dominating as Wilt at all. Its because of the same ball handling rules why old timers doesnt appear to move as fluid or as athletic as today's players.

Wilt would have destroyed Shaq/Olajuwon statistically, and Russell would have beaten them every time. Every...time.

"Today's game is way more competitive than it was during Wilt's era"

How do you know today's game is way more competitive? Kwame Brown has carved out a ten year career in the NBA. How tough could it be? The fact that nowhere in the world outside of the NBA, is there a basketball player who is better than Kwame Brown (if there were a better player, he'd be in the NBA instead of Brown) tells you all you need to know about how tough the NBA is.

And don't get me started on how pathetic the centers in the current NBA are. Dwight Howard is an annual pick for first team all-NBA, and he has NO POST GAME at all.

NBA centers have been going downhill during the last 20 years. Which means that truly great players like Olajuwon, Shaq and Robinson played very few games against HOF quality centers. Wilt, in fact, played against more HOF centers than any player in history except Kareem.

The 1990s saw a decline in the overall quality of centers. And again, dont get me wrong, its not the fault of Hakeem, Ewing, Robinson or Shaq as to when they were born. They came to the NBA when they did. But the 1990s NBA was becoming loaded down with too many guys who came right out of high school and werent ready for the NBA (other than their potential).

Olajuwon might face Ewing twice a year, Shaq twice a year, and David Robinson maybe 4x a year, if that... Wilt and Russell played against each other 142 times in ten seasons... Olajuwon didn't play 142 games in his career against a HOF center. Then there was Nate Thurmond. And Jerry Lucas. And Willis Reed. And Dave Cowens. And Walt Bellamy. And Bob Lanier. And Bob McAdoo. And Kareem (Wilt and Kareem played 27 games against each other in 3 years....they did not meet during the year Wilt was mostly out). How many games did Olajuwon have to play before he met a HOF center 27 times. Forget it. The level of competition at the center position particularly, has done nothing but gone downhill.

The fact that Kwame Brown has been able to carve out a 10 year career in the NBA shows how weak the league is overall. The NBA has always had players who were very much below average, but they didn't used to last nine years (as Brown has so far).

Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, and he doesn't have a low post game at all. And he almost doesn't need one, that's how pathetic NBA centers are now.

As for Kobe, if he played in the 60's and was raised in the same 50's basketball concepts like every other 60's NBA player, he wont necessarily be dominating his opponents but he would still be a great player like Elgin Baylor.

For one, he wont be a guard. He would most definitely be playing a forward.

Second, he wont be dunking for the same reason that every other 60's player dont: they would be maimed by the opposing team in retaliation for showboating. Most players in the 60's never get to show their athleticism because of this. A white guy named Pollard who was part of Mikan's Lakers was already dunking from the FT line but only during warm ups.

And im not even mentioning the antiquated training methods and nutrition in the 60's and its negative effects on Kobe's physique. Case in point: Red Auerbach discourage water drinking by his players during practice because he thinks its bad to play with water inside a player's stomach. Gee-whiz Red, do you know this thing called dehydration? 

The torturous schedule and the lack of first class accommodations enjoyed by today's players would also have negative effects.

His great perimeter game is a plus for him in the 60's though given his height, he would probably be spending most of his time in the blocks. He still wont be scoring 100pts or averaging 50 PPG though. He would probably be a shorter, more athletic version of Bob Petit but he still wont be as dominating as Wilt.

Kobe (and players of the 90s and 2000s) were treated like Kings compared to Wilt's era when it comes to traveling and accommodations. Also, the NBA began to put in rules against playing more than two consecutive nights (I think it's two max, might be three, but I think it's two).... 

In 1962, Wilt's Philadelphia Warriors played on the following dates:

Jan 9 - Syracuse (home game)

Jan 10 - at Detroit

Jan 11 - at Cincinnati

Jan 13 - Chicago (home game)

Jan 14 - at Boston

Jan 17 - St Louis (neutral court)

Jan 18 - Cincinnati (home game)

Jan 19 - Detroit (neutral court)

Jan 20 - Detroit - (home game)

Jan 21 - Syracuse - neutral court

Then they had a game on Jan 24, before having games on Jan 26th, 27th, 28th and 30th, followed by games on Feb 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th.

Even with that schedule, Wilt only sat out EIGHT MINUTES OF THE ENTIRE SEASON, and averaged 48.5 min/game.

There's no way that Kobe was anywhere close to the athlete that Wilt was. And Wilt got pounded every night by the defense, and the refs let it happen. We all know what happened to any player caught breathing anywhere in Kobe's vicinity.

And Kobe would NEVER survive a schedule like Wilt faced year after year. He was way too fragile for that.

If Kobe, Lebron and Dwight played in the 1960s, the main thing they'd have to worry about is finding restaurants that would serve blacks. They couldn't eat as well as they do today. And finding hotels that would accommodate blacks when the team went on the road could also be a problem. I'm not sure how suited they are to sleeping in bus terminals...or on a bus.

But they would do fine in the 60s, although they probably wouldn't be caught dead in a pair of canvas sneakers instead of the scientifically designed athletic footwear that's individually customized for each of their two feet. Plus, they'd be limited to either white or black sneakers (yuck!) .

Almost forgot, Kobe, Lebron and Dwight would also have to get off-season jobs, since they couldn't afford to live year-round on what the NBA was paying back then. I understand insurance was a good field to get into. I should warn them though, it might not be easy with just a high school diploma and no college.......


Some quotes regarding Wilt's superman strength.

"The first time I guarded Wilt, I stood behind him and he was so wide that I couldn't see the rest of the game. Then I saw him dunk a ball so hard that it hit the court and bounced straight up back through the rim again." 

~ Bob Ferry, Tall Tales (by Terry Pluto) p. 326 

"I still remember the time when one of our strongest men, Gene Conley, decided to fight Chamberlain for the ball. He grabbed it and hung on and Chamberlain just lifted him and ball right up towards the rim." 

~ Bill Russell Go up For Glory, p.126.

"People lose sight of the fact that Wilt was a 440 champion, a guy with great coordination. He also was so strong that the double-teaming defenses used today wouldn't bother him." 

~ Wayne Embry (GM for the Cleveland Cavaliers), Tall Tales (by Terry Pluto) p. 327

"I said, 'Wilt isn't such a tough guy. I can guard him.' He backed me down and dunked the ball. And I was so far under the basket, and he dunked it so hard, that the ball came through the net and hit me in the forehead twice! Bang! 

So I said, 'You know, I think he is that great.' 

~ Spencer Haywood, The NBA at 50 p.169 

 "He stopped me dead in my tracks with his arm, hugged me and lifted me off the floor with my feet dangling," Jones said. "It scared the hell out of me. When I went to the free-throw line, my legs were still shaking. Wilt was the strongest guy and best athlete ever to play the game. 

~ KC Jones, Goliath's Wonderful Life, Hoop Magazine; May 1999; Chris Ekstrand

"One time, when I was with Boston and he was with the Lakers, Happy Hairston and I were about to get in a scrape. All of a sudden, I felt an enormous vise around me. I was 6'7", 235 lbs., and Wilt had picked me up and turned me around. He said, 'We're not going to have that stuff.' I said, 'Yes sir.'

~ Paul Silas

Even long after his playing days, his strength was apparent, as is seen in the following story:

Several years after Wilt stopped playing; he toyed with the idea of a comeback. On the day he visited the Knicks' offices in Madison Square Garden; he talked to Red Holzman, and then strode out to the elevator.

When it opened, two deliverymen were struggling with a dolly piled high with boxes of office supplies, mostly letterheads and envelopes.

The load was so heavy, the elevator had stopped maybe four inches below the floor level and now the deliverymen were huffing and puffing, but they couldn't raise the dolly high enough to get it on the floor level.

After maybe two minutes of the deliverymen's huffing and puffing, Wilt, his biceps bulging in a tank top, peered down at them and intoned, "Gentlemen, maybe I can help."

They stepped back, he stepped into the elevator, grabbed each end of the rope slung under the dolly and without much exertion, quickly lifted the dolly onto the floor level.

Looking up in awe, the deliverymen said, "Thank you." Wilt said, "You're welcome."

Wilt stepped into the elevator and rode down to the street level as another witness followed the two deliverymen toward the Knicks offices and asked, "How much does all this weigh?"

They quickly surveyed the stack of big boxes of office supplies. "Close to 600 pounds," one said.

~Source: The Good Natured Giant Wasn't Belligerent, Sports of the Times; Oct 13, 1999; Dave Anderson

"Wilt was so aware of his strength and was so strong that he would sometimes go up weak on a dunk or do a lay up because Wilt was actually worried that he would injure the defender or break the defenders arm or wrist had he used his full strength."

~Jerry West

"The best thing that happened to the NBA is that God made Wilt a nice person... he could all have killed us with his left hand."

~ Jack McMahon


The NBA today is lucky he came along earlier.




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