Alvan Adams Makes NBA History After Eating 47 Chicken Wings
Pregame meals and in-season diets are essential for athletes to provide them with the nutrition needed to continuously perform at a high level when on the court. But what if that meal consisted of 47 chicken wings?
For Alvan Adams, that seemed to be an easy feat that led to one of the greatest performances in NBA history.
After being named the 1975-76 Rookie of the Year, Adams continued to provide a dominant presence in the paint while also being one of the best distributing big men in his time. However, off the court, his teammates knew him for something else, an ultimate foodie with a limitless stomach.
“In general, Alvan had a big appetite and he was cheap,” teammate Paul Westphal said.
When the Suns used to go out to dinner in the 1970s, the bill was simply split evenly by however many people were dining. Unfortunately for everyone else, this made it all too easy for Adams to go above and beyond a normal serving size.
“Once Alvan understood that, he would always order more than everybody else,” Westphal said. “If someone else ordered two entrees, he’d order three. He could eat like nobody I’ve ever seen.”
The Suns visited Buffalo to tip-off against the Braves once a season and that one time meant that it was a necessity of Adams to dine at one of the most iconic chicken wing restaurants in the country, Frank & Teressa’s Anchor Bar – Home of the Original Buffalo Chicken Wings.
“We had heard of all these buffalo wings and it was legendary,” Westphal said. “Bill Russell used to send the trainer out in the snow in Buffalo to bring him back these wings from the Anchor Bar. So, Alvan went there and he just loved these wings.”
Not only did Adams love the Anchor Bar, but with the amount of wings Adams would order, it was pretty certain they loved him back.
“I would gladly eat chicken wings anytime at the Anchor Bar,” Alvan said. “We usually ate multiple dozens of chicken wings. So, three dozen, four dozen, I don’t remember exactly.”
On February 21, 1977, one night before their game against the Braves during his sophomore season, Adams went above and beyond what anyone could have imagined.
“Alvan ate 47 chicken wings,” Westphal said. “He loved them. He just kept eating. He wasn’t really trying to set a record. He was just hungry.”
While eating 47 wings in one sitting is already impressive, what he did the next night made it historic.
On February 22, 1977, Adams not only matched the Suns single-game record for points at the time, but also matched the number of wings he ate with a 47 points performance.
Adams did far more than merely score 47 points a night after eating 47 wings but added in a monstrous triple-double as well. The big man tallied 18 rebounds, 12 assists and five blocked shots, one shy of what would ultimately be the career highs in each category for his entire career.
“I look back at the stats and it says I scored 47 with a bunch of rebounds and a bunch of assists. I was like, ‘Who guarded me?’ Obviously, nobody,” Adams said. “Bob McAdoo was on that team. I always got worn out chasing him around. He didn’t play that game for some reason. Maybe he’s the one who ate the chicken wings and got sick.”
To put this performance into perspective, there have only been six games in NBA history where a player has recorded at least 45 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists, with four NBA MVPs accounting for the other five games (Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and James Harden twice). Of these, Adams is the only player since blocks became a stat (1971) to also record five blocks (Basketball-Reference).
Presumably, he is also the only player to also eat 47 hot wings the night before.
The deeper you dive into the metrics the more legendary the chicken wing game becomes. Game Score is a metric created by John Hollinger to roughly measure a player’s productivity for a single game. Basketball-Reference tracks Game Score dating back to 1983-84.
The Suns top ranked games include Devin Booker’s 70 point night (a score of 54.5), Charles Barkley’s 56 point playoff game vs the Warriors (52.6), Amar’e Stoudmire’s 49 point game against Indiana (50.2) and Tom Chambers 60-point performance against Seattle. There has only been a total of 24 performances by any NBA player with a game score above 50 since 1983, including these four by Suns.
While Adams’ Game Score cannot be calculated exactly as turnovers were not kept in the box score at the time, it would estimate to fall in the range of 48-53. Meaning, not only would it grade as one of the top performances in Suns history but would arguably be one of the top 25 most productive all-around games in NBA history.
Again, the night after eating 47 chicken wings.
But if 47 wings meant a 47-point triple-double, what could 50 wings equate to?
“We only played in Buffalo once a year,” Westphal said. “He couldn’t wait until the next year when we were going back to buffalo. He said, ‘I’m going to eat 50 wings.’ And he did. He ate 50 wings, got sick and couldn’t play the next game.”
However, this is not how Adams remembers this story going and he brought the facts to prove it.
“So, fact checking by Cole Mickelson, our in-house historian and archivist, verified my side of the story,” Adams said. “My side of the story is that I was hit with tonsillitis before Christmas in my third season. I missed three or four weeks including the week in Buffalo. I missed that game because I was not with the team because of tonsillitis.”
Even 40 years later, Westphal still isn’t buying it.
“There’s no way. He may have got it on a technicality. Maybe he missed a year. He ate 50 wings because he was going to go for it, but then he couldn’t play the next game. That is the true story.
While the 50-wing illness may have some disputes, the 47-wing game will continue to live on as one of the most legendary stories leading to one of the most historic performances in Suns history.