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Friday, March 2, 2012

Displays of Authenticity (12)—100 Points

[a] A hundred points of light RF
One-hundred turns fifty today. Later this month, fifty will turn fifty, too (but not fifty-two). Both of these iconic numbers are much more than double and triple digits. When combined with a cultural form known as basketball (and an institution known as the National Basketball Association), these numbers achieve historical traction. When mixed with the extraordinary talents of a 7'1" superstar, they become displays of authenticity.
[b] Center RF

Let me explain.

The purpose of the game of basketball is to score more points than your opponent (feel free to skip ahead if this is already clear to you). Arguably, no player on the court has a bigger role in point production than the center (let's not quibble about point guard assists, o.k.?), and arguably no center in the history of the NBA has played a bigger role in point production than Wilt Chamberlain.

You see, Wilton Norman Chamberlain, on a sleepy night in Hershey, Pennsylvania—while playing for the Philadelphia Warriors—tossed in 100 points on 36/63 shooting and an astounding 28/32 from the free throw line ("shooting" them in an underhanded—between the legs windup, followed by a long arc to the hoop—motion). Wilt was not a great free throw shooter, whether he chose under-or-over (his career mark was just over .500, or "half"), so those 28 points did not come easily. They also became their own NBA record for most free throws in a game.

[c] "A hundred" calories RF
Over the years, 100 points has become a tower of sporting authenticity. NBA teams that score in the triple digits these days often have sponsors who give away Big Macs or Subway sandwiches (or other treats) to all fans at the stadium.

Washington Drinks

Two nights ago, Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls missed two free throws that mattered not at all in his team's victory. Those two misses, however, deprived the fans in the stadium of free Big Macs "on the house." 

You see, 100 points is a pretty big deal in this era's NBA. When a global corporation—fabulously wealthy as it has become in fatty-salty opulence—gives free food to almost 22,000 people, you know that it is not an everyday occurrence. It is not even a forty-one time occurrence (the number of home games in a current NBA season). It happens a few times a year, and McDonald's shells out the all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, (and) onions on a sesame seed bun. Many thousands.

[d] Hershey Park Arena
This happens, in Chicago at least, when the home team scores 100 points.

One early-March evening fifty years ago today, the Philadelphia Warriors scored over 100 points against the visiting New York Knickerbockers. Well over. The story of the night, though (and the story for five decades since then) was that one player—one person—scored 100 points. Exactly 100. 

Fewer than 5,000 people were in the stands of Hershey Sports Arena (as it was called back then) to see the feat, but the picture after the game says it all. Here is the story behind that picture, and some of the coverage in various media outlets of Wilt's hundred-point performance in retrospect.
[e] 100, picture RF

Few things say "authenticity" like 100. Very few. In the Chinese language, for example, 100 (一百) can mean "one-hundred" countable things—hats, books, pages, coffee cups, or bottles remaining of Chateau Lafite's treasured 1959 vintage. It can also mean "a lot," so when reading Chinese literature, one has always to be wary about expressions of "100." Is it counting or is it symbology? Well, Wilt Chamberlain's record sounds a little like that. 

"Dude scored a ton of points—like a hundred of 'em."

No, dude scored exactly 100 points in a forty-eight minute NBA game. Now that's authentic. The only thing that could possibly rival it is that he scored over 4,000 points in the entire (then eighty) game season—4,029, to be exact. His average for every game of the season was more than fifty points. 

Today and this month, 100 and 50...turn fifty. Happy authenticity day to the memory of Wilt and his very big day.
[f] Unbreakable RF

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