What is the greatest accomplishment before you were old enough to purchase alcohol?
At 20 years, and 145 days old, Devin Booker accomplished something that puts him in the same breath as current or soon-to-be NBA Hall of Famers. This list includes Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlin, David Thompson, David Robinson, and Kobe Bryant.
It had been 11 years since Bryant scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors and was the last player to score a minimum of 70 points in an NBA game. On March 24, 2017, Booker put on a scoring clinic despite his team never having a lead and trailing by as many as 26 points and eventually falling to the Boston Celtics 130-120.
Despite his incredible scoring performance, Booker’s efforts were not enough to drop the eventually No. 1 Eastern Conference seeded Celtics into the loss column. The silver lining is that Booker’s 70-point performance was not the highest scoring output to go to waste.
Booker had one of the most memorable nights of the 2016-17 NBA season and when the game was well out of reach the fans at TD Garden applauded in appreciation of his performance. It was the most points scored by any player against them.
Some of Suns’ tactics to extend the game and get Booker extra shot attempts rubbed some opposing players the wrong way. Including Celtics’ All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas
“It was weird what they were doing,” Thomas said. “I’ve never seen nothing like that, chasing those numbers. But it is what it is.
“I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that. To continue to call timeouts, continue to foul when we’re up 15. But it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him the most points possible. And hats off to him, though. He played a hell of a game.”
Is it was weird to celebrate a 70-point game despite losing? Booker offered a poised explanation.
“It is [weird] because we’ve all been winners most of our life,” he said. “But at the same time, the way our season’s gone right now, we’re kind of looking for something to celebrate. And that meant a lot to see my veterans happy… It is [weird] sometimes, but you have to see the beauty in it. At the end of the day, history was made, and I couldn’t do it without my team, so they’re gonna celebrate.”
Booker had an incredibly efficient and well-rounded game but if the prolific shooter had made a few more 3-pointers we might be having a different conversation. He shot 3-11 from beyond the arc and made two of his three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. If a few more had gone in the basket maybe Booker beats Bryant’s 81-point performance.
Bryant knows potential greatness when he sees it and that why he gave a then 19-year old Booker a gift with a message after the only game they matched up together during the 2015-16 season. The message was “Be Legendary”.
The rebuilding process in Pheonix is still underway but one thing that is for certain, they have their shooting guard of the future and his time will come sooner than later. The soon-to-be 21-year old has tremendous room for growth and his prime is still several years away. But let’s be clear, the Pheonix Suns’ shooting guard is on the rise (no pun intended).