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On This Date in Sports February 16, 1972: Wilt 30K

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Wilt Chamberlain of the Los Angeles Lakers takes the NBA’s All-Time scoring record to new heights, becoming the first player in the league’s history to score 30,000 points. At the time, no other player had reached 25,000 points, and only five others had reached 20,000. Chamberlain’s milestone comes on the road against the Phoenix Suns late in the third quarter. Wilt Chamberlain would receive a standing ovation, but the Suns won the game 110-109.

No player put up more awe-inspiring numbers in the NBA than Wilt Chamberlain. Born in Philadelphia on August 21, 1936, Wilt Chamberlain joined the Philadelphia Warriors as a territorial pick in 1959 after playing at the University of Kansas and spending a year with the Harlem Globetrotters. So in demand was Chamberlain, that he became the highest-paid player in the NBA, making $30,000.

Once he joined the Warriors, Wilt Chamberlain did not disappoint, winning the Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first season as he led the league in scoring and rebounding with 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds per game. Chamberlain set a still-standing record in rebounding in his second season, averaging 27.2 boards per game. In 1962, he averaged 50.4 points per game, highlighted by his 100-point effort against the New York Knicks on March 2nd in Hershey, Pennsylvania. A season earlier, Wilt Chamberlain set the single-game record with 55 rebounds in a game against the Boston Celtics on November 24, 1960. It is improbable that either of these records is ever to be broken. The Warriors moved to San Francisco the following season, and he spent two more years with the Warriors before being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1964.

Wilt Chamberlain continued to dominate when he returned to Philadelphia, as he led the league in scoring in each of his first seven seasons and led the league in rebounding 11 times in his 14-year career. Wilt the Stilt added three MVPs with the Sixers, winning in 1966, 1967, and 1968. The one thing that eluded him most of his career was a championship as Bill Russell, and the Boston Celtics often were his kryptonite in the postseason. That all ended in 1967, when he led the 76ers to an NBA Championship, beating the San Francisco Warriors in the NBA Finals.

After a contract dispute with the 76ers, Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968, where he signed a deal worth $1.8 million. Playing the Lakers beast in the middle, he guided the Lakers to the NBA Finals in each of his first two seasons in L.A, but lost heartbreaking seventh games, first to the Celtics, his old nemesis in 1969, then the Knicks in 1970.

After the Lakers lost to the Milwaukee Bucks and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the Western Conference Finals in 1971, things were coming together for a special season in 1972 as the Lakers set a record with a 33-game winning streak. As they faced the Phoenix Suns, with Wilt Chamberlain in reach of 30,000 at the Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, the Lakers were the best team in the NBA at 51-8. The milestone came with 2:09 left in the third quarter on a goaltending call when Neal Walk of the Suns touched the ball on the rim. Ironically, in the final three seconds, Chamberlain was called for goaltending on a shot by Connie Hawkins, which decided the game, giving Phoenix a 110-109 win and the Lakers a rare loss in 1972. Chamberlain would finish the game with 19 points.

Following the 1973 season in which the Lakers lost an NBA Finals rematch with the Knicks, Wilt Chamberlain attempted to jump to the ABA, signing with the San Diego Conquistadors as a player-coach. However, the Lakers successfully sued to prevent Chamberlain from playing with the Q’s, leading to his retirement. The Lakers would finish the 1971/72 season with a record of 69-13, at the time the most wins in NBA history, as Wilt Chamberlain won his second NBA Championship.

Wilt Chamberlain would stand alone as the NBA’s only member of the 30,000-point club for a decade, finishing with 31,419 total points. Chamberlain’s record would be surpassed by another Lakers center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in 1985, who remains the NBA’s All-Time leading scorer with 38,387 career points. Just seven players have reached 30,000 points in the NBA’s history, including LeBron James, the third-leading scorer who has a shot at passing Karl Malone this season, as he sits third at 36,526. Wilt Chamberlain now ranks seventh on the all-time scoring list, with Karl Malone ranking second with 36,928 points. Kobe Bryant ranked fourth with 33,643 points, and Michael Jordan in fifth place at 32,292 points. Dirk Nowitzki is sixth with 31,560.