When he scored 39 points for the second consecutive game on Saturday night against the Spurs, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker became the youngest player ever to have three 39-point games in his back pocket.
No player Booker’s age or younger, per basketball-reference.com who tracks data since 1963 anyway, has done EITHER of the following:
- posted three 39+ point games by his age
- posted back-to-back 39+ point games by his age
Nearly every scoring record is held, or will he held, by LeBron James. And whenever Devin Booker reaches new heights in his scoring exploits, there’s always LBJ who did it first. And Kevin Durant who did it second.
Even when Booker dropped 28 points in the fourth quarter on Thursday night against Dallas, that ranked as “only” third on the list of highest-scoring 4th quarters in NBA history.
This time, Booker is in a class all by himself at the green age of 20 years and 72 days old.
To be fair, a good look at that link shows LeBron James was just barely behind Booker in 39-point scoring games. James added #3, #4 and #5 just four, 12 and 24 days later than Booker did it, respectively.
So I understand we are splitting hairs a bit here. But come on, of all the players who have entered the NBA, most of them with the ability to have entered at a younger age than Booker when he started, NONE OF THEM have had scoring binges on par with Booker.
Consecutive 39+ point games
Let’s look closer at the consecutive 39-point games mark. None of those early LBJ 39+ scoring games were consecutive.
Prior to Devin Booker, you have to go back to 1977 to find Bernard King with back-to-back 39+ point games before the player turned 21 - and King was nine months older than Booker is today.
Let’s take age out of this for moment, and just look at experience level.
Look at how many players in NBA history have had consecutive 39+ point games before their 115th game in the pros (Booker has played 115 games as of last night).
It’s a walk down memory, and in most cases Hall of Fame, lane.
- Rick Berry, back in 1966 when he was 21 and 22, had 39+ points it seems almost every night.
- Elvin Hayes, in 1968, when he was 22 and 23, had several back-to-back 39+ point streaks
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in 1970 at 22 years old did it two times his rookie year
- Geoff Petrie, in 1971 at 22 years old
- Bob McAdoo, in 1973 at 21 years old, had three consecutive 39+ point games late in his rookie season then had another back-to-back onslaught early in his second season
- John Drew, in 1976 at 21 years old, had a pair of 39+ point games three days apart in his second season.
- Bernard King, in 1977 at 20 years and 11 months old, as mentioned above
- Michael Jordan, in 1986 at 23 years old, did it three different times
- Allen Iverson, in 1997 at 21 years old, had an incredible FIVE straight 39+ point games in the span of eight days in April of his rookie year. HOLY MOLY!
- Antawn Jamison, in 2000 at 24 years old, had a pair of 51-point games back to back
According to basketball-reference.com, the last player to post back-to-back 39+ point games within their first 115 in the NBA was Antawn Jamison, almost 17 years ago.
Not LeBron James, not Kevin Durant, not Kyrie Irving, not Stephen Curry. No one currently in the NBA has done what Booker just did these last two games as early in their career as he’s doing it, regardless of age.
Total 39+ point games before turning 21
Now back to the age thing. Doesn’t it stand to reason that if you can do something in the NBA at age 20, you’ll be able to do it even better the older you get?
There’s a reason only LBJ and Durant have done the things that Booker is now doing. That’s because it’s really hard and incredibly uncommon.
Just to keep tabs, LBJ had nine 39+ point games before turning 21, while Kevin Durant had five. Those are the only two players in NBA history with more than Booker’s three before age 21.
If you take it down one notch to 38+ point games before turning 21, Booker’s four is still in 3rd place. Durant sits at 5, while LBJ jumps up to 13 times. No one else has more than Booker’s four 38+ point games before turning 21.
Watch Booker’s latest 39 point onslaught here. And note that most often his defenders were either Danny Green, a high-quality defender, or Kawhi Leonard, a perennial candidate for defensive player of the year.