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#KU50: 1 Wilt Chamberlain

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Kansas basketball season officially gets started TONIGHT!

Wilt was a legend even in high school, playing professional games under an assumed name. He certainly could have played in the NBA as a teenager. (He played KU center B.H. Born, the 1953 NCAA tournament MOP, in a game of 1-on-1 and beat him so bad Born quit basketball).

Wilt’s debut on the freshman team saw him score 42 points and grab 29 rebounds against KU’s varsity team. His actual KU debut saw him score 52 points and grab 31 rebounds in a KU win over Northwestern, both KU records. Kansas made the national championship game in Chamberlain’s first year, losing in triple overtime to North Carolina despite Wilt’s 23 points and 14 rebounds (the game ended 54-53). En route to that title game, Wilt put up 32, 11, and 8 blocks against 2-time defending champion San Francisco.

Kansas unfortunately didn’t make the NCAA tournament the next year because they finished second in their conference (mostly due to Wilt missing a couple games) but despite Wilt regularly getting double and even triple teamed, and the slow it down tactics teams could use with no shot clock, Wilt still averaged 30 points per game.

Wilt’s time in Lawrence was short, but his impact was incredible. He averaged 29.9 points and 18.3 rebounds per game, and went to the free throw line a ridiculous 14.4 times per game in his career. He was back-to-back consensus All-American, and the NCAA Tournament most outstanding player his sophomore season.

Even though this is a college basketball countdown, I’d like to go over some of Wilt’s other exploits. He won the Big 8 high jump championship three years in a row. He is the only player in NBA history to average 40 points per game in a season. Oh and he’s also the only player in NBA history to average 50 points per game in a season as well.

Only one player has averaged 30 points and 20 rebounds per game in a season in NBA history. Wilt did it 7 times (he also has career averages of 30 ppg and 20 rpg). He led the NBA in scoring his first 8 seasons in the league, and led the NBA in rebounding 11 times. His 22.9 rebounds per game for his career is a record that won’t ever be broken.

Wilt was plenty good in college, of course. He ranks 25th in scoring, at 1,433 points, despite playing in just 48 games. He did this without a three point line or a shot clock, and despite regularly getting triple teamed by opponents. No one will equal his career scoring or rebounding averages at Kansas, much less both, and more than being the most talented Jayhawk ever, he’s the most talented basketball player ever, and he’s #1 in our countdown.