Tip-Off Timer: David Thompson's 53 Points in a Half
Never has the NBA seen such a final-day, two-man showdown in the race for a scoring title.
Only four times in league history has a player scored 53 points or more in a one half of a game. And two of those came on the same day -- April 9, 1978 -- when David Thompson and George Gervin waged a thrilling battle that was held six hours and 1,500 miles apart.
Thompson scored 53 of his 73 points in the first half for the Denver Nuggets, who were playing that afternoon in Detroit on the final day of the regular season.
Gervin, knowing just what he needed to win the scoring title, had 53 of his 63 points in the first half that night for the San Antonio Spurs, who were playing in New Orleans.
The two high-scoring, high-flying stars were linked by their earlier days in the ABA, and they forever have been linked by that last-day scoring duel.
Gervin won the title with a 27.22 ppg scoring average. Thompson finished second at 27.15, the tightest two-man scoring finish in history.
"That was one of the greatest days in NBA history,'' said Doug Moe, then the Spurs head coach but now a consultant for the Nuggets. He made the comment in 2003 to FanHouse's Chris Tomasson, who was doing a 25-year anniversary story for the Rocky Mountain News.
Thompson made an incredible 20 of his first 21 shots that day and 20 of his 23 by halftime to reach 53. Gervin had the opposite start to his day, missing his first six shots, yet he still scored 33 points in the second quarter, breaking the NBA record of 32 that Thompson had set earlier in the day. The 33 points in a quarter remains an NBA record today.
The 53 points in a half fell short of the NBA record set 16 years earlier by Wilt Chamberlain, who had 59 points in the second half of his infamous 100-point game against the Knicks in Hershey, Pa. Kobe Bryant eclipsed the 53 also in 2006 when he scored 55 points for the Lakers in the second half against the Toronto Raptors.
Previously on FanHouse:
Tip-Off Timer: David Robinson Scores 71, Edges Shaq for Scoring Title