Cal Basketball: Highest-Scoring NBA Performances by Former Pac-12 Players

Photo by Troy Taorina, USA Today

Jeff Faraudo

Former Arizona State star James Harden scored 57 points on Monday night in the Houston Rockets’ win over Memphis.

As great it was, the performance was just the second-best of Harden’s NBA career after the 60 he scored against Orlando on Jan. 18 a year ago.

Update: It's now Wednesday, and Harden is proving rather unstoppable. Tonight, he scored 58 points, albeit in a 145-142 overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

All of it got me to wondering: What are the NBA career highs for the best players to come from every Pac-12 school?

It’s an impressive collection, with nine of 12 conference schools boasting at least one alum who scored at least 50 points in an NBA game.

Here’s the list, arranged in order of the highest point total by a player from each school:

— 60 POINTS: JAMES HARDEN, ARIZONA STATE. Harden’s 58-point performance on Wednesday night was the 13th time in his NBA career he has reached 50 in a game. (He had triple-doubles in four of them). His 60-point effort came against Orlando last season.

The Next 4: Joe Caldwell 56 points; Lionel Hollins and Freddie Lewis 43 points; Lafayette Lever and Byron Scott 38 points.

Photo by Kyle Terada, USA Today

— 60 POINTS: KLAY THOMPSON, WASHINGTON STATE. Thompson delivered one of the greatest offensive performances in NBA history for the Warriors against the Pacers on Dec. 5, 2016, when he put up 60 points in 29 minutes. That worked out to 2.07 points per minute, compared with 2.08 for Wilt Chamberlain in his record-100 point game.

The Next 4: Don Collins 32 points; Craig Ehlo 31 points; James Donaldson 29 points; Aron Baynes 26 points.

— 60 POINTS: GILBERT ARENAS, ARIZONA. Arenas, who began his NBA career with the Warriors, reached his scoring apex for Washington against the Lakers on Dec. 17, 2006, one of three 50-point games he assembled in the span of a month.

The Next 4: Damon Stoudamire 54 points; Jason Terry 46 points; Mike Bibby 44 points; Richard Jefferson 42 points.

— 60 POINTS: TOM CHAMBERS, UTAH. Signed a year-and-a-half earlier by Phoenix as the NBA’s first unrestricted free agent, Chambers had his career game at the expense of his former team, Seattle, on March 24, 1990. He scored 60 points on 32 field-goal attempts, without a 3-point try.

The Next 4: Andre Miller 52 points; Kyle Kuzma and Billy McGill 41 points; Jerry Chambers 34 points.

Photo by Soobum Im, USA Today

— 58 POINTS: RUSSELL WESTBROOK, UCLA The Oklahoma City Thunder star, who had his career-best game against Portland on March 7, 2017, is among seven former UCLA players who have scored 50 points or more in the pros. Not surprising considering the pedigree of the Bruins’ program over the past 50-plus years.

The Next 4 (plus 2): Reggie Miller 57 points; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 55 points; Gail Goodrich 53 points; Kevin Love and Kiki Vandeweghe 51 points; Tracy Murray 50 points.

Photo courtesy of Cal Athletics

— 53 POINTS: PHIL CHENIER, CAL. The Berkeley High grad who averaged 16.8 points for the Bears in 1970-71 before exiting college for the NBA, scored the most points ever in an NBA game by a former Cal player for Washington against Portland on Dec. 6, 1972. His 53 points remain a franchise record for a non-overtime game.

Chenier, who served 33 seasons as the team’s TV analyst after his playing days, had his jersey No. 45 retired by Washington last March, prompting this question from contemporary and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “Why did it take so long?”

The Next 4: Shareef Abdur-Rahim 50 points; Kevin Johnson 46 points; Jason Kidd 43 points; Allen Crabbe 41 points.

And 5 More: Lamond Murray 40 points; Ryan Anderson 36 points; Jaylen Brown 34 points; Leon Powe 30 points, Charles Johnson 29 points.

And 5 More Still: Darrall Imhoff 28 points; Tyrone Wallace and Mark McNamara 22 points; Francisco Elson 21 points, Ed Gray 20 points.

(Click here for story on Jason Kidd's greatest games at Cal)

— 53 POINTS: ISAIAH THOMAS, WASHINGTON. Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Thomas had the season of his life for Boston in 2016-17. He had 30 regular-season games of at least 30 points, then scored 53 against Washington in the Eastern Conference semifinals on May 2, 2017.

The Next 4: Brandon Roy 52 points; Terrence Ross 51 points; Nate Robinson 45 points; James Edwards 38 points.

— 52 POINTS: DEMAR DEROZAN, USC. Before being sent to San Antonio in a trade for Kawhi Leonard this past offseason, DeRozan had his biggest game as a pro for Toronto vs. Milwaukee last Jan. 1.

The Next 4: Paul Westphal 49 points; Bill Sharman 44 points; Nick Young 43 points; Gus Williams 42 points.

— 52 POINTS: GEORGE YARDLEY, STANFORD. Admit it, you’ve never heard of Yardley, whose career high for Detroit came against Syracuse on Feb. 4, 1958. Yardley, who led the NBA in scoring at 27.8 points per game that season, also had a 51-point game among the 10 times he topped 40 points in 1957-58.

The Next 4: Brook Lopez 39 points; Jim Pollard 34 points; Paul Neumann and Rich Kelley 33 points.

— 45 POINTS: SCOTT WEDMAN, COLORADO. Wedman had his big night — more than three times his career scoring average of 13.2 points — for the Kansas City Kings against Utah on Jan. 2 1980.

The Next 4: Chauncey Billups and Spencer Dinwiddie 39 points; Jay Humphries and Chuck Williams 36 points.

Photo courtesy of Oregon State Athletics

— 44 POINTS: GARY PAYTON, OREGON STATE. The Oakland-born Hall of Famer scored 58 points as a college player against USC. Known as “The Glove” for his defensive skills, Payton had his highest-scoring NBA game for Seattle against Minnesota on March 4, 2001.

The Next 4: Lonnie Shelton 41 points; Steve Johnson 40 points; Dave Gambee 39 points; AC Green 35 points.

— 42 POINTS: JIM BARNETT, OREGON. Yes, the popular 74-year-old Warriors’ TV analyst still owns the highest-scoring NBA game by a former Duck, which he logged for the San Diego Rockets vs. Seattle on Feb. 18, 1970. (Former Oregon star Steve Jones scored 51 points for the Memphis Tams against the Kentucky Colonels in an ABA game on March 29, 1971.)

The Next 4: Greg Ballard 38 points; Blair Rasmussen 35 points; Terrell Brandon 34 points; Ron Lee 33 points.


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