NEW YORK – Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 42 points in the 1962 NBA All-Star Game. Fifty-three years later, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook came one point shy of tying that mark when he scored 41 while winning 2015 All-Star Game MVP honors after leading the Western Conference to a 163-158 victory Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
"You have on the court here the greatest players in the world, and everyone wants the ball," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. "There is a lot of offense out there. So to be able to score 42 points, especially in the old days when there were lower-scoring games, it may be one of those records that may never be broken."
Chamberlain made 17 of 23 shots and half of his 16 free throws while grabbing 24 rebounds in 37 minutes for Philadelphia during the 1962 All-Star Game in St. Louis. St. Louis Hawks All-Star Bob Pettit earned MVP honors after netting a double-double of 25 points and 27 rebounds during the West's 150-130 win over the East. Prior to Sunday night, the closest any All-Star got to Chamberlain's record was Michael Jordan, who scored 40 points in 1988.
On Sunday, Westbrook made the first of two throws to get within two points of Chamberlain's All-Star record with 1.3 seconds left. The Oklahoma City Thunder guard tried to miss the second free throw in hopes of getting a put-back to set a new scoring record, but his high-arcing shot went in to keep Chamberlain's mark safe.
"The East was trying to get me to miss the first one, so they could have a chance to win the game," Westbrook said. "We wanted to win. I had a chance to try to miss the second one, but I guess I couldn't miss tonight."
Early on, East forward LeBron James appeared poised to be the All-Star who could challenge Chamberlain after he scored 15 points in the first quarter. But Westbrook went on to score an All-Star record 27 points in the first half.
Chamberlain's record seemed in serious jeopardy through three quarters as Westbrook put up 33 points. But with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter, Westbrook had 37 points when he was replaced by West guard Stephen Curry. Westbrook was comfortably sitting on the bench when West coach Steve Kerr gave him one last chance to chase Chamberlain by putting him back in with 2:38 remaining.
"They were talking about [Chamberlain's] record on the bench," Westbrook said. "Honestly, I thought I was done for the game once I came out."
West guard James Harden, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, was close to a triple-double. The West coaching staff wanted Westbrook and Harden to reach the statistical landmarks, but wanted the win more.
"The last five guys that were out there were focused on, hopefully, making a couple shots down the stretch, making them take some tough shots on the other end and getting the win," Curry said.
Westbrook made a 3-pointer with 2:22 remaining to reach 39 points, but shook his head after he missed a layup 36 seconds later. He didn't take either of the final two shots for the West in the final stretch of the game that also included a shot-clock turnover by Harden.
Westbrook made 16-of-28 shots, 5-of-9 3-pointers and all four of his free throw attempts in 25 minutes. James finished with 30 points while Harden had 29. Westbrook blamed himself for not surpassing Chamberlain's record.
"I missed about six or seven layups," Westbrook said. "I could definitely have had it."
So will Chamberlain's All-Star record ever be broken?
Several former NBA greats think so. Ex-NBA All-Star Chris Webber said the key is the 3-point shot. But the 3-point shot has been in place in the NBA since 1979, and Jordan, Larry Bird, James, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson couldn't surpass Chamberlain.
"Records are made to be broken," Hall of Famer Reggie Miller said. "I'm not surprised it wasn't broken [Sunday night], but it's only a matter of time."