It was pretty clear, even in the moment, that we were watching something historically significant when Rakeem Christmas completed his 35-point masterpiece on Tuesday night against Wake Forest. But just how significant was it? I went to orangehoops.org to find out.
First thought: when was the last time ANYONE on SU scored 35 points? Actually not that long ago, as James Southerland completed the feat on November 30, 2012.
Second thought: well, when was the last time a center scored 35 points for SU? Turns out, that one was a little more rare. Otis Hill came close with his 34 points in 1997, but to hit that magical 35 mark, we had to go all the way back to January 14, 1971, and Bill Smith, who put up 47 points against Lafayette. Just a day shy of 44 (!!!!) years before Christmas' career night.
Christmas is doing things big men at Syracuse haven't accomplished in almost half a century, and it's not like last night came out of nowhere. He's been putting up huge numbers all year. We've already touched on how Christmas' senior-season jump stacks up all time, but just how great is his season among all centers in program history? Let's find out.
Below are the 11 centers that have likely had the best individual seasons in SU history (from most recent to farthest in the past). If I missed anyone, let me know in the comments, since sometimes centers are listed as forwards. I also only used points and rebounds because blocks were not recorded for all of history.
The Contender - Rakeem Christmas
2014-15 - 18.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG
2010-11 - 13.1 PPG, 10.3 RPG
Verdict: Jackson's advantage in rebounds is probably not big enough to overtake the 5-point difference in scoring. Edge: Christmas
1999-2000 - 13.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG
Verdict: Thomas looks like a lesser Rick Jackson on paper, but his defense is perhaps second to none among SU big men, so that can't be ignored. Still, Etan probably wasn't going to come close to popping off for a 30-point game. Edge: Christmas
1996-97 - 15.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG
Verdict: Had to put Hill on here for that 34-point performance that almost equaled Christmas, but ultimately his numbers fall a little short. Edge: Christmas
1986-87 - 15.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG
1987-88 - 16.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG
Verdict: The 87-88 season was better statistically, but Seikaly and Co. made it as close as anyone to an SU national title until Carmelo Anthony came around in 86-87, so I'll put these two on equal footing. Christmas is likely the better scorer, but Seikaly anchored a much better team. Edge: Seikaly
1980-81 - 14.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG
Verdict: Perhaps the only real contender for Christmas' throne atop the greatest senior-year jumps of all time, but not quite the dominant force necessary for the best-ever debate. Edge: Christmas
1978-79 - 15.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG
1979-80 - 16.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG
Verdict: Bouie will no doubt end up with the more impressive career, having much more consistent numbers, but statistically Christmas' senior year has been more impressive. That being said, both Bouie's best seasons were for 26-4 teams and included a Big East regular season title in the inaugural conference year. Edge: Bouie
1968-69 - 19.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG
1969-70 - 20.2 PPG, 12.4 RPG
1970-71 - 22.7 PPG, 14.5 RPG
Verdict: I'll be honest, I had never heard of Bill Smith before Tuesday night. The owner of a 47-point game, also consistently put up numbers each and every year that dwarf pretty much every center in school history. His teams were 9-16, 12-12 and 19-7, so his team success was certainly mixed, but those numbers are too staggering to ignore. Edge: Smith
1966-67 - 18.0 PPG, 9.1 RPG
Verdict: Hard to ignore 18 points and 9 rebounds for a 20-6 team, but it seems the big men numbers were somewhat inflated in this era, so have to kind of discount him a little bit. Edge: Christmas
1963-64 - 22.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG
Verdict: Like Smith and Dean, Richards seems to be somewhat of a product of his era - where nearly every big man put up monster numbers. He's probably just ahead of Dean but still behind Smith. Edge: Christmas
What do you think? Who had (or in the case of Christmas is having) the best season for a Syracuse center in history? Make your choice in the poll and feel free to elaborate in the comments on why.