From Publishers Weekly
On March 2, 1962, in a drafty, half-full, 8,000-seat arena in Hershey, Pa., Wilt Chamberlain (aka the Big Dipper) scored a stunning 100 points in a single game against the New York Knicks-a watershed moment for the fledgling NBA. Drawing on interviews he conducted with various team members, fans, journalists and referees, Pomerantz (Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn) recreates this historic night in startling detail, bringing everyone from Chamberlain, to the Knicks' defensive player Darrall Imhoff, to the caustic journalist Jack Kiser to vivid life. For Pomerantz, Chamberlain and Imhoff "symbolized pro basketball's accelerating generational shift writ large: the agile black athlete, swift and strong, moving freely against a white opponent who, though young, earnest, and determined, seemed... a handsome blond shrine to a bygone era when all of the players were white." Pomerantz explores the racial tension of the era through Chamberlain's experiences, fluidly transitioning from the action on the court to moments in the player's life and then back again. In one instance, he's finger-rolling a ball into the basket, and in the next, he's at Big Wilt's Smalls Paradise, the Harlem nightclub he part-owned, talking about how many good African-Americans were left out of the league due to its racial quotas. Throughout this surprisingly touching narrative, Pomerantz does a remarkable job of making Chamberlain, the world he inhabited and that mythic night shine all over again. 8-page b&w photo insert.
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The game in which Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks, on March 2, 1962, belongs on the short list of modern sports' defining moments. Robert Allen Cherry discusses the event in his fine biography, Wilt: Larger than Life (2004); but Pomerantz looks in more detail at the accomplishment and places it in its rightful context. He notes, for example, that Chamberlain's 100 points is 51 percent better than David Thompson's 1978 second-place total of 73. And the 100-point game was merely consistent with Chamberlain's unconscious 1961-62 season averages of 50 points, 25.7 rebounds per game. The 100-point game also announced a fundamental change in the style in which basketball would henceforth be played and in the racial makeup of the men who could and would play it. While Pomerantz writes a suspenseful narrative of the game, he also delivers an engaging, full-bodied portrait of one of the great athletes of our time. An excellent companion to Cherry's biography but also a sports book that can stand on its own. Alan Moores
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