After the completion of the 75th Anniversary of the NBA, we have seen about eight decades of basketball. Dating back to the 1940s, players were putting up a high volume of shots to set a high scoring mark. As time went on, records were broken and new highs were set, while some highs of 100 points have never been taken down despite it going on 60 years since its completion.
Some fans are lucky enough to remember Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Michael Jordan, while today’s younger fans remember Kobe Bryant and Devin Booker as their greatest scoring game. If anything, each leading scorer from each decade was consistent. The goal was to get the ball to the hoop and they didn’t rely on the three-point line, which might shock you for one particular player.
These are the most points in a game per decade.
1940s - Joe Fulks (63 Points)
Date: February 10, 1949
As the young sport was taking off, Fulks was the initial record holder for most points in a game. His 63 points helped the Philadelphia Warriors defeat the now-defunct Indianapolis Jets 108-87. Fulks nearly made up 60% of the team’s scoring and did so consistently.
Fulks scored 15 points in the first and second quarters. He followed that up with 19 points in the third and 14 points in the final frame. He finished the game shooting 27 of 56 from the field, nearly shooting 50%. That also included making 9 of 14 free throws. This game plan was simple. Get the ball to Fulks and let him shoot.
1950s - Elgin Baylor (64 Points)
Date: November 8, 1959
About 10 years later, we had a new leading scorer as Baylor played 50 minutes to accumulate 64 points. With Baylor leading the way, the Minneapolis Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 136-115. Baylor managed to nearly score half of his team’s points in the blowout victory. He could have probably dialed it back just a tad and the Lakers would have still won this game.
Baylor nearly finished the game with a triple-double. He added 17 rebounds and eight assists to the night. From the field, Baylor nearly shot 50%, shooting 25 of 47 from the field, which included 14 of 19 from the line. He began the game with 25 points in the first half and followed that with 17 points in the third and 22 points to close out the game.
1960s - Wilt Chamberlain (100 Points)
Date: March 2, 1962
The greatest game ever played by an NBA player came in the 60s. It remains the all-time leading mark for points in a game. Chamberlain’s 100 points led the Philadelphia Warriors to 169-147 points. For the simple match, Chamberlain’s teammates still managed to score 69 points, which shows how much offense was taking place this night.
Chamberlain scored 23 points in the first quarter, 18 in the second, and then erupted in the second half. Of his 59 second-half points, 28 came in the third, while 31 points came in the fourth despite the Warriors holding a massive lead. Chamberlain shot 36 of 63 from the field and made 28 of 32 free throws, which is an impressive feat given how horrid of a free throw shooter he was.
1970s - David Thompson (73 Points)
Date: April 9, 1979
Perhaps an unexpected name for some, Thompson was a solid player for the Denver Nuggets. With that said, his 73 points were still not enough to help his team defeat the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons spoiled the night by winning 139-137. Thompson played 43 minutes, shot 28 of 38 from the field, and made 17 of 20 free throws despite the loss.
What some take away from this game is how the Pistons were able to adjust in the second half. Thompson scored 53 first-half points, 32 of which came in the first quarter. In the second half, Thompson was limited to 20 points, including just nine in the third. By slowing down the big man, the Pistons were able to prevail.
1980s - Michael Jordan (63 Points)
Date: April 20, 1986
Jordan is the only player on this list to accomplish his goal in the playoffs. Jordan was a young player at the time getting his first real experience in the playoffs. Jordan scored 63 points to lead his Bulls, but the Celtics still defeated the Bulls 135-131. Given that the Celtics were led by Larry Bird and Kevin McHale at the time, it’s still an impressive accomplishment.
Jordan played 53 minutes and shot 22 of 41 from the field as a guard. He didn’t take a single three-point shot and made 19 of 21 shots at the free-throw line. The 63 points by Jordan would not be his career-high. He would score 69 points and 64 points in the 90s, but one player would ultimately score more points than Jordan in that decade.
1990s - David Robinson (71 Points)
Date: April 24, 1994
The only player to score more points than Jordan in the 90s was David Robinson. At this point, it’s hard to speculate what is more impressive. Robinson scored at least 70 or Jordan never accomplished it once. Robinson used his 71 points to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 112-97 victory over the Celtics.
Robinson finished the game playing 44 minutes and finished 26 of 41 from the field for a highly efficient night. That included making 1 of 2 three-point shots and 18 of 25 shots at the line. Robinson enjoyed early success by scoring 18 points in the first quarter before being limited to six points in the second. He scored 19 in the third before erupting for 28 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win down the stretch.
2000s - Kobe Bryant (81 Points)
Date: January 22, 2006
We all know the story about this game. The Lakers were down big. They needed a hero. Instead, they got the Black Mamba, which was even better. Bryant had one of the greatest second halves this generation of fans has ever seen as his 81 points helped the Lakers rally to defeat the Toronto Raptors 122-104.
Bryant played 42 minutes and shot over 50% from the field. He finished the game shooting 28 of 46 from the field, as well as 7 of 13 from three-point range. He also made 90% of his free throws, finishing the night 18 of 20 at the line. Bryant had 26 points in the first half but followed that with a 27-point third quarter and 28-point fourth quarter.
2010s - Devin Booker (70 Points)
Date: March 24, 2017
Booker was in his second season with the Phoenix Suns and just 20 years old. It’s not very often you see a sophomore in the league go off for 70 points, but Booker did exactly that. The only issue was that the Suns were still unable to win the game, losing to the Celtics 130-120. Regardless, it’s the closest resemblance to Kobe Bryant we have seen in the last 15 years.
Booker has been often getting compared to Bryant, especially after the Suns made the NBA Finals. Here is why. In this game, Booker shot 21 of 40 from the field, including 24 of 26 at the free-throw line. His three-point shooting was off, finishing 4 of 11 from behind the arc. He started the game with just 19 points but finished the second half with 51 points, including 28 in the final frame.
2020s - Steph Curry (62 Points)
Date: January 3, 2021
Last season, Curry was at times the entire team’s offense. With Klay Thompson and Draymond Green hurt, Curry was the only piece of the team’s big three. Curry would eventually have one of the best shooting months of the season in April since the days of Kobe Bryant. We should have known it was going to happen after he opened the 2021 year with the best scoring game of the season.
Curry led the Warriors to a 137-132 win over the Trail Blazers with his best overall shooting game. Curry didn’t even shoot well from his natural distance of three-point range. He finished the game 4 of 10 from that area, but made 18 of 31 shots in 36 minutes of action, including 22 of 25 at the free-throw line. Curry opened the game with 21 points. He followed that with 10, 14, and 17 points to finish with his career-high.
Will Stephen Curry Keep The Record?
As we are just two seasons into the new decade, Curry holds the record for most points. The question is will he keep it? We almost saw Curry’s record for this decade fall in back-to-back days. On March 14, 2022, Karl-Anthony Towns scored 60 points. The next day on March 15, Kyrie Irving scored 60 points himself. Since 2020, six players have scored at least 60 points in a game. Joining Curry, Irving, and Towns was Damian Lillard in 2020, and Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum last year.
The easy answer to this question is now. Given that Towns and Irving were so close, it makes you think there is somebody that will go off for at least 70 points. We have seen a 70-point scorer in every decade except for the 80s. It may not be any of these players mentioned either. After all, Kevin Durant’s career-high is 54 points.