Ranking The Top 5 Basketball Performances in Madison Square Garden
This is no easy task. I set about it well intentioned, but have quickly realized just how difficult this is and just how many hairs I have to split in the process. Madison Square Garden, or MSG as it is affectionately abbreviated, is the premiere venue in professional basketball and perhaps all of sports. How do I know this? The answer to that question is also the reason why this task has been so difficult. People tend to go ape shit crazy in MSG… like scoring more than 50 points crazy. MSG is also located in New York City, the Big Apple, where the lights are extra bright and great performances are celebrated (with boo’s unless they come from a Knick) and terrible performances are laughed at and recognized (also with boo’s). The appropriately named “Mecca of Basketball” gives players both great and not so great an opportunity to be seen by the world and have their game respected.
Before I start, I took a number of factors into consideration as I completed this ranking (for example, if the player had a great game, but their team still lost that doesn’t get as much respect as the player with a roughly equal performance who gets the win). Some of you might be upset about Lebron not being on the list. Cry about it, or comment and make a case for him and where he fits into the list. This goes for all complaints and players unmentioned on this top 5. There were many I wanted to include, but there are only 5 spots people. Anyway, enough dilly dallying, let’s get into it.
5. Stephen Curry drops 54
I debated for a while over this one. This recent showing came February 27th in a 109-106 loss to the Knicks. As I mentioned above, I give less credit if the player still takes a loss, but there was something special about what Curry did that night. His tired warriors strolled into MSG, beat up from a physical previous game vs. the Pacers. To keep his team in the action Curry hit the most 3 pointers in MSG… ever. That’s right, he hit 11 of 13, setting an MSG record. He was legitimately unstoppable, hitting every 3 he took in the second half despite the clamp down defense of the Knicks. Not to mention the some of the looks he had were outrageously deep shots that you could still tell were going in as soon as he released it. This was the first 50+ performance since 2009 when Lebron tore up the garden (though he didn’t make the list). Add 7 assists and 6 rebounds (not bad for a shooting guard who also set a 3pt record) and you’ve got yourself a performance for the ages. Tough call on this one at #5 but I’m sticking with it for the broken record and the recency.
To watch it happen, check out our friends at topsportsplays.com: http://www.topsportsplays.com/steph-curry-drops-54-in-msg/
4. MJ drops 55 in his 5th game back from baseball
We all remember when Michael Jordan left the sport of basketball for baseball and we were probably all pretty sad about it. His father’s last wish was to become reality, but not permanence. After an 18 month respite from the game of basketball (minus the previous 4 games) Jordan returned and did just what Jordan does; he dropped 55 in the face of a veteran Knicks squad. The talk of the commentators at the time was whether or not Jordan “still had it”… 20/20 hindsight reveals these commentators to be wanton morons and MJ to be the greatest of all time, who knew? That night, Jordan scored 55 points (35 of those in the first half). I gave Jordan the #4 spot because… well because he’s Jordan, not to mention his pass to Bill Wennington won the game for the Bulls, 113-111. Also, coming back from a 2 year layoff to score 55 is just ignorant.
3. Kobe Bryant notches 61 in ’09
The Black Mamba struck hard February 2nd 2009 in, well in MSG of course. The Lake Show won this game 126-117 with Kobe hitting all of his 20 free throws. Kobe tossed up a fat 61 to become the top performer against the Knicks in MSG ever. Spike Lee probably cried himself to sleep that night as he was talking tons of shit to Kobe before and during this game. Kobe gets the nod for #3 because of the record, the win, and crushing the haters (namely Spike Lee). But wait… 63 is the modern MSG record.. who has the all time?
2. Wilt Chamberlain gets 73/Elgin Baylor scores 71 and pulls down 25 boards
I know what you’re thinking, this guy having a tie for second, how corny.The most points scored in against the Knicks in MSG in any era, ‘modern’ or not came from Wilt the Stilt. This isn’t commonly considered the most points scored in MSG because it was in the ‘old garden’ but that’s a whole bunch of B.S. We all know of Wilt’s dominance, but if you’d like to learn more check out this editorial which questions whether this great man was even human: Is Wilt Chamberlain an Alien? Back to the point at hand, Wilt rained bank shots from 20ft and stuffed it in the Knicks face on November 16, 1962 to end the game with 73 (he scored 25 in the 4th quarter!). That would make an interesting This day in history piece.
Totally under-appreciated NBA superstar Elgin Baylor had himself a night for the ages, scoring 71 in MSG and gripping 25 big boards. The performances between Baylor and Wilt are so similar that I couldn’t think of a solution, except to conflate the two. Both players are representative of their era in basketball and will live on as two of the greatest performers in MSG, but the greatest performer…
1. Reggie Miller ‘chokes’ the Knicks with 39
“What about Spike Lee?” Asks Ahmad Rashad… “Spike who?” is Reggie’s reply. “Knick Killer” Reggie Miller, while scoring the least, delivered the most clutch and simultaneously vicious performance to top the list. Notorious fan and trash talker Spike Lee gets Reggie riled up from the sidelines and prompts him to score 25 points in the 4th quarter to come back and beat the Knicks. This put the Pacers in the lead for the Eastern conference series final (though they would eventually lose). You can watch the video below, I’d recommend it, it’s awesome.
All of these plays taking place in the video era can be viewed at topsportsplays.com