The NBA Finals is obviously the biggest stage the game of basketball has to offer. And for the last seven-plus decades, this stage has provided fans with some of the game’s all-time great performances, which usually come from the game’s biggest stars. And this particular list that highlights the top five single-game scoring performances in NBA Finals history certainly has plenty of star power. Starting at number five with LeBron James and ending with the great Elgin Baylor in the top spot, every single person on this list is a Hall of Famer. LeBron is actually the only one that hasn’t been inducted already but let’s not pretend that he’s not getting in the minute he becomes eligible.
Here’s a quick look at the top five single-game scoring performances in NBA Finals history.
5. 51-LeBron James, 2018, Game 1
LeBron James’ 51-point effort in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals is the only performance on this list that ended with a loss. Facing the Golden State Warriors for the fourth consecutive season, James did everything he could to will Cleveland to victory in the series opener, shooting 19-for-32 from the floor and 10-for-11 from the foul line, but the Cavs lost 124-114 in overtime and went on to get swept. You may remember Game 1 more for J.R. Smith’s gaffe at the end of regulation.
4. 53-Jerry West, 1969, Game 1
The 1969 NBA Finals was the first to name a Finals MVP and Jerry West was the recipient of the award, even though his LA Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games. It’s still the only time the award has gone to a player from the losing side. West began the series with a 53-point performance, shooting 21-for-41 from the floor and 11-for-13 from the foul line. The logo also added 10 assists in the Lakers’ 120-118 victory.
T2. 55-Rick Barry, 1967, Game 3
Two players are tied for second with a 55-point performance, the first being Rick Barry, who put up the double-nickel for the San Francisco Warriors in Game 3 of the 1967 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers. With the Warriors down 0-2 in the series, Barry took it upon himself to keep his team in the series and took a whopping 48 shots from the floor that night, making 22 of them. Both tied NBA Finals records. The Warriors won the game, 130-124, but lost the series in six. Barry would win NBA Finals MVP eight years later.
T2. 55-Michael Jordan, 1993, Game 4
It’s certainly not a surprise to see Michael Jordan on this list, is it? In the 1993 NBA Finals against Charles Barkley, MJ averaged 41 points per game over the course of six games, including a 55-point outburst in Game 4. The road team had won the first three games of the series but Jordan changed things that night in Chicago, shooting 21-for-37 from the floor and 13-for-18 from the foul line in the Bulls’ 111-105 win. He earned his third consecutive NBA Finals MVP trophy as Chicago clinched their first three-peat in six games.
1. 61-Elgin Baylor, 1962, Game 5
Sitting in the top spot is LA Lakers legend Elgin Baylor, who dropped a record 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. With the series tied 2-2, Baylor shot 22-for-26 from the floor and 17-for-19 from the charity stripe, also adding 22 rebounds, to lead the Lakers to a 126-121 victory. The Celtics rallied to win Game 6 and Baylor did his best to lead the team to the title in Game 7 with 41 points. But it wasn’t enough as the Celtics rode a 30-point, 40-rebound performance from Bill Russell to claim their sixth straight championship.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference