Fifty years ago this week, something special happened in Wichita. Something I didn't know about. Something an estimated crowd of 6,700 watched at the Roundhouse, probably unaware of what they were seeing.
On the surface, the Oct. 11, 1960, event was just an NBA exhibition game between the Philadelphia Warriors and the St. Louis Hawks. The Hawks won 117-110.
But it's who was playing the game that made it special.
On the floor that night were seven future Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers, including perhaps the greatest center of all time, Wilt Chamberlain.
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He was with the Warriors; his center counterpart for the Hawks was Clyde Lovellette, like Chamberlain a former Kansas Jayhawk.
Forwards Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan played for St. Louis that night, as did guard Lenny Wilkens.
The Philadelphia roster included Tom Gola and Paul Arizin, two college stars who made a splash in the NBA, too.
Just for good measure, the coach of the Warriors, Neil Johnston, also became a Hall of Famer because of his outstanding NBA playing career. That's eight and it's safe to say that's the most ever assembled at one time in Wichita.
Both teams were outstanding. Philadelphia finished second to the Boston Celtics in the NBA's Eastern Division; the Hawks won the Western Division comfortably over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA consisted of only eight teams in 1960, four in each division. The Warriors lost to Boston in the Eastern Finals; the Hawks won a seven-game series with the Lakers in the Western Finals before losing in five to the Celtics in the NBA Finals.
All together, the eight future Hall of Famers combined to play 89 NBA seasons and 6,290 games. They scored 129,619 points, grabbed 71,779 rebounds and dished out 23,458 assists while combining for 62 All-Star game appearances.
All eight were also outstanding college players and Wilkens also became a Hall of Fame coach, as well as player, thanks to his 1,332 career wins.
In the Wichita exhibition, many of the players came up big. Pettit, a burly forward from LSU, led the Hawks with 34 points and 21 rebounds. In those days, exhibition games were used to get front-line players ready for the rigors of the regular season and starters played a lot of minutes.
Lovellette added 23 points and eight rebounds for St. Louis while Hagan scored 16.
Chamberlain, who made a habit of producing eye-popping statistics, had 29 points and 27 rebounds for the Warriors, who also got 15 points each from Gola and Arizin. Interestingly, Chamberlain played all 48 minutes. He had a monster game except at the free-throw line, where he was 3 of 13.
The game was organized by a new organization in town, Sports Futures of Wichita, Inc. There have been probably a dozen NBA exhibitions in Wichita since, including a game last year between the Orlando Magic and the New Orleans Hornets, which drew a good crowd to Koch Arena.
This year, however, there isn't an NBA exhibition game scheduled despite the new Intrust Bank Arena. That's a shame. It would be great to get the Oklahoma City Thunder and its exciting young team to play an exhibition here every year.
It's surprising to me that the 1960 exhibition didn't draw more fans, what with the KU connection with Chamberlain and Lovellette, two of the greatest players in Jayhawks history.
Here's a closer look at the Hall of Fame eight who spent one glorious night together in Wichita:
* Chamberlain ranks fourth on the NBA's career scoring list and No. 2 in rebounding. He won two NBA championships — one with the Philadelphia 76ers (1967) and the other with the Lakers (1972). He scored 50 or more points 118 times and topped 60 points on 32 occasions. His 100 points for the Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962 is an NBA record.
* Arizin was a 10-time NBA all-star who never made his high school team. Attending Villanova without a scholarship, he blossomed and was the national player of the year in 1950. He led the NBA in scoring in 1952 and 1957.
* Gola, who played collegiately at La Salle where he was a four-time All-America forward who was the first college player in history to score more than 2,000 points and grab more than 2,000 rebounds in a career. He's one of a select group of players to win NIT, NCAA and NBA championships.
* Hagan was a standout at Kentucky, leading the Wildcats to an 86-5 record. He was traded, along with Ed Mccauley, to the Hawks from Boston in exchange for the draft rights to Bill Russell. During his 10-year NBA career, Hagan helped St. Louis win five Western Division titles and an NBA championship in 1958.
* Johnston, a former minor league baseball player, led the NBA in scoring three times and in rebounding once. His playing career was cut short by an injury, after which he became coach of the Warriors, the team he helped win a championship in 1956.
* Lovellette was one of the first big men in NBA history to play frequently on the perimeter. He was a part of three championship teams: Minnesota (1954) and Boston (1963, 1964). He also was the first to play on NCAA, NIT, Olympic and NBA championship teams.
* Pettit, a three-time All-SEC center at LSU, made the NBA all-star team in each of his 11 seasons and was named the All-Star game MVP more than any other player. When he retired in 1965, Pettit was the league's all-time leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder.
* Wilkens played 15 seasons as a guard and averaged 16.5 points per game. He was a player-coach for four of those seasons, three with Seattle and one with Portland. A 10-time All-Star, he ranked No. 2 all-time in assists upon his retirement in 1975.