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04/09/1978: The greatest scoring day in NBA history

Yesterday marked the 42-year anniversary of one of the best single-day things to ever happen in the NBA.

On the final day of the regular season, Denver’s David Thompson trailed San Antonio’s George Gervin for the scoring title by 14 points.

Thompson’s Nuggets played that day in the early afternoon, and Thompson went off:

  • He scored 32 points in the first quarter, breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 16-year-old record for points in a quarter. 

  • He finished 28 of 38 for 73 points -- the fourth-highest single-game output ever -- which meant he now had a 59-point lead on Gervin for the scoring title. 

Gervin’s Spurs played that night against the New Orleans Jazz. Before the game, someone called Gervin on the phone and told him what Thompson had done a few hours earlier. So, it was Gervin’s turn to go off:

  • He scored 33 points in the second quarter, breaking Thompson’s hours-old record for points in a quarter. 

  • He finished 23 of 49 for 63 points, stealing back what was his to begin the day.


The worst part: Neither game was televised. The best part: ESPN immortalized this day in its Basketball: A love story series, which you can watch here. (Seriously, do it. It’s a legit work of art.)


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