Rare Tape Of Wilt Chamberlain's 100-Point Game To Be Archived

Mar 23, 2016
Originally published on March 23, 2016 6:11 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Tens of millions of Americans have been tuning in to March Madness, the NCAA basketball tournament.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, what a save. And Lindsey with the finish.

INSKEEP: Every game is televised - every game. But one of the biggest moments in basketball history was not. NPR's Neda Ulaby has the story of how an important piece of basketball history was almost lost.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: It was about this time of year in 1962. The Philadelphia Warriors were playing the New York Knicks at the Hershey Sports Arena in Pennsylvania.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Chamberlain scores.

ULABY: That March night, Wilt Chamberlain made history.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: He knows what he's doing out here. He's going for one-zero-zero.

ULABY: Chamberlain would score an unprecedented 100 points for the Warriors in that one game. His record remains unbroken.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Wilt's got it. He shoots. It's up. It's good.

ULABY: But no one was there to film it, says Matthew Barton. He curates recorded sound at the Library of Congress.

MATTHEW BARTON: You know, right now, in the middle of March Madness, it's hard to imagine that 50 years ago or so basketball was not such a big deal. It had its following but it didn't have the following that baseball or football did so it wasn't much on the networks.

ULABY: Meaning the soon to be legendary game was only broadcast on the local radio station WCAU.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Back to Chamberlain. He shoots up. No good.

ULABY: A young college student named Jim Trelease fell asleep while listening to the game, and, says Barton, decided to tape the one rebroadcast scheduled for later that night.

BARTON: And borrowed a tape recorder from his girlfriend and rigged up the radio and tape recorder using the radiator in his room as kind of an antenna to pull in this station from Pennsylvania. He was at UMass Amherst, and all he was able to get was the fourth quarter, but gets it, you know, just out of his own interest.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: One minute and one second to play.

BARTON: Very few basketball broadcasts survived from before the mid-'60s.

ULABY: Thanks to one lone fan and the tape he preserved, we can hear what it was like to be there.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: He made it.

ULABY: Now that tape recorded in a Massachusetts dorm room has gotten his own honor. This morning, the Library of Congress announced it will be added to the National Recording Registry, meaning it'll be preserved for posterity as one of the most significant recordings in America's oral history. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.