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Robert Rubino: 50 years ago in Bay Area sports

  • Wilt Chamberlain controls and paint for the San Francisco Warriors. (Associated Press)

Exciting times in Bay Area pro sports.

Warriors on their way to the NBA Finals.

Giants packed with talent and just one year removed from the World Series.

Raiders making one of the most remarkable one-year turnarounds in pro football history.

And the 49ers? In the thankless role of spoiler.

It was 50 years ago.

Do you like Bay Area pro sports history? You like time travel? Great, then let's take a few minutes, have some fun, and travel back to 1963.

The Warriors, in only their second season in San Francisco after moving from Philadelphia, unveiled a lineup that included basketball's original Twin Towers, 7-foot-1 Wilt Chamberlain, by far the most dominant player of his generation, and 6-foot-11 rookie Nate Thurmond, a future Hall of Famer.

On Dec. 8, though, exactly 50 years ago, the Warriors weren't playing like a team bound for the championship round four months hence. (Yes, the NBA season used to end in mid-April, not late June. It was a simpler time.)

Under new coach Alex Hannum, the Warriors were struggling, coming into their game at Los Angeles against the division-leading Lakers with an uninspired 10-12 record. But, coming back from a 17-point halftime deficit and outscoring the Lakers by nine in the fourth quarter, the Warriors earned a 114-112 victory, with Chamberlain (who would be traded away 13 months later) scoring 31 for the game.

The Warriors would then begin to turn around their season, if not immediately catch fire, win the division with a record of 48-32, then beat the St. Louis Hawks in seven games in the Western Conference final, with Chamberlain scoring 39 in Game 7 at the Cow Palace (third from last in attendance), before losing to the Celtics in the Finals.

Also on Dec. 8, 1963, the Raiders, who had gone 1-13 the previous season, hosted the AFL-best San Diego Chargers at Frank Youell Field in Oakland (average attendance 17,500). It was Al Davis' first year as coach and general manager, and his philosophy, some two decades before “Just win, baby,” nevertheless apparently was: Win now, right now. As in today.

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