We have a lot of elderly players in the league nowadays. They are all part of that golden generation that entered the NBA in the second half of the 90’s, and continued to play at a high level well beyond their 30’s. All those Kobes, Dirks, Timmies, you know. NBA.com even has a whole MVP race devoted to old players (Old School Power Rankings).
So… why not devote a post to old players! Well, not just any post. A post dedicated to the best scorers in NBA history after the age of 30.
So… who do you think had the best season in terms of scoring average – after the age of 30? Meaning that the player celebrated his 30th b-day before the season began? Go ahead, take a guess.
No, it’s not him. Try again.
Nope, wrong again.
Let me guess – your first guess was Michael? And the second was any name from the trio of Kobe/Kareem/Karl Malone?
Well, the truth is that Michael is not even in the top 3! And as for the other three, they are outside the top 10.
So what does the top 10 looks like?
10) Michael Jordan, 1997-98, 28.74 points per game – Michael was already 34 years old when the season started, and his average is the record for the highest points’ average for players aged 34+. He captured his final scoring title, final MVP award and final NBA title during that season. Not bad for an old man, huh?
9) John Havlicek, 1970-71 season, 28.86 points per game – Now here’s a surprising name. Probably THE most surprising in the top 10. In fact, I think I would have been less surprised to find my own fucking name here. John-fucking-Havlicek?! I mean, I know the guy was a great player, an all-time legend, but an old-super-scorer?! What the fuck?! In fact, this season, in which he was 30 years old, was his BEST in terms of scoring average. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE. He’s like Barry Bonds without the PEDs.
8) Michael Jordan, 1996-97, 29.65 points per game – The second time Michael is here. This time he’s 33 years old, but apart from that I have nothing to say about this season. Except that he was robbed of an MVP award.
7) Alex English, 1985-86 season, 29.80 points per game – Well done, Alex! Denver’s legendary scorer was 32 at the time, and during this season he scored one three-pointer (out of 5 attempts). BTW, Alex’s next season, 1986-87, is ranked 11th.
6) Dominique Wilkins, 1992-93 season, 29.87 points per game – The eternal 2nd place to Michael (he finished 2nd to Michael three times in the chase for the scoring title. well, perhaps not an “eternal 2nd place”, let’s call him “occasional 2nd place”). The occasional 2nd place to Michael manages to finally beat him in something – Dominique holds the record for the highest scoring season for players aged 33+.
5) Larry Bird, 1987-88 season, 29.93 points per game – Another suprise. Well, sort of. Right? I mean, look at it this way – this was Larry Legend’s highest scoring season, and it came when he was 31. What is it with Celtics players reaching their peak in their 30’s?! What the fuck?! And Bill Simmons, please don’t hate me, but I gotta say that Larry, despite being one of the all-time greats, was never a scoring machine like some of the other names here. He never cracked the 30-points-per-game barrier for a whole season or for a whole playoff. So yeah, I will go with a surprise here too, Not of Havlicekian magnitude, but still…
4) Michael Jordan, 1995-96, 30.38 points per game – Michael’s first full season after his first retirement, and the last time he cracked the 30-poins-per-game barrier in his career. He was 32 when the season began, and probably would have cracked the top 3 had he not retired to play baseball just when he turned 30. It would have been very hard for him to reach the number 1 spot, though, as you will see. Nevertheless, Michael holds the record for players aged 32+.
3) Rick Barry, 1974-75 season, 30.63 points per game – The man with the granny shot, Rick should be remembered as one of the ultimate greatest scorers in NBA history. He probably doesn’t get that legendary status because in his prime he chose to play for the ABA for several seasons. Anyway, Barry was 30 years old when he averaged 30.63 points per game and led the Warriors to the NBA title, winning the Finals MVP award in the process. BTW, it’s really surprising that as a white player who’s really good at shooting free throws – Barry really sucked from the three-point line – less than 30% for threes for his career! And it’s not racism, I’m Jewish.
2) Jerry West, 1969-70 season, 31.20 points per game – The player who held the record for the highest scoring season for a player aged 30+ for 35 years and still holds the record for players aged 31+. This was the season that came after the NBA Finals where the Lakers lost to the Knicks but Jerry was awarded the NBA Finals MVP, the first and only time the award went to a player from the losing team. So Jerry probably came to this season with something to prove. Thankfully, Jerry also averaged 31.34 points per game in the 1965-66 season and saved us the embarassement of having another player on the list averaging a career-high after the age of 30.
1) Allen Iverson, 2005-06 season, 33.01 points per game – Admit that you weren’t expecting that! Allen Iverson! And thankfully this is something I actually got to experience by myself. That amazing 2005-06 season, when even this crazy average of over 33 points per game was far from enough for winning the scoring title, thanks to Kobe’s sensational season. But really, Iverson?! I wouldn’t have guessed that, I must admit. This unique player and amazing warrior on the court turned 30 before the season began, and in his attempt to bring Philly to the playoffs he shattered West’s record by a mile. The 76ers didn’t qualify for the playoffs, though – they finished 9th in the East. This was Iverson’s highest-scoring season btw, thus making up for Jerry West from earlier and completely messing up with my head.
33 points per game at the age of 30! Damn… Is there any active player that can come close to those numbers? I doubt it. Players hardly score 30 points per game nowadays… Oh, and Kobe’s highest average after the age of 30? 27.86 points per game, in the 2011-12 season. Kareem’s? 26.19 points per game (1980-81). And Karl Malone’s? 27.43 points per game (1996-97, the season he stole the MVP from Michael).