The NBA Finals are fast approaching, certainly bringing along a whole new batch of indelible memories in tow.To whet your appetite, we thought it would be fun to reminisce a little bit and explore the top 15 moments in NBA Finals history.
Our ranking criteria took a few factors into account. A shot that clinched a championship did better in the rankings than a jumper sending a game into overtime. We judged the difficulty of the defining play. If an individual did something absolutely spectacular that ensured a victory (see: Magic Johnson, 1980 Finals), their ranking would shoot to the top.
Only time will tell what LeBron, Dirk, or somebody else can contribute to our collection of memories for this year’s Finals, but if there any moments close to what you’re about to see in our immediate future, then everybody wins.
What Happened: Michael Jordan was feeling it from downtown, hitting 6 three-pointers in the first half alone. After that final deep ball, Jordan turned to the announcers table and famously shrugged as if he didn't fully understand why he was on fire. He finished with 39 points and the Bulls won 122-89.
What Happened: This game is often referenced as the best NBA game ever played. It lasted three overtimes, but the most memorable moment came in the second overtime. Phoenix was up by one, and it was Celtics' ball. John Havlicek hit an incredible shot that appeared to win the game.
Dozens of spectators rushed the court, but the crew of refs determined there was actually one second left. Phoenix called a timeout they didn't have, giving Boston a technical free throw. Boston hit the freebie and took a three-point lead. It was over.
Except Gar Heard had other ideas. The game was extended for another period, although the Celtics prevailed eventually.
What Happened: The Sixers didn't win the series against the stacked 1980 Los Angeles Lakers, but they were able to draw even at two games a piece with the help of Dr. J's amazing layup.
What Happened: The Milwaukee Bucks have only been to two NBA Finals, but they have performed well in both of them. They won the title in 1971 with a sweep of the Baltimore Bullets and took Boston to seven games in 1974. The latter went to a deciding game thanks to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who waited until double overtime to hit one of the most impressive sky hooks of his astonishing career.
What Happened: Bill Russell had an incredible 30 points and 40 rebounds in the Finals-clinching game 7, and the Lakers' Frank Selvy missed an open shot that would have won them the title.
The most lasting moment of this game, however, was Bob Cousy's artful dodging of Lakers defenders to run out the clock.
What Happened: If the three point shot existed when this game took place, we'd have a clear No. 1 moment in NBA Finals history. Even still, Jerry West's incredible shot is one of the greatest moments in basketball history. The shot forced the game into overtime, but the Lakers still lost.
What Happened: All the Lakers had to do was run out the clock. Up by two with 18 seconds remaining, Los Angeles turned the ball over when Gerald Henderson stepped in front of a Magic Johnson pass intended for James Worthy, deflected the pass, stole the ball, and then laid it in to tie the game. The Celtics went on to win the game in overtime.
What Happened: Big Shot Rob had an outer worldly fourth quarter and overtime that just needs to be seen to be believed.
What Happened: Vinnie Johnson was known as 'The Microwave' because he could heat up quickly for short periods of time. He did that twice in this game, both times giving his Pistons the lead.
The second time he caught fire, he scored seven points of a 9-0 Pistons run that closed out the series. To top it all off, Johnson iced the game by scoring with 0.7 seconds left.
What Happened: Bill Russell had already earned a ring for every finger he had, but Don Nelson felt he needed one more.
What Happened: Attempting to do anything with a serious case of the flu is absolute torture. Playing in an NBA Finals game? Nearly impossible.
Not only did Jordan play with a serious case of the flu (he didn't get out of bed until three hours before the game), he hit the game-winning shot.
MJ ended up with 38 points, 15 in the final quarter.
What Happened: During Game 5 of the 1970 NBA Finals, Willis Reed suffered a torn muscle in his thigh. Since it was a severe injury, the star was unable to play during Game 6 and was expected to miss the rest of the series.
What Happened: There will certainly never be another player quite like Magic Johnson. In what would be the final game of the series, Magic played all five positions on the court and started the game at centre for the injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To top all of that off, he was a 20-year-old rookie! He finished with 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists en route to his first title.
What Happened: Did he push off? Does it matter? This was the biggest moment in Jordan's career.
The Bulls were losing Game 6 of the NBA Finals to the Utah Jazz. Down 3 with 40 seconds to go, Jordan hit a big lay-up after some nifty moves to get to the basket. The Bulls were still down 1, and it was Utah ball. John Stockton tried to feed Karl Malone in the post, but Jordan swooped in and stole the ball from him.
The rest was history.
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