Henry Akin, one of the 12 members of the inaugural Sonics team, watched Sunday's 168-116 defeat to the Denver Nuggets with a disturbing...

Henry Akin, one of the 12 members of the inaugural Sonics team, watched Sunday’s 168-116 defeat to the Denver Nuggets with a disturbing sense of déjà vu.

Forty-one years earlier, his team suffered a similar humiliating drubbing to the defending champion Philadelphia 76ers. The 160-122 loss on Dec. 20, 1967, at the Seattle Coliseum was the most points the Sonics allowed an opponent before Sunday.

Akin watched the first three quarters of the 1967 game from the bench, then was summoned by coach Al Bianchi.

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“[Bianchi] comes on down and he grabs ahold of me, and he said, ‘Now, when you get in the game, I want you to foul Wilt [Chamberlain] every time he gets the ball,” said Akin, 63, who was in his second and final year in the NBA.

Chamberlain got the ball, crouched low and made a move to the basket.

“I jump on his back and when he goes up, we both fall to the floor,” Akin said. “I had known Wilt, and he said, ‘Harry, what in the hell are you doing?’ I looked at him and said, ‘Al told me to foul you every time you got the ball.’ Wilt didn’t say a word. He just smiled.”

Akin fouled out in 11 minutes and Chamberlain, who played 45 minutes, finished with a Coliseum-record 53 points. He converted 20 of 23 field goals, made 13 of 26 from the free-throw line and had 38 rebounds.

Hal Greer scored 30 points, Chet Walker 23 and Billy Cunningham 19 for the Sixers. Walt Hazzard led the Sonics with 20 points and Bob Rule, who was assigned to stop Chamberlain, added 16.

Akin, who said games like that “stay with you forever,” doesn’t see a correlation between the game he played in and the one he saw Sunday.

“I watched the whole second half and the biggest thing that came to my mind was a sense of real disappointment because there was no effort on the Sonics’ part in the fourth quarter,” Akin said. “It was like shooting practice. They never got contested.”

Tom Meschery, who was a fiery competitor on the inaugural team, “would have picked a fight to stop this whole mess,” Akin said.

Gil Lyons, a former Times beat writer who covered the team its first nine years, wrote in his game story: ” ‘Well they stole another one from us,’ quipped Al Bianchi. The comment was in jest because that was the only way to look at what had happened to his Seattle Sonics last night.”

“Al was a good guy,” Lyons said. “He didn’t have much to work with, and he took everything in stride. They did win 23 games, which is more than I can say for this team.

“They gave up so many high scores in those days. Teams split the defense so easily because guys couldn’t move very well. They didn’t have any shot blockers, and they couldn’t keep up with the quick guys.”

The Sonics trailed 65-59 at halftime before Philadelphia set an NBA record with 95 points in the second half. The Sixers scored 53 in the fourth quarter.

Bianchi, who lives in Phoenix and scouts for the Suns, saw the score of Sunday’s game on TV and could hardly believe his eyes.

“I thought maybe they had made an error on it,” he said. “I really didn’t think too much about it. I felt compassion for them because I’ve been there before.”

Bianchi compiled a 53-111 record during his two-year stint as coach. His 1967-68 team allowed an average of 125.1 points, the most in the 12-team league.

“We talked about being competitive and just playing as hard as we could and letting the chips fall where they may,” Bianchi said. “We knew who we were. In that game we fell flat. Those things happen when you get a team on a roll.”

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

High score is a new low
Denver’s total of 168 points scored against the Sonics on Sunday was the fourth-highest total scored in a regulation NBA game:
Pts Team Opponent Date
173 Boston Minneapolis Feb. 27, 1959
173 Phoenix Denver Nov. 10, 1990
169 Philadelphia New York March 2, 1962
168 Denver Seattle March 16, 2008
165 Cincinnati San Diego March 12, 1970