No sooner had LeBron James torched the Charlotte Bobcats last night for a career-high 61 points than basketball experts started asking inevitable questions like: “Is this one of the best individual performances ever?” and “Will King James overtake Kevin Durant in the NBA race for Most Valuable Player?” Well, let’s take a step back and address the former. Just how does his performance stack up against the best 60-plus efforts in basketball’s modern age?
Here are the stats: LeBron shot 22 for 33 from the field (67%) and 8 for 10 from three (80%). The only area where James was “average” was the free throw line. He went 9 for 12 from the free throw line, just at his season average of 75%. He also grabbed 7 rebounds and had 5 assists with only 2 turnovers in 41 minutes.
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Now, take a look at some other absurd scoring outings, all since 1990:
Kobe Bryant: In 2006, Kobe Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, shooting 28 of 46 from the field and hit 7 three-pointers in 13 attempts. He also made 18 of 20 free throws and added 6 rebounds and two assists. He also played with a starting lineup that included Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm, and Smush Parker, which gave him every reason to hoist 46 shots. Also notable is Kobe’s 62-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks just a month earlier, when he sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Shooting percentage: 61%
Free throw percentage: 90%
David Robinson: The Admiral hung 71 points on the Los Angeles Clippers on April 24, 1994, as the Spurs kept feeding him the ball so that he could go on to beat Shaquille O’Neal for the scoring title. Regardless, Robinson’s line was incredible, shooting 26 of 41 for 63% from the floor, including 14 rebounds and 5 assists.
Shooting percentage: 63%
Michael Jordan: MJ’s career-high scoring night clinched a spot in the 1990 playoffs for the Chicago Bulls, netting 69 points in an overtime win against the rival Cleveland Cavaliers. He made 23 of 37 from the field and 21 of 23 free throws, including a career-high 18 rebounds with 6 assists and 4 steals. That night Cavs forward John Williams called Jordan, “one in a million, one in a billion.”
Shooting percentage: 62%
Carmelo Anthony: In terms of efficiency, Melo’s game, also against the Charlotte Bobcats, might come the closest. Anthony tormented Charlotte for 62 points and shot nearly 66% (23 of 35) from the field including 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, a perfect 10 for 10 free throws and 13 boards. Where Anthony's performance fell short of King James was in his inability to record a single assist in the game.
Shooting percentage: 66%
Verdict: LeBron’s numbers rank his performance among the best in basketball history, but Kobe’s efficiency from the field, 3-point line, and free throw line gives him the crown here.