Who has scored the most points in Los Angeles Clippers history (excluding the past years at different locations.) and how many points did he score? You would probably guess around 50, but who you picked probably wouldn’t come close. It wasn’t Daniel Manning, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Baron Davis or any other big name that comes to mind when thinking of the Clippers.
That record, 52 points to be exact, belongs to Charles Smith. Who you may ask?
With the third overall pick of the 1988 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Charles Smith, a 6’10 forward out of Pittsburgh. The Philadelphia celebration for the top forward that averaged 18.9 points and 7.7 assists his senior year of college was short-lived as he was traded to the Clippers for Hersey Hawkins and a first-round pick on draft night.
Smith lived up to the top-5 pick hype the first three years of his career, averaging 19.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game from 1988 to 1991. And during the 1990-91 season, December 1st to be exact, Smith played the best game in his career scoring 52 points in a win over the Denver Nuggets, tying the franchise high in points in a game for a Los Angeles Clipper.
Some call it one of the more unlikely 50-point games in the history of the league, but as anyone knows, in the NBA any night can be your night and Smith took advantage of the opportunity. That night Smith put himself in rare company by joining Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, and a few others as the only players in league history to score 52 points and grab 6 rebounds in 37 minutes or list. And of that select list of players, only Jordan did it less field goals (16) than Smith did.
Smith spoke on his night unlike many others do, hoping he had scored more points than his final stat line.
“The one thing I remember the most about that that night is that nobody told me what the record was. There were three minutes left and our PR person was yelling at me to shoot the ball. I didn’t know why he was saying that. I wished I knew because those times don’t come very often. I would have tried to have gotten 60 that night.”
Since 1990-91 season, no Clippers player has scored 50 or more points. From that time span, only there have only been 11 games where a Clippers player has scored at least 40 points, the highest output coming from Blake Griffin as he scored 47 points against the Indiana Pacers in 2011.
The following season, Smith dealt with a knee injury that hindered his production, with his minutes per game decreasing from 36.5 to 26.7, and his points per game average dropping from 20.0 to 14.6.
“I had knee surgery during that time. It was ailing me that whole year and then I had to get back to the playoffs after surgery and that was tough,” said Smith describing his struggles during the 1991-92 season. “We had a talented ballclub. I just wasn’t playing that much. I was constantly trying to get back into shape. It was nagging injuries that resulted in surgery.”
That would be the last season Smith played as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers as he was apart of a three-team trade that sent himself, current Clippers coach Doc Rivers, and Bo Kimble to the New York Knicks and the 1994 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic and, in return, received current Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson, Stanley Roberts and the Knicks 1995 second-round pick.
Smith played with the Knicks until the 1995-96 season where he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs where he spent the rest of his career.
What is Charles Smith up to nowadays? Well his most recent media expose came at the hands of Dennis Rodman as Smith, along with other past NBA players, participated in the North Korea game that confused many. And it was a game that Smith soon came to regret as the event got overshadowed by Rodman’s ineptitude.
“What we are doing is positive, but it is getting dwarfed by the other circumstances around it. Apparently our message is not being conveyed properly due to the circumstances that are much bigger than us, and I think that has to do with politics and government.” (Associated Press)
Regardless of what international affair Smith chooses to participate in, his lasting NBA legacy will forever revolve around the night he scored 52 points, the most in franchise history.
*All quotes via Clippers.com
*Charles Smith’s 52 points is the Los Angeles Clippers high, but including the past years when the franchise was located in Buffalo and San Diego, he’s tied with Bob McAdoo who scored 52 twice as a Buffalo Brave.