Here’s how Wilt Chamberlain once finished an NBA game with 0 points.

In the 1960s, Wilt Chamberlain seemed to break NBA records every night. “The Big Dipper” continues to own the record for a variety of single-game records, such as most points (100) and most rebounds (55). In addition to setting season records for minutes (48.5) per game (48.5), rebounds (27.2), and points (50.4), he was also the first player to shoot more than 50% from the field in a season. In addition, Chamberalin has absurd records for variety, including the most triple-doubles in a row (9) and the only player with two triple-doubles (22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists).

On March 27, 1973, however, Chamberlain received a score of zero. Not an error. That evening, Wilt played forty-six minutes and did not score a field goal or free throw. Wilt scored one point in his final regular season game with the Lakers. Not a typo again. He made one of two shots from the line and zero of one from the field.


MORE: Vintage images of the unstoppable monster Wilt Chamberlain


What then goes wrong? Was the 36-year-old Chamberlain’s NBA career coming to an ugly end because his abilities were deteriorating, much like Patrick Ewing’s on the Magic?

Yes, to a certain extent. Chamberlain was no longer a credible threat to score 50 points in a single game by the early 1970s. But what time takes away from boundless physical might, it makes up for in knowledge and insight. Wilt’s seasons in 1971–1972 and 1972–1973 amply demonstrate this.


Even with an average of 14.0 points per game over those seasons, Chamberlain remained a formidable opponent. His ridiculous single-season record of 72.7 percent from the field was set in 1972–73. He may not have been shooting frequently, but the shots he did take were undoubtedly going in.


More significantly, he continued to be a passing and rebounding machine. Over his final two seasons, he cleaned the glass, averaging a total of 18.9 rebounds per game, which was slightly less than his career average of 22.9 but still good enough to lead the NBA in both seasons. He distributed 4.2 assists per game during those seasons to the Lakers’ array of cutting guards and forwards, including Jim McMillian, Jerry West, and Gail Goodrich.


For fans who are solely aware of Chamberlain’s scoring prowess, it is possibly most noteworthy that he was selected for the NBA’s all-defensive first team in both 1971–1972, and 1972–1973. According to, Wilt’s skill set Los Angeles to second place in the defensive rating for 1971–72 and third place in that category for 1972–73.


Thus, even though Chamberlain didn’t score in the game on March 27, 1973, he did pull down 14 rebounds and dish out four assists. In addition to dishing out nine assists and grabbing 18 rebounds, he scored a scorching one point the following night.

March 21, 1973: 8/9 FG shooting, 19 points, 20 rebounds, and seven assists

March 23, 1973: 8/8 FG, 24 rebounds, 7 assists, and 19 points

March 25, 1973: 8/8 FG, 20 points, 20 rebounds, and three assists

Additionally, Wilt had sealed the LA victory with a dominant 24 points, 29 rebounds, four assists, and projected ten blocks against the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals the year before.


It all adds up to the possibility that Wilt intentionally scored zero points. When the incredibly gifted Chamberlain became bored, he would frequently set statistical benchmarks or boundaries to meet. Being receptive to feedback, he also took pleasure in confronting those who criticized his alleged flaws.

He learned how to make a fadeaway jump shot in college just to prove to everyone that a 7-1 guy could be skillful. After his 76ers coach, Alex Hannum, implied that Chamberlain would not be able to score as much as he once could, Chamberlain unleashed a three-game run of 68, 47, and 53 points in 1968. Thinking he had won the argument, he returned to his simple — at least for him — scoring.


Why not play a game in which the best player in basketball didn’t score any points at all, for a man like Chamberlain? That would definitely be a surprise to everyone.


I admit that I was surprised by it.


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