Today in Sports History: April 9th


(After L.A. clinched the AL West. Photo by Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images)

4/09/1978 - The Ice Man wins scoring title

On the final day of the regular season, David Thompson of the Denver Nuggets scores 73 points in an afternoon game against the Detroit Pistons. Thompson was locked in a duel with George Gervin for the single-season scoring title, and started the day with a points per game average just fractions behind him. His 73-point output was the third-highest scoring game in history; only 100- and 78-point games from Wilt Chamberlain had been better.

"Individually, it was the greatest performance I've ever seen," said Pistons guard Jim Price. "He can score so easily. There's no one like him. He's the best player in the game today." Thompson shot 28 of 38 from the floor and scored 32 points in the first quarter, breaking the record of 31 points set by Chamberlain in his 100-point game.

Later that day, Gervin was awoken from a pre-game nap and informed that he needed 59 points to surpass Thompson. "Down in the lobby later, some of the guys on the Spurs said, 'Ice, we're going to help you.'" he said. "My guys loved me. They kept giving me the ball, and early in the game I couldn't put the ball in the basket, but after a while I got going."

Just six hours after Thompson set the record, Gervin broke it by scoring 33 points in the second quarter of his team's game. The "Ice Man," who later described his defender as "Casper the Friendly Ghost," scored 63 points that night to barely edge out Thompson, 27.22 to 27.15. He had 53 points by halftime but sat out the majority of the second half, missing an opportunity to better Chamberlain's 100-point performance.

Overall, it was the tightest scoring race in NBA history. Neither player's team won that day, though their respective clubs had already clinched a playoff berth. Thompson's outburst would remain the highest-scoring game since Chamberlain's until 2006, when Kobe Bryant poured in 81 against the Toronto Raptors. In Thompson's opinion, his 73-point game was more impressive than Bryant's. "I shot a way better percentage than (Bryant) did," he told the Rocky Mountain News. "I didn't have three-pointers and I was playing against better defenders."

4/09/2009 - Adenhart killed in accident

Nick Adenhart, the top pitching prospect of the Los Angeles Angels, dies after getting in a hit-and-run accident. A drunk driver had run a red light and crashed into Adenhart's vehicle, killing him and the two other passengers in the car. The man who crashed into them fled on foot but was quickly apprehended by police officers.

Adenhart, 22, had pitched the game of his life only a few hours earlier. In just his fourth complete start, Adenhart shut out the Oakland Athletics for six innings; he was then pulled and replaced by members of the Angels' bullpen, who promptly allowed six runs in three innings and spoiled what would have been his second career win. Adenhart's death was the first in Major League Baseball since that of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, who in contrast died while driving drunk two years earlier.

The Angels canceled their next game in remembrance of him. And when the team clinched the postseason later that year, all the players walked out of the infield and touched a banner of Adenhart that had been plastered on the outfield wall. Then, when they all got inside, they doused Adenhart's jersey in beer and champagne -- as they would have done to him had he not been killed.

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