Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14, 1962: 63 to 50

DALY CITY, Calif. - In March of 1962, Wilt Chamberlain sent shockwaves around the NBA by scoring 100 points in a single game for the Philadelphia Warriors. It was the highlight of a season in which he averaged a jaw-dropping 50 points per game, by far an NBA record and one that will never be touched.

When the fall of 1962 rolled around, the Warriors were no longer in Philadelphia, having moved across the country to San Francisco, but Chamberlain was still a scoring machine. He would average 44.8 points per game for the 62-63 season, the second-best total of all time. While he wasn't the most popular player in the NBA because of his selfishness, it couldn't be denied that he was, for the most point, unstoppable.

Elgin Baylor also had a career high for scoring in the 1961-62 season, averaging 38 points per game. His feat is probably more impressive than Chamberlain's, considering that Baylor spent the season as a member of the Army Reserves, allowed to leave the base only on weekends. He would leave on a weekend pass, catch charter planes to wherever the Lakers were playing that day, and would play, and would play well despite not practicing all season.

The next season, back to playing a full season, Baylor's numbers dropped only slightly, establishing him as the top forward in the NBA. With the Warriors newly moved to the West Coast, Baylor and the Lakers also had a new natural rival.

It was with this backdrop that the Lakers and Warriors met on December 14, 1962, for their fourth meeting as West Coast rivals. Perhaps inspired by the the new rivalry, Chamberlain and Baylor put on a scoring show. Baylor scored 50 points for the Lakers, but Chamberlain topped him with 63. It marked the first time that two players had scored 50 points in the same game. While Baylor lost the individual scoring battle, his team won 120-118.

The Lakers got the better of the Warriors most of the season and ended up winning the Western Division, losing to the Celtics in the finals. It would be the third time that Baylor and the Lakers would lose to the Celtics in the championship series. The Lakers would go on to lose the next five times they made it to the finals, finally breaking through in 1971 - the year after Baylor retired.

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