Basketball Records: The Most Points Scored in an NBA Game By an Individual Player

They deliver performances that take your breath away. You know the ones we’re talking about; where the shooter can’t miss and the big man can’t be stopped. These are the contests where an NBA player’s point total keeps climbing, forcing you to ask yourself one question: How many points will he finish with?

This seems like as good a time as any to take a reflect on the record books at the most remarkable individuals scoring performances of all time. Here’s a breakdown of the NBA players with the most points scored in an NBA game. Oh, and more than half of these achievements belong to the same man.

10. (tie) Devin Booker, 70 points (March 24, 2017)

Devin Booker entered the 70-point club 11 years after Kobe Bryant joined this list of the most points scored in an NBA game. In a losing effort by the Suns, reports ESPN, Phoenix guard Devin Booker scored 70 points against the Boston Celtics. He finished 21-of-40 overall shooting, with eight rebounds and six assists. Now a three-time All-Star, Booker remains with the Suns in Phoenix.

10. (tie) Wilt Chamberlain, 70 points (March 10, 1963)

Only 11 times in NBA history has one man scored at least 70 points in the same game. Usually, the man’s name was Wilt Chamberlain. The two-time NBA Champion kicks off our countdown with a 1963 game between his San Francisco Warriors and the Syracuse Nationals.

This was the sixth and final time Chamberlain reached the 70-point plateau. It came in a 163-148 loss when Chamberlain knocked down 27 shots and connected on 16 free throws.

8. (tie) Elgin Baylor, 71 points (November 15, 1960)

Elgin Baylor scored his career-high in 1960, leading the Lakers to a 123-108 victory over the Knicks. On this November night, the 1959 Rookie of the Year made 28 field goals and went 15-19 from the line. At the time, Baylor’s 71-point performance represented the highest single-game total ever. However, Chamberlain shattered this mark in the coming years.

8. (tie) David Robinson, 71 points (April  24, 1994)

Spurs center David Robinson edged Shaquille O’Neal for the 1994 scoring title thanks to a 71-point outburst — 26-41 from the field, 18 for 25 from the free-throw line — in the regular-season finale, a 112-97 win over the LA Clippers. Robinson finished with an average of 29.8 points per game compared to 29.3 for Shaq.

Although, it took San Antonio intentionally fouling with a 20-plus point lead down the stretch to get Robinson his last few tallies, as My San Antonio reports.

7. Wilt Chamberlain, 72 points (November 3, 1962)

Chamberlain’s dominance was on full display during the 1962 calendar year, as the superstar scored at least 72 points on four different occasions. On this particular occasion, the four-time MVP’s San Francisco Warriors may have dropped the game 127-115  to the LA Lakers. But Chamberlain still managed to put up 72 points, courtesy of 29 field goals and 14 free throws. It begs the question: Where’s the supporting cast when you need it?

4. (tie) David Thompson, 73 points (April 9, 1978)

Nuggets star David Thompson scored 73 points in the last game of the 1977–78 season, but it wasn’t enough. Denver came up on the short end of a 139-137 score against the balanced offensive output of the Pistons. Detroit had five different players score at least 19 points. Thompson made 28 field goals and went 17-20 from the charity stripe in the four-time All-Star’s career night.

4. (tie) Wilt Chamberlain, 73 points (January 13, 1962)

The biggest thing that jumps out from this box score involves the names of the teams. Wilt the Stilt’s Warriors resided in Philadelphia at the time. The opponent was none other than the Chicago Packers. (That sounds like an NFC North mash-up gone wrong, doesn’t it?) The Warriors prevailed, 135-117.

4. (tie) Wilt Chamberlain, 73 points (November 16, 1962)

More vintage Chamberlain from 1962: This time, it was the San Francisco version of the Warriors beating up on the hapless Knicks. (They were 3-13 at the time.) Final score: 127-111. The 1960 Rookie of the Year averaged a ho-hum 44.8 points per game in the 1962–63 season, which somehow was significantly down from his 50+ average the year before.

3. Wilt Chamberlain, 78 points (December 8, 1961)

The second greatest scoring output of Chamberlain’s ridiculous career came with the aid of triple overtime — as if that makes it less impressive somehow. Wilt’s Warriors fell to Baylor’s Lakers 151-147. Imagine what a treat it was for fans to watch that game: 78 points for Chamberlain and, oh, by the way, Baylor only had 63.

2. Kobe Bryant, 81 points (January 22, 2006)

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers drives to the basket past Fred Jones of the Toronto Raptors during a 2006 game to earn the second most points scored in nba game
Lakers legend Kobe Bryant against Fred Jones of the Toronto Raptors during a 2006 game | Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The late Kobe Bryant led the NBA in scoring in 2005–06 at more than 35 points per game. But the five-time NBA champion entered a completely different and otherworldly zone on January 22 against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant put up 55 points after halftime, rallying the Lakers from an 18-point second-half deficit in a 122-104 victory.

Kobe’s final stat line: 81 points on 28-46 shooting. He was also 18-20 from the foul line. Bryant had flirted with history a month earlier, scoring 62 points in just three quarters against the Mavericks. But he sat out the final period of that game with a big lead. Against Toronto, LA needed the points — and Bryant delivered.

1. Wilt Chamberlain, 100 points (March 2, 1962)

As a society, we’re fascinated with round numbers. No one celebrates Peyton Manning throwing his 487th touchdown or Tom Brady accumulating 47,000 passing yards. The ones that matter are No. 500, the 50,000th, etc.

So how perfect is it that the only time an NBA player ever scored 82 or more points in a game, he finished with a perfect 100? You know the story: Playing in Hershey, Pennsylvania, Chamberlain delivered a sweet performance: 36 baskets, 28 field goals, and 100 points (even if it took 63 field goal attempts to get there), 25 rebounds, and a 169-147 win for the Warriors over New York.

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.