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On This Date in Sports January 25, 1960: Wilt Sets Rookie Record

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Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors sets a record for most points by a rookie in an NBA game when he scores 58 points. The 58 points help power the Warriors to a 127-117 win over the Detroit Pistons in a game played in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Chamberlain dominated the glass as well, grabbing 42 rebounds. Wilt Chamberlain would go on to lead the league in both categories, winning Rookie of the Year and NBA MVP.

The debut of Wilt Chamberlain in the 1959/60 season gave the NBA a new star that would become the most dominant individual player for the next decade. Born and raised in Wilt Chamberlain was a territorial pick by the Philadelphia Warriors after spending a season with the Harlem Globetrotters. At seven-feet-one-inches tall, Chamberlain towered over most of the league, giving him an imposing presence over the average player.

In leading the league in scoring, Wilt Chamberlain checked all the boxes, as was an All-Star, the Rookie of the Year and the league’s MVP in his first NBA season. The 37.6 points per game scored by Wilt Chamberlain established a new record, as Bob Pettitt of the St. Louis Hawks set the record one year earlier with 29.2 ppg. Before Wilt’s arrival, no player had averaged 30 points in a season; Chamberlain did it each of his first eight seasons, including the 1961/62 season when he averaged 50.4 ppg. In addition, Wilt Chamberlain led the league in rebounding with 27 boards per game also a new NBA record. Both the 37.6 points and 27 rebounds per game, remains the standard among NBA rookies.

Wilt Chamberlain’s 58 points also remains the NBA single-game record for a rookie. The record had previously been 55 points set by Elgin Baylor of the Minneapolis Lakers in a 116-96 win against the Cincinnati Royals on February 25, 1959. In the year’s since Chamberlain’s 58-point night in Bethlehem, Rick Barry of the San Francisco Warriors came closest, scoring 58 points in a game against the New York Knicks on December 15, 1965. Three years later, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe of the Baltimore Bullets, notched 56 points as a rookie in a game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The last time a rookie scored 50 points was Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks in a 2009 game against the Golden State Warriors.