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On This Date in Sports April 24, 1994: David Robinson's 71-point Salute

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs scores 71 in the final game of the regular season, to win the NBA’s scoring title with 29.8 points per game. Robinson battled Shaquille O’Neal of the Orlando Magic all season, with both All-Star centers having a shot at the scoring title on the last day of the season. David Robinson’s 71 in the Spurs 112-97 road win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Reminiscent of the great duel of 1978, David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal went into the final day of the NBA’s regular season with each having a shot to win the scoring title. In 1978, George Gervin of the San Antonio Spurs scored 63 points, while David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets had 73 on the last day of the season. Gervin’s 63 allowed him to win the scoring title in the closest battle ever 27.22 to Thompson’s 27.15. After Thompson scored 73, Gervin needed 58 points and came out smoking to score 63 against the New Orleans Jazz setting a new Spurs franchise record.

Shaquille O’Neal was in his second NBA season, having won the Rookie of the Year in 1993. David Robinson meanwhile was in his fifth season with the San Antonio Spurs. The scoring title had been the dominion of Michael Jordan who had won it seven straight years, before suddenly retiring before the start of the 1993/94 season, finishing with 29.3 ppg.

Shaquille O’Neal finished the season strong scoring 32 points, with 22 rebounds as the Orlando Magic beat the New Jersey Nets 120-91. It was a game for fans in Orlando to celebrate as the Magic made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history at 50-32.

David Robinson meanwhile went out seemingly went out focused on taking the title and came out looking to put up big numbers at the LA Sports Arena against the woeful Los Angeles Clippers and put the scoring title out of reach. In the first quarter, he put up San Antonio’s first 18 points, as Negele Knight’s bucket with 23 seconds left were the only points not scored by the Admiral. The Clippers managed to slow David Robinson down in the second quarter as he had just six points, as the game was competitive at the half with the Spurs holding a 37-35 lead. In the third quarter, Robinson added 19 points that would have been enough to win the scoring title with his game total raise to 43 points. However, looking to make a state David Robinson had his biggest output in the fourth quarter, scoring 28 points including seven points in the game’s final minute as the Spurs beat the Clippers 112-97.

The 71 points scored by David Robinson was the most in the NBA since David Thompson in the 1978 season finale, while setting the Spurs franchise record set by George Gervin on the fateful same day. Robinson’s previous career best had been 52 points. To get to 71 points, David Robinson shot 26-of-41 from the floor, making one of two shots from three-point range, while he was steady at 18-of-25 from the free throw line. Also helping his efforts, David Robinson had 14 rebounds and five assists, while no other player on his team reached double digits. The 71 points, enabled Robinson to finish the season with 29.8 ppg, a half point better than Shaquille O’Neal.

The 1994 scoring title would be the only one that David Robinson would win, as Shaq came back the following year and one his first. Meanwhile, Michael Jordan returned and won the scoring title three more times.  Shaquille O’Neal later won a second scoring title with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000.