On January 2nd, 2023, Donovan Mitchell had the performance of his life. In a game against the Chicago Bulls, Donovan Mitchell scored 71 points in an overtime thriller. The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Bulls 145-134 after the Cavs were trailing 65-47 at halftime. Donovan Mitchell’s insane second half led his team to victory, and he impressively finished with 71 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, and a block while shooting 64.7% in 50 minutes.
But this game got me thinking. Where would I rank this single performance with the all-time great performances in the NBA? This NBA season alone, there have been 89 40+ point games through January 5th. In fact, a week before Donovan Mitchell’s great game, Luka Doncic dropped an insane 60-21-10 game against the New York Knicks. So, I am going to be ranking the 5 best NBA performances of all time, in my opinion, in no particular order. This list will not include Mitchell or Luka’s game because I just mentioned them above, although I would consider putting them both in my top 5 NBA performances of all time.
Michael Jordan’s 1998 Finals Game 6
Picture this: Late in the 4th quarter, up 3-2, Jordan with the ball against the Utah Jazz. The rest is history. This NBA finals performance by Jordan featured what some consider to be the best shot in NBA history. Jordan finished with 45 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 4 steals in an 87-86 victory to clinch the series win for the Chicago Bulls in the finals. Obviously, this isn’t the greatest stat-padded game, as he didn’t spark many rebounds or assists, but this game was too iconic for me as a basketball fan, not to mention. This win marked the 6th title for the Bulls in 8 years, and it was the last game for Jordan and Coach Phil Jackson, who retired after this NBA finals.
Kobe Drops 81
There is no denying this is one of the best NBA performances we’ve seen in recent memory. On January 22nd, 2006, Kobe Bryant gave the Toronto Raptors and basketball fans worldwide a game they would never forget. He dropped 81 points, which was the most in the NBA since David Robinson dropped 71 points. After Wilt and Robinson, it was a mystery whether or not anyone would be able to score within that scoring margin, and Kobe did not disappoint. In addition to the points, Kobe finished the night with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and a block. Another insane fact about this game is that Kobe Bryant was leading the NBA in points per game, with 35.4 entering his game against the Raptors. Safe to say that this game was vintage Kobe.
Giannis Antetokounmpo 2021 NBA Finals
Call me biased all you want, but this was a game that I will never forget as a Milwaukee Bucks fan. Alongside Luka and Mitchell’s performances, this is one of the best NBA performances within the last 5 years. It was game 6 of the 2021 NBA Finals against the Phoenix Suns, and Giannis Antetokounmpo (try to say that 10 times fast) was hungry to lead his team to a championship, which is precisely what he did. Giannis dropped 55 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 2 assists. He is only the 5th player in NBA history to record a 50-10-5 game with blocks since blocking was added as a stat to the NBA in 1973. Giannis represents the phrase “hard work pays off” very well, and he put all of his hard work on the court that night.
“Oh, and it’s blocked by James!”
This quote mentioned above is probably one that you recognize, and if you are anything like me, you can hear exactly what it sounds like. This quote brings back many good memories, and if you asked Lebron James and the 2016 Clevland Cavaliers, they would honestly have to agree with me. Game 7 of the finals, and it was a win-or-go-home game. Lebron had already led the Cavs from a comeback this series, as they were trailing the series to the Golden State Warriors 3-1 prior to this game. Lebron recorded a triple-double, finishing with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. One of the blocks came late in the game against Andre Iguodala and influenced the iconic quote. 2016, what a time to be an NBA fan.
The Game that Shocked the World
And finally, a game that needs no further introduction. Well, I guess it does, actually. March 2nd, 1962, Wilt Chamberlian scored 100 points as he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a win against the New York Knicks. Of course, it was the Knicks on the losing side of this game, but that is something I can save for a different writing piece. Despite it being so long ago, 100 points is still really crazy. I’m sure that won’t happen in today’s league, but the fact it happened is all that mattered. This is a game that many NBA fans know, and this is one of the most historic performances of all time. This definitely helped put the NBA on the map. Wilt ended with 100 points, 25 rebounds, and 2 assists.
This list was pretty hard to make because so many performances could have made this list, but I hope you enjoyed it and agreed with my opinion. The NBA is transitioning into a high-scoring league now, and I cannot wait to see what that will bring to the future of the sport. Maybe we will have another 100-point game in 2050, mark my words.