Kyrie Irving‘s 40-point game against Boston on Tuesday night started an internal debate last night: What’s the best performance by a player under 21 in recent NBA memory? Once you start looking, you’d be amazed at the numbers that seem like they were just yesterday.
It should be noted that the Basketball-Reference.com engine that aided in this search goes back to just 1984-85, so it’s been compiled with the knowledge that great players of the past, Moses Malone for one, very well had incredible performances before hitting 21 (Even if the majority of older-generation players were still in college at that age. Because high school players are only a recent phenomenon, this list skews toward players of the past two decades anyway). It shouldn’t dampen these games, though, because they’re truly incredible for players who are so young.
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10. AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE — Dec. 30, 2002
A young Stoudemire, at 20 years, 44 days old, with those young knees, dominated the Timberwolves and Kevin Garnett despite losing. Stoudemire shot 67 percent (66 percent true shooting) from the field to get 38 points and 14 rebounds. Saying he “held” Garnett to a bad game would be a misnomer — 22 points and 14 boards by KG is nothing to sniff at — but Stoudemire was physically superior in this matchup.