Ranking Every 70-Plus-Point NBA Game of All Time

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJune 15, 2020

Ranking Every 70-Plus-Point NBA Game of All Time

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    Brian Babineau/Getty Images

    Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part miniseries celebrating the NBA's greatest individual scoring outputs of all time. Check out Part 1, ranking the top 60-point performances.

    A 70-point game is a rarity. Only six players in the history of the league have scored 70 points or more, with Wilt Chamberlain accounting for six of the 11 total scoring outbursts.

    Not all 70-point games are created equally, of course.

    Efficiency matters, as does contributing to the box score in other areas. The significance of the game matters as well.

    For this list, all 11 70-plus-point games have been ranked based on the following:

    Box Score Rank: Scoring is great, but contributing in other areas is important too.

    Efficiency Rank: Scoring 70-plus points on 60 percent shooting is far more impressive than on 40 percent.

    Significance Rank: Why was this game important? Opponents, records and history were all considered.

    Average Rank: Average score from all three rankings. The lower the number, the better. If there's a tie between average ranks, the total number of points scored will serve as the tie-breaker.

No. 11: Wilt Chamberlain Scores 72 Against Lakers in a Loss

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Box Score Rank: 7

    Efficiency Rank: 7

    Significance Rank: 8

    Average Rank: 7.3

    No 70-point game is a bad game, but given Chamberlain's dominance in the early 1960s, one of his performances has to rank at the bottom.

    Before joining the Lakers in 1968, he lit them up for 70 or more points...twice. Both times, however, it wasn't enough.

    Chamberlain's San Francisco Warriors lost to the Lakers 127-115, with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor combining for 79 points to lift L.A. No other Warriors player scored more than 15.

    This became a common theme in the early part of Chamberlain's career, as the 1962-63 Warriors would finish the season just 31-49 despite the Hall of Fame center averaging 44.8 points per game.

No. 10: 20-Year-Old Devin Booker Becomes Youngest Ever to Score 70

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    Box Score Rank: 9

    Efficiency Rank: 10

    Significance Rank: 3

    Average Rank: 7.3

    Booker might have the most surprising 70-point game of all time, lighting up the Celtics in Boston while just a 20-year-old sophomore.

    Doing so before his 21st birthday made Booker the youngest player in NBA history to go for 60 or more, and his six assists in the game were the most by any player scoring 70 or more.

    With Eric Bledsoe, TJ Warren, Brandon Knight and Tyson Chandler all out for what was essentially a meaningless game for the lottery-bound Suns, Booker delivered against a good Celtics team fighting for playoff positioning.

    Going against defenders like Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown, Booker poured in points from all areas of the court, including a 24-of-26 mark from the three-throw line (92.3 percent), the highest accuracy rate of any 70-point scorer.

    While he shot an impressive 52.5 percent overall, that figure ranks next-to-last among all 11 70-plus-point games. Despite his efforts, the Suns would also lose the game 130-120.

No. 9: Wilt Chamberlain Goes for 73 Against the Knicks

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    The Stevenson Collection/Getty Images

    Box Score Rank: 8

    Efficiency Rank: 3

    Significance Rank: 9

    Average Rank: 6.7

    Of the 11 70-plus-point games in NBA history, three were completed against the Knicks.

    In this matchup, New York was just 3-13 overall when Chamberlain's San Francisco Warriors came to town. Not only did the 7'1" center drop 73 on the Knicks, but he also did so with incredible efficiency.

    Chamberlain finished 29-of-43 from the field (67.4 percent) and was 15-of-19 from the line (78.9), a good mark considering his success rate on free throws for the season was just 59.3 percent.

    The scoring performance was one of the best of all time and would be ranked even higher if the quality of the opponent would have been better.

No. 8: Wilt Chamberlain Pulls Down 43 Rebounds to Go with 78 Points vs. Lakers

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    Associated Press

    Box Score Rank: 1

    Efficiency Rank: 11

    Significance Rank: 7

    Average Rank: 6.3

    Chamberlain's 78 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1961, the third-highest scoring game in history, took place during a three-overtime loss.

    Chamberlain's stat line from the game was one of the most eye-popping of all time. In addition to his 78 points, he pulled down 43 rebounds (the most ever in a 70-plus-point game) in his 63 minutes.

    Like in his previous monster game against the Lakers, two stars were better than one.

    No other Warrior scored more than 19, while Elgin Baylor (63 points, 31 rebounds) and Jerry West (32 points, 10 assists) carried L.A. to a 151-147 win.

    While it was the second-highest scoring game in Chamberlain's career, it also marked his least efficient performance (31-of-62 shooting) of any of his 70-plus-point games.

No. 7: Wilt Chamberlain Gets 70 on 71 Percent Shooting vs. Syracuse Nationals

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    Box Score Rank: 5

    Efficiency Rank: 2

    Significance Rank: 11

    Average Rank: 6

    Yet another 70-point game from Chamberlain, this one against a Syracuse Nationals team that would become the Philadelphia 76ers just months later.

    The Nationals would finish the season 48-32, well ahead of Chamberlain's 31-49 San Francisco Warriors, even if no one on Syracuse could slow him down on this night.

    Chamberlain shot 27-of-38 from the floor (71.1 percent), including a 16-of-22 mark from the free-throw line (72.7 percent).

    His incredible performance once again came in a loss, as the Nationals put up 163 points to the Warriors' 148 in regulation.

No. 6: Elgin Baylor Sets Record with 71 Points in 1960

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    Dick Raphael/Getty Images

    Box Score Rank: 4

    Efficiency Rank: 8

    Significance Rank: 6

    Average Rank: 6

    Baylor is also the owner of one of the greatest 60-point games of all time, scoring an NBA Finals record 61 points in 1962, a mark that no player has touched in 58 years.

    In 1960, Baylor's 71 points stood as a record at the time and was one of three such games against the New York Knicks, with the other two coming from Wilt Chamberlain.

    At 6'5", Baylor combined his outstanding jumper and athleticism to put up 34.8 points per game during the 1960-61 season.

    As one of the best rebounders in the NBA as well, Baylor grabbed 25 boards to go along with his 71 points in a 123-108 win.

No. 5: Wilt Chamberlain Scores 73 and 62 in Back-to-Back Nights

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Box Score Rank: 2

    Efficiency Rank: 6

    Significance Rank: 10

    Average Rank: 6

    While it took Chamberlain 62 shots to reach his first 70-plus-point game roughly a month before, his performance against the Chicago Packers (now the Washington Wizards) was far more efficient.

    Going 29-of-48 from the field (60.4 percent), Chamberlain controlled the game with his 73 points and 36 rebounds in a 135-117 win.

    Despite such a heavy workload by putting up those kinds of numbers and playing all 48 minutes, Chamberlain went out and scored 62 points the very next night against Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics.

No. 4: Kobe Bryant Goes for 81 Against the Raptors

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    Box Score Rank: 11

    Efficiency Rank: 5

    Significance Rank: 2

    Average Rank: 6

    No player has come as close to reaching Wilt Chamberlain's record 100 points as Bryant did in 2006.

    Behind a 55-point second half, Bryant went 28-of-46 overall (60.9 percent), 7-of-13 from three (53.8 percent) and 18-of-20 from the free-throw line (90 percent) for his 81 against the Toronto Raptors in a 122-104 win.

    "Not even in my dreams," Bryant said after the game. "That was something that just happened. It's tough to explain. It's just one of those things.

    "It really hasn't, like, set in for me. It's about the 'W.' That's why I turned it on. It turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying."

    Bryant set a record for most three-pointers in a 70-plus game, rounding out his performance with six rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block.

    He would later reveal it was the first and only professional game his grandmother would see him play.

No. 3: David Thompson Shoots 74 Percent on Way to 73 Points

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    Box Score Rank: 10

    Efficiency Rank: 1

    Significance Rank: 5

    Average Rank: 5.3

    Heading into the final game of the 1977-78 season, the NBA scoring title was separated by just 14 total points. Thompson needed a big game to pass George Gervin of the San Antonio Spurs for the crown.

    He responded with a 32-point first quarter, an NBA record that would last just hours before Gervin would score 33 later that night. Thompson's hot hand would continue throughout the game, despite drawing as many as four defenders at times.

    He finished the game with 73 points, a record for guards at the time. It was also the most efficient 70-plus-point game in history, with Thompson nailing 73.7 percent of his shots.

    "I was definitely in the zone; I felt like Superman on steroids. There wasn't a shot I put up that I didn't think, as soon as it left my hands, would go anywhere but in the hoop," Thompson wrote in his book, Skywalker.

    Thompson's 73 points put him in first place in the scoring race before Gervin would score 63 later that night, winning the title by just four points.

No. 2: David Robinson Drops 71 to Win Scoring Title over Shaq

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    Box Score Rank: 6

    Efficiency Rank: 4

    Significance Rank: 4

    Average Rank: 4.7

    Like David Thompson decades earlier, Robinson needed a monster night in the final game of the regular season to win the scoring crown.

    His opponent? The Orlando Magic's Shaquille O'Neal, who led Robinson by .06 points per game.

    The rest of the Spurs pushed Robinson to shoot all night against the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Admiral responded with 71 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in a 112-97 win.

    The pressure was on O'Neal now, who needed 68 points to win back the title. While he finished his regular-season finale with a respectable 32, it was nowhere near enough.

    Robinson finished the season at 29.8 points per game, increasing his average by a half-point with just one game's work.

No. 1: Wilt Chamberlain Sets NBA Record with 100-Point Game

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    PAUL VATHIS/Associated Press

    Box Score Rank: 3

    Efficiency Rank: 9

    Significance Rank: 1

    Average Rank: 4.3

    No player has even scored 90 in a contest, much less matched Chamberlain's record of 100 points.

    On March 2, 1962, the perfect combination of factors came together that led to Chamberlain hitting triple digits. The New York Knicks were 27-46 overall and without starting center Phil Jordon, who was listed as having the flu but was reportedly hungover instead.

    Chamberlain feasted on New York's backups, scoring his 100 points on 36-of-63 shooting from the field (57.1 percent) and an incredible 28-of-32 from the free-throw line (87.5 percent) while pulling down 25 rebounds and handing out two assists.

    The Philadelphia Warriors won the game 169-147, a contest that wasn't televised or had any full radio account to remember it by.

    No matter the lack of coverage or the opponent, a 100-point game is something that may never be reached again.