The Madison Square Garden in New York has been labeled as the world’s most famous arena.
It’s a venue that has hosted presidents, pucks, a Pope, and Pickles the Clown. It’s New York’s local town hall where celebrities like Jay Z, Beyonce, and Spike Lee (before this year’s incident) sit courtside while cheering for their favorite teams. It’s also an NBA venue where some of the best individual performances have happened.
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Wilt Chamberlain registered 73 points at the Garden while playing for the San Francisco Warriors in 1962. That wasn’t the only big performance from the Big Dipper at the Big Apple. Chamberlain also scored 62, 59, 58 twice, and 55 against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Lakers legend Elgin Baylor also dropped 71 points on the Knicks in 1961 while Rick Barry became the youngest player in NBA history to score at least 57 points when he did so at MSG in 1965. The most points scored by a Knick at the Garden was 57 points set by Richie Guerin in 1959.
With all due respect to the great basketball performances in the Garden before 1968, let’s take a look at the best individual performances at Madison Square Garden since it was relocated to 8th Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets in New York:
Patrick Ewing (50 points) December 1, 1990
A lot of players have scored 50 points in Madison Square Garden but only Patrick Ewing has done so while grabbing at least 15 rebounds and he did it twice. We picked this game even if Ewing scored 51 in that other game because not only did the Knicks win here, he also blocked three shots and had one more assist.
Ewing shot 22-31 from the field to lead the Knicks to a 113-96 win over the Charlotte Hornets on December 1, 1990. A few months later, he scored 51 at MSG in a losing effort against the Boston Celtics. Ewing was the most dominant Knick in the late 80s and the early 90s. The Hall of Famer led the Kicks to two finals appearances in 1994 and 1999.
LeBron James (52 points) February 4, 2009
LeBron James and Michael Jordan are the only players to have multiple 50-point games at the current Garden location. King James erupted for 52 points on February 4, 2009, to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 107-102 win over the New York Knicks. James shot 51.5% from the field in a brilliant all-around effort versus NY.
King James shot 17-33 from the floor and 16-19 from the foul line. He also added 11 assists, 9 rebounds, and two blocked shots. Initially, he was credited with a triple-double but after a review, it was determined that he only had nine rebounds in the game. Despite missing out on that, this still stands as one of James’ best games in an opponent’s arena. James also scored 50 points at the Garden in 2008.
Stephen Curry (54 points) February 27, 2013
After he was drafted in the NBA, Stephen Curry was known as Dell Curry’s son more than anything else and even if he was already a Deadshot shooter. But on February 27, 2013, he announced his arrival in the NBA in what most call his coming out party. Curry couldn’t have chosen a better venue.
Known then as the Baby-Faced Assassin, Curry needed only 28 shots to score a career-high 54 points against the Knicks. Curry shot 11-13 from behind the three-point arc to become one of only five players in Garden history to hit at least nine triples in the venue. Curry’s 11 topped the list. The Warriors lost the game but that didn’t matter because Curry has been on fire ever since.
Bernard King ( 55 points ) February 16, 1985
If Patrick Ewing was the most dominant Knick during the 80s, Bernard King was the best scorer during that era. He led the league in scoring during the 1984-85 season, scoring 32.5 points per game that year and recorded back to back 50-point road games against George Gervin and Mark Aguirre in 1984.
On February 16, 1985, King’s scored 55 points in a losing effort against the New Jersey Nets. King played a total of 44 minutes and shot 19-33 from the field while also pulling down 11 rebounds and issuing three assists. However, four players from the Nets scored at least 22 points and King’s herculean effort on this night wasn’t enough as New Jersey prevailed by the score of 126-117.
Michael Jordan ( 55 points ) March 25, 1995
The double-nickel game at Madison Square Garden officially proved that Michael Jordan was back. After winning three NBA titles, MJ retired to pursue his baseball dreams. He returned in 1995 but after his first five games, he didn’t look like the same dominant force that left the game in 1993. His sixth game back was against the Knicks at the Garden and the real MJ showed up, despite wearing #45.
Jordan shook off the rust and erupted for 55 points while shooting 21-37 from the floor. He capped off his incredible performance by setting up Bill Wennington’s game-winning dunk which gave the Bulls a narrow 113-111. More importantly, Jordan re-established himself as a force as the Bulls would win three more NBA titles before he retired for good.
Bernard King (60 points) December 25, 1984
Bernard King delivered the best Christmas Day game at the Madison Square Garden in 1984. King, who led the NBA in scoring that season, put up 60 points in the highest-scoring game by a Knick and the highest-scoring game by any player at MSG. The record stood for a long time until it was shattered by Kobe Bryant in 2009.
King shot 19-30 from the field and made a then-record 22 free throws. He displayed an incredible offensive arsenal that baffled the New Jersey Nets all night long. However, Michael Ray Richardson and Mike Giminski led the Nets to a 120-114 win over the Knicks. Despite that, there was no doubt that Bernard was King of New York that year and on that particular Christmas Day.
James Harden (61 points) January 23, 2019
James Harden is the current day scoring machine. The Bearded One lit up Madison Square Garden with a career-high 61 points in January 2019. He sealed the Rockets’ 114-110 win over the Knicks with a breakaway dunk that Kobe Bryant’s record for most points scored by a visiting player at the Garden.
Harden was 17-38 from the floor and was a terrible 5-20 from behind the three-point arc. He was, however, an impressive 22-25 from the free-throw line and all 61 points were unassisted. It was the first time in the history of the league when a player had attempted 20 three-point shots and 20 free throw attempts in a single game. Harden also became the first player since Shaq in 2000 to have a 60-point game with 15 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant (61 points) February 2, 2009
Bernard King’s 60-point scoring record at Madison Square Garden stood until Kobe Bryant broke it with a 61-point effort on February 2, 2009. The Black Mamba shattered Michael Jordan’s opponent record of 55 points by knocking down three free throws with 3:56 left in the game. He then erased King’s Christmas Day ‘84 record of 60 points with a pair of foul shots with still 2:33 left to play.
Kobe made 19 out of 31 field-goal attempts with three assists, and one block while his Lakers beat the Knicks 126-117. The game was the 5th 60-point game of Bryant’s legendary career but none was more iconic than this one which happened at the Mecca of Sports.
Carmelo Anthony (62 points) January 24, 2014
It’s only but fitting that the highest-scoring game at Madison Square Garden was delivered by the Madison Square Guardian himself, Carmelo Anthony. While Patrick Ewing can argue that he is the greatest Knick ever, Melo also has a claim to that. Anthony’s 62-point game broke Kobe Bryant’s MSG scoring record by a single point and on the same night, he also etched his name as the Knicks’ all-time leading scorer.
Anthony had zero assists in the game but he didn’t have a single turnover in the game and he also grabbed 13 rebounds. The Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats 125-96 and because the game was way out of hand, Anthony didn’t play much in the fourth quarter. Imagine if he played out the entire game, he could’ve put up 70 easily. Things didn’t end well for Melo and the Knicks but he will always be remembered for this game.