Which player is responsible for the most improbable scoring outburst in recent NBA history?
Toronto Raptors second-year guard Terrence Ross inspired that question by dropping a career-high 51 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 25.
Luckily, thanks to Basketball-Reference, there's a scientific way to go about determining the answer.
Using Basketball-Reference's Game Finder tool, I went back through the last 20 years of NBA games to find every player who scored 50 or more points on a given night. To qualify for this list, the player's 50-point performance could be the only time in his career that he topped 40 points. (Otherwise, the 50-point night isn't all that improbable, is it?)
That narrowed the pool of candidates to eight.
From there, I used the Game Finder tool for each player to find his next-highest-scoring night. The 50-point efforts from players who routinely put up 30-plus points can't be considered as out-of-nowhere as those who never cracked 30 again. (And yes, one man holds that ignominious distinction.)
With those criteria in mind, here are the most improbable 50-point scorers over the past 20 years, starting with an honorable mention that just missed the cut.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all statistics come from Basketball-Reference.com.