Dropping 60. A feat in an NBA game that is rarely achieved. When greatness of this magnitude takes place there is cause for a moment of reflection. How amazing is the game that we just witnessed? How great is the player who put on such a performance? In examining the history of games where a player has crossed the 60 point threshold, there are 22 members of the exclusive club while 14 of them are already in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Out of the eight remaining players who are not in the Hall, only two would be considered as long shots, Gilbert Arenas, and Tom Chambers who some believe deserves consideration.
In the last 25 years there have been more than 30,000 NBA games played. During that span only 13 times has a player achieved 60 or more points. To put it in perspective, the league’s all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar never reached this plateau as his career best stands at 55. Only twice has such a performance taken place during the playoffs. Michael Jordan’s 63 in the Boston Garden is a moment that is considered by many his best all-around game (although his Bulls lost), and Elgin Baylor’s incredible 61-point game in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals is perhaps the greatest in championship history. And what about the three-point shot? Obviously a key factor in stacking numbers, however 43 of the 64 occurrences actually came before the three pointer was even implemented, and an additional seven came without a three-point field goal being made in the game. This means nearly 80% of 60 point games were all based on two point baskets and free throws.
For most players, eclipsing 60 points is a once in a lifetime accomplishment, but for four men it was a notch on the belt in multiple appearances on the top of the mountain.
Elgin Baylor (4 Games) – While he never won an NBA championship, Baylor was the prototypical small forward who posted career numbers of 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds a game. As an 11-time All-Star, he topped the 60 point mark four times.
November 8, 1959 – vs Boston Celtics (64)
November 15, 1960 – vs New York Knicks (71)
December 8, 1961 – vs Philadelphia Warriors (63) *3OT
April 14, 1962 – vs Boston Celtics (61) *NBA Finals
Kobe Bryant (5 Games) – The Mamba has five games in a relatively short time span: All coming from 2006 to 2009, including the most famous of the bunch, the 81-point explosion against the Toronto Raptors, which included him single-handedly outscoring them 55-41 in the second half. He also had a 62-point game against the Dallas Mavericks, sitting out the entire fourth quarter which probably hurt his numbers quite a bit. On March 22, 2007, he scored 60 points against the Memphis Grizzlies, the third game of a four-game 50+ streak.
Michael Jordan (5 Games) – While most point to MJ’s playoff performance of 63, his actual career-best came against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1990 posting 69 points while also adding 18 rebounds and 6 assists.
April 20, 1986 – vs Boston Celtics (63) *Playoffs
March 4, 1987 – vs Detroit Pistons (61)
April 16, 1987 – vs Atlanta Hawks (61)
January 16, 1993 – vs Orlando Magic (64)
March 28, 1990 – vs Cleveland Cavaliers (69) *OT
Wilt Chamberlain (32 Games) – And then there’s Wilt. The only player in league history with multiple game of 70 points or more, passing that mark six times. Chamberlain had a streak of seven consecutive games of more than 50 points when he scored 60 for the Warriors in 61, which was also part of 14 games with 40 points or more. His final 60-point games came in 1969, playing for the Lakers, reaching it at the age of 32 years and 162 days, a record.