Many NBA players across the years have used their birthday as motivation to push themselves to greater heights. Whilst some haven’t quite succeeded in helping their team to victory, there have been some entertaining performances along the way. Here’s a ranking of the 10 best birthday game performances of all time.
10. Shaquille O’Neal – 6th March 2006 (34th Birthday): 35 Points, 12 Rebounds, 3 Assists
Whilst his 3/11 shooting efforts from the free-throw line isn’t exactly the marker of a great game, his performance, nonetheless, was a strong reminder that he was still capable of carrying a team to victory.
In the absence of Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal scored all 8 points for the Heat in overtime as they clung on for a 1-point victory.
9. Russell Westbrook – 12th November 2010 (22nd Birthday): 36 Points, 7 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 3 Steals, 2 Blocks, 54.5% FG
At the tender age of just 22, Russell Westbrook showed his ability to stuff the stat sheet in a two-point victory against the Portland Trail Blazers. He scored 11 of his 36 points in the 4th Quarter to help the Thunder overcome a 5-point deficit late in the game.
8. Hakeem Olajuwon – 21st January 1993 (30th Birthday): 38 Points, 8 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 2 Steals, 7 Blocks
Hakeem Olajuwon took over against the Detroit Pistons on both ends of the floor finishing up with a monster stat line against the “bad boy” Pistons. His showing against the Pistons was just one of the many magnificent performances for Hakeem Olajuwon that season.
7. LeBron James – 30th December 2011 (27th Birthday): 34 Points, 8 Rebounds, 10 Assists, 4 Steals, 1 Block, 61.5% FG
LeBron had a number of strong birthday performances and, at this point in time, he still holds the highest points per game average of any NBA player on their birthday. In this particular game, LeBron seemed to be enjoying himself as he threw down dunk after dunk to entertain the crowd.
With the Heat trailing by 3 and just over a minute to go, LeBron converted a three-point play to tie it late. In the dying seconds of the game, LeBron’s inbounds pass found Wade for the winning bucket.
6. Michael Jordan – 17th February 1992 (29th Birthday): 46 Points, 4 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 65.6% FG
You’d be hard-pressed to find a list of great NBA performances without Michael Jordan getting into that list. Jordan faced off against the Cavaliers, a team to which he was a constant torment. Once again, he exploded for 46 points on an amazing shooting percentage. Despite his heroics, the Cavaliers still left as victors after holding off the Chicago Bulls by 1 point. This matchup turned out to be a prequel to the Eastern Conference Finals that year, where the Chicago Bulls exacted revenge.
5. Oscar Robertson – 24th November 1963 (25th Birthday): 32 Points, 13 Rebounds, 9 Assists, 70.6% FG
“The Big O” showed up against Bob Pettit and the St. Louis Hawks with a stat line that would be impressive regardless of the era. Not only did he show his all-around dominance, but his great shooting percentage showed his amazing efficiency as well as he helped the Royals to a victory.
4. Dominique Wilkins – 12th January 1987 (27th Birthday): 53 Points, 6 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals, 3 Blocks, 76.0% FG
Dominique powered the Hawks to a comfortable victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on his birthday. His memorable performance was the second-highest individual birthday scoring effort of all time and he was an incredible 19-25 from the field. No other player in the game tallied more than 18 points.
3. Anthony Davis – 11th March 2017 (24th Birthday): 46 Points, 21 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 1 Blocks, 4-5 3P
In the most recent addition to the list and a game where DeMarcus Cousins played just 25 minutes, the Pelicans outlasted the Charlotte Hornets in overtime. The victory came on the back of an immense performance by Anthony Davis who scored 24 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined. He scored some important three-pointers late in the fourth before taking over in overtime.
2. LeBron James – 30th December 2009 (25th Birthday): 48 Points, 10 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 2 Steals, 2 Blocks, 4-6 3P, 65.2% FG
The Hawks looked poised to upset LeBron on his birthday, holding a 17-point lead in the third quarter but LeBron’s 25 second-half points willed the Cavs back into the game. With just under 5 minutes to go in the game, the Cavs took their first lead but the game went back and forth up until the final seconds of the game. With just 17 seconds left, Anderson Varejão hit the first (and only) three-pointer of his career to give LeBron the perfect birthday gift.
1. Shaquille O’Neal – 6th March 2000 (28th Birthday): 61 Points, 23 Rebounds (7 Offensive), 3 Assists
The Lakers faced off against the Clippers on Shaquille O’Neal’s 28th birthday and he wasn’t about to let anyone forget it was his birthday that easily. Shaquille O’Neal set an iconic career high in a game that still sets the precedent for elite birthday performances. He was at his unstoppable best, gobbling up rebounds and showing his unstoppable presence inside. The Clippers had no answer for him as he tore through the team and handed the Lakers a 20-point win.
Many other performances such as Steve Nash’s 19 points at the age of 40, Bill Russell’s 29-Rebound outing or Myles Turner’s 24 points and 16 rebounds could have made this list, as many NBA players have aimed to entertain their fans on their day of celebration. Let’s just hope that there are many more great birthday performances yet to come.