It was December 7th, 1995 and the Nuggets were playing the Jazz. At the time Jazz were a powerhouse led by Karl Malone and John Stockton. Nobody wanted to play them as they played a very physical (some would say dirty here) brand of basketball. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf had different plans.
If you ask scouts what do they look at to see will a college player be able to shoot in the NBA, is his shoot doomed or can it be worked on, they look at free throw percentage. All else can be modified, but this has shown to be the biggest indicator of your shooting ability. Abdul-Rauf was one of the best shooters in the history of NBA, shooting 90.5% from the free throw line in his career.
That season, the '95/'96 was his second best with 93%. His best season was '93/'94 when he shot 95.6% from the charity stripe!!!!! The best single-season record for free throw percentage is playing in the NBA right now and you would never guess who it is. Jose Calderon with 98% in '08/'09.
Even though he was guarded by one of the best point guards of his era, Abdul-Rauf managed to score 51 points that night. Every player has a day when everything goes in, and that was his day. Even crazier than the number is the efficiency of his shooting profile. He shot 63% from the field (17/27), 64.3% from three (9/14) and 100% from the charity stripe (8/8)!!
Remember, this was the big men era with Malone, Robinson, Duncan, Hakeem and the guys. You really had to be an amazing shooter to get the license to shoot 14 threes, and Mahmoud was just that. He shot 39.4% from three on 5.4 attempts. The man was a shooting machine.
Previously known as Chris Jackson, Mahmoud converted to Islam in 1991 and changed his name in 1993. He was Kaepernick before Kaepernick, but at the time "woke" was not a thing so when he refused to stand for the national anthem in 1996 he was suspended by the league. In the end, an agreement was made that he would stand, but close his eyes and look downwards, usually reciting an Islamic prayer. He felt the flag and anthem were a symbol of oppression and that the US had a long history of tyranny. We covered this story extensively here.
He is currently playing in BIG3 for the Three Headed Monsters.