I saw lists that included Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak, Oklahoma’s college football winning streak, the college basketball winning streaks by UCLA’s men and Connecticut’s women, and many more.
All I could think about was Wilt Chamberlain, who made the phrase “record that will never be broken” a cliche.
It is absolutely appropriate that Chamberlain was on that 1971-72 Lakers team that still holds the record for consecutive victories because, well, Wilt did everything big – on and off the court. During that incredible season – which the Lakers finished with a 69-13 record, an average scoring margin of plus-12.3 and their first NBA title in Los Angeles – Wilt was the team’s fourth leading scorer at 14.8 points per game.
Compared to earlier in his career, Wilt was a bit player for a team led in scoring by Gail Goodrich, Jerry West and Jim McMillian. But, of course, when he was a bit player, he was the biggest bit player. At age 35, Wilt averaged a staggering 19.2 rebounds per game in winning the boards title for the 10th time.
Chamberlain was criticized for much of his career because although he dominated the game statistically, he played for just two championship teams. So it was great for Wilt and his supporters that he could be part of a team that accomplished something as a team rather than setting another individual record.
And, well, Wilt did set those individual records – and I’m not even talking about the 20,000 lovers.
For those who did not get the final story on Wilt’s claim, he did once tell a friend, “What’s an extra zero between friends?” Even Wilt’s exaggerations were larger than anyone else’s. For an excellent summary of Wilt the Conqueror, click here.
As the Heat’s winning streak continued to build, there was much discussion on records that will never be broken, and there are a number of those. In the NBA, many of them belong to Wilt. But here are my three favorites, in inverse order:
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