If you’re reading this there’s a high possibility you like basketball. In fact, some may go as far to say they love the game and for that reason, there’s no better day than today to show our appreciation. In honour of Valentine’s Day this year, I’ve dug back through the NBA history books to find the best games from some of the league’s finest (and quirkiest) to celebrate a day of love. In no particular order, here are the 14 best Valentine’s Day performances of all time.
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John Stockton – 1989
It’s fitting that one of the two 20-point, 20-assist performances on Valentine’s Day came from the league’s all-time leader in career dimes. Back in ’89, a then 26-year-old John Stockton was at his usual wheeling and dealing best against the Denver Nuggets, posting one of his 34 career games with at least 20 assists. His performance along with a 28-point, 14-rebound effort from running mate Karl Malone helped Utah top Denver with more than a few of Stockton’s assists helping his All-Star teammate pile up the points.
Oscar Robertson – 1964
Aside from John Stockton, the only other player to chalk up a 20/20 point/assist game on V-Day is Mr. Triple Double himself, Oscar Robertson. Naturally, he filled up the stat sheet in 1964 finishing with 29 points, 21 assists and 11 rebounds against the Knicks in a 126-114 victory. Along with Wilt Chamberlain and Russell Westbrook (more from them soon), Robertson is the only other player to have multiple triple-doubles on Valentine’s Day with his 181 career TD’s the second most in the history of the league.
Emeka Okafor – 2007
Emeka Okafor had his NBA career derailed by injuries and was never able to live up to the hype of being taken second overall in 2004. Before those issues arose, Okafor was a walking double-double for Charlotte and those talents were on full display against Chicago in ’07. Not only did Okafor secure 21 rebounds against the Bulls that night, but he blocked six shots while also scoring an efficient 15 points. By the time 2013 came around Okafor was a shell of his former self, but games like this outing remind everyone the former Rookie of the Year was far from a scrub during his first decade in the league.
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Richie Guerin – 1962
Only one player has scored over 50 points in NBA history on Valentine’s Day – much loved Knick Richie Guerin. During a six-year stretch in the 50’s & 60’s Guerin made was a walking bucket, averaging 21.8 points for New York and making the All-Star team every year. His best scoring night came in 1959 when he dropped 57 on the Syracuse Nationals, but the second-highest point total from Guerin came on Valentine’s Day in 1962, when he led the Knicks to a win over their arch-rival Boston Celtics. Taking just six free throws in that game, Guerin shot 23-36 to finish the game with 51 points – a scoring binge that has yet to be bested on the annual day of love.
Damian Lillard/Kevin Durant – 2018
I kind of cheated and included this duo’s epic head-to-head as a two-for-one. Entering the game as a member of the 43-14 Golden State Warriors, Kevin Durant looked like his dominant self against the Portland Trailblazers, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone. The Blazers had a scoring sensation of their own leading the charge in the form of Damian Lillard, who poured in 18 points over the first frame. The two traded buckets for most of the game, with Durant totalling 50 points while adding seven rebounds and six assists. Lillard and Portland had the last laugh though, protecting home court and securing the W thanks to Dame’s 44 points and eight assists.
Larry Bird – 1986
You could make a reasonable case that Larry Bird’s 1986 effort was the best Valentine’s Day performance of all time. As part of one of the best teams in NBA history, Bird was in the middle of his third consecutive MVP campaign when a match against the Trailblazers rolled around in February. Fresh off a 31-15-11 line against Seattle, Bird brought up his second consecutive triple-double in video game-like fashion. Not only did the Boston legend finish the game with 47 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, he hit a jumper to tie the game at 109 at the end of regulation AND buried the game-winner in the extra period. Bird’s dominance was at such an all-time high that he declared to his teammates before the game “I’m going to play this one left-handed”, saving his right hand for a matchup with the Lakers later that week. True to his word, 20 of his 47 points came via his left hand. Larry Legend at his finest!
Anthony Davis – 2018
Long before things went pear-shaped between AD and the Pelicans, the former No. 1 overall pick was busy posting eye-popping box scores. One of those such games occurred two years ago when New Orleans hosted a Los Angeles Lakers roster that was very different from the modern-day Lake Show. Davis balled out against L.A. by scoring 42 points on just 18 shots, dragging down 15 rebounds while also adding three assists, three steals and a pair of blocks. Fast forward to the present and Davis is sporting purple and gold rather than competing against it with these numbers becoming a nightly expectation from Lakers fans.
Theo Ratliff – 2003
Seriel shot-blocker Theo Ratliff came oh so close to posting a triple-double on Valentine’s Day back in 2003, with the then Atlanta Hawk tying his career-best number of rejections with nine. Facing off against a talented Pacers team, Ratliff, who three times led the league for blocked shots (’01, ’03 & ’04) added nine swats to his 16 points and 14 rebounds in a one-point loss courtesy of a Reggie Miller trey late in OT. The NBA journeyman never did record a triple-double over his 16-year career, but only Manute Bol (’92) has blocked more shots in a game played on V-Day.
Jeremy Lin – 2011
In the height of ‘Linsanity’ during the 2013-14 season, there was no stopping Jeremy Lin. Over a two-week, 10-game stretch Lin became the talk of the sporting world going from an unknown player fighting to stay in the league, to averaging 24.6 PPG and 9.2 APG while starting for the Knicks. Battling Kobe and scoring a career-best 38 points on the 10th of Feb was arguably the best game of Lin’s career, but a few days later while visiting the Toronto Raptors, he put up one of the best Valentine’s Day performances we’ve seen. Lin fuelled a fourth-quarter comeback for New York leaving the Knicks with possession, the shot clock turned off and the game tied at 87 apiece. Naturally, with his confidence at an all-time high, Lin cooly and calmly dribbled the clock down to the final few seconds before draining a three from the top of the key. He ended the game with 28 points, 11 assists and one impressive game-winner on his resume.
Hakeem Olajuwon – 1985
Hakeem could have finished with a much bigger stat line than the one he posted on the 14th in 1985, had he shot better from the free-throw line. Netting just 10 of his 18 attempts saw ‘The Dream’ score 30 against New York, but it wasn’t just his point total that impressed. On that night, Olajuwon grabbed 25 rebounds with 15 of them coming on the offensive end, the most anyone has pulled down on Valentine’s Day. For good measure, Hakeem added three steals, three blocks and helped secure a significant win for the Rockets.
Ricky Barry – 1967
Kevin Durant and Richie Guerin have already received some love on this list, but Rick Barry is the third and final member of the 50-point Valentine’s Day club. His heroics came in 1967 against the Celtics when Barry was a member of the then San Fransisco Warriors. The Hall of Fame small forward scored 50 or more 14 times throughout his pro career and in this matchup against Boston, his full scoring skillset was on display shooting 16-32 from the field and 18-19 from the free-throw line for his 50-burger. The Warriors went on to lose in the Finals that season with Barry leading the NBA in scoring at 35.6 PPG.
LeBron James – 2013
This wasn’t just any other Valentine’s Day game – this match had storylines coming out the wazoo. For the first time since losing to them in the 2012 NBA Finals, the OKC Thunder were hosting the Miami Heat, who had beaten them on Christmas Day earlier that season. The Thunder were eager to exact revenge with Kevin Durant dropping 40 points to try and steer his team to victory. Unfortunately for him and the rest of Oklahoma City, LeBron James was on the other team, with the King scoring 39 points, adding 12 rebounds and seven assists to his box score to help Miami win their 7th straight game. The Heat would then roll on to win an additional 20 consecutive games, giving them the second-longest win streak in NBA history.
Image from usatoday.com
Wilt Chamberlain – 1966
You could pick a handful of Wilt Chamberlain performances to add to this list, but his 1966 game on Valentine’s Day was particularly epic. With a pair of triple-doubles and three games scoring over 35 on the 14th of Feb, Chamberlain was no stranger to stuffing the stat sheet on the day of love. However, when he took on Detroit in ’66, Wilt shot 16-18 from the field for his impressive 41 points. He wasn’t done there, adding 23 rebounds and 13 assists for good measure as his 76ers team cruised to a 26-point victory. There might not be a player who has posted more noteworthy box scores than Chamberlain, so seeing him finish with a 40-20-10 line is something we kind of take for granted.
Russell Westbrook – 2019
If one man can hold a candle to Wilt’s statistical dominance it’s the 6′ 3″ dynamo, Russell Westbrook. The all-time leader for career triple-doubles, Westbrook posted one such stat line in a close loss to the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2018-19 season. In typical dominant fashion, the Thunder stud poured in 44 points to go with his 14 rebounds and 11 assists finishing the night with a surprising four made 3-pointers as well. That game was the 11th straight triple-double from Westbrook, with the former OKC star slowly but surely working his way up the NBA’s all-time statistical lists.
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