The NBA scoring title is one of the most coveted individual awards in the league. It can likely be ranked just a rung below the Defensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.

For this piece, we take a look at the five greatest scoring title races in NBA history. These ones came right down to the wire, with some even coming right down to each player’s last regular season game. We will be ranking these based purely on the stakes tightness of each race. Any scoring title race from the NBA-ABA Merger (1976) until now is eligible for the ranking.

With that out of the way, let’s get into the greatest scoring title photo finishes in league history.

5) Kevin Durant vs Carmelo Anthony (2013)

NBA Scoring Title, Julius Randle, Carmelo Anthony, Knicks

Kevin Durant: 28.1 PPG

Carmelo Anthony: 28.7 PPG

Two of the league’s most unstoppable scorers at the time went head-to-head in the 2013 scoring title race. Melo was in the middle of his prime as one of the best isolation players in league history. On the other side, a 25-year-old KD was looking for his fourth straight scoring title after dominating the scoring charts from 2010 to 2012.

The race came down to the last few games of the season with Anthony edging KD in scoring on the way to leading the New York Knicks to the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Melo went on a tear in his last 15 regular season games, averaging almost 33 points in that time frame.

Durant still wasn’t that far-off. However, with his Oklahoma City Thunder already clinching the 1 seed, the Slim Reaper decided to sit out a few games at the expense of the scoring title, including the last regular season game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Regardless, KD would have needed to score a historic 70 points against the Bucks to secure his 4th scoring championship (a doable feat, as other entries in this list will show). Melo won his first and only scoring title to date that season, disrupting KD’s monopoly over the award for the time being. Durant would lead the league in scoring once again in his MVP campaign the season after.

4) Michael Jordan vs Shaquille O’Neal (1998)

Michael Jordan: 28.7 PPG

Shaquille O’Neal: 28. 3 PPG

Basketball’s GOAT was pitted against arguably the most dominant center of all time in Shaquille O’Neal in a classic scoring championship race.

Jordan, on his way to his second 3-peat, was dominating the league as per usual in the ’90s. His Airness faced a variety of players in various rivalries: Dominique Wilkins in the Dunk Contests; Isaiah Thomas in the Eastern Conference; and Clyde Drexler in the Finals, among others. This time, it was Shaq in his first year as a Los Angeles Laker.

While Jordan was already considered the GOAT at the time and one of the greatest scorers to ever play, O’Neal already won the scoring championship once prior. The Diesel had no intentions to make the path to the scoring title easy for Mike.

The race came down to the very last game of the season for both. With 44 points that day, Jordan was able to increase his PPG to 28.7 from 28.6. Shaq then needed to score a then-career-high 59 points to get from 28.2 to 28.8. Unfortunately for O’Neal, his 33 points weren’t enough, and Jordan was able to get his hands on his 10th and final scoring title.

3) LeBron James vs Kevin Durant (2010)

LeBron James: 29.7 PPG

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Kevin Durant: 30.1 PPG

In his second appearance on this list, a 21-year-old KD faced off against the would-be MVP that season for the scoring title.

Even at a very young age, Durant was arguably already one of the best scorers in the league, comparable to the likes of Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. Meanwhile, LeBron James was working on building his GOAT status by winning his very first NBA MVP trophy, a feat that would have looked even better with a scoring title by its side.

It was incredible just how close the two were in terms of scoring. Up until the last month of the season, both KD and LeBron were averaging exactly 29.7 points per game by the end of March. Durant averaged a monstrous 34.6 PPG in April to get his hands on his very first scoring title, setting the record for the youngest scoring champion in history at 21 years and 197 days old. James, meanwhile, only played 3 games in that time span while putting up respectable 29.3 points, placing himself only 0.4 points behind KD in the scoring charts.

2) Shaquille O’Neal vs David Robinson (1994)

Shaquille O’Neal: 29.3

David Robinson: 29.8

The Diesel vs The Admiral in 1994 may be the most famous scoring title race in NBA history, for good reason.

Two of the best big men in the greatest era of big men going toe-to-toe for the 1994 scoring title. At this point, Shaquille O’Neal was already a 2x All-Star in only his second year in the league, already showing signs of his dominance at the onset. David Robinson, meanwhile, was in his prime and was already considered to be one of the greatest players in San Antonio Spurs history.

Like in his first appearance in this list, Shaq took his rival to the last day of the regular season to determine the scoring title race; O’Neal and Robinson were both averaging 29.3 points per game prior. The Diesel scored 32 points against the then-New Jersey Nets, leaving it all on Robinson to catch up against the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately for O’Neal, the entire San Antonio Spurs went into that game with the singular goal of ensuring that The Admiral wins his first scoring title; the team was willing to let Robinson take all the shots possible, as well as intentionally fouling to get more possessions. Robinson was able to put up a season-high 41 shots on 63.4% shooting to score a historic 71 points, ultimately securing the scoring title.

Despite The Diesel losing out on this scoring championship race and going 0-for-2 in this list, he would ultimately secure the title twice thereafter.

1) David Thompson vs George Gervin (1978)

David Thompson: 27.2

George Gervin: 27.2

The greatest scoring title race was contested between two of the most underrated scorers in NBA history.

The 1977-78 season saw David “Skywalker” Thompson square up against “The Iceman” George Gervin in what would be the closest scoring title race in NBA history. At the time, the two were the best small forwards in the game; the aptly nicknamed Skywalker was renowned for his high-flying ability, while the Iceman was scoring with ease and finesse using his patented finger roll.

In one of the most memorable days in NBA history, the scoring title came down to the two players’ last regular season matchups. Thompson’s Nuggets went first that day, with Gervins’s Spurs playing later; the former was trailing the latter in PPG by about 0.2.

By halftime of his game, Thompson has already scored 53 points, with 32 in the 1st quarter (beating Wilt Chamberlain’s single-quarter scoring record by 1 point). He would end up dropping 73 points, good for second all-time in NBA history for points scored in a single game. This put the Skywalker at 27.2 PPG for the season, ahead of Gervin’s 26.8.

The Iceman, meanwhile, had to put up 59 in his game to surpass Gervin in scoring. Not one to be outdone, Gervin finger-rolled his way to 53 points in the first half as well, with 33 in a quarter to break Thompson’s single-quarter record in less than six hours. He would go on to score 63 points to barely edge Thompson and finally claim the first of his 4 scoring titles.

It doesn’t show in base counting stats. While both guys averaged the same traditional scoring number, Gervin defeated Thompson by decimal points.