On social media sites, Thursdays have turned into Throwback Thursdays. People post old pictures on their Instagram, Twitter or Facebook accounts every Thursday to showcase a special moment from earlier in time. ValleyoftheSuns has decided to join the craze to bring Suns fans some of the most memorable moments in the team’s history. After playing two games against the Sacramento Kings this week we decided to throw it back to Tony Delk’s 53 point game in 2001 as the inaugural Throwback Thursday.
Date: January 2nd, 2001
Place: ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California
Set-up: The Phoenix Suns went into the new calendar year with an 18-10 record and traveled up to northern California to face a 20-8 Kings team. This was the second game of the year between the two Pacific Division rivals with the first one being a Kings 105-98 win at home in the beginning of December. Going into the contest, Suns guard Tony Delk, a former King, was averaging 12 points per game and was making just his 9th start. In the eight games prior that he started, Delk was averaging a little over 14 points per game, but no one could have predicted what happened on this night.
Game: Both teams played a pretty even first quarter with the Kings holding a three point edge, 29-26 after one. Delk led all scorers with ten points, a good quarter, but nothing that shouts 50 plus. Delk started out on the bench to begin the second quarter and the Kings promptly go on a 14-2 run to break the game open. The teams play evenly the rest of the half once Delk reenters the game, but the damage is done and the Suns trail by 15 at the half, 66-51. Delk scores 12 in the quarter to up his game total to 22 points, already near his career high of 26. The third quarter is when Delk begins to go crazy, scoring 14 points with 12 of them coming in the final 6:30 to single-handedly bring the Suns to within one point after three. Delk then scores 12 of the Suns first 14 points in the fourth quarter to give the team a two point lead with 3:58 to play. Going back to the third quarter Delk has scored 24 (11-12) of the Suns last 34 points to bring his total to 48. Point number 50 comes on a free throw with 2:15 left to give the Suns a 103-98 lead. Unfortunately, the Kings close the game on an 8-3 run to send the game into overtime where they pull out a 121-117 victory. Delk finished the game with 53 points on 20-27 shooting with 13 free throws.
Aftermath: The 53 point game remains one of the most unlikeliest 50 plus game in NBA history according to this writer’s opinion. Delk only started two more games the rest of the season and scored over 20 points just five times after. He finished the year averaging 12.3 points per game, which was a career high. The Suns finished the year with a 51-31 record and placed 6th in the Western Conference, which set up a rematch against the Kings in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. After an 86-83 upset in Game 1, the Kings won the next three games to advance to the next round. Delk was traded in the middle of the next season along with Rodney Rodgers to the Boston Celtics for a rookie named Joe Johnson, along with guards Milt Palacio and Randy Brown. Phoenix also got a first-round pick that would become Casey Jacobsen.
Where is he now?: Delk was an assistant coach for New Mexico State, but left over the summer to be closer to his family.