Tip-Off Timer: Scott Skiles Is the Single Game Assist King With 30
Most of the NBA records, the most prestigious ones, are held -- and rightfully so -- by the greatest players in history. Names like Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson are peppered throughout the record book.
It only makes sense.
It's why gritty Scott Skiles sticks out like a dark stain on a white carpet.
Surprisingly, it's not Cousy, Robertson, Johnson, or Stockton who holds the record for most assists in a single NBA game.
It's Skiles, who had 30 assists against the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 30, 1990, when he played for the Orlando Magic in just their second season.
He was just an average player on a bad team, but for one night -- and now maybe forever -- he was the Assist King.
"Everything just lined up right,'' said Matt Guokas, who was coaching the Magic that season.
The Nuggets were coached by Paul Westhead, who was running that insane, high-octane system that didn't include defense and allowed 130.8 points per game.
"It was almost like they were ushering you to the basket,'' Guokas recalled. "We were playing a wide-open style ourselves, so it was like a fast break layup drill most of the time.''
The Magic were leading comfortably late in the fourth period and Guokas was about to pull Skiles from the game with just over three minutes remaining. It was the only time in his career that Skiles ever admitted to being tired, giving Guokas the "I'm done'' look on his way up the court.
Neither knew they were that close to the old record of 29 until someone at the scorer's table informed them he was about to make history.
Guokas pulled back his substitute and told Skiles about the record, but didn't tell anyone else in the timeout huddle, assuming he would get it quickly in this kind of game.
"All of a sudden, we stopped making shots. Guys started driving the ball and making an extra pass,'' Guokas said. "Then the crowd became aware of what was happening, and you'd hear this moaning and groaning from the stands when we missed. It got a little tricky at the end.''
Finally, though, in the final 30 seconds, forward Jerry Reynolds hit a jumper from the left side after a pass from Skiles, who then left the game to a standing ovation.
Skiles had broken the record of 29 assists, set 12 years before by Kevin Porter of New Jersey. The great Bob Cousy had hit 28 assists 31 years before. Stockton came close, getting 28 assists just a month after Skiles set the record.
Skiles played 10 years in the NBA, with Milwaukee, Indiana, Orlando, Washington and Philadelphia, and averaged 11.1 points and 6.5 assists. He has gone from an overachieving point guard to a well-respected NBA coach.
For one night almost 19 years ago, he was the King.