March 24th: The Most Iconic Scoring Day in Suns History
Today marks the anniversary of not just one, but two of the most historic performances in Suns history by two of their most iconic players: Tom Chambers and Devin Booker.
It is the only date on the calendar in which any NBA franchise has had multiple 60+ point games, and both did so while repping ‘Phoenix’ across their chest.
March 24, 1990: It’s been thirty years since the lights-out performance from Tom Chambers when he tipped-off against his former team, the Seattle SuperSonics.
In his second season his Phoenix, Chambers had already proven to be an elite scorer averaging 27.2 points per game (fourth in the NBA) on over 50 percent shooting. Just one month prior, Chambers set the franchise record for most points in a single game by a Sun with a 56-point outing against Golden State, but clearly that record didn’t stand long.
Who better to break it than himself.
Not only did his record-setting performance come against his former team, but a Sonics team that was known for their physicality and defense. It didn’t matter who was on him, whether it was Derrick McKey or Shawn Kemp, Chambers wasn’t backing down and he wasn’t going to be denied.
“When his shot is going and he’s running the floor, he’s pretty much unstoppable,” Eddie Johnson said.
Whether it was because he was facing his former team, on a historic scoring streak or simply because the Suns were on roll, Chambers couldn’t miss.
“I was motivated,” Chambers said. “Our team was playing well. It was probably the best streak of my career, as far as individual numbers. We were winning games like crazy.”
His teammates noticed early on that this was one of those night for Chambers, but may not have expected just how impressive of a performance it would be.
“We were like, ‘Oh no. He’s cooking,” Mark West said. “They can’t stop him. Turnaround, post up, getting to the rim and finishing. You’re just cheering for the guy.”
Chambers finished the game with 60 points on 68.8 percent shooting (22-of-32 FG), despite not attempting a single three-pointer. He also tallied six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in the Suns 26-point blowout victory over Seattle.
“That was one of the greatest games,” Paul Westphal said. “It says a lot that his teammates thought enough of him and revered him to keep going for it.”
At the time, Chambers became just the 14th player in NBA history to record a 60-point game and just the third to accomplish the feat that season, along with Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. He joined David Robinson, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone as the only players in the 1990’s to record 60 points in a game.
The performance stands as the greatest individual scoring effort in any game at Veterans Memorial Coliseum or any NBA venue in Phoenix.
…But that’s because exactly 27 years later, Devin Booker and the Suns were on the road.
March 24, 2017: At just 20 years old, and in just his second season in the NBA, Booker rewrote history when he dropped 70 points against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.
“It changed my life so much,” Booker said. “People know me as Mr. 70 at lot of places I go. It’s crazy what the night did for my career.”
Booker’s previous career high was 39 points heading into that game, a mark which he had notched three different times throughout his sophomore season. Fans waited in anticipation for his first 40-point night, however, Booker definitely exceeded those expectations.
“I wanted him to get 40 and take that next step,” Chambers said. “I didn’t expect him to get 50, 60 and 70. I mean, who would have thought that would ever happen?”
It was a tale of two halves, as no one could have predicted what Book had in store for the final two quarters.
“Devin Booker’s night kind of snuck up on us,” Al McCoy said. “He just couldn’t miss.”
Booker had 19 points at halftime, and it seemed possible that he could finally reach the 40-point mark for the first time in his NBA career. He didn’t seem to have an issue notching 40, as he erupted for 51 points in the second half alone, becoming the first NBA player to score at least 50 in a half since Kobe Bryant in 2006.
Be Legendary, right?
The records just began falling one right after another, including one that took place exactly 27 years earlier.
Late in the fourth, Booker drove through the paint, went up for a shot, corralled the miss and converted the bucket to reach 61 points and break Chambers’ franchise record. He wasn’t done yet, though.
“I can say, it hurt,” Chambers said with a smile. “It’s nice to have records.”
“I thought he’d be happy at 62 and the dude kept going,” Eddie Johnson said. “What I saw that night with Devin Booker was a guy that is not satisfied.”
And he was not satisfied with 62. He wanted more. He wanted 70. He got 70.
“That’s just amazing,” Dan Majerle said. “Nobody understands just how hard it is to get 70 points in a game. It’s not easy to do. It’s damn near impossible.”
Booker finished the game with 70 points on 52.5 percent shooting (21-of-40) while adding eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block to his already-impressive statsheet.
He became just the sixth player in NBA history to record a 70-point game, joining NBA legends Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, David Thompson, David Robinson and Elgin Baylor.
It was the third-highest point total ever by a guard, as Bryant notched 81 and Thompson scored 73. Michael Jordan’s high water mark is just behind Booker at 69. The four guards here represent a lineage of inspiration as Jordan said he had idolized Thompson, Bryant said he had idolized Jordan and Booker said he had idolized Bryant.
At just 20 years, 145 days old at the time, Booker was not just the youngest player to ever record 70, but the youngest to even score 60 and third-youngest to record a 50-point game (Brandon Jennings, LeBron James).
“He really believes no one can guard him in the NBA and after 70, I think he proved himself right,” Jared Dudley said.
Booker is the only active player in the NBA with a 70-point game and holds a greater career-high than five of the top six career scorers in NBA history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (55), Karl Malone (61), LeBron James (61), Michael Jordan (69) and Dirk Nowitzki (53).
In addition to breaking the franchise record for points in a game, he also broke Eddie Johnson’s record for points in a half (51) as well as most field goals attempted in a game (40), most free throws made in a game (24) and most free throws made in a half (20). Book’s 20 free throws made Michael Jordan‘s NBA record for most free throws made in a one half.
“Seeing my name up there with those guys, there’s not words for it,” Booker said. “A storied franchise like the Phoenix Suns, just unbelievable to know that my name hopefully forever will be remembered up there.”