By Robert Wilson
Moss Point High alumnus Devin Booker became the seventh player to score 40 points in back to back games in the NBA Finals history Saturday night when he scored 40 points in a 123-119 loss to the Milawaukee Bucks in Game 5. The Bucks lead the series 3-2.
Booker, who scored 42 points in Game 4, joins Michael Jordan (1993), Rick Barry (1967), Jerry West (1965 and 1969), LeBron James (2016), Shaquille O’Neal (2000) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (this year) as players who have scored back to back 40 point games in NBA Finals. Jordan scored 40 in four consecutive games, the only player to do more than two straight.
Only 13 players in NBA history have scored more points than Booker did Wednesday night, only seven in the past 20 years. Those 13 players had 20 games where they scored 43 points or better.
Elgin Baylor scored the most, hitting 61 points for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1962 Finals against the Boston Celtics. Other players who have scored more than 42 points are Jordan, Barry, West, James, Bob Pettit, Allen Iverson, Steph Curry, Wilt Chamberlain, O’Neal, Kevin Durant, Kevin Westbrook and Dwayne Wade.
Booker became the first Mississippian to start a game in the NBA finals in history when he scored 27 points to help the Phoenix Suns to a 118-105 victory in Game 1.
There have many Mississippians to play in the NBA finals, the latest being Meridian High alumnus Rodney Hood in 2017, but they have never started in a Finals game after extensive research on basketball reference website, which lists 67 players who played high school basketball in Mississippi since the NBA began.
Booker, 24, is in his sixth season in the NBA after playing one year at Kentucky. He became the youngest player in NBA history to score 60 points (he scored 70) in 2017. Booker became the youngest player to have conseuctive 50 point games in 2019. He has a career scoring average of 23 points per game and averaged 25.6 points this season. Booker is averaging 27 points in 16 playoff games this season. He scored 47 against the Los Angeles Lakers in a first round game and 40 against the Los Angeles Clippers in a conference finals game.
Booker has the highest scoring career average of any Mississippian in NBA history. The second and third best are Lanier High alum Monta Ellis (17.8 points from 2006-2017) and Hattiesburg High alum Purvis Short (17.3 from 1979-90).