When you think of the best scorers of all time, who comes to mind? In today’s era, you think of Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, and LeBron James. Back then, Wilt Chamberlain was on another wavelength. Chamberlain, the only man to record 100 points in a game, was a man amongst boys when he played during the 1960s. Looking back, it’s unlikely anyone will ever replicate his successes.
Chamberlain remains one of the best scorers and rebounders of all time. When he retired, he left with many league records, some that remain today. While you may think that scoring 35 points per game is impressive, imagine putting up 50 points per night. That is exactly what Chamberlain did one season. It’s just one of many spectacular accomplishments.
These are Wilt Chamberlain’s points per game for each season.
1959-60 NBA Season: 37.6 PPG
In his first season, Chamberlain averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds. He scored 2,102 points, which broke a regular-season record set by Bob Pettit, in just 56 games. Pettit needed 72 games to secure the record, but Chamberlain needed only 16 fewer games. Chamberlain broke eight records this season and won MVP and Rookie of the Year.
Chamberlain capped off his rookie season by winning the All-Star Game MVP with a 23-point, 25-rebound outing for the East. As the season progressed, we learned that Chamberlain was a terrible free throw shooter, but unstoppable in the paint.
1960-61 NBA Season: 38.4 PPG
Chamberlain began the season with 42 points and 31 rebounds against the Syracuse Nationals and never looked back. Chamberlain grabbed an NBA-record 55 rebounds on November 24, 1960, against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics. Five days later, he recorded 44 points and 38 rebounds in a 122-121 win over the Lakers.
Chamberlain became the first player to break the 3,000 point barrier. He remains the only player to ever record over 2,000 rebounds in a season. He won his first field goal percentage title and set the record for rebounds in a game. By the end of the season, Chamberlain had scored 32% of his team’s points and recorded 30.4% of his team’s rebounds.
1961-62 NBA Season: 50.4 PPG
In his third season, he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. On March 2, 1962, he scored 100 points in a game, where he shot 36 of 63 from the field. He made 28 of 32 free throws in that game, which was a win against the New York Knicks. Chamberlain’s 4,029 points made him the only player to break 4,000 points in a season.
The only other player to amass over 3,000 points in a season is Michael Jordan in 1986-1987. Chamberlain also broke 2,000 rebounds and was on the floor 48.5 minutes per game. It remains the greatest single-scoring season in the NBA’s history.
1962-63 NBA Season: 44.8 PPG
The season saw adversity. The Warriors were sold to a new owner led by Marty Simmons from San Francisco. The team relocated to California to become the San Francisco Warriors under a new coach Bob Feerick. Paul Arizin chose to retire rather than move away from his family, while Tom Gola requested a trade because he was homesick.
The team’s two best options outside of Chamberlain were gone, which left Chamberlain to take on extraordinary responsibilities. Chamberlain averaged 44.8 points and 24.3 rebounds. Despite his success, the Warriors suffered as a team. The team lost 49 of the 80 games played that season and they missed the playoffs.
1963-64 NBA Season: 36.8 PPG
Chamberlain had his third coach in three years when the team hired Alex Hannum. He was joined by a potential prospect center with Nate Thurmond, who eventually joined the Hall of Fame. Chamberlain had a solid season where he averaged 36.9 points and 22.3 rebounds. Chamberlain would lead the league in minutes per game for the fifth straight season.
The Warriors made it to the NBA Finals to play the Boston Celtics. Chamberlain met Bill Russell once again but was not able to get the victory. The Celtics beat the Warriors 4-1 in the series. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that had gone 31-49 a year ago.
1964-65 NBA Season: 34.7 PPG
For the first time in his career, Chamberlain would not lead the league in minutes. It would also be the first time he would be traded in the middle of a season. The Warriors got off to a terrible start as a team and ran into financial trouble. At All-Star Weekend, Chamberlain was traded to the 76ers for Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer, and $150,000, which would be equivalent to $1.3 million today.
Chamberlain finished the season with 34.7 points and 22.9 rebounds per game. The 76ers made a lone run in the playoffs with Chamberlain on the team. After defeating Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals, the team squared off with Russell and the Celtics. The series went seven games, but the 76ers were defeated in Game 7 despite Chamberlain’s 30 points and 32 rebounds.
1965-66 NBA Season: 33.5 PPG
The 76ers would post a 55-25 regular-season record and Chamberlain won his second MVP that season. Chamberlain dominated the league with 33.5 points and 24.6 rebounds per game. He led the league in both categories and got back to leading the league in minutes per game after a one-year absence at the top.
Chamberlain was electric during the season. He had one game where he blocked a dunk attempt by Gus Johnson and he dislocated Johnson’s shoulder from the impact. With that said, scrutiny about Chamberlain began to surface about his lifestyle. He refused to show up to early practices and would schedule afternoon practices because he did not want to live in Philadelphia. He lived in New York and commuted, but also was a late sleeper. Needless to say, the team didn’t want to anger their best player, so his MVP finish was his saving grace.
1966-67 NBA Season: 24.1 PPG
It would be the first time that Chamberlain wouldn’t average at least 30 points per game. It also featured a lot of drama inside the locker room. Chamberlain was often put in the spotlight for issues during games, which angered him. Chamberlain was also being reported of nearly fighting his teammates. However, because head coach Alex Hannum never backed down from Chamberlain, it gained his overall respect for the coach.
Chamberlain took fewer shots this season but was very efficient. He led the league in rebounds with 24.2 and was third in assists with 7.8. He also set a record field goal percentage by shooting 68.3% from the field. He also made 35 straight field goals over four games in February. Despite the dropoff in points, he earned his third MVP and helped the team finish the season 68-13, which included a 46-4 start to the season. In the playoffs, Chamberlain won his first NBA championship with a six-game triumph over the San Francisco Warriors.
1967-68 NBA Season: 24.3 PPG
By this season, Chamberlain and owner Irv Kosloff finally saw their relationship officially sour. Chamberlain was supposedly promised a part of the franchise but there was no written proof. Kosloff denied the request and Chamberlain nearly bolted for the ABA. Instead, the team agreed to a one-year contract to keep Chamberlain in uniform.
Chamberlain averaged 24.3 points and 23.8 rebounds during the season. On March 18, 1968, Chamberlain recorded a quintuple-double with 53 points, 32 rebounds, 14 assists, 11 steals, and 24 blocks in a 158-128 win over the Lakers. Chamberlain set the record for most points in a game with a triple-double, which has since been broken by Russell Westbrook. Chamberlain ended the season with 702 assists, which meant he was the first center to lead the league in that category. He capped the year off by winning his fourth MVP, which was his third straight.
1968-69 NBA Season: 20.5 PPG
In the offseason, the 76ers completed a trade with the Lakers to trade Chamberlain. The Lakers then gave Chamberlain a massive payday and the team had an impressive big three of Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Despite the big names, it was a frustrating season for Chamberlain as he was benched at times during the season. That caused a poor relationship with Butch van Breda Kolff.
Chamberlain still led the league in rebounding, minutes, and field goal percentage. With that said, it was the worst scoring output of his career. By the end of the season, the Lakers still made the NBA Finals and pushed the Celtics to seven games, but his nemesis Bill Russell beat him once again.
1969-70 NBA Season: 27.3 PPG
The Lakers hired a new coach before the season in Joe Mullaney. Chamberlain’s play turned around as he averaged 32.2 points and 20.6 rebounds through the first nine games. However, he suffered a serious knee injury, a total rupture of the patellar tendon in his right kneecap, in the ninth game. This forced Chamberlain to miss several months before appearing for the final three games of the regular season.
It was the first time Chamberlain did not average at least 20 rebounds per game for a season. He still averaged 27.3 points, 18.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. The Lakers also made the playoffs and marched to the NBA Finals to play the Knicks. In the end, the Knicks, led by Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, posed a bad matchup for Chamberlain and the Lakers came up short once again.
1970-71 NBA Season: 20.7 PPG
Chamberlain averaged 20.7 points, 18.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. He led the league in rebounding once again. Before the season began, the Lakers made a move by signing future Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich. It was a big deal having Goodrich as the team lost Elgin Baylor to an Achillies tear that ultimately ended his career, while Jerry West was out with a knee injury. Still, the Lakers managed to win the Pacific Division.
Chamberlain and Goodrich led the Lakers to the Western Conference Semifinals to play against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The matchup of Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar was the main spotlight. Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar bested each other in the first two games of the series. Chamberlain recorded 24 points and 24 rebounds to lead the Lakers to their lone win in Game 3, but the Bucks won the series in five games.
1971-72 NBA Season: 14.8 PPG
Before the season, the Lakers hired Bill Sharman as the new head coach. Sharman helped transform Chamberlain into a defensive-minded player instead of focusing on the scoring. Chamberlain was told to use his rebounding and passing skills to make his teammates better. Chamberlain also took over as team captain since Baylor had retired.
Chamberlain accepted his new low-scoring role and won the rebounding title with 19.2 per game. Chamberlain also led the league in field goal percentage with 64.9%. The Lakers embarked on a 33-game winning streak during the season and helped the team set a record for wins with 69. This time, the Lakers returned to the Finals to play the Knicks and defeated New York in five games.
1972-73 NBA Season: 13.2 PPG
In Chamberlain’s final season, he shot an NBA record of 72.7% from the field, which broke his previous record of 68.3% set in 1966-1967. It was the ninth time that he led the league in shooting. The Lakers won 60 games despite numerous injuries on the team. The Lakers lost Happy Hairston to injury, while Jerry West struggled with a knee injury. Regardless, the team made it back to the NBA Finals.
Chamberlain was unable to lead the Lakers to a championship though. West injured his hamstring in the middle of the series and the Lakers were defeated in five games. In his final game, Chamberlain scored 23 points and grabbed 21 rebounds. The final play of his career would be a dunk with one second left.
Career Average - 30.1 PPG
When Chamberlain retired in 1973, he left the league as the all-time leader in points scored. His 30.1 points per game set a record for career average, which has since been broken by Michael Jordan. He played in over 1,000 games, won four MVPs, and set 40 league records. While some of those records are impressive, like his 100-point game in 1962, the most impressive record he might have is that he never fouled out of an NBA game.
Today, Chamberlain ranks seven in career points and is the all-time leading rebounder. When he retired, he led the league in made field goals but ranks fourth as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and LeBron James have passed him. In the end, he remains in the conversation for the greatest center in league history.