A Breakdown Of Every 60-Point Game In NBA History

There is a special place of being, an existential plateau that transcends the game of hoops. When an individual has no fear and the utmost confidence, we as the fans get to witness something truly special. Last week, Carmelo Anthony had a scoring explosion that will be remembered by Knicks fans long after his modest achievements with the franchise are forgotten.

During Friday’s game versus the Charlotte Bobcats, Anthony was, in that moment, a superstar. For 48 minutes, the Knicks crappy record, Anthony’s pending free agency, and the overall inadequacy of the franchise were forgotten. Everyone watching the game in the Garden or the comfort of their own couch were interested in one thing, and one thing only: “How many points can he drop?”

Defense may or may not win championships, but high scoring nights like Anthony’s 62-point effort will remain legend. With that said let’s take a moment to reminisce over the greatest individual scoring efforts of all time.

Thirty points is impressive. Forty points is fantastic. Fifty points is extraordinary, but 60 points and beyond just defies logic. There have been 20 players in NBA history to record a night that magnificent. You won’t remember every player who wins a championship but you will remember the names who posted such legendary scoring nights.

[Eds. note: Joe Fulks scored 63 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1949 in the BAA, but we’re only counting NBA games here.]

*** *** ***

Carmelo Anthony
Team(s): New York Knicks
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Charlotte Bobcats
Shooting Splits: 23-for-35, 66 percent

David Thompson
Team(s): Denver Nuggets
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Detroit Pistons
Shooting Splits: unknown

The Skywalker dropped 73 points on April 9, 1978. Thompson never led the league in scoring but did set a career-high 27.2 points per game that season. His 73-point outburst actually resulted in a losing effort as the Nuggets would fall 139-137 against the Pistons. The 73 points rank as the most points ever in a game by anyone not named Wilt or Kobe.

Bernard King
Team(s): New York Knicks
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: New Jersey Nets
Shooting Splits: 19-for-30, 63 percent

This display was a small Christmas miracle for the Knicks fan base back in 1984. Dropping a career-high against your rivals is sweet — winning might’ve been sweeter — but regardless, King brought his “A” game. Shooting above 60 percent from the field, King held the home team scoring record at the Garden for over 30 years. King led the league in scoring one time, scoring 50 or more points on eight separate occasions.

Larry Bird
Team(s): Boston Celtics
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Atlanta Hawks
Shooting Splits: 22-for-36, 61 percent

On March 12, 1985, Larry Legend and the Celtics took it to Dominique Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks, scoring exactly 60 points. Larry Legend would average 28.1 points per game over the season and lead the Celtics all the way to the Finals, where they fell in six games to the Lakers. Neither his arch rival Magic Johnson nor any of the other Showtime Lakers would ever score 60 in a single night.

Tom Chambers
Team(s): Phoenix Suns
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Seattle Supersonics
Shooting Splits: 22-for-32, 69 percent

On March 24, 1990, Tom Chambers destroyed the rival SuperSonics with a franchise-best 60 points. Impressively he reached the 60-point plateau without a single three-pointer. Chambers scored 56 points less than a month earlier against the Warriors; he went on to set a career-best at 27.2 points per game that season. The Suns went to the Western Conference Finals but lost in six games to the Trail Blazers.

Allen Iverson
Team(s): Philadelphia 76ers
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Orlando Magic
Shooting Splits: 17-for-36, 47 percent

Dwight Howard went on to win three Defensive Player of the Year awards but the Magic posed no problem for the Answer on this evening. On February 12, 2005, Iverson had 60 points, six assists and five steals. The season marked the fourth and final scoring title for Iverson as he averaged 30.7 points per game. Iverson scored 51 points and 54 points on back-to-back evenings in December of the same season.

Gilbert Arenas
Team(s): Washington Wizards
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Los Angeles Lakers
Shooting Splits: 17-for-32, 53 percent

Prime Agent Zero was exhilarating. He was an entertainer and his scoring was intoxicating. It was truly a shame injuries and stupidity cut his career short. On December 17, 2006, he scored 60 points, 16 of which came in overtime. The Wizards would win 147-141 and Arenas would out-duel Kobe Bryant, who dropped 45 points of his own. Arenas scored 50 points in two other wins that season.

Shaquille O’Neal
Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Los Angeles Clippers
Shooting Splits: 24-for-35, 69 percent

Maybe the most dominant scoring performance of the modern era. On March 6, 2000, the Lakers would stomp their crosstown rivals in a 20-point rout. Shaq scored 61 points and grabbed 23 rebounds during the game. Shaq’s 29.7 points a game led the league that year. He also won the only MVP of his career and won the first title of his career.

Tracy McGrady
Team(s): Orlando Magic
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Washington Wizards
Shooting Splits: 20-for-37, 54 percent

On March 10, 2004, there was undeniable magic in Orlando. Speaking of players whose greatness was sadly shortened due to injury, enter T-Mac. McGrady had 62 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a nine-point win over the Wizards. It was an incredible scoring display as Agent Zero wouldn’t go down without a fight, pouring in 40 points of his own. McGrady would win his second and final scoring title that season.

Pete Maravich
Team(s): New Orleans Jazz
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: New York Knicks
Shooting Splits: unknown

On February 25, 1977, Pistol Pete shot the lights out for 68 points, 68 points on 26 field goals and 16 free throw attempts. The Pistol would win his lone scoring title that year, averaging 31.1 points per game. Pistol had four games with over 50 points that season, each and every game resulting in a win for the Jazz.

Karl Malone
Team(s): Utah Jazz
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Milwaukee Bucks
Shooting Splits: 21-for-26, 81 percent

Shooting 81 percent from the field is impressive in any capacity; doing it for 61 points on the way to a 48-point blowout is something else. Malone had 18 rebounds to go along with 61 points on January 27, 1990. Malone averaged 31 points a game that season and did not lead the league in scoring. (Jordan stole more than NBA championship titles from the Jazz organization.)

George Gervin
Team(s): San Antonio Spurs
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: New Orleans Jazz
Shooting Splits: unknown

The Ice Man unfortunately never won a championship. He did, however, win four scoring titles, the first of which he won in 1977-78. During that year on April 9, 1978, the Spurs would lose by 21 points to an inferior New Orleans Jazz squad. It was the Ice Man, however, stealing the show with his 63-point performance.

Rick Barry
Team(s): Golden State Warriors
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Portland Trail Blazers
Shooting Splits: unknown

On March 26, 1974, Rick Barry would score 64 points on the way to a 63-point win over the Trail Blazers. Barry would average 25 points a game on the season but the Warriors would not advance to the postseason.

David Robinson
Team(s): San Antonio Spurs
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponent: Los Angeles Clippers
Shooting Splits: 26-for-41, 63 percent

The Admiral is one of only five players to ever score 70-plus points in a single outing. On April 24, 1994, Robinson scored 71 against the unprepared Clippers. The 29.8 points a game averaged that season were good enough for a career-high scoring total. Oddly enough, he finished second in the MVP voting only to win it on a weaker performance the following year.

Jerry West
Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponents: New York Knicks
Shooting Splits: unknown

In January of 1962, West battled the Knicks and a terrible cold to drop 63 points on New York, at the time the most points in the NBA for a guard. Mr. Clutch, who was only 23 years old at the time and in his second season, went on to average 30.8 points per game that season for the 54-26 Lakers. They’d lose in a Game 7 in the Finals to Boston.

George Mikan
Team(s): Minneapolis Lakers
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 1
Opponents: Rochester Royals
Shooting splits: unknown
Mikan was a man among boys during his hey-day, and during this double-overtime game in 1952 against the Royals, Mikan put up a career-high 61. He also helped the Lakers win the NBA Finals that year, beating the Knicks in a Game 7 as Mikan averaged just under 24 points per game on the season.

Elgin Baylor
Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 4 (71, 64, 63, 62)
Opponents: Knicks, Celtics, Warriors, Celtics
Shooting splits: unknown

Elgin’s scoring outbursts came before official box scores were kept, similar to Wilt Chamberlain in that regard. His 71-point game against the Knicks on November 15, 1960, is tied for the fourth-highest total of all time. Baylor was the best scoring wing of basketball’s first generation, scoring over 34 points a game in three straight years.

Michael Jordan
Team(s): Chicago Bulls
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 5 (61, 61, 63, 64, 69)
Opponent: Hawks, Pistons, Celtics, Magic, Cavaliers
Shooting Splits: 22-for-39, 56 percent / 22-for-38, 58 percent / 22-for-41, 54 percent / 27-for-49, 55 percent / 23-for-37, 62 percent

Jordan set his career-high 69 points on March 28, 1990. He had a complete game, posting 69 points, 18 rebounds, six assists, and four steals. Jordan’s 63 points in the playoffs on April 20, 1986 are the most ever in a playoff game, although it was Larry Bird and the Celtics that won the game. Interestingly, Jordan’s Bulls only went 2-3 when Jordan scored 60-plus points. Jordan won eight scoring titles, one more than Chamberlain.

Kobe Bryant
Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 5 (60, 61, 62, 65, 81)
Opponents: Memphis, New York, Dallas, Portland, Toronto
Shooting Splits: 20-for-37, 54 percent / 19-for-31, 61 percent / 18-for-31, 58 percent / 23-for-39, 59 percent / 28-for-46, 61 percent
Kobe’s 81 redefined scoring in the new era. Fans were divided during his 35 points per game campaign. While many believe it was the best basketball he ever played, others believed the selfish scoring outbursts were hurting the team. The 81-point performance on January 22, 2006, contributed to Bryant’s first-ever scoring title.

Wilt Chamberlain
Team(s): Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia Warriors, San Francisco Warriors
Occasions scoring 60-plus: 32 (100, 78, 73 (x2), 72, 70, 68 (x2), 67 (x4), 66, 65 (x3), 63 (x2), 62 (x6), 61 (x6), 60 (x3)
Opponents: N/A
Shooting Splits: unknown, with the exception of the 100-point game: 36-for-63, 57 percent

Wilt the Stilt, or the Big Dipper, blows every other NBA player out of this galaxy when we talk about raw statistics. A different time, a different era, no doubt, but nonetheless incredible. On March 2, 1962, Chamberlain had his infamous 100-point game. The game had held his legacy in high regard and is legendary. Chamberlain won seven scoring titles, although it should be noted his two championship seasons were in years where he wasn’t looking to promote his personal numbers to the utmost.

What Chamberlain could do on the court was truly special and although we will likely never see that kind of a scoring output again, players like Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are capable of teasing us.

Which game was the most impressive?

Follow Josh on Twitter at @JoshEberley.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.