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On This Date in Sports February 10, 1949: Joe Gives 63 Fulks

Joe Fulks of the Philadelphia Warriors became the first player to score 50 points in a single game in the Basketball Association of America and a forerunner of the NBA. Fulks scores 63, breaking his single-game record of 47 set two months earlier, as the Warriors defeat the Indianapolis Jets 108-87 at Philadelphia Arena. The 63 points would be the most ever before the shot clock era.

Joe Fulks was born in Birmingham, Kentucky, on October 26, 1921. Fulks was a star basketball player at Murray State before joining the Marines and serving in the Pacific in World War II. After the war, Fulks resumed his basketball career, signing to play for the Philadelphia Warriors in the newly formed Basketball Association of America in 1946. That first season, he was the BAA’s inaugural scoring champion, averaging 23.2 points per game, as the Warriors were the league’s first champions. Joe Fulks would win the scoring title again in the BAA’s second season.

Fulks was the first scoring champion in the BAA, and he had set the single-game scoring record four different times, starting with a 37-point night in a 76-68 win over the Providence Steam Rollers on December 3, 1946. A month later, he became the first 40-point scorer with a 41-point game on January 14, 1947, as the Warriors beat the Toronto Huskies 104-74. On December 18, 1948, Fulks raised the bar again, scoring 47 in a 99-71 loss to the New York Knickerbockers.

Joe Fulks' biggest night came before the home fans at Philadelphia Arena as the Warriors faced the Indianapolis Jets. That night, Fulks made 27 of 56 shots from the field while making 9 of 14 shots from the free throw line. It was the first time a player topped 50 points, scoring 63 as the Warriors beat the Jets 108-87.

Despite the record-breaking games, Joe Fulks fell short of a third scoring title despite a career-best 26.0 points per game. This was the first year that George Mikan and the Minneapolis Lakers joined the league, and Mikan, the premiere star in those early years, scored 28.3 points per game to lead the league.

Fulks would go on to earn enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame and was a member of the NBA’s 25th Anniversary team, as all BAA records were absorbed by the NBA, which became the league’s new name after it merged with the National Basketball League in 1949. The 63-point game remained the NBA’s standard for a decade before Elgin Baylor of the Minneapolis Lakers topped it on November 8, 1959. The 63 points would forever remain the highest-scoring game in the era before the introduction of the shot clock.