2023: The Year of Buckets

01/19/2023 2023: The Year of Buckets

By: Jeff Yoder

Inside the NBA’s Record-Breaking Scoring Surge in 2023 

Welcome to the year of buckets! If 2023 has taught us anything in sports, it’s that the NBA’s outlandish, video game-like performances aren’t going anywhere. In fact, they’re getting more ridiculous by the day.


After Jalen Green (Rockets) tied his career-high with 41 points last night, a whopping 24 40-point performances have now been tallied through the first 19 days of 2023. Nearly every night has had at least one 40-point scorer, with January 2nd producing five, including Donovan Mitchell’s 71-point explosion. Damian Lillard (Blazers) leads the way with three 40-pieces in the last three weeks, and the Bulls are the only team with three different players to crack the 40-point mark (DeRozan, LaVine, and Vucevic). The Celtics, Warriors, and Knicks had two players do it. Meanwhile, LeBron James surpassed 38,000 points this week to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as only the second player to hit that milestone. Here’s a look at the breakdown of every 40-point outing in 2023:


40-Point Games in 2023

3 — Damian Lillard (POR): 50 pts, 44 pts, 40 pts

2 — Donovan Mitchell (CLE): 71 pts, 46 pts

2 — LeBron James (LAL): 48 pts, 43 pts

2 — Joel Embiid (PHI): 42 pts, 41 pts

1 — Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL): 55 pts

1 — Klay Thompson (GSW): 54 pts

1 — Jayson Tatum (BOS): 51 pts

1 — Lauri Markkanen (UTA): 49 pts

1 — Kevin Durant (BKN): 44 pts

1 — Jalen Brunson (NYK): 44 pts

1 — DeMar DeRozan (CHI): 44 pts

1 — Luka Doncic (DAL): 43 pts

1 — Nikola Vucevic (CHI): 43 pts

1 — Julius Randle (NYK): 42 pts

1 — Zach LaVine (CHI): 41 pts

1 — Jaylen Brown (BOS): 41 pts

1 — Steph Curry (GSW): 41 pts

1 — Jalen Green (HOU): 41 pts

1 — Kyle Kuzma (WAS): 40 pts


The league has combined for a total of 104 40-point games this season, which already ranks in the top-10 (8th) for most in a season in NBA history, and we’re not even at the all-star break. At this rate, the league is on pace for roughly 200 40-point games — more than 50 above the all-time record (142). That mark was set in 1962 due in large part to 63 40-point outings from Wilt Chamberlain. Every other season when the league cracked 100 took place in the last 17 years.


Most 40-Point Games (Entire League) in NBA Season

1961-62: 142 Games (Leader: W. Chamberlain, 63)

2018-19: 137 Games (Leader: J. Harden, 28)

2020-21: 119 Games (Leader: S. Curry, 11)

2021-22: 119 Games (Leader: J. Embiid, 13)

2019-20: 116 Games (Leader: J. Harden, 21

2016-17: 110 Games (Leader: R. Westbrook, 18)

2005-06: 108 Games (Leader: K. Bryant, 27)


When it comes to the 2022-23 race for the most 40-point games, it’s a dead heat. Luka Doncic leads the way with big men Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid on his heels, but Damian Lillard has put up 40-plus in three of the last four games. There’s no runaway winner yet.


Players With Most 40-Point Games This Season

L. Doncic (DAL): 9

J. Embiid (PHI): 8

G. Antetokounmpo (MIL): 8

J. Tatum (BOS): 7

D. Lillard (POR): 6

D. Mitchell (CLE: 5

D. Booker (PHX): 5


Others: S. Curry (4), N. Jokic (4), L. James (3), K. Durant (3)


No matter how you slice it, the NBA’s scoring uptick was already absurd in 2022. After the first three weeks of 2023, you’d think they widened the rims. Cheers to more wild stat lines down the stretch.


Additional Storylines

NY Times: As the NBA Gets ‘Loose,’ 50-Point Games Are Surging

CBS Sports: LeBron James Joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Only 2 Players to Score 38,000 Points

The Athletic: Why are NBA Stars Scoring So Many Points? Making Sense of the League’s Scoring Boom


Photo: Jacob Kupferman / Getty Images