Ranking the Best Six-Game Stretches in Recent NBA History
James is the first player to ever score 30 points and shoot over .600 in six straight games. Does that make it the greatest stretch?
Part of the problem is how do you define what makes a great streak? Is a .600-shooting, 30-point streak the only way you can define greatness? Why not .550 and 25? Or why not 30 points and 10 rebounds?
Using Basketball-Reference's streak finder, I found some of the most remarkable streaks since 1985-86, which is as far back as they go.
It's crucial here to understand that there is a limitation in terms of actually knowing what individual box scores are. Without that information, it's impossible to consider the streaks which preceded the 1985-86 season.
While Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson would doubtless make appearances on this list if we had the data, without the data it's not realistically workable to include them.
Even players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird fail to make the list, in large part because their primes precede the data.
This is not a "modern" bias so much as a "data" bias. Only the period the data could be accounted for is included. Just the same as the fact that Oscar Robertson's steals or Wilt Chamberlains blocks aren't factored into the all-time statistics.
The stretches are ranked based on a combination of game impact and historical rarity.
George McCloud's 5 3-Point Streak in 1996
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All of the other names on this list are, or will be, Hall of Famers. No one ever accused George McCloud of being a Hall of Famer, but that didn't stop him playing like one for a couple of weeks.
In a stretch from February 25 to March 5, 1996, McCloud is the only player to sink five or more three-pointers in six consecutive games. In the span he averaged 26.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.5 steals, 3.0 assists and one block.
Only one other streak of more than three games has occurred since 1985, belonging to Dennis Scott. Remarkably, it was concurrent with McCloud's. In fact, both streaks ended on the exact same day!
That's nearly as random and weird as McCloud ending up on this list.
John Stockton's 15-Assist, 14-Point Streak in 1989
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Since 1985 there have been five streaks of at least 15 assists and 10 points which lasted at least five games. Four of those five came from John Stockton between March of 1988 and December of 1990. The other came from Magic Johnson.
Since then the longest streak was Steve Nash, who had a four-game bout.
It really demonstrates what a phenomenon Stockton was when it came to dishing the ball: his longest streak is more than twice as long as anyone else's and three times as long as any active player.
Stockton's longest such run came in December of '88 and lasted 12 games. But the most impressive six-game stretch came December 3-19 of 1990, when he also scored at least 14 points and recorded one steal in each of the games.
He averaged 18.1 points and a whopping 18.5 assists and 3.5 steals over that stretch and shot .577 from the field.
Only two other players, Magic Johnson (starting January 21, 1991) and Andre Miller (starting February 2, 2002) have put together a streak of even three such games since then.
Michael Jordan's Pure 40-Point Scoring Streak
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Michael Jordan, in just his third season, went on one of the greatest scoring tears since the days of Wilt Chamberlain, beginning with a 41-point outburst against the Lakers on November 28, 1986.
The only problem is that he didn't shoot very well, hitting on only 44 percent of his shots.
The next two games he hit 40 points again, but still with marginal shooting, hitting on only 24 of a total of 60 shots.
Then over the next six games he maintained his 40-point barrage, but he also upped his shooting. He averaged 42.2, shooting .519 from the field and .855 from the stripe. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 3 steals and 1.2 blocks in an all-around effort.
The end result was a nine-game 40-point streak, which has been equaled by only one other player since then. Feel free to guess who that is before advancing to the next slide.
Kobe Bryant's Pure 40-Point Scoring Streak in 2003
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As impressive as Jordan's streak was, Bryant's was even more impressive. From February 6 to 23, 2003, Kobe Bryant went on a historic tear, scoring 40 points or more in nine consecutive games.
Over the course of those games, Bryant averaged 45.8 points on .518 shooting, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He also had 2.3 steals and 1.0 blocks defensively.
The consistency during this six-game streak was enough to make it the best stretch of his career, superseding even the games surrounding his phenomenal 81-point outburst.
In most Jordan versus Bryant comparisons, Jordan wins. But in terms of who had the best nine-game 40-point streak Bryant wins the prize.
Kevin Love's 20-Point, 15-Rebound Steak
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One of the remarkable things about Kevin Love is that he has two talents which would appear to be mutually exclusive: offensive rebounding and three-point shooting.
That means that a player who is consistently the furthest away from the rim is also the player who is most consistently getting the ball off the glass. Even when he's not taking the three, he's often positioned to take the three and crashing the boards hard.
To be able to close that ground and establish position is a pretty remarkable skill. To do it with unmatched consistency is even more impressive.
He had a 20-point, 15-rebound streak from December 3 to 11, 2010. He is the only player other than Charles Barkley to have a six-game stretch with those numbers.
Over that stretch he averaged over four three-point attempts and over five offensive boards a contest. That's what makes Kevin Love one of the most exciting young players in the game today.
Shaquille O'Neal's 30-Point, 10-Rebound Streak in 2001
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Shaquille O'Neal's stretch started on April Fool's Day, 2001, but he was not "Shaqtin' a Fool" by any stretch. He scored 31 points on just 13 shot attempts and grabbed 11 rebounds.
It was the second consecutive game where he shot better than .540 from the field, scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds per game.
His averages during that time were 34.3 points and 11.7 rebounds while shooting .627 from the field.
That might not sound as impressive as it really is. No one has done it since then. In fact, since 1985, the only other such five-game streak is Karl Malone from April 11 to 19, 1988.
What makes O'Neal's stretch even more impressive is that this six-game stretch is nestled in a larger stretch of 10 games where he shot .500 or better, grabbed 10 boards and scored 30 points. Since then, no one has a streak of more than four such games.
Charles Barkley's 25-Point, 15-Rebound Streak
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Charles Barkley is the only player other than Kevin Love to have a stretch of 20 points and 15 rebounds which spanned six games or more.
In fact, he did it twice. The first time was in 1986, from February 13 to 25, when he went seven games. The second time was in 1990, from January 20 to 31.
During the second stretch he actually scored 26 points every game, making it the only 25-and-10 recorded streak. His averages over that stretch were a monstrous 30.3 points and 18 rebounds. He also shot .702, dished 2.2 assists and snagged 2.5 steals.
For a player that was generously listed at 6'6", Barkley was a rebounding monster. He was the shortest player to ever win a rebounding title. He was called the "Round Mound of Rebound" with good cause.
Michael Jordan's Triple-Double Streak in 1989
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During one of the most remarkable streaks in the modern history of the game, Michael Jordan, assuming an experimental role as a point guard, had a run of seven consecutive triple-doubles running from March 25 to April 6 in 1989.
The last six of those makes this list because in each of those final games he not only had a triple-double, he also scored 25 points in every one of them.
In that stretch, Jordan averaged 32.2 points on .519 shooting, 10.8 assists and 11.5 rebounds. He also averaged 3.2 steals.
After his streak ended, Jordan went ahead and had another streak of three straight triple-doubles, netting a total of 10 in 11 games. Furthermore, over a 24-game stretch, he nearly averaged a triple-double, scoring 30.8 points, dishing 10.8 assists and averaging 9.5 rebounds per game.
Since Jordan's streak, the longest triple-double streak is shared by three players: Grant Hill, LeBron James and Jason Kidd.
Jordan's 10 triple-doubles in 11 games is one of the great accomplishments in the modern game.
LeBron James' 30-Point, .600-Shooting Streak
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LeBron James has been putting on a show for the ages, and a big part of that show is proving one thing that a lot of his critics should immediately recant.
Namely, this completely disingenuous notion that James is merely a product of being the most perfect physical specimen in the history of the game.
Granted, he is a perfect physical specimen.
However, such criticism dismisses two things that James deserves tremendous credit for.
First, he does work on his game. Second he does have a tremendous basketball IQ. If you doubt that, someday you can fly to Texas, we'll sit down and watch some film together. I'll show you how play after play he makes the exact right decision.
Or else you can just look at what he's been accomplishing over the last six games. What he's done is eliminate virtually every bad shot. The incredible .717 field goal percentage over that stretch is as much an indication of his impressive grasp of the game as it is of his surreal physical talent.
There's a reason that no other player has ever scored 30 points in six consecutive games and made at least 60 percent of their attempts in each of them. James has averaged 30.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists over his stretch, along with 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks.
James may very well have one of the five highest basketball IQs in the game.
Michael Jordan's "I Am the Greatest" Run in 1990
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The greatest six-game stretch marks the third appearance of Michael Jordan on this list. This was an all-around streak of scoring 25 or more points on .550 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. No other player has even put together more than a three-game streak like that since 1985.
But it's not the minimum numbers here that are why he's at the top, it's his overall performance. Over the course of six games, Jordan averaged a mind-blowing 46.8 points, along with 9.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 4.7 steals and 1.2 blocks. He shot .604 from the field for the stretch.
To put in perspective, it's worth looking at his average "Game Score": a formula created by John Hollinger to measure a player's impact on the game.
LeBron's average game score over his streak is a remarkable 30.8. Jordan's over this six-game stretch is a colossal 41.2.