Michael Jordan and LeBron James are featured on our list of players to score the most points in an NBA Finals game, but who comes out on top?
NBA Finals games have produced some huge individual points totals over the years.
Some of basketball’s modern greats have produced big performances when it matters most to make history for their teams and create their own legacies in the process.
However, setting an all-time record for points in a Finals game has proven elusive of late, as some incredible totals were recorded by the leading players of previous eras. The best of all arrived way back in 1962.
As a result, our list of the players with the most points in an NBA Finals game charts some of the great scoring performances across multiple decades.
The Los Angeles Lakers have won 17 NBA titles, a record they share with the Boston Celtics.
And it is players representing the Lakers who make up two of the top four places in the standings.
Most Points in an NBA Finals Game
Elgin Baylor: 61 (Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, April 14, 1962)
Lakers fans were in for a treat as Baylor poured in 61 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals.
That 61-point total remains the highest single-game tally in NBA Finals history and no player has come close to breaking it since.
Baylor was 22-of-46 shooting and converted 17 of his 19 free-throw attempts.
His feat was more remarkable as he had spent considerable time away from the Lakers during the season. As a United States Army Reservist, he was called to active duty and could only join up with the team on the weekends, meaning he played just 48 times in the regular season and barely practiced.
Baylor’s performance helped the Lakers to win a close game 126-121 and take a 3-2 series lead on the Celtics, although they would go on to lose in seven as Bill Russell emerged triumphant.
The losing feeling would become familiar, as that Finals series between the Lakers and Celtics was the first of a sequence that saw the teams face off for the championship in six out of eight years. Across his whole career, Baylor lost seven NBA Finals series to the Celtics.
There was not much more Baylor could do in 1962. He scored at least 30 points in all seven games and, more than 60 years later, the 61 points he scored in Game 5 remains the second-highest points total across all postseason games in NBA history.
Michael Jordan: 55 (Chicago Bulls vs. Phoenix Suns, June 16, 1993)
If anyone was going to threaten Baylor’s record, it was Jordan.
Jordan has the second-highest points total in an NBA Finals game with his 55-point performance against the Suns in Game 4 of the 1993 Finals.
The dominant Jordan, who was 6-0 in NBA Finals series as part of the Bulls dynasty, reached his high total despite not hitting a single 3-pointer in the game (he missed his only attempt from deep).
Jordan came into Game 4 on the back of scoring 42 and 44 points in Games 2 and 3, respectively, to torment Charles Barkley and the Suns.
And he was even better in Game 4, going 21 of 37 from the field as the Bulls won 111-105 to earn a 3-1 lead over Phoenix.
The Bulls lost Game 5 despite Jordan (41 points) making it four straight games with 40 or more points. They eventually defeated the Suns in six games to clinch Jordan’s third of six NBA championships.
Unstoppable Jordan scored 246 points across the six games for an average of 41.0 points per game, which is an NBA Finals record in that category. He earned his third consecutive Finals MVP award after leading the team past the Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers to win championships in the previous years.
As well as featuring prominently on this list, Jordan holds the outright record for most points in a playoff game.
Rick Barry: 55 (San Francisco Warriors vs. Philadelphia 76ers, April 18, 1967)
Barry is the other player to record 55 points in the NBA Finals, doing so for the then-San Francisco Warriors against the 76ers in 1967.
His total came in a high-scoring Game 3 that the Warriors won 130-124 after losing the first two games.
They could not even the series, though, and went on to lose to Philadelphia in six games as part of a 12-year run where the Eastern Conference champion won the Finals.
This series, which included Barry and the Sixers’ Wilt Chamberlain, produced two of the eight highest-scoring NBA Finals games of all time.
Despite losing out in 1967, Barry and the Warriors did ultimately taste championship glory.
He was Finals MVP in 1975 as the franchise (by then the Golden State Warriors) swept the Washington Bullets.
Jerry West: 53 (Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, April 23, 1969)
West, a 14-time All-Star, still had Baylor as a teammate in the 1969 NBA Finals, while Chamberlain had also arrived in Los Angeles by then.
The Lakers started their latest battle with the Celtics on a high thanks to two wins. It was in Game 1 that West racked up 53 points, as well as 10 assists, to give the team a 120-118 victory.
But once again, the Lakers went on to suffer a painful 4-3 series defeat to the Celtics.
West compiled 265 points across the seven games (37.9 points per game) and won the Finals MVP award despite the Lakers losing the series.
He is the only player to have won Finals MVP without also taking home the championship.
LeBron James: 51 (Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, May 31, 2018)
James has the most points in an NBA Finals game in this century.
By scoring 51 points against the Warriors in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron also made unwanted history.
It made him the player who has scored the most points in an NBA Finals game that his team lost.
The Warriors won a tense opener 124-114 in overtime despite the best efforts of LeBron, who was 19-for-32 shooting and added eight rebounds and eight assists.
The game was memorable for a late misunderstanding involving J.R. Smith, who appeared not to realize the score was even as he declined to take a shot in the final seconds of regulation, with LeBron producing a bewildered reaction.
LeBron was appearing in the NBA Finals for an eighth straight year and put his experience to good use by producing what remains his highest-scoring performance in the Finals.
The rest of the series did not go well for the Cavaliers, as Stephen Curry set an NBA Finals record for 3s in Game 2.
Golden State went on to seal the NBA’s first Finals sweep in 11 years.
Giannis Antetokounmpo: 50 (Milwaukee Bucks vs. Phoenix Suns, July 20, 2021)
Antetokounmpo could not have picked a better moment to score 50 points in an NBA Finals game.
After dropping the first two games, the Bucks had rallied to lead the Phoenix Suns 3-2 going into Game 6 as they chased their first championship in 50 years.
And Giannis marked the occasion in style, scoring almost half of his team’s points in a 105-98 win that clinched NBA glory.
Giannis reached his 50 despite only hitting one 3-pointer, with 17 points coming from the free-throw line (on 19 attempts). He shot 16 for 25 from the field.
“People told me I can’t make free throws and I made them tonight. And I’m a freaking champion,” Giannis said after the game.
He added 14 rebounds and five blocks in a sensational performance that ensured he would win a first NBA Finals MVP award, having won the league’s overall MVP accolade in each of the two years prior.
Other Great NBA Finals Performances
Bob Pettit (50 points in 1958) is the only other player to record a 50-point game in the NBA Finals.
As you might expect for someone with such an illustrious career in the NBA playoffs, Michael Jordan dominates most of the Finals leaderboard.
As well as his 55-point game, MJ had five more games with 40 or more points in the Finals. He also had three 39-point performances, two games with 38 points and another with 37. In total, he had 23 games in the Finals with 30 points or more.
Allen Iverson and Steph Curry are in the top 10. The Sixers faced the Lakers in 2001 with Iverson scoring 48 points in a Game 1 victory, though they would go on to lose in five games to a team that included Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Curry had 47 points as the Warriors lost to the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the 2019 NBA Finals.
Wilt Chamberlain (45 points for the Lakers in 1970) and Shaquille O’Neal (44 points for Lakers in 2001) also appear on the list.
Kevin Durant (Warriors), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons) and John Havlicek (Celtics) all have 43 points as their best total in an NBA Finals game.
Most Points in an NBA Finals Game 7
A record that might be more attainable than Baylor’s in the years ahead is the mark for the most points in an NBA Finals Game 7.
That stands at 42 points, held by Jerry West after his performance for the Lakers against the Celtics in 1969. Elgin Baylor (41 points in 1962, also Lakers vs. Celtics) is a close second.
Since West achieved the feat more than 50 years ago, LeBron James has been the NBA player who has come the closest to reaching the record.
LeBron had 37 points for the Heat in Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, a standout display that included five 3-pointers and 12 rebounds.
Miami won 95-88 to take the series 4-3 and seal a second consecutive championship.
There has only been one NBA Finals series since that has gone all the way to seven games. That was in 2016 when the Warriors faced off against the Cavaliers.
That was a series that also included LeBron, who was able to win his third NBA title and help his home Cleveland team to its first NBA championship.
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