James Harden of the Houston Rockets recently became the 45th player in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to score 20,000 points.
Harden, who started as a bench player for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is having an incredible season. He is averaging 36.9 points per game. If Harden can keep it up, he will join a very exclusive club: NBA players who have averaged 35 or more points for a season.
Who is in the 35-plus club? Let’s take a look at basketball history:
Wilt Chamberlain (played from 1959 to 1973): The most unstoppable scorer in the history of the NBA, Chamberlain averaged more than 50(!) points a game during the 1961-1962 season and more than 40 points a game during the 1962-1963 season. In all, the Big Dipper had five seasons where he scored more than 35 points a game.
Chamberlain would have scored even more, but he was a terrible free throw shooter. He missed almost 6,000 foul shots during his 14-year career.
Michael Jordan (1984-2003): Maybe the greatest all-around player in the history of the NBA, Jordan was certainly a great scorer. “His Airness” averaged 37.1 points per game during his third season with the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan led the NBA in scoring 10 times during his career. And he sold millions and millions of basketball shoes.
Rick Barry (1965-1980): A high-scoring forward who played some of his career with the American Basketball Association, Barry averaged 35.6 points a game during his second season with the San Francisco (now Golden State) Warriors.
Barry became a member of the 35-plus club even though the NBA did not have the three-pointer until Barry’s last season. Harden sinks about five three-pointers a game.
Barry, however, was a great free throw shooter — he shot them underhand. He made almost 90 percent of his shots from the “charity stripe” (the free throw line).
Kobe Bryant (1996-2016): Bryant was destined for stardom when he was an 18-year-old first-round draft choice out of his suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, high school in 1996.
A five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant had his greatest scoring season during the 2005-2006 season when he averaged 35.4 points.
Elgin Baylor (1958-1972): A native of Washington, Baylor may be the most amazing member of the 35-plus club.
Baylor averaged 38.3 points per game during the 1961-1962 season, but he played only in 48 of the Los Angeles Lakers’ 80 games. He had a good excuse for missing 32 games: Baylor was in the Army Reserve. Athletes could be drafted, or ordered, to serve in the military back then.
So Baylor could play only in games that were scheduled on weekends. Unable to practice with his team, Baylor still showed up and scored big.