Each season, opening night in the NBA brings out plenty of excitement and optimism around the league. The first game of the year also has seen many historic offensive performances. Here’s a list of the five highest-scoring outputs on opening night in league history.
5. Anthony Davis – 50 Points
Before Anthony Davis made his way to the LA Lakers, he established himself as one of the game’s best overall talents with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Davis put that on display with a 50-point outing on Oct. 26, 2016, as he torched the Denver Nuggets. Although his monster performance came in a losing effort, it was an all-around historic game. He became the first player to record at least 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and five steals in a game since steals became an official stat in the 1973-74 season.
The strong outing further put Davis on the map as one of the game’s elite players.
4. Kyrie Irving – 50 Points
In his first official game with the Nets, Kyrie Irving laid it all on the floor as he put forth an impressive performance o NBA opening night.
The Minnesota Timberwolves didn’t have an answer defensively as he went 17-of-33 from the field, including behind 7-of-14 shooting from distance, and went a near-perfect 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
He scored 12 out of the Nets’ first 19 points that snowballed to 25 points at the half. Irving’s production helped the Nets overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half. Brooklyn had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but Jarrett Allen missed both attempts.
Despite that, Irving had a chance to win the game in overtime with an attempted street ball-esque spin move, but the shot came up short. It doesn’t take away from the incredible performance from Irving.
3. Elgin Baylor – 52 Points
Over the years, Elgin Baylor has been widely underappreciated as one of the all-time great scoring talents.
Baylor routinely lit it up during the prime of his career well before the 3-point line. One of those nights came on Oct. 18, 1959, as he scorched the Detroit Pistons for 52 points.
Although it came in a 106-105 loss, Baylor carved up the Pistons behind an efficient shooting night, making 22-of-36 attempts while going 8-of-12 from the free-throw line and grabbed 21 rebounds. He carried the Lakers offensively that night as no other teammate has more than 15 points.
Baylor averaged 29.6 points and 16.4 rebounds in his second NBA season, including a then-career-high 64 points in a win over the Boston Celtics.
2. Michael Jordan – 54 Points
It should come as no surprise that Michael Jordan is on this list, given his utter dominance as a scorer.
Before Jordan won his first of six NBA titles, he put together one of the best scoring performances on opening night. On Nov. 3, 1989, he lit up the Cleveland Cavaliers for a dazzling 54 points behind an efficient shooting display, making 19-of-31 attempts.
Jordan lived at the charity stripe that night as he drilled 15 of 17 attempts and only made 1-of-2 shots from deep. The high-scoring affair required overtime as he closed out the 124-119 win at home. It wasn’t the last time Jordan torched the Cavaliers that season as he recorded a career-high 69 points.
1. Wilt Chamberlain – 56 Points
Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain has his name all over the NBA record books for scoring marks that may be never be surpassed.
Among those records is his dominant outing to begin the 1962-63 campaign with the San Francisco Warriors on opening night as he dumped 56 points on the Detroit Pistons. He hit an effective 23-of-35 attempts from the floor and 10-of-17 from the free-throw line while adding a game-high 29 rebounds. The performance made him just the second player after Baylor to score at least 50 points in a season opener.
Chamberlain was in the prime of his career, torching opposing defenses with ease as he was coming off a season where he averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds. In the 1962-63 campaign, he scored 50 or more points 30 times, including a pair of 70-point outings in the first month of that year.