The night David Robinson took the scoring title from Shaquille O’Neal

The night David Robinson took the scoring title from Shaquille O’Neal

Before the final game of the season on April 24, 1994, David Robinson trailed Shaquille O’Neal by an average of only .06 points per game in the scoring title race. Admiral needed a monstrous game to win the title, and he managed to do that – against the LA Clippers, Admiral dropped 71 points in a 112-97 Spurs win to seal the scoring crown.

Robinson, however, had a couple of things going his way. First, the Spurs were up against the Clippers, one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Secondly, his team wasn’t healthy – Dale Ellis and Willie Anderson were out, so Robinson had the freedom to shoot more than usual.

The last thing that helped him get his career-high scoring game was that the Spurs coach John Lucas drawn practically every play for him. Whether it was to get him the ball in the high post or the low post, it didn’t matter – the other Spurs’ players were feeding Robinson with the ball the entire game. Lucas wanted to see Robinson walking away with the title.

The beginning of the game started perfectly for Admiral; he scored the Spurs’ first 18 points of the game. The only player to score in the first quarter that wasn’t Robinson was Negele Knight. He was gassed out a little bit in the second quarter, so he only scored six points.

The Spurs’ center regained his power in the third and fourth quarter in which he scored 19 and 28 points. His final seven points came in the last minute since he was fouled a lot. Eighteen of his 71 points came from the free-throw line, and he even made one three-pointer. After scoring a 17-footer with 37 seconds remaining on the clock, Lucas took him out of the game, and Robinson received a standing ovation from the Sports Arena.

“I looked up at the scoreboard and I said, ’71 points. Oh, my goodness! I don’t worry about scoring titles or MVP, that stuff will wear you out if you think about it every night.

David Robinson, via L.A. Times

Admiral received praises from everyone that night, and even Dennis Rodman was impressed.

“I think he could have had 80 points tonight. He missed a few free throws and a couple easy baskets.

Dennis Rodman, via L.A. Times

Robinson finished the season with 2,383 points in 80 games, an average of 29.788 points, to win the NBA’s scoring title. Shaq had to put up 68 points in his final game, but he managed to score only 32, leaving him with 2,377 points in 81 games, an average of 29.346 points. With his 71-point performance, Robinson was only the fourth player to score 70 points in a game after Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and David Thompson. Since then, only two more players have scored 70 or more points – Kobe Bryant (81) and Devin Booker (70).