The two are the main characters of one of the greatest stories in the league’s history. The year was 1978, and Gervin and Thompson were in the run for league’s scoring title. The race was so even that only 15 points were separating them on top of the scoring charts.
David Thompson played the last game of the season against Detroit Pistons and scored 73 points in a 139-137, an incredible loss. At that time, only Wilt Chamberlain has ever scored more points in a single NBA game. Gervin would play later that day and decided to take upon the challenge and possibly secure the title for the leading scorer that season.
Gervin knew he needed 58 points in a game against the New Orleans Jazz, and even though he never scored that many points in a game, he decided to go for them.
“My, oh my. I haven’t ever hit 58, but I’m going for them.”George Gervin
Believe it or not, Gervin did it. He dropped his career-high of 63 points and even broke Thompson’s short-lived record of points scored in a quarter with 33. He scored 53 by halftime, making it obvious he is running away with a scoring title. The final buzzer had sounded, and Gervin’s Spurs have lost the game. However, it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was his 63.
Gervin is 10th on the all-time list of career points per game. Over a 15-season career, The Iceman averaged 25.1 points per game. The most he averaged over a single year was 33.1 in the 78-79 NBA season. Gervin topped 30 PPG one more time in his career and was a consistent elite scorer.
He dropped his career-high 63 points in 1978 vs. the New Orleans Jazz. Not many have scored more than Gervin in a single game, and not many have done it for as long as him, as he led the league in scoring four times.
Thompson, on the other hand, didn’t have as long of a career as Icemen. After nine years of playing in the NBA, Skywalker retired due to a knee injury. But there was more to it, as Thompson had severe substance abuse problems that cut his career short. Nevertheless, what he did during his NBA years scoring-wise was nothing short of impressive. Thompson is 29th in terms of career scoring average with 22.7 PPG.
This is by far the craziest story in NBA history. Within a few hours, two of the greatest scoring performances ever happened, with record-breaking quarters in both of those. It was a movie-like ending to the closest race for scoring title ever, with Gervin edging out Thompson 27.22 to 27.15 PPG. It doesn’t get any closer than that.