When it comes to basketball, the first statistic that a majority of us immediately look to first is the points. After all, to win a game, you have to score more points than your opponent and we’re interested to see who contributed to the final tally. There have been some insane single game performances by players, and when you get to 40 points people get interested.
After a player scores 50, jaws tend to start dropping. When players start to score more than 60 points in a game, though, it’s definitely a headline for days if not years. There have been just 54 games in the history of the ABA and NBA where a player has scored more than 60 points in a game. While that sounds like a lot, that mark has been achieved by just 18 different players.
The most recent addition to the list was just this past season, adding to the list of elite players that have dominated their opponents to score at will. When looking at the overall careers of these players, it can be a bit tough to rank them as almost all are in the Hall of Fame. We went ahead and tried anyway, though, ranking the careers of all 18 NBA players to score more than 60 points in one night.
18 Devin Booker (70 Points)
Devin Booker is on the rear of this list for one reason, and it’s that he’s only played for two seasons thus far in the NBA. The shooting guard from Kentucky has gotten off to a hot start, however, and put up more than 22 points per game in his second season. He joined the club of players to score more than 60 points in a game on March 24, 2017 when he put up a whopping 70 points against the Celtics.
Strangely enough, the Suns actually lost the game by a score of 130-120. Still, it was the 10th highest scoring performance in a game in NBA history. Booker doesn’t have any accolades outside of that just yet, but since he has more than a decade left in the NBA (health willing), there’s a solid chance that he’ll climb this list over the years.
17 Joe Fulks (63 Points)
So how much do you know about “Jumpin’” Joe Fulks? Probably not much, since Fulks’s career was over more than 60 years ago. Fulks’s best season came in his rookie year when he was already 25 years old, putting up 23.2 points per game. His numbers would mostly decline from there, but he did put up 63 points on February 10, 1949 as his Philadelphia Warriors defeated the Indianapolis Jets by a score of 108-87.
At the time, Fulks’s performance was the highest scoring individual game in professional basketball, and it would be more than a decade before he was topped. Since then, 26 people have topped Fulks, who finished his career with one championship, two All Star nods and four All-League team nominations, scoring 16.4 points and hauling in 5.3 rebounds per game.
16 David Thompson (73 Points)
One of those forgotten stars of the late 1970s and early 1980s, David Thompson was once the first overall pick in 1975 by Denver in 1975. Thompson had a great rookie season with 26 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, but never really built off of those numbers. Still, he would end up being a five-time All Star and two-time All-NBA player.
Thompson’s brilliant performance came on April 9, 1978 in a losing effort against the Detroit Pistons as he put up 73 points. At the time, it was the highest scoring effort by someone not named Wilt Chamberlain, and only one person has passed him since then. Thompson is a Hall of Famer, but usually doesn’t get mentioned among the greats. Still, you can’t take that one night away from him.
15 Pete Maravich (68 Points)
Ask some people in their '50s and '60s who the best player they ever watched was, and you’ll be surprised by how many say “Pistol” Pete Maravich. The former LSU star was the third overall pick in 1970 by Atlanta, and he exploded onto the scene as one of the league’s best scorers at a young age. Before injuries started to take their toll, Maravich was scoring more than 30 points per game while also collecting five rebounds and five assists.
While playing with the Jazz on February 25, 1977, Maravich had his highest scoring night with 68 points against the New York Knicks, as the Jazz won 124-107. It would be the only season that Maravich won the scoring title, but he did have four All-NBA team nods. Had he played for longer, Maravich could have been one of the most decorated players of all-time, but sadly his career was cut a bit short.
14 George Mikan (61 Points)
Unless you’re at least 70 years old, you’ve probably only heard of the name George Mikan without ever seeing him in action. “Mr. Basketball” was one of the original NBA stars coming out of DePaul in the 1940s, playing just seven professional seasons in the pros, all with the Minnesota Lakers. Mikan’s first three seasons in the NBA were brilliant as he averaged 28 points and 14 rebounds per game, but retired at just 30 years old before coming back for one more season.
Mikan was very decorated in a short amount of time with five championships and six All-League honors, but longevity counts in his list. Mikan had his high scoring night on January 20, 1952 when he put up 61 against the Rochester Royals as the team won 91-81. When it happened, it was the second highest scoring mark of all-time.
13 Tracy McGrady (62 Points)
Though his prime wasn’t as long as some of the all-time greats, Tracy McGrady will certainly be remembered as one of the best players of the New Millennium thus far. McGrady played for six different teams over the course of 15 seasons, being named to seven All-NBA and All Star teams, while averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
McGrady joined this prestigious group on March 10, 2004 while playing for Orlando, a team that was 18-48 at the time. He gave the home crowd something to cheer for against the Wizards, however, as McGrady scored 62 points in a 108-99 win. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he joined the list as McGrady also did lead the league in scoring twice during his career, and became a Hall of Fame in 2017.
12 Carmelo Anthony (62 Points)
So far in his career, Carmelo Anthony has been noted as the guy that can put up a lot of points, but hasn’t quite sniffed the promised land. In 14 seasons in the NBA, Anthony has split his time between the Nuggets and Knicks, averaging 24.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. His career has also earned him six All-NBA and 10 All Star honors during that time.
Anthony currently sits at 30th on the all-time scoring list and has a chance to reach the top 20 in the 2017-18 season. Part of that is thanks to his performance on January 24, 2014 as the Knicks defeated the Bobcats 125-96. Anthony scored 62 points with 13 rebounds during that game,dominating Charlotte the entire time.
11 George Gervin (63 Points)
While it was fairly easy to rank the players on the list thus far, things start to get extremely difficult from here on out. Any list that has George Gervin outside of the top 10 is certainly loaded with legends. The “Iceman” was a scoring machine during his career, leading the league on four occasions, including his highest scoring effort on April 9, 1978. In an absolute shootout, Gervin put up 63 points as the Spurs tallied 132 points.
Still, the New Orleans Jazz would score 153 points to make the game a blowout. Over the course of his career, Gervin would average 25.1 points per game, and the Hall of Famer was named as an All-League player nine times and an All Star a dozen times. However, he was lacking in the MVP and championship department.
10 Elgin Baylor (63, 64, and 71 Points)
Averaging more than 27 points and 13 rebounds in a season is pretty insane, but just imagine doing that over the course of a 14 season career. Elgin Baylor did that, after becoming the first overall draft pick in 1958 by Minnesota, who would then move to Los Angeles after Baylor’s first two seasons. At one point, Baylor was averaging more than 34 points per game and hauling in nearly 20 rebounds per game.
Baylor was a 10-time All-NBA player and 11-time All Star that made the list of scoring more than 60 points in a game on three separate occasions. The most notable one came on November 15, 1960 as Baylor put up 71 points as the Lakers beat the Knicks 123-108. Baylor also had 64 points in a game in 1959 and 63 points in 1961.
9 Jerry West (63 Points)
The man who supposedly the NBA logo is based off of interestingly only scored more than 60 points in a game on one occasion. That game came on January 17, 1962 when he scored 63 points as his Lakers defeated the Knicks by a score of 129-121. West was one of the most prolific scorers of his time, and is sitting at 24th on the all-time list right now. He would lead the league in scoring once and spent his entire career with the Lakers.
West averaged 27 points per game in his prestigious career, earning a dozen All-NBA honors and was named to 14 All Star teams. West won a pair of MVP titles, but one was in an All Star Game while the other was in the 1969 NBA Finals. His only championship, however came in 1972.
8 Rick Barry (64 Points)
The man known for his underhand free throw shots nearly joined this club of players when he scored 57 points on two separate occasions, and finally broke through on March 26, 1974 while playing with Golden State. Barry scored 64 points with 10 rebounds, nine assists and five steals in one of the greatest performances ever, as the Warriors defeated Portland by a score of 143-120.
Barry averaged nearly 25 points per game in his career with 6.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists, leading the league in scoring in 1966-67. Barry was also a 10-time All-League player in both the ABA and NBA, earning a dozen All Star team nods, and he won the 1975 NBA Championship with Golden State. Barry is 22nd all-time in scoring, and would likely be higher if he wasn’t barred for a year during his prime.
7 David Robinson (71 Points)
The highest scoring effort of the 1990s came on April 24, 1994 thanks to David Robinson. “The Admiral” helped the Spurs beat the Clippers 112-97 thanks to his astounding performance of 71 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. It was just one of the many great nights that Robinson had. If Robinson hadn’t started his career later than the average NBA player (due to military service), he would undoubtedly be much higher on the scoring list than 42nd.
Robinson was still able to put up 14 fantastic season, though. Robinson made 10 All Star and 10 All-NBA teams in the process. Robinson also averaged a double-double in his career, earning eight All-Defensive team honors and two NBA Championships. He got a little boost on the list thanks to his MVP Award during the 1994-95 NBA season.
6 Karl Malone (61 Points)
Perhaps the greatest NBA player to never win a championship, Karl Malone played his first 18 seasons with the Utah Jazz before finishing in the 2003-04 season with the Lakers. Malone is the second highest scorer in NBA history, but only up more than 60 points on one occasion, and he barely made the list with 61. It happened on January 27, 1990 as the Jazz defeated the Bucks 144-96.
Malone was incredibly consistent in his scoring and had a very long career, but it’s still a surprise to see he only eclipsed 60 points once. The Hall of Famer finished with 14 All-NBA and All Star team honors, and averaged a double-double with 25.0 points and 10.1 rebounds per game in his career, winning two MVP awards.
5 Shaquille O'Neal (61 Points)
Another player that you thought would have scored more than 60 points on several occasions, Shaquille O’Neal was just like Malone in the fact that he scored 61 just once. O’Neal’s big night came on March 6, 2000 as the Lakers beat the Clippers 123-103, and Shaq even added 23 rebounds and three assists.
One of the best big men to ever play in the NBA, O’Neal was a three-time All-Defensive player that won the 1999-2000 MVP Award. Add in four NBA Championships, 15 All Star and 14 All-NBA honors, and it’s easy to see why some people put him as the greatest center to ever play. Don’t let Shaq’s final few seasons in the league tarnish his legacy, as he was still able to average 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds in his career despite struggling with the Cavaliers and Celtics later on.
4 Kobe Bryant (61, 62, 65, and 81 Points)
The man that will always be closely associated with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant spent his entire 20 season career with the Los Angeles Lakers. During that time, Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, leading the league in scoring twice. Some of Bryant’s other accolades include 18 All Star Game appearances and 15 All-NBA team honors, winning the NBA Finals MVP Award twice.
Bryant also won the 2007-08 league MVP award and had a dozen All-Defensive team nominations. Bryant finished his career with the third most points in NBA history, surpassing everyone by Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He also scored more than 60 points in a game four times (and had 60 points on two other occasions). The one that we all remember was on January 22, 2006 against the Raptors as Bryant put up 81 points, the second most in one game all-time.
3 Wilt Chamberlain (29 Times)
The only player to have more points in a game than Kobe Bryant is far ahead of everybody in that regard, and will likely never be touched. Wilt Chamberlain famously put up an even 100 points and 25 rebounds with the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 win over the New York Knicks. That wouldn’t be the only time Chamberlain scored over 60 points, as it has been done 54 times...29 of them by Chamberlain.
Though the competition wasn’t what it is now, Chamberlain was absolutely dominant in his career, leading the league in scoring seven times with four MVP Awards, 13 All Star appearances and 10 All-NBA teams. Chamberlain won a pair of titles on his way to averaging 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game. Because of the way the game is now, we’ll never see numbers like that again, especially like Chamberlain’s 1961-62 season when he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game.
2 LeBron James (61 Points)
You might be surprised to find out that LeBron James has only ever scored more than 60 points in a game on one occasion. That came back on March 3, 2014 while James was with the Heat, scoring 61 points in a 124-107 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. After 14 NBA seasons, James already has a laundry list of accolades, and it seems that he isn’t slowing down much, either.
James is already in the top 10 all-time in scoring, averaging 27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game. Though his numbers aren’t as eye popping as Chamberlain’s, James has had to face much stiffer competition. He also has three NBA titles with four MVP Awards, while earning 13 All-NBA and All Star team honors. When it’s all said and done, many will say that James was the greatest NBA player ever.
1 Michael Jordan (61-twice, 63, 64, and 69 Points)
However, James will always be compared to the player that most consider to be the greatest of all-time. Michael Jordan, the fourth highest scorer in NBA history, scored more than 60 points on four occasions during the regular season. The game where he scored over 60 that was the most memorable, however, came in the playoffs in 1986 when he put up 63 points against the Celtics in a close loss.
Jordan’s numbers certainly put him atop the list as he put up 30.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game over his career, carrying the Bulls to six championships. Jordan also led the league in scoring 10 times, earning five MVP Awards and had a slew of other accolades that are too long to list. Everyone has their idea of the greatest, and for many people, it’s MJ.