If a player can catch fire in the playoffs, that can mean a championship. For some franchises, the playoff surge of scoring from their star has helped their team win multiple titles. Eight of the 10 top scorers in the playoffs won a championship, so if a player can make their way into this territory, you should like the chances for your team.
Meanwhile, Jayson Tatum and Steph Curry are on the outskirts of making the top-10. Tatum and Curry have scored 575 and 552 points respectively. It would take a few pop-off games and the series to go seven games, but you never know. Regardless, this list features eight Finals MVPs and plenty of talent.
Here are the most points by a player in a single playoff run.
10. Kobe Bryant - 671 Points (2009-10 NBA Playoffs)
In 23 games, Bryant made 234 of 511 field goals, which included the second-most three-point field goals among any player on this list. He made 49 of 131 three-pointers, while also making 151 of 183 free throws. Bryant led the Lakers to the NBA Finals for a third straight season and helped the Lakers win their second championship, which included winning Finals MVP.
Bryant topped 30 points twice in the first round, scoring 39 points in Game 2. In the four-game second-round sweep, he scored 31, 30, 35, and 32 points in those games against the Jazz. In the Conference Finals, he topped 40 points in Game 1 but was held to 21 points in the second game. In the last four games, he scored 36, 38, 30, and 37 points. In the Finals, he scored 30 points three times, including 23 points in Game 7.
9. Michael Jordan - 680 Points (1997-98 NBA Playoffs)
For the Chicago Bulls to win their third straight championship, Jordan had to score the second-most playoff points in a single playoff run. At the time, Jordan was runner-up to himself in this department. Jordan made 243 of 526 field goals in 21 games as the Bulls completed the three-peat. That also included making just 13 three-point shots out of 43 attempts and 181 free throws out of 223 attempts.
Jordan scored at least 38 points in two of the three first-round games. He followed that up with three games of at least 30 points in the second round. The seven-game Conference Finals with the Pacers featured some of his best work. That included 31 and 41 points in the first two wins. In the Finals, he scored at least 30 points four times, including 45 points in the series-clinching Game 6 win.
8. Kobe Bryant - 695 Points (2008-09 NBA Playoffs)
When Bryant led the Lakers to their first championship without Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant also scored a high amount of points along the way. Bryant’s fourth championship came from hard work as he made 242 field goals out of 530 attempts. He made 37 of 106 three-pointers, as well as 174 of 197 free throws at the line.
In the first round, he scored 38 and 31 points in Games 4 and 5, respectively. In the second round, he scored 32, 40, and 33 points in the first three games. He was held to 14 points in Game 6 despite the team winning by 19. In the Conference Finals, he topped 40 points twice, and at least 30 points in five of the six games. In the Finals, he scored 40 points in Game 1. Then, he had 29, 31, 32, and 20 points to close out the Magic.
7. LeBron James - 697 Points (2011-12 NBA Playoffs)
James had nearly gone a decade without winning a championship. In his second season with the Heat, he put the team on his back by nearly scoring 700 playoff points. James shot 50% from the field in the playoffs, making 251 of 502 attempts. That included 22 of 85 from three-point range and 173 of 234 from the free-throw line.
James scored 32 points two times in the first round. He scored at least 30 points in three of the six games in the second round, including 40 points in Game 4. In the Conference Finals, the Heat trailed the Celtics 3-2 and it took 45 points from James to keep the Heat alive. He followed that with 31 points in the Game 7 win. In the Finals, James scored 30 and 32 points in the first two games against the Thunder. He closed out the team with 29, 26, and 26 points to win his first Finals MVP.
6. Shaquille O’Neal - 707 Points (1999-00 NBA Playoffs)
Only six players have ever scored at least 700 points in a playoff run. In 2000, O’Neal capped off a regular season where he won MVP by leading the Lakers to a championship, where he also won Finals MVP. O’Neal made 286 of 505 shots and did not take a single three-point shot. He was lackluster at the free-throw line, making only 135 of 296 attempts.
O’Neal looked like the MVP in the playoffs, scoring 46 points in the first game. His success followed him into the second round with 37, 38, and 37 points in the first three games. The seven-game series against the Trail Blazers saw O’Neal score 41 points in the opener, one of two times, he topped 30 points. In the Finals, he scored 43 and 40 points in the first two games. He scored 33, 36, and 35 points in the next three games. In the series clincher, he scored 41 points en route to winning Finals MVP.
5. Allen Iverson - 723 Points (2000-01 NBA Playoffs)
Iverson did everything he could to win Philadelphia a championship. Iverson won the regular season MVP and helped the 76ers win Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers. Instead, the Lakers repeated as champions and Iverson finished his career without a ring. In the playoffs, Iverson was the only player on this list, shooting the ball over 600 times. He made 257 of 661 shots, 48 of 141 from behind the arc, and 161 of 208 free throws.
Iverson scored 45 points in Game 2 of the first round, but he was able to top that total in the second round. The seven-game series saw Iverson score 54 points in Game 2 and 52 points in Game 5. Despite shooting a combined 14 of 51 in the next two games, the 76ers made the Conference Finals. Iverson scored 46 and 44 points in the final two games of the series. In the Finals, Iverson bested Kobe Bryant and Shaq in Game 1 with 48 points, but the Lakers would win the next four games to take the NBA title. Iverson scored 35, 35, and 37 points in the final three games.
4. Hakeem Olajuwon - 725 Points (1994-95 NBA Playoffs)
Only two players from the 90s are in the top-5. That included the 1995 NBA Finals MVP in Olajuwon. One record that he can say that Jordan never did was make over 300 field goals in a playoff run. Olajuwon made 306 of 576 attempts. He made two of four three-point field goals and 111 of 163 free throws as the Houston Rockets repeated as champions this season.
Olajuwon started the playoffs with 45 points in a loss, but the Rockets won the series in five games as he topped 40 points in Game 4. In the second round, the Rockets trailed 3-1 to the Suns, but Olajuwon scored 31, 30, and 29 points to help lead the comeback. Olajuwon topped at least 40 points in three of the six games in the Conference Finals. In the Finals, Olajuwon bested the Magic with 31, 34, 31, and 35 points to eventually earn Finals MVP.
3. Kawhi Leonard - 732 Points (2018-19 NBA Playoffs)
What Leonard did with the Raptors in his one season is even more impressive when you look at the numbers. Leonard scored the third-most playoff points in a single run by making 243 of 496 shots, 55 of 154 three-pointers, and 191 of 216 free throws. Of all players on this list, Leonard made the most free throws by making 10 more than Jordan in 1998.
Leonard scored 37 points in Game 2 and 34 points in Game 4 to set the Raptors up for an epic seven-game series with the 76ers in round two. Leonard scored 45 points in the opener. He then strung along 35, 33, and 39 points in the next three games. In Game 7, he hit the epic game-winning shot to top off his 41-point night. In the Conference Finals, he scored at least 30 points in four of the six games to help the team make the Finals. There, Leonard scored 23, 34, 30, 36, 26, and 22 points to help the Raptors win their first title in team history.
2. LeBron James - 748 Points (2017-18 NBA Playoffs)
James did a little bit of everything in 2018. With Kyrie Irving gone, it was the James and Kevin Love show in Cleveland. The Cavaliers had made the NBA Finals for a fourth straight season despite losing to the Golden State Warriors for the second year in a row. James made 275 of 510 attempts, 39 of 114 three-pointers, and 159 of 213 free throws.
It was a long road to the Finals. That started with a seven-game series in the first round. That included 44 points in Game 5 and 45 points in Game 7. In the second round, he used 26, 43, 38, and 29 points to lead the Cavaliers to a four-game sweep. In the Conference Finals, the series stretched to seven games, where James scored at least 40 points three times, including 46 points in Game 6 and 35 points in Game 7. In the Finals, he scored 51 points in a Game 1 loss and the Cavaliers were eventually swept in four games.
1. Michael Jordan - 759 Points (1991-92 NBA Playoffs)
For the last 30 years, Jordan has owned the record for most points. It appears that with the 2022 NBA Finals, he will continue to hold that record. On their way to defending their title, Jordan took the second-most shots and made the second-most field goals by making 290 of 581. He also made 17 of 44 three-pointers and 162 of 189 free throws.
Fans had to know this was going to be a special playoff when he scored 46 points in the first playoff game. He scored his highest of the playoffs in Game 3 of the first round with 56 points. In the second round, he scored at least 30 points four times, including 42 points in Game 7. In the Conference Finals, he scored 37 points in Game 5 for the Bulls to take control of the series. In the Finals, with the series tied 2-2 again, he scored 46 points to help the team take control. He ended the playoffs with 33 points.
Only True Legends Are Top Playoff Scorers
If you look at the names on the list, Jordan, James, and Bryant make up six of the 10 names. These are three of the biggest legends in league history. It’s going to take a player like this in the future to make the top-10 on this list. To put it into perspective, Kevin Durant won two championships and is not in the top-10. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson made an NBA-record 98 three-point field goals in the playoffs in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and not even they are on this list.
O’Neal and Olajuwon are likely the last two centers to ever have their names in the top-10 unless Nikola Jokic makes a run and wins the NBA Finals. He is likely the only player that has a chance of scoring more than 671 playoff points. However, we could see a new name make its mark. The question is who will that player be?