The NBA’s scoring title race is getting quite a twist over the last few weeks, as a red hot Carmelo Anthony, averaging 28.56 points per game, is threatening to break the hold of Kevin Durant, winner of the last three, surpassing the Oklahoma City Thunder player, who is currently stuck at second with 28.25 points, making it one of the closest scoring races in NBA history.
Durant is no stranger to close calls, having Kobe Bryant and LeBron James breathing down his neck in two of his previous winnings. Shaquille O’Neal has finished as the league’s top scorer just once, but has been involved in quite a few tight battles with Allen Iverson, Michael Jordan and David Robinson. The most memorable of them all? That award goes to David Thompson and George Gervin, who put on quite a show on the last day of the season, intent on taking the scoring crown home.
Dominique Wilkins vs Adrian Dantley vs Alex English, 1986
The last scoring title in the 1980’s before Michael Jordan shifted into superhuman mode and took over that aspect of NBA life. Wilkins was averaging 30.28 points entering the final day of the season; Dantley and English were both sidelined from the Jazz and Nuggets final games due to injuries, held at 29.83 and 29.80 respectively. Wilkins scored 34 points to improve to 30.33 and clinch his only scoring title of his career, mostly helped by 57 points in the next to final game, surpassing Dantley.
Kevin Durant vs LeBron James, 2010
Kevin Durant won his first scoring title in 2010, becoming the youngest ever to score more than anyone else during the regular season. He finished edging James 30.15 to 29.71, thanks to a final month of averaging 34.6 points per game. James, on the other hand, sat out the final four games before his final postseason with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Allen Iverson vs Shaquille O’Neal, 1999
Allen Iverson entered the final day of the season with the lead, averaging 26.61 points per game. Shaquille O’Neal was averaging 26.47. Iverson went on to score 33 points, with overtime, against the Pistons, while Shaq, needing 40 points to win the title, finished with only 18, losing to Iverson 26.75 to 26.31.
David Robinson vs Shaquille O’Neal, 1994
Before the final day of the season, David Robinson was averaging 29.26 points per game; Shaquille O’Neal was averaging 28.95. Robinson played first and scored a historic 71 points on 26-41 for 44 minutes. O’Neal played later on finishing with 32 points, conceding the scoring title 29.79 to 29.35. He later complained about Robinson getting help from the Clippers to clinch it – “I heard that no defense was played. No triple teams occurred and they ran every play to Robinson. If that would happen down here, I would have 70 points, too.
Michael Jordan vs Shaquille O’Neal, 1998
Michael Jordan was averaging 28.55 points entering the final day of the season, leading Shaquille O’Neal with 28.23 points. Jordan went first, scoring 44 points, which meant Shaq needed 59 in order to clinch his second scoring title. He finished with “only” 33, and Jordan took his 10th scoring title, averaging 28.74 per game, beating Shaq’s 28.32.
Kevin Durant vs Kobe Bryant, 2012
Kevin Durant entered the final game of the season averaging 27.97 points per game, with Kobe Bryant trailing by 0.11 points with 27.86. Durant scored 32 points against Denver to finish the season with 28.03. Kobe Bryant had the Sacramento Kings lineup up, needing 38 points to win the scoring title, but decided to sit out and rest for the playoffs.
George Gervin vs David Thompson, 1978
The closest scoring race that ever was, with Gervin averaging 26.77 points before the final game; Thompson was averaging 26.50. Thompson played first, scoring 32 points in the first quarter, 53 at halftime and finished with 73, at the time the second best scoring effort in history behind Wilt Chamberlain, giving him a final average of 27.15. Gervin? He finished with 63 points, scoring 20 in the first quarter and 53 in the second, setting a scoring average of 27.22, enough to win it for the first out of four times.