The name of the game in the NBA is scoring. A player who can get buckets seemingly at will is always a great asset, but you don’t need to be Wilt Chamberlain to have at least one big scoring day. Every team has a player, or players, who has scored more points in a game than anybody else in franchise history. Who are those players for the 30 NBA teams? Here they are, and, yes, Wilt the Stilt’s name will be brought up again.
Three different players have dropped 57 in a game for the Hawks. Two of them you have probably heard of: Bob Pettit, one of the stars of the early NBA, and the “Human Highlight Reel” Dominique Wilkins. However, you might not be as familiar with Lou Hudson. He notched 57 points against the Bulls in 1969, leading the Hawks to a win.
Funnily enough, the guy with the most points ever for the Celtics did it against the Hawks. Yes, it’s the guy you are expecting it to be. Larry Bird notched 60 points in 1985 vs. Atlanta. It was one of four games in his career where he managed 50 points or more. He was helped by the fact he got to the line 16 times, making 15 of his free throws.
Kyrie Irving already has two of the 50-point games in Nets history, but he’s not topping the rankings for Brooklyn. Deron Williams, who has kind of been forgotten and had an underrated career, had a night to remember in 2012. The three-time All-Star, who started his career with the Jazz after being taken third overall, scored 57 points against the Charlotte Bobcats squad that went 7-59.
Charlotte has weird NBA history, but for these purposes we’re talking the original Hornets as well as the Bobcats who became the Hornets. Regardless, the top game in Charlotte history came in 2018, so the vintage Hornets weren’t going to be involved either way. Kemba Walker, now a Celtic, has the two top-scoring games in Hornets history, including a 60-pointer against the 76ers in a game Walker and Co. actually lost.
We know what you’re asking: Which Michael Jordan game are we talking about here? Indeed, MJ has the eight highest-scoring games in Bulls history. While 'His Airness" dropped 60 points or more a whopping four times in his career, way back in 1990, before he even won an NBA title, he scored 69 points vs. the Cavaliers.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, you have likely guessed one of the two players to score 57 points in a game for the franchise. Actually, you can probably guess both of them. One is LeBron James, who did it in 2017 against the Wizards. The other? Kyrie Irving, who did it vs. the Spurs in 2015, arguably a more impressive feat. Irving helped his cause by making all seven of his three-pointers.
Dirk Nowitzki has the two highest-scoring games in Mavs history. You may want to put a bit of an asterisk on his 53-point game, his best outing. The game went into overtime, and Nowitzki played 50 minutes. He also actually had a bad day shooting against the Rockets in 2004, as he made only 15 of his 32 shots.
If you are a younger NBA fan, this one might surprise you. Were you aware David Thompson once scored 73 points in a game? Thompson is far from a household name these days, even though he’s in the Hall of Fame. The game took place in 1978, and the Nuggets actually lost to the Pistons. Yes, Thompson dropped 73 in a losing effort. That’s incredible.
Once again, a team we just mentioned is the next team on the list. Jerry Stackhouse was an impressive scorer in his prime. In fact, he averaged almost 30 points per game in one of his seasons with the Pistons. That would be the 2000-01 season, which is when he scored 57 points. No Piston has ever had more, and Stack’s points weren’t in vain. Detroit beat its rival, Chicago, that night.
Bear in mind that once upon a time they were the Philadelphia Warriors. As such, you must also bear in mind that Wilt Chamberlain was a Philadelphia Warrior. He was repping the Warriors when he scored 100 points against the Knicks in 1962. To this day it is the only 100-point game in NBA history. Wilt has the 12 highest-scoring games in franchise history. Sorry, Steph.
James Harden did his best to try and win the MVP Award in 2019. While Giannis Antetokounmpo ended up walking away with the hardware, you can’t argue with some of the incredible nights that the Beard had. Harden had not one but two 61-point games in 2019: one against the Knicks, no surprise, but also one against the Spurs. Houston won both games as well.
You might think that the highest-scoring games in Pacers history would be littered with Reggie Miller’s name. That’s not actually true, but he’s at the top of the list. Back in 1992, before the three-point shot was running rampant, Reggie took 11 threes, making four of them. That helped him tally 57 points against the Hornets in a victory.
The Clippers don’t have a great franchise history, and that includes a highest-scoring game. Los Angeles has one of the lowest franchise highs in points with 52. Bob McAdoo did it twice, both times when the team was known as the Buffalo Braves in the ‘70s. Then, in 1990, Charles Smith did it for the Los Angeles Clippers in a win over the Nuggets. By the way, both of McAdoo’s 52-point games came in losses.
You already know this one. Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game in a win over the Raptors is arguably the iconic game of modern NBA history. It has been discussed and reviewed repeatedly. Kobe may be the last player to ever score 80 points in an NBA game.
The Grizzlies haven’t been around as long as most teams, but it’s still surprising not a single player has notched a 50-point game in franchise history. In fact, Mike Miller’s 45-point game in 2007 is the tops for a Grizzly. It took Miller nine three-pointers to make that happen, and the Grizzlies still lost to the Warriors.
We have our first player who has the highest-scoring game for two different teams. You may remember LeBron James’ time with the Heat. During his four years in South Beach he had a 61-point game in a win over Charlotte. It’s the highest-scoring outing of his remarkable career.
Nope, it isn’t Giannis. It isn’t even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, aka Lew Alcindor, though Kareem has most of the 50-point games in Bucks history. Instead, it’s Michael Redd, whose 57-point game tops the rankings. Redd’s effort came in a loss to the Jazz in 2006 in a game where he had zero assists. Clearly the ball wasn’t leaving Redd’s hands much.
Karl-Anthony Towns doesn’t play much defense, but when you can score like him it doesn’t matter much. KAT, one of the best shooters his size, had a 56-point game against the Hawks in 2018. He also had 15 rebounds in helping Minnesota to a win.
The Pelicans history is brief, at least when you cut out the years in Charlotte. However, that history includes Anthony Davis. While the Brow’s time in New Orleans ended poorly, he had three 50-point games with the team, including dropping 59 on the Pistons in a win in 2016.
Bernard King famously scored 60 on Christmas Day, but he’s not in first place. Carmelo Anthony’s time in New York didn’t go as well as hoped, but he did score 62 points once. The massive performance came in a victory over Charlotte in 2014. Melo took a whopping 35 shots, and he went 10-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Sorry, Seattle basketball fans. We may open up some old wounds by mentioning the Sonics. However, we have to, because one of two players in franchise history to score 58 points did it in Seattle. That would be Fred Brown, who did it back in 1974 against the Warriors. The other guy to do it? None other than Russell Westbrook, whose numbers came in a loss to the Blazers in 2017.
Nope, it’s not Shaq. O’Neal actually never had more than 53 with the Magic. Tracy McGrady, on the other hand, tallied a whopping 62 points against the Wizards in 2004. It was one of four 50-point games he had in Orlando.
Wilt Chamberlain loved the city of Philadelphia. He had 100 points with the Warriors, but he was no slouch with the Sixers either. In 1967 he dropped 68 points en route to a win over the Bulls. That’s despite the fact he made only eight of his 22 free-throw attempts. If he even made half his free throws, he would have hit the 70-point mark.
Some people say Devin Booker is just a shooter. We say if you can score 70 points in a game, who cares? Booker actually wasn’t even great when he scored 70 against the Celtics in 2017. He went only 4-of-11 from beyond the arc. What he did, though, was make 24 free throws.
Damian Lillard has carried the Blazers to many a win with his scoring output. Indeed, he has the only two 60-point games in franchise history. This includes when he scored 61 on the Warriors this very season. You may remember that one, as it came during an incredible tear for Lillard.
We’re kicking it old school for this one. Like, back when this franchise was in Cinncinati old school. Just after the turn of the new year in 1960 old school. Jack Twyman was playing against the Lakers, the Minneapolis Lakers, when he scored 59 points in a win.
It’s one of the best-remembered games in NBA history. David Robinson really wanted to win the scoring title on the final day of the 1994 season. The Admiral took 39 shots and went to the free-throw line 25 times, and it paid off. Robinson scored 71 points in a win over the Clippers, and he got that scoring title as well.
The Raptors were on the wrong end of an 81-point game, and the franchise hasn’t done anything close to that itself. There have been only three 50-point performances in Toronto history. The best of the bunch came from DeMar DeRozan on New Year’s Day of 2018. He scored 52 points in a win over Milwaukee.
The Mailman, aka Karl Malone, always delivers, and he did indeed score 61 points for the Utah Jazz. However, this is about franchise history, which includes the Jazz’s time in New Orleans. Back then, in 1977 specifically, the Pistol, Pete Maravich, scored 68 points in a victory over the Knicks.
Once upon a time, Agent Zero dropped 60. We’re talking about Gilbert Arenas, of course, who burnt out fairly quickly but had quite the peak to his career. Arenas scored his 60 in 2006 in a win over the Lakers. Less than a week later, he scored 54 in a win over the Suns. A couple of weeks after that, he scored 51. What a run.
You'll receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams.
Emailed daily. Always FREE!