by Nico Fiscella
21 years ago, Karl Malone made history in the first round of the playoffs. Facing off against the seven-seed Seattle Supersonics, Malone became the oldest player to score 50 points in the playoffs.
The Jazz defeated the Supersonics 104-93. Malone scored 48 percent of Utah’s points. Malone finished the night with 50 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals.
While being the oldest player in NBA history to score 50 points in the playoffs speaks for itself, this performance holds many other titles.
Malone is also the only player to score over 50 points on April 22. Behind him sits Bernard King with 46 points back in 1984. When looking at other notable performances on that day, it is clear that 36-year-old Karl Malone owns April 22.
Malone is the fourth oldest player in NBA history to ever score 50 points in a game between the regular season and postseason. Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Jamaal Crawford are just ahead of him. Of these four, Malone is the only one to record a double-double.
It’s time to dig even deeper into the statistics of this performance. When compared to other players who have scored over fifty points with a double-double in a playoff game, Malone is one of 16 to ever do so.
When looking at the three players to record this feat while being over the age of 30, the list shrinks down to three: Jerry West (30), Charles Barkley (31), and Karl Malone (36).
The Utah Jazz have eighteen separate games in which a player has scored over 50 points, and Malone owns five of those performances. Outside of Adrian Dantley doing this six times, Malone sits second all-time in 50-point games in a Jazz jersey.
Going back to the game, Malone had John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek by his side. Both provided double-digit assists on the night. Hornacek was the second highest scorer for Utah, finishing with thirteen points.
For Seattle, Gary Payton’s 24 points and 11 rebounds could not outmatch Malone. While Malone finished the night with fifty, Payton and teammate Shammond Williams combined for 47 on the night.
Malone shot 18-32 from the field, while the combination of Payton and Williams went 20-43 on the evening.
The previous record for most points in a playoff game was held by Adrian Dantley. Malone edged out Dantley’s previous record of 46 points in a playoff game. A quick jump shot with less than three minutes left in the game pushed Malone into a league of his own.
After the game, SuperSonics head coach Paul Westphal’s biggest takeaway was how easy the ball found the bottom of the net for Malone.
“The thing that’s the most disconcerting is that he didn’t seem to be any hotter than he usually is,” Westphal said. “He could go for fifty anytime he wanted to.”
Fast forward 21 years, and Malone remains the oldest player to score fifty points in the playoffs. However, could his record be broken? LeBron James is entering the playoffs season at 35 years old. He is about 100 days younger than Malone was in this historic game.
Malone’s performance in Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Playoffs will forever live in NBA history. His record stands alone at the top.
Featured image courtesy Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images