All Ball Fave Five: Most Unlikely 50-Point Scorers

by Micah Hart

You may have noticed it’s the offseason, which means we have plenty of time to sit around and think about many of the things that make it fun to be an NBA fan. Here at All Ball, we’ll be passing the time until the start of the season with a new series, the Fave Five. Each week will count down a list of the five best, or worst … somethings. We’ll try to get creative with it. Plus we’re taking requests! If you have a suggestion for a Fave Five post, give us a shout and you may see it appear in this space over the next several weeks.

This week’s Fave Five takes a look at the most unlikely 50-point scorers since 1985, which is when BasketballReference.com starts keeping game logs for each NBA player:

5. Charles Smith, 52 points
Clippers vs. Warriors, Dec. 1, 1990
Career scoring average: 14.4 ppg

Charles Smith is probably best known for the basket he didn’t score, but he started out his NBA career as a fairly prolific shot-maker, averaging more than 20 ppg twice in his first three seasons. He settled into more of a contributor role after that, but not before he dropped 52 on the Denver Nuggets near the beginning of the 1990-91 season. Smith was 17-27 from the field and 18-21 from the line, and did not attempt a single 3-pointer (no surprise, he only made 18 in his entire career).

Fun fact: Smith probably could have been left off this list, but I have him on here due to his feat coming against the infamous ’90-’91 Nuggets. Denver was coached that season by Paul Westhead, who tried to bring the fast-break basketball he succeeded with at Loyola Marymount to the NBA with disastrous results. The Nuggets went 20-62 and gave up 130.8 ppg, the most ever allowed by a team in a single season.

4. Dana Barros, 50 points
Sixers vs. Rockets, Mar. 14, 1995
Career scoring average: 10.5 ppg

The Sixers were mired in the midst of a miserable 24-58 season when they met up with the Rockets in Philadelphia on a cold night in March. Barros was pretty much the only bright spot that season for Philly, making his lone All-Star Game appearance and averaging a career-best 20.6 ppg — stereotypically big stats on a bad team. Barros, whose second-best season saw him score 13.3 ppg, had the kind of night every player dreams about, hitting 6 of 8 from 3-point range and 21 of 26 overall. That is bananas. And he recorded his 50-point game the hard way, getting to the line for only a pair of free throws, making both.

Fun fact(?): Despite Barros’ brilliance, the Sixers got flat-out destroyed by the Rockets in the game, falling 136-107. Without crosschecking it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s the worst beating a team took in a game where one of its players hung 50.

3. Willie Burton, 53 points
Sixers vs. Heat, Dec. 13, 1994
Career scoring average: 10.3 ppg

Barros’ barrage should have come as no surprise to Sixers fans. After all, teammate Willie Burton beat him to it just three months before when he torched the Heat for 53 points, and in a 105-90 win no less. The two teammates’ games shared some similarities — both were hot from 3-point range (Burton hit 5 of 8), but while Barros avoided the charity stripe like the plague, Burton scored almost half his points there, hitting 24 of 28 free throws. As a result, Burton needed only 19 shots (making 12) to get to 53.

Fun fact: Burton has the fewest amount of career points scored for any 50-point scorer, accumulating just 3,243 points in an eight-year career.

Fun fact, II: Since 1985, the 1994-95 Sixers are one of only two teams to have two different players hit a half-century in a game in the same season. The other team? The 1994-95 Mavericks, who had Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn do the deed just two weeks apart. Must have been something in the water.

2. Tony Delk, 53 points
Suns vs. Kings, Jan. 2, 2001
Career scoring average: 9.1 ppg

It’s a little ironic that a guy nicknamed “Buckets” would average only 9.1 ppg over the course of his career, but such is the case with Tony Delk. Delk never averaged more than 12.3 ppg in a single season, but he made his minutes count against the Kings as the new year dawned in 2001. Delk was predominantly a perimeter player, yet on his big night he shot and missed the only 3-pointer he took. Instead, Delk made 20 of 27 shots and 13 of 15 free throws. And though Delk put up his numbers in an overtime game (a 121-117 loss), he scored only three of his points in the extra frame, which — if my math is correct — means he still dropped 50 in regulation.

Fun fact: In lieu of anything interesting to say about Delk’s performance, I’ll use this opportunity to note that the five players listed here are also composed in the graphic at the top of the page. As if to illustrate the point even further how unlikely their scoring outbursts were, the photo archives didn’t contain a single picture of Burton in a Sixers uniform, nor our list-topper in Wizards gear.

1. Tracy Murray, 50 points
Wizards vs. Warriors, Feb. 10, 1998
Career scoring average: 9.0 ppg

Murray started only 80 of the 659 games he played in his career, which helps explain his paltry career scoring average. Dig into the numbers a little though, and they reveal Murray could put the ball in the basket, scoring 17.7 points per 36 minutes of action and averaging 10 ppg or more four times in his 12-year career. During the 1997-98 season, Murray averaged 15.1 ppg (the second-best average of his career) and scored 20 or more points 24 times. Still, I doubt anyone saw his 50-point explosion against the Warriors coming. Murray had taken 20 shots from the field only once previous that season, but Wizards point guard Rod Strickland knew to feed the hot hand. Murray hit 18 of 29 from the field (including 5 of 10 from 3-point range) and 9 of 10 from the stripe to get his 50.

Fun fact: When I say Strickland was feeding the hot hand, I mean it — he matched his career best with 20 assists on the night.

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71 Comments

  1. BlazersFan says:

    Why is Andre Miller not on this list?

    • The Fox says:

      andre miller was a scorer thats why hes not on the list um bball i q is ruff huh

    • Dennis - Bulls Fan says:

      I cant tell if your joking or not? Andre Miller? The veteran scorer? The guy who can ball pretty hard? Maybe log onto WNBA and share more of this great basketball info over there.

  2. ancientsrs says:

    I like the idea of this blog. I’ll be checking back periodically for more. I am not really sure who any of these players are to be honest, maybe most of these were to long ago seeing as I am only 21.

    Andre millers 52 points against a good dallas team in 2010 at the age of 34 could have made this list probably.

  3. [...] Micah Hart of NBA.com has a cool post looking back at five of the most unexpected players who have scored 50 points in a single game during their NBA careers. Among them: Detroit native Willie Burton. From the story: (Dana) Barros’ barrage should have come as no surprise to Sixers fans. After all, teammate Willie Burton beat him to it just three months before when he torched the Heat for 53 points, and in a 105-90 win no less. The two teammates’ games shared some similarities — both were hot from 3-point range (Burton hit 5 of 8), but while Barros avoided the charity stripe like the plague, Burton scored almost half his points there, hitting 24 of 28 free throws. As a result, Burton needed only 19 shots (making 12) to get to 53. [...]

  4. Matthew says:

    Darius Miles would have been on here if he would have scored 3 more points.

  5. Callum says:

    I like how Tony Delk features heavily in the top two videos…he gets beat on D the first two plays and then turns the ball over in the final vid!

  6. Steve Nash says:

    What about Brandon Jennings 56 points as a rookie against the Warriors?

    • LoL Dude says:

      Im pretty sure they said “unlikely” scorers…. Jennings is a scorer, even in his rookie year.

      • SR says:

        *Rookie*, scorer or not thats highly unlikely. Jordan, Kobe, Lebron, Iverson, Shaq and all the greatest scorers that ever came into the game never did that in there first rookie season.

  7. Blazer says:

    Andre Miller for 52 against the Mavs!
    Even threw in a sky hook…

  8. jty7271 says:

    Nice, I enjoyed that. Delk’s performance seemed particularly good, because he almost carried his team to an OT win. Too bad they didn’t win. How about a top 5 Best 50plus point games?

  9. jty7271 says:

    Nice. Delk’s seemed especially good since he carried that team to a come from behind OT near win. How about a top 5 for the best 50 plus point games?

  10. Ryan says:

    I always felt Delk was going to be a major NBA star or at least a 2nd option on a team given his years in Kentucky. It never materialized though. Good to see him on a list for a great feat!

  11. [...] Who were the most unlikely 50-point scorers in a game in NBA history? Here’s a pretty good list. I didn’t remember Tony Delk doing that at [...]

  12. sam says:

    what about shareef abdur-rahim

    • D town mike mike says:

      Shareef was a very unerated scorer he could definitely put up 50 at least once in his career. It was his defense that wasm’t the greatest

  13. acdc says:

    ANDRE MILLER 52 POINTS

  14. Jonathan says:

    I think it’s funny how Tony Delk was 2nd on the list for gettin over 50 and was guarding Tracy Murray when he scored his 50 at the top of this list. Win some and lose some I guess (too bad he lost his big game)… Just seeing him on any top 5 list twice feels like something straight outta the twilight zone haha

  15. Jeremy Lin will be part of this list in the future

    • awesomeman says:

      sorry but he’s already shown hes been able to explode.

      no doubt he could hit 50, but it wont be surprising like these guys on the list.

  16. leacers says:

    what about Andre Miller’s 52 point game?

  17. leacers says:

    what about Andre Miller’s 52 point game in 2010?

  18. Jack says:

    Didn’t Antwan Jamison have back to back 50 point games a few years back. Good scorer on a bad team, but back to back 50’s is pretty awesome whoever it is.

  19. T-Dub says:

    I actually watched that Delk game live, was crazy, especially because he did it against a team as good as Sacramento (back when they were good).

    I’d love to see you guys do an article on top 5 second round draft picks or undrafted players who have gone on to have dominant or big careers. Stuff like worst picks always gets done to death. Another good top 5 would be greatest comebacks either by a team during a game, or even comebacks after horrible seasons. Just some thoughts

  20. DAvid rice says:

    wat about brandon jennings

  21. Fefe (Nets) says:

    All of these players were valuable players for their teams. Doing the job and staying out of the spotlight. They were not the best, or the most talented ones, but gave their best to help their teams!

  22. Butch Legaspi says:

    How about a story on the top ten scoring feats of all time? Thanks

  23. Manifacetwit says:

    Lolz, Tony Delk was guarding Tracy Murray in Murray’s 50 point game

  24. SoulChorea says:

    Earl Boykins, no?

  25. Broadway E says:

    Didn’t Bobby Jackson drop 50? 9.7 career scoring average

  26. Callystarr says:

    Dana Barros,

    That was a talented player, was one of my top 5 favorite players. Dangerous 3 point shooter.

    • OzHeatFan says:

      He reminded me of Chris Jackson / Mahmoud Abdul Rauf, they could just get hot from downtown and blow out other teams down the stretch. So much nostalgia ;)

  27. reanpogi says:

    Loving it. These are the things that we wouldn’t be seeing in regularity; I mean we had enough of those Top 5 scorers of all time, top 5 forwards, centers, guards or what-not of all time. Mad props to All Ball.

    To those Andre Miller fanatics, I understand your point and he did good on that game against my mavs, but the title of the post is MOST UNLIKELY. I know you’ll agree that it’ll happen for him at some point in his career which it did. We kind of saw that coming, somehow. He was a pretty good scorer, a decent one at the very least.

    Keep it up guys.

    • ancientsrs says:

      Andre miller is a great point guard. He is crafty around the rim but he isn’t a good shooter at all. But scroing 50+ at the age of 33-34 against a pretty good defensive team in dallas? Probably isn’t something anyone expected.

  28. Koubes24 says:

    Wooooooooow

  29. Lite says:

    Danna Barros was killin Kenny the Jet Smith hahahahahahaha. Even shook his hand after that beatdown

  30. makeitwork says:

    why’d you want to add andre miller’s 50+points here? what is his career points? just asking.

  31. willie says:

    nice! creative article… i want to see the fave five for the steals of the draft… those who were undrafted (jeremy lin) and late 2nd or 3rd 0r whatever round draftees who turned out to be superstars/all-stars/stars…. i know there’s kevin johnson… i wonder who’ll be in your list?

  32. joseph says:

    is that tracy murray in raps uni? sure looks different to me…but it could just be me…anyways…love the article man!

  33. Jermaine says:

    Brandon Jennings?

  34. Seattle SuperSonics says:

    Rashard Lewis

  35. NYKnick7 says:

    Clifford Robinson, Phoenix against Denver Jan. 16, 2000. Yeah he was at one time an All-Star in the mid 90’s, But in this 50-point outburst, Uncle Cliffy was 33 years old…!!

    • Dennis - Bulls Fan says:

      33 years old? Uncle? You mean like what Jordan was when he made his comeback and won a 3 peat!

      I know age is a factor.. but 33?? Cmon man your still good to go when your an athlete till at least 35..and thats a guard.A centre can ball for even longer.

      I think MJ dropped 50 when he was 40!

  36. That Dana Barros performance was crazy. I remember watching that game, Calvin Murphy shook Dana’s hand before the game saying that would make his shooting touch off. Then Dana took flight on the Rockets lol! Pun intended

  37. Celtics says:

    “Fun fact, II: Since 1985, the 1994-95 Sixers are one of only two teams to have two different players hit a half-century in a game in the same season. The other team? The 1994-95 Mavericks, who had Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn do the deed just two weeks apart. Must have been something in the water.”

    What about Kevin McHale (56 on 3/3/1985) and Larry Bird (60 on 3/12/1985)????
    C’mon guys. Plenty of off-time to do (proper) research…

    • mihart says:

      I’m sure you are right, but the game logs only go back to the 1985-86 season. Good stat though.

  38. Brian says:

    Brian Scalabrine

  39. Tsung says:

    I cant believe Webber dunked his cup of water over Tracy Murray, and Webber just look dead serious!! HAHA

  40. i_ball says:

    Brandon Jennings as a rookie:?

  41. Hasib says:

    I voted for tony delk because he was on my NBA 2k3 game! :D

  42. Nick Wang says:

    If you watch the tracy murray video, he scores on tony delk LOLOL

  43. Nick Anderson in 92-93 – Shaq’s rookie season, Anderson was a strong scorer…but how many 50 point scorers didn’t score any of their 50 in the first quarter? I believe Anderson didn’t even play in the first quarter, yet still finished with 50…in regulation

  44. mrwormburn says:

    this list is why i put no stock in kobe’s 81 against the craptors. try leading a team to 72-10 like mike.

  45. fanzhangrules says:

    Charlie Villlanueva?

  46. rjoey24 says:

    Cliff Robinson?

  47. Ian says:

    Mike James scored 52 points in the 2004-2005 season

  48. LOL at these comments.... says:

    LOL these people are having hard time understand what “most unlikely scorers” mean. lol damn i hate slow people.

  49. LOL at these comments.... says:

    hey what about kobe scoring 81pts! LOLOLOLOLOLOL

  50. CasperShark says:

    With Murray’s game, Wizards were w/o C-Webb, J Howard and Calbert Cheney and Murray had been putting up big numbers prior to his 50 but still wouldn’t believe that he would do that. Delk I thought may have had a better career than he did. He just never kicked on, shame really. Bing Bang Boom Barros was a sweet shooter but played on some bad teams during his peak. Great Article. Perhaps Fave Five unlikely off the banch breakouts.

  51. Ram says:

    Antawn Jamison getting 51 against Kobe’s 51 in the same game… Antawn Jamison??!? The bad-end of the 1999 draft-day trade between GS and Toronto?1!?

  52. 911 says:

    kwame brown?

  53. bn says:

    Brandon Jennings his rookie year was unexpected too

  54. Steiny says:

    This list is a joke! Where is MJ and Kobe? What about Wilt?!!

  55. Brandon says:

    “Most UNLIKELY 50 Point Scorers”. UNLIKELY is the key word. Brandon Jennings, Andre Miller, Clifford Robinson, those guys are/were star players. That’s not the point of the article. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a writer and log on to read all of the dumb @s$ comments that people wrote about my piece.

  56. brandon says:

    jamal crawford 50 points 3 diff teams bulls knicks and golden state

  57. leo says:

    Tiago splitter

  58. Matt says:

    Why isn’t Tracy Mcgrady on this list?

  59. oktiger says:

    Charles Smith’s information had something wrong:Clippers vs. Warriors, Dec. 1, 1990
    Opponent is Nuggets.