The NBA's 50 Greatest Single-Game Performances Ever
The NBA has seen some incredible single-game performances.
From Wilt Chamberlain to Magic Johnson to to Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant, the game's greatest players haven't disappointed when it comes to producing big-time statistical games.
Here's a list of the NBA's 50 greatest single-game performances of all-time, a list filled with the greatest players ever to play the game of basketball.
Player's get bonus points for performing on the big stage or under extenuating circumstances, but the main focus is on statistics.
Also, feel free to add your input on what I missed, but realize a ton of incredible games missed the cut; 50 games over the NBA's entire history isn't exactly a whole lot.
Even some of the all-time greats just missed out, with many spectacular performances, but nothing top-50 worthy.
And finally, I chose to only include a couple of Chamberlain's performances because truthfully, this list could be made up almost entirely of his games. I tried to diversify.
50. Reggie Miller, Pacers: 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5
Key Stats: 14-26 FG, 6-11 3PT, 5-6 FT, 39 PTS, 0 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 0 TO
With the Pacers tied 2-2 in a seven game series against the Knicks, Reggie took over in the fourth quarter.
He led Indiana to a 93-86 comeback win, drilling five three-pointers in the fourth quarter, an NBA record at the time.
25 of his game-high 39 points came in the fourth, as the Pacers stunned the Knicks in the Garden, breaking an 11-game losing streak in New York.
The numbers themselves don't merit top-50 consideration, but the one-man fourth quarter comeback and the stage it took place on is enough for it to squeeze in at No. 50.
49. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lakers: 1985 NBA Finals, Game 6
Key Stats: 29 MIN, 13-18 FG, 6-10 FT, 32 PTS, 6 REB, 4 BLK, 0 TO
At first glance, this seems impressive, but not top-50 impressive.
But in this game Kareem took the Lakers on his back and willed them to a win over the Celtics, clinching his second (and last) NBA Finals MVP award.
And if you're thinking that his 32 points was nothing special, realize that they came in just 29 minutes and he was 38 at the time.
He did go on to win two more championships, though.
48. Bill Walton, Trail Blazers: 1977 NBA Finals, Game 6
Key Stats: 42 MIN, 8-15 FG, 4-5 FT, 20 PTS, 23 REB, 7 AST, 8 BLK
This almost-kinda-near-quadruple-double came in the NBA Finals, an impressive feat in itself. Add in the fact that it clinched the championship for the Trail Blazers and a Finals MVP for Walton and it certainly deserves consideration.
Oh yeah, and it capped off a series comeback from 0-2 down to the Sixers.
47. Wilt Chamberlain, 76ers: 1967, Regular Season
I wasn't able to find the box score for this game, but it was one of Wilt's most impressive feats.
Against Baltimore on February 24, 1967, he went a perfect 18-18 from the field—the most field goals made without a miss in NBA history.
46. Reggie Miller, Pacers: 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 1
Key Stats: 7-18 FG, 3-7 3PT, 14-15 FT, 31 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 4 STL, 0 TO
The Knicks are beating the Pacers 105-99 with 16 seconds left.
Miller hits a three, steals the inbound pass and hits another three: 105-105. Just like that.
Then John Starks misses two free throws. And Reggie hits the game-winner. 107-105 Pacers.
This is the greatest 16 seconds ever played by one man. Too bad the rest of his game was just pretty good, or this would be a lot higher.
45. Gilbert Arenas, Wizards: 2006, Regular Season
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Key Stats: 49 MIN, 17-32 FG, 5-12 3PT, 21-27 FT, 60 PTS, 8 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL
In a 147-141 overtime win over the Lakers, Arenas won the game nearly by himself, with an almost-triple-double.
16 of his points came in overtime, an NBA record.
Arenas' remarkable performance really got to Kobe Bryant, who was clearly jaded after the game.
From ESPN.com's recap:
"Asked how the Wizards' guard scored so many, Bryant said, 'First of all, he shot 27 free throws. We as a team shot 30. Think about that.'
Washington shot 60 free throws and made 47.
Bryant added, 'Some of the shots he took tonight, you miss those, they're just terrible shots, just awful. You make them and they're unbelievable shots.'"
44. Kevin Love, Timberwolves: 2009, Regular Season
Key Stats: 11-26 FG, 8-10 FT, 31 PTS, 31 REB (12 OREB, 19 DREB), 5 AST
Just a few months ago, on November 12, 2010, Kevin Love made history by recording the NBA's first 30-30 game in 28 years.
There have been a lot of 30-30 games over the years (most belonging to Wilt Chamberlain), but doing it in today's era was truly incredible.
43. Rick Barry, Warriors: 1974, Regular Season
Key Stats: 43 MIN, 30-45 FG, 4-5 FT, 10 REB, 9 AST
On March 26, 1974, Barry put up a career-high 64 points in a 143-120 win over the Trail Blazers.
Only seven players have bested Barry's mark in NBA history, and only Wilt Chamberlain has topped his mark of 30 field goals made.
This was one of Barry's 14 games of scoring 50-plus points, something only Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor have done more.
42. George Mikan, Lakers: 1952, Regular Season
Key Stats: 61 PTS, 36 REB
On January 20, 1952, Mikan's 61 points came in a 91-81 double-overtime win over the Rochester Royals.
It was the second-highest total in NBA history at the time.
What's even more remarkable about Mikan's game? The rest of the Lakers scored just 30 points.
41. James Worthy, Lakers: 1988 NBA Finals, Game 7
Key Stats: 36 PTS, 16 REB ,10 AST
Worthy's only career triple-double couldn't have come at a better time.
In this pivotal Game 7 against the Pistons, Worthy led the Lakers to a 108-105 win, clinching the championship. He was named Finals MVP.
They didn't call him "Big Game James" for nothing.
40. George Gervin, Spurs: 1978, Regular Season
Key Stats: 33 MIN, 23-49 FG, 17-20 FT, 63 PTS, 2 REB, 1 AST
On April 9, 1978, Gervin had a career day against the New Orleans Jazz. But it wasn't enough for the Spurs, who actually lost the game 153-132.
33 of Gervin's points came in the second quarter, which set the NBA record.
It's the fifth-highest scoring performance in a losing effort, for whatever that's worth.
But most impressively: the game pushed Gervin to first place in the NBA scoring title over David Thompson. Without such a dominant showing, Gervin would have finished second.
39. Tracy McGrady, Magic: 2004, Regular Season
Key Stats: 46 MIN, 20-37 FG, 5-14 3PT, 17-26 FT, 62 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST
In a 108-99 win over the Wizards, McGrady could have scored a whole lot more.
He missed 10 out of his last 11 shots and was just 8-14 from the line in the fourth quarter.
T-Mac put up seven points in the first, 21 in the second, 24 in the third, and 10 in the fourth.
38. Kevin Garnett, Timberwolves: 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, Game 7
Key Stats: 46 MIN, 12-23 FG, 1-1 3PT, 7-11 FT, 32 PTS, 21 REB, 2 AST, 4 STL, 5 BLK
Garnett stepped it up big time in the T-Wolves' first Game 7 in franchise history. His 20 defensive rebounds tied an NBA playoff record.
Minnesota won the game 83-80 over the Kings, advancing to play the Lakers. L.A. won that series in six.
37. LeBron James, Cavaliers: 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Game 7
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Key Stats: 47 MIN, 14-29 FG, 3-11 3PT, 14-19 FT, 45 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 2 TO
LeBron did just about anything you could expect, but the Cavs still came up short in Game 7, losing 97-92 to the Celtics.
Paul Pierce and James went back and forth all night, and while James was better statistically, the Celtics pulled it out.
Say what you want about LeBron, but this was an epic Game 7 performance, even in a loss.
36. Elmore Smith, Lakers: 1973, Regular Season
Key Stat: 17 blocks
The box-score was too tough to find, but Elmore Smith owns the NBA record to this date for blocks in a game. He had 17 on October 28, 1973.
17 blocks is absolutely unreal.
35. Kendall Gill, Nets: 1999, Regular Season
Key Stats: 40 MIN, 15 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST, 11 STL, 2 BLK, 0 TO
On April 3, 1999, Gill's triple-double propelled the 7-24 Nets to an 88-77 over the 19-11 Heat.
His 11 steals are an NBA record, and an incredible accomplishment. You might not think this should be above some 60-plus point games, but Gill's game was more atypical.
34. Latrell Sprewell, Knicks: 2003, Regular Season
Key Stats: 37 MIN, 14-19 FG, 9-9 3PT, 1-2 FT, 38 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST
In a 105-92 win over the Clippers, Spreewell set the record (which Ben Gordon has since tied) for most three-pointers made without a miss (nine).
One of the more impressive feats in NBA history.
33. John Stockton, Jazz, 1988 Western Conference Semifinals, Game 5
Key Stats: 23 PTS, 24 AST, 5 STL
Despite falling 111-109 to the Lakers, Stockton had an otherworldly performance. His 24 assists tied a playoff record.
He stole the ball twice in the last 64 seconds to nearly lead the Jazz to victory, but Michael Cooper hit a game-winner with seven seconds left to hand L.A. the game.
32. Elgin Baylor, Lakers: 1960, Regular Season
Key Stats: 28-48 FG, 15-18 FT, 71 PTS
Baylor led the Lakers to a 123-108 win over the Knicks. His 71 points were an NBA record at the time, until Wilt surpassed him a year later.
Only three players have ever scored more points in a single game.
31. Charles Barkley, Suns: 1994 Playoffs, First Round, Game 3
Key Stats: 23-31 FG, 56 PTS, 14 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL
After being called a "punk" during Game 2, Barkley showed that wasn't the case.
He went off for 27 points on 11-for-11 shooting in the first quarter, finishing with this solid stat-line. The game was a 140-133 shootout win for the Suns over the Warriors.
30. Kobe Bryant, 2003, Regular Season
Key Stats: 37 MIN, 16-28 FG, 12-18 3PT, 45 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 2 TO
The Lakers, just 15-20 at the time, beat an equally mediocre Seattle team, 119-98.
Why is that such a big deal? Kobe made an NBA-record 12 three-pointers (12-of-18). The record was later tied by Donyell Marshall, though.
29. Wilt Chamberlain, Sixers: 1967 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3
Key Stats: 20 PTS, 41 REB
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Chamberlain set a playoff record with 41 rebounds. He also scored 20 points in a win over Bill Russell's Celtics.
41 rebounds in a plyoff game? I know it was a different era, but still...
28. Michael Jordan, Bulls: 1990, Regular Season
Key Stats: 50 MIN, 23-37 FG, 2-6 3PT, 21-23 FT, 69 PTS, 18 REB, 6 AST, 4 STL
MJ's career high in points came on March 28, 1990, in an OT-win over the Cavs.
Only five players in history have scored more points in a game. But Jordan just missed out on the 70-point club, and just missed out on the top-25 here.
And for the record, his 18 rebounds were also a career high. This was MJ's best statistical game ever.
27. Allen Iverson, 2001 Playoffs
Key Stats: 43 MIN, 21-32 FG, 8-14 3PT, 2-2 FT, 52 PTS, 2 REB, 7 AST, 4 STL, 1 TO
After Iverson scored 54 in Game 2, the Raptors allowed AI to put up 52 points in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
He sat out the last five minutes of the 121-88 win, which gave the Sixers a 3-2 series lead over the Raptors, They eventually won in seven.
Toronto knew what was coming after Game 2, but still couldn't stop "The Answer" from topping himself.
26. Dwyane Wade, Heat: 2006 NBA Finals, Game 3
Scott Boehm/Getty Images
Key Stats: 43 MIN, 14-26 FG, 1-2 3PT, 13-18 FT, 42 PTS, 13 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL
Down 2-0 to the Mavs and trailing in the fourth quarter, Wade scored 15 fourth-quarter points to lead the Heat to a combeack win. They closed the game on a 22-7 run, swinging the momentum into their favor. Miami eventually won it all in six.
A finals-swinging and career-defining performance from Wade.
25. Allen Iverson, 76ers: 2001 Finals, Game 1
Key Stats: 52 MIN, 18-41 FG, 3-8 3PT, 9-9 FT, 48 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 5 STL, 3 TO
Iverson, leading an overmatched Sixers squad against the Lakers, willed Philly to a 107-101 OT-win...on the road.
He scored 30 first half points, and then after being shut down in the fourth quarter, came back and dominated overtime with seven points, including a three-pointer over Tyronne Lue which was all the Sixers wound up needing.
But the Lakers won four straight after Game 1.
24. Dominique Wilkins, Hawks: 1988 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7
Key Stats: 19-23 FG, 47 PTS
In Boston against Larry Bird and the Celtics, Wilkins played a near-perfect game, missing just four field goals.
Bird won the shootout in the end, but Wilkins did everything possible to give the Hawks the win. It was one of the greatest finals games of all-time, with the Celtics winning 118-116.
Wilkins scored 13 points in the last six minutes, keeping pace with Bird, who scored 11. His 47 points were a game high.
23. Jerry West, 1969 NBA Finals Game 7
Key Stats: 43 PTS, 13 REB, 12 AST
This was West's best game in the '69 finals, and even though the Lakers lost, he was named Finals MVP.
That's a one-of-a-kind achievement.
22. Scott Skiles, Magic: Regular Season, 1990
Key Stats: 44 MIN, 7-13 FG, 2-3 3PT, 6-7 FT, 22 PTS, 6 REB, 30 AST, 2 STL, 4 TO
In a thrilling matchup between the 6-22 Denver Nuggets and 6-23 Orlando Magic, Skiles had a night he'll never forget.
In a 155-116 win where points were being scored in an instant, Skiles set an NBA record by dishing out 30 assists. His assist:turnover ratio was nearly 8:1.
His record still stands today.
21. Bob Cousy, Celtics: 1953 Division Semifinals, Game 2
Key Stats: 30-32 FT, 50 PTS
In just his third season in the NBA, Cousy made his mark in the clinching game of this best-of-three series.
The Celtics took out the Syracuse Nationals 111-105 in quadruple-overtime, scoring a then-playoff record 50 points.
Cousy was struggling with a bad leg, but forced the game into overtime and then scored all four of the Celtics' points in the second overtime. Next, he hit a game-tying jumper to force a third overtime, and followed it up by scoring five straight points to re-tie the game in the fourth overtime, before the Celtics finally prevailed.
The game lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes.
20. David Thompson, Nuggets: 1978, Regular Season
Key Stats: 43 MIN, 28-38 FG, 17-20 FT, 73 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST
The only players to score more points than Thompson in a game? Kobe Bryant and Wilt Chamberlain. Pretty good company.
Too bad it came in a 139-137 loss to the Pistons.
Note: This came on the same night as Gervin's 63 (No. 40), meaning that even after putting up 73 points, Gervin beat out Thompon by just .07 points per game for the NBA scoring title.
19. Wilt Chamberlain, Lakers: 1965 Eastern Division Finals, Game 7
In a heartbreaking 110-109 loss to the Celtics, Wilt went off.
With Bill Russell on him, Chamberlain won the individual matchup, holding Russell to 16 points (albeit with 27 rebounds and eight assists).
Chamberlain made two free throws and dunked on Russell in the last minute to cut the lead to one, but the Lakers couldn't finish it off.
The Celtics went on to win the NBA Finals.
18. Michael Jordan, Bulls: 1986 Playoffs, First Round, Game 1
Key Stats: 53 MIN, 22-41 FG, 19-21 FT, 63 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST
Michael Jordan's 63 points are a playoff-record.
But it wasn't enough, as the Bulls lost 135-131 in double-OT to the Boston Celtics, the eventual NBA Champions.
Jordan had only played in 18 regular season games during the 1985-1986 season due to a broken foot. The game showed people what Jordan would eventually become.
17. Tim Duncan, Spurs: 2003 NBA Finals, Game 6
Key Stats: 46 MIN, 9-19 FG, 3-5 FT, 20 REB, 10 AST, 8 BLK
Duncan, the league MVP and eventual Finals MVP, took over Game 6, not allowing the Nets to have a chance. The Spurs won 88-77, clinching the NBA title.
His near-quadruple-double was one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history.
16. Joe Fulks, Philadelphia Warriors: 1949, Regular Season
Key Stats: 27-56 FG, 9-14 FT
Fulks' performance came on February 10, 1949 in a 108-87 win over the Indianapolis Jets.
63 points is impressive in any era. But realize this was a record at the time and before the advent of the shot clock.
15. David Robinson, Spurs: 1994, Regular Season
Key Stats: 44 MIN, 26-41 FG, 1-2 3PT, 18-25 FT, 71 PTS, 14 REB, 5 AST
The second-highest point total since 1978.
San Antonio scored just 112 points in an easy win over the Clippers. The career-performance won him the NBA scoring title over Shaq on the last day of the season.
14. Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers: 2000 NBA Finals, Game 2
Key Stats: 46 MIN, 11-18 FG, 18-39 FT, 40 PTS, 24 REB, 4 AST, 3 BLK, 2 TO
Shaq has had plenty of finals'performances worthy of this list, but his stat-line in a 111-104 Game 2 win over the Pacers is jaw-dropping.
40 and 24.
Unsurprisingly, the Lakers won it all and Shaq was named Finals MVP.
Imagine if he didn't miss 21 free throws...
13. Tim Duncan, Spurs: 2003 NBA Finals, Game 1
Key Stats: 44 MIN, 11-17 FG, 10-14 FT, 32 PTS, 20 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL, 7 BLK. 1 TO
In a 101-89 win over the Nets, Duncan played what may have been his best game of all-time, at least in the Finals.
The Nets never stood a chance in this series, as Duncan was simply too dominant. Don't overlook those seven blocks; Duncan was a force in the Paint in every aspect of the game.
12. Magic Johnson, Lakers: 1980 NBA Finals, Game 6
Key Stats: 14-14 FT, 42 PTS, 15 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK
Magic Johnson, just a 20-year old rookie at the time, started at center for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
He played every position on the floor, leading the Lakers to a finals-clinching win. Johnson is the youngest player and only rookie to win the Finals MVP award.
11. LeBron James, Cavaliers: 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5
Key Stats: 18-33 FG, 10-14 FT, 48 PTS, 9 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL
In a 109-107 double-OT win over the Pistons, James took over, scoring each of the Cavs' final 25 points and 29 of their final 30.
He hit the game-winner with just 2.2 seconds left.
The win put Cleveland up three games to two over Detroit, and it eventually won in five.
10. MJ's Flu Game, 1997 NBA Finals, Game 5
Key Stats: 44 MIN, 13-27 FG, 2-5 3PT, 10-12 FT, 38 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST, 5 STL, 3 BLK, 3 TO
Michael Jordan, battling a serious flu bug, was ill enough to put his playing status in question, even in such a big game, with his unrivaled toughness.
But he played, and played well.
Despite his noticeable discomfort, Jordan led the Bulls to a 90-88 road win and a 3-2 lead in the series. They won the title in Game 6.
9. Kobe Bryant, Lakers: 2003, Regular Season
Key Stats: 33 MIN, 18-31 FG, 4-10 3PT, 22-25 FT, 62 PTS, 8 REB, 0 AST, 3 STL
The stat-line speaks for itself...but what could have been is even more incredible. Bryant was pulled after the third quarter, and when he left, he had 62 points to the Mavericks 61.
Outscoring an entire team is one of the most impressive accomplishments in NBA history.
Why isn't he higher? Blame Phil Jackson.
8. Wilt Chamberlain, 1960, Regular Season
The box-score is unavailable for this one, but Chamberlain posted 55 rebounds, an NBA record.
And it came in his heated rivalry against Bill Russell. Russell's Celtics actually beat Wilt's Philadelphia Warriors in the game.
55 rebounds seems unfathomable, and clearly merits a top-10 selection, even if we don't know the rest of the stat-line.
7. Michael Jordan, Bulls: 1998 NBA Finals, Game 6
Key Stats: 44 MIN, 15-35 FG, 3-7 3PT, 12-15 FT, 45 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 4 STL, 1 TO
Yes, the shot to beat the Jazz. Possibly the greatest shot in basketball history.
Jordan's game-winner was the Finals-clinching win for the Bulls.
6. David Robinson, Spurs: 1994, Regular Season
Key Stats: 43 MIN, 12-30 FG, 10-17 FT, 34 PTS, 10 REB, 10 AST, 10 BLK, 2 STL, 1 TO
Robinson's performance was the most impressive of just four official quadruple-doubles in NBA history. It came in a 115-96 win over Detroit.
A quadruple-double just had to be in the top-10.
5. Elgin Baylor, Lakers: 1962 NBA Finals, Game 5
Key Stats: 22-46 FG, 17-19 FT, 61 PTS, 22 REB
Baylor's 61 points was a then-playoff record, and is still the record for most points in a Finals game, or a regulation playoff game.
And when you add in the 22 rebounds, there's no way this can be out of the top-five.
But while the Lakers won the game126-121, the Celtics won it all.
4. Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers: 2001 NBA Finals, Game 2
Key Stats: 45 MIN, 12-19 FG, 4-10 FT, 28 PTS, 20 REB, 9 AST, 8 BLK, 1 STL
Near quadruple-double: 28 pts, 20 rebs, nine assists and eight blocks
Imagine if Shaq had just dished out one more assist and swatted away two more shots. He could have had a quadruple double in the NBA Finals.
Nonetheless, Finals MVP Shaq gave L.A. a 98-89 win over Philly, evening the series at 1-1. The Lakers went on to win in five.
3. Bill Russell, Celtics: 1962 NBA Finals, Game 7
Key Stats: 30 PTS, 40 REB
Going into a crucial Game 7 against the Lakers, the Celtics needed Bill Russell to step up and stop Lakers star Elgin Baylor. Russell stifled Baylor and forced him to foul out in the fourth quarter.
And his 40 rebounds tied his own NBA Finals record as the Celtics won the game 110-107 in overtime, giving them the Championship.
Couple that with his 30 points, and you'll see why this is the third-greatest performance of all-time.
2. Kobe Bryant, Lakers: 2006, Regular Season
Key Stats: 42 MIN, 28-46 FG, 7-13 3PT, 18-20 FT, 81 PTS, 6 REB, 2 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK
The Lakers beat the Raptors 122-104 on January 22, 2006, but Kobe stole the show.
He scored 55 points in the second half, and his 81 points is the second-highest total by anyone in NBA history.
Clearly the second-best performance ever. And when you account for the era, you could even make an argument for this at number one. But because of the mystique of this next number, and the fact that Kobe was able to utilize the three-point line, he'll have to settle for No. 2.
1. Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia Warriors, 1962, Regular Season
Key Stats: 48 MIN, 36-63 FG, 28-32 FT, 100 PTS, 25 REB, 2 AST, 2 FOULS
The Philadelphia Warriors hosted the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Wilt's Warriors came out on top 169-147, but that's not what people remember.
They remember Wilt scoring an unimaginable 100 points, in a professional basketball game.
Say what you want about his 63 shots, his team running up the score, or whatever you may, but there's no doubt about it: this is he greatest performance of all-time.
Matt Rudnitsky is a student at the University of Michigan and a Featured Columnist/writing intern at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mattrud.