No Contest: Kobe over Wilt
By Jerry Mittleman.
The current debate whether Kobe Bryant’s 81 points are better then the 100 that Wilt Chamberlain scored in a 1962 game, should really be viewed as a no contest. Kobe’s achievement is more significant, hands down.
As just about everyone on the planet already knows, Chamberlain hit the century mark for the Philadelphia Warriors over the New York Knicks in a game played in Hershey, Pa. Only 4,000 were in attendence and the game was neither broadcast nor taped. Since then about 4 million people have claimed to have been there. I am not one of them, but I was a 15 year old boy who was lucky enough to catch the game on radio.
An old sayings goes that figures don’t lie. Well sometimes they do. Some of the celebration of Chamberlain’s feat is cause he scored a preposterous number of points and one hundred is also a catchy, round figure. His achievement like Wilt himself, seemed larger then life.
What is missing is understanding the context of the game. The NBA regular season ended earlier in those days, and this was a late season, meaningless game. At least, from the way it sounded on radio, most of the game was garbage time and the only interest was how many points Chamberlain would chalk up. It’s safe to assume that defense was pretty much ignored when you look at the final score. Phily 169 New York 147.
Admittedly, Wilt got off to a hot start and everything seemed to be falling for him that night. The truly remarkable part of the evening was Wilt’s free throw shooting. Chamberlain was an atrocious foul shooter throughout his career but that night he hit 28-32.
Chamberlain was three grades above the other big men of his era, with the exception of Bill Russell and Nate Thurmond and the great majority of his points came on close range, high percentage shots. Comparing the degree of difficulty between Chamberlain’s field goal attempts and Bryant’s is a joke.
Comparing the intensity in which defense is played today and in the NBA of 1962 is also ridiculous. Chamberlain scored his 100 in the highest scoring era in league history while Bryant scored his 81 during the league lowest scoring era since the 24 second clock was put into practice.
Last, but not least, Kobe performed his feat in a game that actually meant something and his points were the deciding factor in his team’s victory.