Now with basketball back in action, Laker Nation has decided to continue to take you back through Laker history to recap important games, record-breaking performances and memorable news from the past 64 years of the franchise.
DECEMBER 13, 1972
LA LAKERS 104 – PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
CHAMBERLAIN BECOMES AN ACCUSED HIJACKER; PUTS UP 15-15-15 AGAINST FORMER CLUB IN SAME NIGHT
Flying across the country during the 1970s was a much different process than it is now. For one, there was much more relaxed security than today’s post-9/11 environment. However, that isn’t to say that security was nonexistent in the early 1970s, as Laker center Wilt Chamberlain found out during boarding on a Trans World America (TWA) flight to Philadelphia, where the Lakers were set to play the 76ers later that evening.
Having been delayed for 30 minutes due to mechanical trouble, tempers were short as the Laker players were still exhausted from a late game against the Chicago Bulls the previous evening. As TWA officials waved the Laker players onto the plane, Chamberlain and teammate Jerry West walked forward as Chamberlain commented: “The way I feel right now, if I had a gun in my bag I might shoot somebody.” Ten minutes later, a TWA official came aboard the plane, asking Chamberlain to disembark to speak with FBI agents who were waiting outside. The agents understanding was that Chamberlain intended to hijack the plane.
While Chamberlain laughed it off, denying the presence of a gun, TWA officials would not allow Chamberlain to fly without checking with higher-ranking airline officials. Chamberlain stormed off the plane, and while officials would allow him to reboard the plane before takeoff, Chamberlain refused to fly with TWA, opting for a later flight through United Airlines. Despite arriving 45 minutes after the rest of the Laker club in Philadelphia, Chamberlain would have a career night, scoring a triple-double with 16 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high 15 blocks in a 128-90 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Quote of the Night: “I fly 50,000 miles a year and I appreciate the fact these guys have to do this job.” – Laker center Wilt Chamberlain on Trans World Airlines’ flight security that caused him to miss the Lakers team plane. – From the LA Times, Dec. 14, 1972