Madison Square Garden, the NBA’s second oldest arena, is home to the New York Knicks, ice hockey, boxing, concerts, ice shows, circuses, and more. Opened in 1968, MSG opened only two years after Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, home to the Golden State Warriors. After looking at the greatest scoring performances in Madison Square Garden in honor of Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s 54, we wanted to present the Top 10 Greatest Games in MSG to honor the greatest overall performances.
50 Points, 15 Rebounds
In one of the greatest performances by beloved Knicks Center Patrick Ewing, he dazzled the broad way crowd with 50 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 assists. Ewing’s 7’1 frame towered over the defense. Ewing always displayed a well-rounded game between his thunderous slams, his soft shooting touch, and defensive prominence. Utilizing the drop-step to brush opponents aside, Ewing scored easily on the inside. His turnaround jumper was money. On the fast break, Ewing had a devastating dunk that demoralized the Hornets.
51 Points, 10 Rebounds, 6 Assists
In February the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony finally broke the New York Knicks franchise record of 29 straight games scoring 20 points or more, a record that stood for 51 years, a record formerly held by Richie Guerin. 6-time All-Star guard Guerin left the Knicks as the franchise’s 2nd leading scorer. During this magnificent 51-point game at MSG, Guerin led his Knicks to a 125-112 win over the Boston Celtics.
54 Points, 7 Assists, 6 Rebounds, 3 Steals
In an epic offensive performance in Madison Square Garden, Curry shot an incredible 11 of 13 from beyond the arc. He probably wishes he had shot that well during the All-Star Three-point Contest. He could have won. In addition to showing the outside touch, Curry showed an explosive all-around game. To elude defenders, Curry showed his mastery of the euro-step, which helps him drive into the lane. And, Curry fearlessly drove into the lane launching floaters over All-Stars Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. Any shot he took seemed like it was going in. Curry was so hot in this game. Some of his great highlights were the three-pointers he drilled under duress, one at the end of the 3rd period, and another in the 4th that cut the Knicks lead to 100-99 with 4-plus minutes to go. Unfortunately, Curry failed to lead his visiting Warriors past the hometown Knicks.
55 Points, 7 Assists, 7 Rebounds
Like Curry’s 54-point game in MSG, King’s 55-point game showed overall brilliance with 7 assists and 7 rebounds. In this game, Bernard King also displayed his gifted offensive touch. He had every shot in the book, great hands, a soft touch, and made great adjustments in the air. With fierce driving layups thru multiple defenders and turn around jumpers that were smooth like butter, King had one of the greatest games of his career in Madison Square Garden.
55 Points, 11 Rebounds
Charles Barkley on Bernard King:
In 1985, King had an amazing 55-point and 11-rebound outburst in MSG. When 14-year NBA veteran Bernard King was asked by “Off the Dribble” about his favorite memory, he responded “The totality of my years with the New York Knicks.”
62 Points, 12 Rebounds
Due to his sheer dominance of the New York Knicks, it’s hard to leave Wilt off of any list about great games in Madison Square Garden. Playing for the San Francisco Warriors, Chamberlain scored 62 and pulled in 12 boards in 1963. But, that was only one of 6-times Wilt scored 62 points between 1962 and 1966. Wilt also scored 62 against the Syracuse Nationals.
57 Points, 15 Rebounds
In his Madison Square Garden debut, rookie Rick Barry had this 57-point explosion. That would be a record except that a rookie named Wilt Chamberlain scored 58. The 6’7 Barry is father of NBA players Jon, Brent, and Drew Barry. 12-time All-Star Rick Barry scored a playoff career-high 40.1 ppg in his 2nd ABA season. In his second to last season, Barry shot a career-high 94.7% from the free throw line (1978-1979).
51 Points, 18 Rebounds, 1 Assist
51 and 18 would be great no matter what, but that Ewing had that game in MSG against Boston Celtics All-Star center Robert Parish makes the accomplishment so much sweeter. Although it was 1990 and the Celtics were older, Parish had a reputation as a gamer and a solid defender. For most of the 1980s, the frontcourt of Parish, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird was the best in the game. On this night, Ewing owned that legendary frontcourt. Ewing started off pump-faking Parish, but as Ewing continued to score, he got more confident against “The Chief.” Soon, Ewing was throwing up baseline turnaround jumpers, hook shots, up-and-under moves. It was a great, back-and-forth game. The only thing that would have made Ewing happier that night would have been to win the game.
50 Points, 10 Assists, 8 Rebounds
In 2008, LeBron James had another near triple-double performance in Madison Square Garden. Again in front of his friend Jay-Z, James put on a show to remember, a game that featured his un-guardable floaters and deliciously devastating dunks. Driving through traffic like a bulldozer, James forced the defense to fold every time. He did anything and everything he wanted out there. Floaters through traffic. Floating, driving bank shots. Buzzer-beaters and clutch three’s. James’ victory over the Knicks was a great all-around display of his tremendous talent.
52 Points, 11 Assists, 9 Rebounds
In 2009, following Kobe Bryant’s 61-point game in Madison Square Garden, everyone was buzzing about what then-Cavaliers star LeBron James would do for an encore. Spike Lee said, “he’s gonna try to come out and…do more than what Kobe did.” From the opening tip, James was having one of those nights where there wasn’t anything he can’t do on a basketball court, kind of like how he looks now on a regular basis. His dribble was tight. His spin moves were a thing of beauty. Driving hard to the hoop, LeBron had a thrilling reverse turnaround one-handed dunk. Originally, in this game James was credited with a triple-double, but open review his 10th rebound was taken away.
71 points, 25 rebounds
The high-flying All-Star Lakers forward Elgin Baylor scored a career-high 71 points and pulled down 25 rebounds in Madison Square Garden. His career high in rebounds was actually 31. #1 draft pick of the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958, Baylor still holds the NBA Finals record for the 61 points he dropped in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals. With his signature running back shot, the athletic and versatile forward is remembered like Laker-greats Kobe Bryant and Jerry West as one of the greatest shooters of all-time. Teammate Tommy Hawkins describes Baylor’s shooting the best when he told the San Francisco Examiner Baylor, “would take it in and hang and shoot from all these angles. Put spin on the ball. Elgin had incredible strength. He could post up Bill Russell. He could pass like Magic [Johnson] and dribble with the best guards in the league.”
As MSG completes a $1 billion dollar renovation, it seems odd that only 1 NBA All-Star Game ever took place there (in 1998), while the New York Knicks have made 5 NBA Finals.
Honorable Mention: Bernard King’s 60, Amar’e Stoudemire’s 41, Carmelo Anthony’s 41, Kyrie Irving’s 41, Jeremy Lin’s 38