Basketball fans from all around the world still marvel over a feat commonly described in all of sports as one of the hardest to achieve, and when a previously unknown basketball player from Grandfield, Oklahoma named Kenneth Johnson scored 105 points in a single name back in 1979, it would forever solidify his name among the most elite group of athletic achievements in modern day history.
According to official record books, this elite group of players consists of at least 53 players competing at the high school and college levels, and professionally both in the United States and Internationally. Not to take anything away from the legitimacy of the sources that were used in order to acknowledge Kenneth Johnson’s remarkable night, or the accomplishments of anyone that made the lists, but there are probably more legitimately documented cases of players scoring 100 points in a single game, although Kenneth Johnson remains the only documented person from the state of Oklahoma to make those lists.
Just to get an idea of how incredible Kenneth Johnson’s accomplishment was, and just how elite this list is; it contains an entry for 13-year old Mats Wermilin of Stockholm, Sweden, who scored an unbelievable documented and unfathomable 272 points on February 5, 1974 in a single game. Wermilin reportedly scored all 272 of his teams points which actually stirs-up controversy about his accomplishment and whether or not he was playing against opponents who were competing as either blind or by sitting in wheel chairs.
Former USC All-American Cheryl Miller was one of the first female athletes to do it when she scored 105 points in a game pitting Riverside Poly High against Norte Vista on January 26, 1982. Miller’s team won that game 179-15. Other notable females accomplishing this feat include Lisa Leslie of Morningside High on February 7, 1990, scoring an incredible 101 points in a game against South Torrence High. What made Leslie’s accomplishment so remarkable was the fact that she scored all 101 points in the first half.
But let’s get back to the date that this incredible feat was accomplished in Oklahoma’s illustrious basketball history, and more about the person who made it happen and inevitably put Oklahoma in the basketball record books of a distinct few. It was January 6, 1979, and a typical day for the Grandfield basketball team and their star player Kenneth Johnson, although nothing was typical at all about how Johnson scored those 105 points for his team that night. The opponent was a team from Terral, Oklahoma, and when it was all said and done, Johnson powered Grandfiled to a 120-65 victory. Remarkably, Johnson scored all of these points without the aid of the three-point field goal (which wasn’t around during that time), and on this particular night, Johnson made 45 of 85 shots, and scored only 15 of the 105 point-total from the free-throw line.
Let’s attempt to put Johnson’s feat into the proper perspective. Launching 85 shots in a basketball game is an incredible accomplishment alone even if he had not made 45 of the shots he attempted, because a basketball weighing less than a pound in the beginning, will inevitably start to weigh a lot more after hoisting that many shots. Johnson also had 71 points in the first half, and this is when the Grandfield head basketball coach probably realized that he had a chance to hit the 100-point mark. Johnson came back out after halftime and scored 34 more points to arrive at 105. Scoring 34 points in only one half of basketball would normally be considered excellent for an entire game, on any level.
To give you an idea about how uncanny and prolific Kenneth Johnson’s skills had to be in order to finish a game with 105 points, in Oklahoma’s illustrious basketball history of sending players to the professional ranks such as the likes of Wayman Tisdale, Mark Price, and recently Blake Griffin, no other high school basketball player (male or female) has ever duplicated this incredible feat since Johnson did it back in 1979, and even with the three-point field goal today, it might not ever happen again. Kenneth Johnson did it by playing in eight-minute quarters or just a total of 32 minutes in the entire game.
Around this same time every year, the NBA reminisces and celebrates another unforgettable day that occurred back on March 2, 1962 when a professional basketball superstar named Wilt Chamberlin scored 100 points in a single game. What made Wilt’s accomplishment so prolific was the fact that it has never been duplicated again in an NBA game. Kobe Bryant recently scored 81 points in a game back on January 22, 2006 against the Toronto Raptors, but he’s the only player to get within 19 points of what is still referred to as the quintessential “Crown Jewell” of all sports accomplishments.
What was so ironic about Kobe’s achievement was that he was pulled from the game by Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson early in the 4th quarter when the game was undoubtedly already in the bag. Kobe’s official stat sheet notes that he played a total of 41 minutes and 56 seconds, which is a little more than three quarters. Many fans are still baffled at why Coach Phil Jackson pulled Kobe from the game with 81 points, when this was probably the only legitimate chance to date that anyone would ever have to get to the magic number of 100 points in a single game since Wilt did it. But that’s a question that will continue to baffle the rest of the basketball world until someone either matches or breaks Wilt’s record. This is probably the most popular dialog as it relates to scoring the magic number of 100 points in a single game.
As incredible as Kenneth Johnson’s accomplishment was on that historic night in Oklahoma back in 1979, skeptics still remain. There were rumblings from the sports media and fans alike back then, and some still remain today as many in the basketball world wondered if the opponents that he competed against that night just sort of threw in the towel and stopped competing once they realized Johnson had a chance to achieve the mark so that they could also be a part of making history. There was also an unfair and sort of unwritten disclaimer attached to Johnson’s feat, stemming from the idea that Johnson still wasn’t good enough to compete at the Division I level in college since he was competing in one of the smaller school basketball leagues in the state of Oklahoma that some viewed as having inferior talent.
Be that as it may, scoring 100 points in a sanctioned basketball game is still one of the hardest accomplishments in all of sports. The first person that comes to mind when the subject of scoring 100 points in a single game is mentioned, is undoubtedly and will always be – Wilt Chamberlin, probably because of the fact that he did it in the professional ranks against the best players in the world. But even Wilt’s accomplishment has been controversial and even questioned because of the fact that no film or video footage was ever captured of the game that he did it in.
Nevertheless, when a previously unknown basketball player named Kenneth Johnson from small Oklahoma town called Grandfield accomplished this feat, it made national headlines and brought notoriety and attention to the state of Oklahoma for the sport of basketball, when prior to that, Oklahoma was only famous for its accomplishments as a college football powerhouse and the illustrious national championships attained by the Oklahoma Sooners. For that reason alone, Kenneth Johnson’s 105 points will remain one of the most remarkable accomplishments that any basketball player on any level has achieved. Basketball fans in Oklahoma should always honor him for his remarkable accomplishment.
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