The biggest perfs in Martin Luther King Day history
We attack on a hearty Monday with Martin Luther King Day and therefore a very busy schedule on the courts (nine games and a 7 p.m. start). A chance to go back in detail on past perfs on this very special day at Uncle Sam’s. It’s time to look back.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day has been played in the NBA since 1986, and it would be hard to categorize everyone’s performances because of the frenzy from all sides (you can find some of them here ). So we’ve put together a small list (far from exhaustive) of some of the guys who honor Dr. King’s memory, duly sketching out the statistical report.
Damian Lillard: 61 points from distance vs. Warriors 11/16
We’re on offense with a scoring record in a Martin Luther King Day game, and it was Damian Lillard who caught fire against the Warriors in 2020. So, sure, this is a stripped-down version of the Dubs (Curry, Green and Thompson are gone, Durant is already gone), but the performance remains pretty insane. 61 points on 17/37 shooting, including 11/16 from the floor with some sick shots. That’s Dam’s career scoring record, the all-time best performance by a Blazer in a game (points and long range). It’s impossible to celebrate Martin Luther King Day without mentioning this performance.
Kemba Walker: 52 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists
With Kemba Walker’s NBA career seriously faltering, it’s always good to remember the leader’s past successes. Before the creaky knees and unsecured deals, there were monumental heatstrokes like the one January 18th, 2016 when Cardiac Kemba would see a swimming pool-sized hoop in front of the Jazz. 52 points was the record before Lillard tipped it, which was also Kemba’s career high and a franchise record for the Hornets, which was broken two years later by the same Kemba Walker (60 points). It will almost make us nostalgic.
Gilbert Arenas: 51 points + buzzer beater vs. Jazz
Before John Wall became a Washington favorite, another All-Star point guard was running the Wizards bonus in DC. The type of guy who can get vulnerable quickly. Yet on January 15, 2007, it was Jazz (by decision) who made the toast. 51 points, including 16 points in the money, and especially the winning basket to crucify Deron Williams and Utah. From the great Agent Zero in the text.
Dwight Howard: 36 points, 26 rebounds vs. Clippers
For those of you who only discovered basketball in 2023, Dwight Howard is an old American player only in Taiwan, but for the old-timers among us, D12 was a major NBA player. If the pivot’s bonus seemed over in 2016, he was still capable of destroying the Rockets, and the Clippers’ bonus was no match for Superman’s muscles. 36 points, 26 rebounds, 11/16 shooting, a very clean 14/18 line and DeAndre Jordan in the sauce, that was Dwight Howard’s program on January 18, 2016.
Mark Jackson: 21 points, 22 assists, 7 rebounds
When we think of Mark Jackson’s football career, we often (rightly) focus on his time with the Knicks or his time with Reggie Miller in Indiana. What we tend to forget is that the former Warriors coach, now television commentator, also worked for Denver from 1996-1997. He was also a former point guard at Colorado (the 5th best passer in history at the time). (as of writing these lines) offered his personal best pass, one evening against New Jersey. No doubt meeting his former Nets rivals motivated him.
Magic Johnson: 39 points, 17 assists, 5 rebounds vs. Rockets
We’re adding a little magic, or rather a little Magic Johnson, to our list. On January 18, 1988, the Lakers’ Showtime guard scored a total for the Rockets. 39 points, 17 assists, 5 rebounds on 75% shooting and an easy win for L.A. The guy who didn’t just crush Houston once would renew the next year with 17 points, 18 assists and 13 rebounds…against those Rockets. Or two of the four best perfs on the MLK Day pass (Jackson is number one). Are we really surprised? Not really.
Shaquille O’Neal: 38 points, 16 rebounds, 8 blocks against the Sixers
We end up with a big piece in every sense of the word. On January 18, 1993, the magic of rookie Shaquille O’Neal visited the Sixers, who had lost Charles Barkley a few months earlier (sent to Phoenix). Big Cactus is doing a great job: 38 points, 16 rebounds, 8 blocks and 2 blocks on 16/24 shooting. Not enough to win, as Jeff Hornacek’s Philadelphia team (32 points) snatched the win in overtime. Young O’Neal’s nine turnovers will be costly, but we can already see the work done by someone who will become an NBA monster.
Text source: NBA