Triple Overtimes, Wilt and Kobe
Mark mentioned in Sports Trivia this morning that it was on this date in 1957 that North Carolina beat Kansas in a triple overtime NCAA men’s basketball championship game. That got our research department into overdrive! Check out what we found out after the jump.
NCAA history says that North Carolina coach Frank McGuire opened the game with a psychological ploy, putting 5’11″ Tommy Kearns into the center jump circle against Kansas’ seven foot center Wilt Chamberlain, with the rest of the team set under the Kansas basket in their zone defense. McGuire said, “I wanted to show how ridiculous it is to have anybody jump against Chamberlain. I told some of the photographers to be ready for that picture.”
Wikipedia recounts that it was assumed by many that Chamberlain would be unbeatable at the college level, and it was that championship loss, followed by missing the tournament altogether the next year that prompted the big man to leave college and join the Harlem Globetrotters! North Carolina guard Tommy Kearns was quoted as saying, “Wilt unfairly got the loser label attached to him after that game. He was supposed to go to Kansas, win three national championships, and move on…And now we’re being honored like we’re some sort of legends or something for a one point win in triple overtime. The difference between losing and winning is extraordinary. It really is.”
Speaking of triple overtimes, the Los Angeles Lakers played, and won, three extra periods last night, beating the Phoenix Suns 139-137. Kobe Bryant scored 42 for the Lakers in the win. ESPN research says the Lakers hadn’t won a triple overtime game in FIFTY YEARS! Los Angeles beat the Philadelphia Warriors, and Wilt Chamberlain, 151-147 in three overtimes December 8, 1961. In the loss, Wilt broke the NBA single game scoring record with 78 points, three months before he would pour in 100!
The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the Lakers have had only one other triple overtime game at home in its franchise’s history — February 2, 1969 against the Warriors — the San Francisco Warriors. The Warriors won 122-117, and, yes, Wilt Chamberlain was in that game, too, playing for Los Angeles. How many triple overtime games did he lose in his career?