Roundtable: Reliving Wilt's feats

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1. Forty-eight years ago on Tuesday, Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA's single-game scoring mark with 100 points in the Philadelphia Warriors' 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. Where does this rank among the league's greatest records?

Ian Thomsen: The greatest NBA record is the 11 championships earned by BillRussell, who won them over a 13-year career. That is the Holy Grail against which Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and all the other elite players judge themselves.

Chamberlain's 100-point game is the most phenomenal achievement in the NBA books. (I strongly recommend Gary Pomerantz's book, Wilt, 1962: The Night of 100 Points and the Dawn of a New Era, which explores all facets of Chamberlain's singular achievement). It's the one record that is instantly recognizable and understood, the basketball equivalent of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Ted Williams' .406 average. It has become an elusive target for the NBA's most prolific scorers, though it comes attached with the understanding that too much scoring by one player can cause more harm than good. As dominant as Chamberlain was individually, his teams won but two championships and only when he limited his scoring -- in 1966-67 (when he averaged 24.1 points for Philadelphia, his career low at that time) and 1972-73 (14.8 points with the Lakers). So that 100-point record defines the yin/yang of Chamberlain's career.

Jack McCallum: Maybe at No. 10, but only because it's so iconic -- triple figures in one game! The thing is it's not even close to Wilt's best record. I'd go with his career record of 118 games with 50 or more points or the single-season record of scoring 50 or more points in 45 games. Simply mind-boggling.

Frank Hughes: It is right up there, for sure. I still think the most amazing thing I have heard is that Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double over the course of an entire season. Say what you want about fewer teams, less defense -- whatever you want -- but averaging a triple-double for an entire season is getting it done. Having said that, nobody has really even come close to Wilt's 100-point game, so it has to be one of the greatest feats in the game.

Chris Mannix: It's certainly the sexiest. Ask any player which individual record he would most like to topple and I'd wager most would tell you it's Wilt's 100-point mark. It's that one perfect night that defined Chamberlain, who, decades later, referred to it as his "handle" for the rest of his career. The fact that Kobe crept to within shouting distance of it four years ago only makes it more appealing to players and fans alike. It's like Roger Maris' home run record before the Steroid Era, a moment every fan of that time remembers years later as if it just happened.

2. Kobe Bryant came close when he scored 81 points against the Raptors in 2006. Do you foresee any current player ever topping Wilt's record?

Thomsen: The NBA plays to a much slower pace today. The Warriors averaged 111.6 shots per game that season, and they got up 115 attempts that day in Hershey, Pa., while playing through Chamberlain, who was 36-of-63 from the floor. Compare that to the Lakers' totals in the Jan. 22 game against Toronto in 2006: L.A. managed 88 field-goal attempts as Bryant went 28-of-46.

While players today can exploit the bonus of the three-point line -- Bryant essentially earned seven extra points by going 7-of-13 from that distance against Toronto -- the pace of play makes it difficult. This season the Bucks lead the league with 86.3 attempts per game -- 20 more shots than Chamberlain attempted when he set the record. Right now, half the teams in the league are failing to average 100 points.

Maybe Bryant or LeBron James or another tremendously conditioned scorer could challenge the record in a shootout against a defenseless opponent like the Warriors, who are surrendering 110.6 points this season. Another necessity would be efficient free-throw shooting, as Chamberlain (a career 51.1 percent foul shooter) was 28-of-32 from the line to set the record. (Kobe did make 18-of-20 in his 81-point performance.)

McCallum:Foresee it? No. But I'd give Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant a chance. Kobe's best chance seems behind him, and LeBron seems far too selfless to ever go after it; he can't stop making nice passes when a teammate is open. But no such restraint impedes Carmelo and Durant, both of whom would have a shot on a night when their three-ball was going down. But I wouldn't touch that bet without huge odds.

Hughes: I don't really consider Kobe coming close. Yes, he was in the same zip code, I guess. Kobe made it only 80 percent of the way to Wilt. He still had 19 points to go. Nineteen! He missed only two free throws in the game, so it's not like he could have picked up much there. He would have had to hit another nine or 10 baskets, or seven more three-pointers, to reach Wilt. I don't think anybody is going to eclipse 100 points. Hell, many teams don't even get to 100 points in a game. The Warriors scored 169 in Wilt's game. When was the last time that happened in the NBA? Defenses are too good, and back then, Wilt was physically imposing, overmatching people. I don't see that type of physical dominance any longer. Yes, LeBron has an incredible basketball body, but I'd have to think that if he started driving to the basket time and again, somebody would crack him eventually.

Mannix: LeBron could do it. Put him in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, play him all 48 minutes and tell him the only time he's allowed to pass is if he sees four defenders coming at him and he would break Wilt's record. James' shooting has improved to the point where he could rack up 25-30 points on threes alone, and it's possible that if he attacks the rim on every other possession, he could pile up 70 points. He never would, of course, because LeBron has always been more Magic than Michael. But he could.

3. Do you think Wilt would be able to put up 100 points against today's players? And vice versa, could any modern-day players drop 100 points in Wilt's era?

Thomsen: The slower pace would limit him today. If Chamberlain were playing for a team averaging 86 shot attempts, then his 100 points of 1962 would equate to 75 points today.

I'd like to see how LeBron would have done in that era. At 6-foot-8, he is almost as tall as Russell was, he might weigh at least as much as the 275-pound Chamberlain and experts like to say the NBA has never seen anyone of his class athletically. Two potential limitations would be (1) whether he could score out of the post as prolifically as the players of that era, and (2) whether he would be passing the ball to open teammates too often at the expense of looking for his own shot, which, of course, is how team-first winners are supposed to play.

McCallum: I don't want to sound like one of those born-yesterday guys mainly because ... I'm not. I caught Wilt live on numerous occasions (though not as a reporter). But with the doubling-down and the increased size of players in today's league, Wilt, for all his gifts, probably wouldn't have gotten to 70 in a single game.

Conversely, I have little doubt that Kobe would've gotten to the century mark in Wilt's era. Yes, the game could be physical and, yes, there wasn't a three-point line, where 21 of Kobe's 81 came from against Toronto. But defenses weren't as complex back in the pre-Hubie Brown days, and Kobe, on a night when he was so moved and his teammates were moved to help him, would've done it.

Hughes: No to the first, for the reasons stated above. Defenses likely would not let him. And there are enough 7-foot stiffs who could lay wood to Wilt that he'd be slowed down. Remember, he was a very poor free-throw shooter. He made 28-of-32 in the 100-point game. I'd have to think that Shaquille O'Neal, as physically imposing as he is even in today's game, could replicate what Wilt did when Shaq was in his prime. Everything would have to come together, like the free-throw shooting, but if his teammates made a concerted effort, as the Warriors did in that game, I think Shaq could do it.

Mannix: No way Wilt sniffs 100 in today's game. Wilt was 7-1, 275 pounds -- a giant among men in 1962 but just another name on a list of BrendanHaywood/Roy Hibbert/Andrew Bynum types in today's game. That's not to say Wilt wouldn't be effective. But a large chunk of Wilt's 100 points came from being physically superior, a factor that would be absent if he were playing today.

Flip the coin and there are several players who, if transported back to the '60s, would top 100. LeBron, certainly. And Chamberlain was just as lousy from the line as Shaq. Kobe, Carmelo, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard would have had a good shot, too. That's not a knock on anyone from that era. It's just that they played in a time before advanced strength training, nutritional supplements and personal trainers who hang from players shoulders like garment bags. Today's player is just too big and athletic for anyone from that era to handle.

4. Which of Wilt's 72 NBA records will be the toughest to break?

Thomsen: If anyone ever averages 50.4 points per game in one season, as Chamberlain managed across 80 games in 1961-62, then the NBA will have morphed into something unrecognizable by today's standards.

McCallum: There are several, but this is the guaranteed-never-to-be-approached gold standard: In the 1961-62 season, the Big Dipper averaged 48.525 minutes per game. That is, he averaged more than a full game by playing every minute, including overtime games. He was a rarity -- the physical interior player who rarely fouled. (Or was rarely called for a foul, anyway.) The top minutes-played guys these days rarely reach 40.

Hughes: The 100-point record, obviously. But also, nobody is ever going to average 50.4 points a game. C'mon, that is ridiculous. The guy was a phenom. And think about this: They didn't track blocks or steals then, so he should actually hold more records than he currently does.

Mannix: Scoring 50 points in a game is a rare feat. Averaging 50 points for a season? That's impossible. Wilt's 50.4 average is a mark that will never be touched. The league can make all sorts of rule changes that favor the offense -- heck, it could draw a four-point line -- and no player will ever come close to averaging 50 points in a season.