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The 1961-62 season was defined by the amazing feats of two players: Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson.
Not only did Chamberlain, the Philadelphia Warriors center, average a staggering 50.4 points, but also poured in an NBA-record 100 points in a game against the Knicks on March 2, 1962. Chamberlain shot 36-for-63 from the field and went 28-for-32 from the free-throw line in a 169-147 victory. Although 4,124 were in attendance, many thousands more would claim to have been there for decades afterward.
Aside from that scoring feat, Chamberlain proved he was plenty durable, too. He played in all but eight possible minutes for the Warriors and set single-season league records for minutes per game (48.5) and minutes played (3,882).
As for Robertson, all he did was accomplish something that wouldn’t be replicated for more than 50 years: average a triple-double (30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists). In the next three seasons, Robertson came to duplicating his accomplishment, but never did.
Chicago had been added to the league as an expansion franchise — one that would eventually become the Washington Bullets and later, Wizards — and the Packers’ center, Walt Bellamy, won Rookie of the Year honors by averaging 31.6 ppg (second in the league behind Chamberlain) and 19.0 rpg while leading the league by shooting 51.9% from the floor.
While Chamberlain was setting records that still hold up today, the Celtics were busily adding to their dynasty, winning a record 60 games … in an 80-game season. In contrast to Chamberlain’s scoring feats, no Boston player appeared among the NBA’s top 10 in scoring.
Boston and Philadelphia engaged in one of their legendary battles in the Eastern Division Finals, with Sam Jones’ jumper sealing Game 7 for the Celtics with two seconds remaining. St. Louis’ run of Finals appearances ended with the Lakers winning 54 games and advancing to face the Celtics. Boston came back from being down 2-1 and 3-2 in the series to win a fourth straight NBA title in dramatic fashion during Game 7 at the Boston Garden.
Frank Selvy of the Lakers had a chance to put Boston away on the parquet: With seconds remaining and the score tied, Selvy — being guarded by Bob Cousy — found himself open when Cousy left him momentarily to double-team Jerry West. When Hot Rod Hundley passed Selvy the ball, he had a good look at an 8-foot shot.
It bounced off the rim, the game went into overtime, and Boston prevailed, 110-107.
“It was a fairly tough shot, because I was almost on the baseline,” Selvy said. “But I would trade all my points for that last basket.”
Eastern Division semifinals
Philadelphia defeated Syracuse (3-2)
Western Division semifinals
Detroit defeated Cincinnati (3-1)
Eastern Division finals
Boston defeated Philadelphia (4-3)
Western Division finals
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Detroit (4-2)
Boston defeated Los Angeles Lakers (4-3)
Points — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (50.4)
Assists — Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati Royals (11.4)
Rebounds — Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors (25.7)
FG% — Walt Bellamy, Chicago Packers (51.9)
FT% — Dolph Schayes, Syracuse Nationals (89.7)
Most Valuable Player — Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Rookie of the Year — Walt Bellamy, Chicago Packers
All-Star Game MVP — Bob Pettit, St. Louis Hawks