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Longtime Wilt Chamberlain rival Bill Russell (right) will narrate NBA TV's documentary, "Wilt 100".
Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images

'Wilt 100' aims to peel back layers of mystery behind moment

By Fran Blinebury,
Posted Mar 1 2012 11:20AM

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It is a feat that, down through the years, has been shrouded in as much mystery as amazement, a record of historical achievement that has had little documentation -- Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game on March 2, 1962.

Now "Wilt 100", an NBA TV original film narrated by Chamberlain's chief rival and good friend Bill Russell, will tell the tale of what is perhaps the greatest single-game performance in sports history when it Video premieres on Friday night at 7 p.m. E.T.

"I wanted to be part of this project for many reasons," said the Hall of Famer Russell, "but mostly because Wilt was my very good friend and what he did deserves this recognition."

The hour-long documentary, which can be seen only on NBA TV, uses rarely seen interviews with Chamberlain, his teammates and other observers of that historic night in Hershey, Pa., when Wilt shattered the NBA scoring record. He also shattered the notion of what many experts thought was possible in leading the Philadelphia Warriors to a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks before a crowd of just over 4,000.

Because no video footage exists from the game, NBA TV re-creates the night through Chamberlain's own recollections and updated interviews with Warriors employees, NBA contemporaries and Hershey natives who were in the crowd that night.

"Certainly the single biggest challenge posed by the project is that there is no footage," said director Steven Weintraub. "Usually the major part of any documentary is narrowing down all that you have. This is the opposite. We had to re-paint the picture, re-tell the story in a way that gives you the drama of the night without actually showing you the footage.

"It was an interesting and unique challenge. You can't underestimate that the events took place 50 years ago. Memories fade and memories are different from person to person. We tried to piece together as much of the real story by combining many different perspectives."

The film adds depth to many of the long-told tales that are still open to debate and interpretation a half-century later -- from Wilt's pre-game performance at a rifle shooting arcade game inside Hershey Arena to his ride home to New York after the record-setting performance. "Wilt 100" also examines Chamberlain's dominating performance over the entire 1961-62 NBA season when he averaged an amazing 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game and, in the minds of many, revolutionized professional basketball and established the NBA as a major American sports league.

The film also uses many of Wilt's contemporaries to make present-day visits to places of historical significance in his native Philadelphia, where he learned to play basketball, and in New York, where his Harlem nightclub, Big Wilt's Small's Paradise, became an integral part of his life, his image and his legacy.

"It's obviously a historical documentary that looks back to that great game, but I think what makes it special is the new images and current footage of Wilt's old stomping grounds that add a nice twist to it," said Dion Cocoros, NBA Entertainment vice president of original production.

"The film kind of takes you back and forth from the present to the past in a very interesting way. It brings a story that is 50 years old to life with a whole new perspective that we believe will entertain and inform even those who think they know the story."

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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