47 times did the NBA scoring champ average over 30. Putting up between 25 and 30 a game was enough to secure the award in 31 regular season runs. Only five players in the association’s history secured scoring titles by averaging less than 25 PPG. And Joe Fulks did it averaging 22.1, which is the lowest per-game scoring output for a scoring champ ever.
Jumpin’ Joe did it during the 1947-48 season – a year before the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and National Basketball League (NBL) merged to create National Basketball Association (NBA). The records and statistics of the BAA prior to the merger in ’49 are considered in official NBA history, as the league reckons the deal as an expansion, making Fulks’ accomplishment permanently relevant by official parameters set by the NBA.
Joe ended up playing in 60 regular-season games, as he led the Philadelphia Warriors to a 27-21 record and a number one seed in the East. He led the BAA in field goal attempts with 26 per game and was only able to convert .305 of those, which by standards at the time was an efficient basketball, given that the league average FG% was .284. Fulks also led the league in FTAs with 9.1 per game, hitting 6.9 (.762) of them for a total of 949 points – 58 shy of the Chicago Stags‘ Max Zaslofsky.
After topping the Eastern Conference, Fulks’ Warriors made the BAA Finals for the second straight season. Still, they ended up losing the six-game series to the Baltimore Bullets, despite Jumpin’ Joe exceeding his regular-season scoring efforts, averaging 23.5 PPG. The next season, Fulk bumped his scoring average to 26 a game but failed to win his third straight scoring title. The Lakers‘ rookie George Mikan led the league with 28.3 points per contest, ending Joe’s two year stretch of being the BAA’s best bucket getter.
James Harden is on an even better run today, being the NBA’s leading scorer for the past three seasons. We’ll see if anyone will be able to pull a George Mikan and end his streak. The threshold isn’t quite 22.1, but there are enough talented scorers in the association for a new name to emerge as the NBA’s next scoring champion.