January 22 could well become a day apart in the North American Basketball League (NBA). Eighteen years after Kobe Bryant’s stratospheric 81 points – the second best individual performance in NBA history – two players exploded the scorers this Monday, January 22, 2024: Philadelphia 76ers pivot Joël Embiid scored 70 points, and that of the Minnesota Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns recorded 62 points, for his part.

“These boys are going CRAZY tonight,” LeBron James, the leading scorer in the history of the league, even posted during the evening on X.

This Monday is only the fourth time in NBA history that two players have scored at least 60 points in the same day. Such a performance had not happened in more than 45 years when, on April 9, 1978, David Thompson scored 73 points for Denver and George Gervin 63 points for San Antonio as they faced off on the final day of the season for the title of best scorer.

Wilt Chamberlain’s record broken

Scored during the victory against the San Antonio Spurs (133-123), the 70 points of American-Cameroonian Joël Embiid, – also recently naturalized French –, are a personal record. “Since I started playing, Kobe [Bryant] has been my guy,” he said after the feat. It’s thanks to him that I started playing basketball. It’s funny, the same night he scored 81 points and he was my favorite player. »

Embiid, who made only one 3-pointer (but 23 2-pointers and 21 free throws), tied the twelfth best performance in NBA history and broke the NBA record by two points. Philadelphia franchise owned by legend Wilt Chamberlain – the man who also owns the record in an NBA game with 100 points scored, in March 1962.

Only nine different players have managed to score at least 70 points in an NBA game. With this kind of performance, Joël Embiid can claim to retain his title of best player of the season.

“He’s a fantastic player,” said Gregg Popovich, coach of the Spurs, today’s opponent. He is obviously in the running for the title of best player of the season. For sure. But everyone already knew that. »

Wembanyama still scores 33 points

For his part, with 62 points, Karl-Anthony Towns – chosen first overall in the 2015 draft – improved his personal best by two points, but it was not enough in Minnesota’s defeat against the Charlotte Hornets (128-125). He nevertheless achieved a unique performance in NBA history: he is the first player to have scored at least ten 2-point shots, ten 3-point shots and ten free throws in the same game.

“There are about fifteen of us on the team,” said Wolves partner Anthony Edwards, who admitted after the match that he had stopped trying his luck in the hope that Towns would score even more. Fourteen of us wanted to see him reach 80 points! »

Irony of history: the French Spurs, Victor Wembanyama, author of a great performance with 33 points, just like the star of the Phoenix Suns Kevin Durant, with 43 points against the Chicago Bulls, pale in the heart of this totally irrational evening.