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Kevin Durant and James Harden Have a Long Way to Go to Catch Wilt Chamberlain and York Larese

By Stephen Douglas
Kevin Durant and James Harden
Kevin Durant and James Harden / Sarah Stier/Getty Images
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James Harden and Kevin Durant are off to a heck of a start together in Brooklyn. The Nets have won their first two games since acquiring Harden in a blockbuster trade with Houston. On Monday night they beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 125-123. Harden and Durant combined for 64 points and have scored 138 over their first two games together in Brooklyn, the second-most ever by two new teammates.

That's right. Wilt Chamberlain and York Larese. As for the joke about combining for 100 points with Wilt, that's not quite true. Chamberlain and Larese actually combined for 109 that night with Larese assisting on Wilt's penultimate bucket. About the game, Larese apparently said, "The biggest thrill in my life was to see that. There was nothing exciting about the Knicks playing the Warriors in Hershey. Chocolate was more exciting."

Larese passed away five years ago, but his family probably enjoyed seeing his name pop up randomly thanks to Harden and Durant's futile attempt to break the record set by Chamberlain and the three time All-ACC player from North Carolina. During his sophomore season at UNC under Frank McGuire, he once made 21 of 21 free throws against Duke. According to his obituary, his technique earned him a nickname.

"Nicknamed "the Cobra," for his singular style of shooting free throws, he shot the ball, with no pause, as soon as the official handed it to him. He was timed taking anywhere from 0.8 to 1.1 seconds to let it fly."

His No. 22 jersey hangs in the rafters of the Dean E. Smith Center. He would play only one season in the NBA, long enough to become a historic teammate to Chamberlain.

Larese also coached the New York Nets during the 1969-1970 season. The team went 39-45 and lost to Louie Dampier, Goose Ligon, and the Kentucky Colonels. After that he went looking for a job with more stability and ended up working for Converse and Puma where he became manager of national promotions.

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