The NBA is where amazing happens, and some of the greatest NBA Finals moments are proof of that. Those epic performances are stuck in the back of our heads forever, as that’s where good players become great and great players turn into legends.
Greatest NBA Finals moments
We’ve witnessed some breath-taking performances throughout NBA Finals history. Underdogs get hot when it matters the most, epic upsets, and otherworldly shots from players who were banged up, sick, and sometimes even both.
Needless to say, many legacies have been defined by some of the greatest NBA Finals performances. That’s why as great as some players like Allen Iverson or Charles Barkley were, people will forever hold their lack of a championship against them.
On the flip side, that’s why the likes of Tim Duncan and Bill Russell will always be a part of the GOAT conversation, even if their games weren’t as flashy as what we saw from other stars. That’s why today, we’re going to review some of the best NBA Finals ever, as well as some of the most iconic and greatest NBA Finals moments:
Mavs’ 22-5 run against The Big Three
The 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks were the ultimate underdog. They went through Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kobe Bryant, and the Miami Heat’s Big Three to win a ring. And they proved how resilient they were as early as Game 2, stunning LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh with an epic 22-5 run.
Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs didn’t care for Wade’s showboating with the Heat up 15 points. There were still 7 minutes left in the game and they played some of the most impressive and physical defense we had seen in years. To cap it off, Dirk scored the game-winning layup to even up the series before eventually beating them in six games.
Back in 1992, Michael Jordan was already the biggest name in basketball and all sports. However, he wasn’t known for his proficient three-point shooting, as the league wasn’t oriented towards the perimeter at that time. But as you may know by now, His Airness always took things up a notch when it mattered the most.
Fresh off his first NBA championship, Jordan was sick and tired of people putting Clyde Drexler and him on the same tier. He proved he was on another level by knocking down six three-pointers in the first half, followed by an iconic shrug. The Bulls went on a 57-23 run, took Game 1, and won the title in six games.
Magic’s junior Sky Hook
The Lakers and Celtics went back and forth in the 1980s. The Magic-Bird rivalry was the biggest story in the league for a decade, as both teams dominated their conferences with ease. But more often than not, it was Magic who was the one to get the last laugh in their rivalry.
Back in Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals, the Lakers trailed the Celtics by one with just seven seconds left to play. Then, Magic knocked down the most iconic shot of his career, a ‘junior, junior sky hook’ to win the game. The Lakers won the series in six games and that would be the last time those legends faced off in the Finals.
Kyrie seals the upset
The Golden State Warriors were on the verge of a perfect season. They set a new record for 73 wins in the regular season and were up 3-1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Then, LeBron James went human torch mode, Draymond Green got suspended, and the series was tied.
James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving traveled to Oracle Arena to finish the job, and finish it they did. The Warriors missed 12 straight shots and the Cavs got Curry to switch onto Irving with little over one minute left. Kyrie pulled up and knocked down a dagger three to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in Finals history.
LeBron’s chase-down block
That Game 7 between the 2016 Cavs and Warriors gave us one of the other greatest moments in NBA Finals history. As we already mentioned, LeBron put the team on his back and posted absurd stats throughout the whole series. But more importantly, he was responsible for the momentum-changing play that drained the Warriors’ souls.
Andre Iguodala grabbed a board with just over two minutes left to play. Running in transition with Curry, Iguodala had a chance for a crucial bucket. All of a sudden, James was right there to swat his shot off the backboard and block the shot that would’ve given the Warriors the lead. It was all Cavs from there and the rest is history.
Ray Allen stuns the Spurs
Most Miami Heat fans had already left the arena. The Spurs had a 3-2 series lead and were up by three points with 30 seconds left to play. The Commissioner was already setting up the stage to crown them as NBA Champions. LeBron missed a game-tying three and the Heat seemed doomed. Or maybe not.
Chris Bosh got a huge offensive board and kicked the ball out to Ray Allen, who tied the game from the baseline. The Heat eventually won the game in overtime and had all the momentum going to win Game 7 as well. LeBron’s detractors claim that Allen saved his legacy with that three.
Ron Artest seals L.A’s Vendetta
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t forget their loss in 2008 to the Boston Celtics, so they needed to get back at them. The 2010 NBA Finals were a bloodbath, with both teams playing physically and taking the series to seven games.
The Lakers were up by three and just when everybody thought Kobe would take another shot, he kicked it out to Ron Artest, who sealed the title with a huge three over Paul Pierce. This would be Kobe’s final championship and personal vendetta against his lifelong rivals, proving again that he could win without Shaquille O’Neal.
The Flu Game
Some say he was hungover, he says he was purposely intoxicated. What we all knew at the time is that Michael Jordan was at risk of missing Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals with ‘Flu-like symptoms’. The series was tied at two wins a piece and that meant trouble for Phil Jackson‘s boys.
But Jordan wasn’t going to let anybody stop him from sticking it to the Jazz. He was dehydrated, shaking, and completely exhausted, yet he put up a 38-point masterpiece to lift the Bulls on the road, including a go-ahead three in the fourth quarter.
Magic plays center
Magic Johnson was already a nationwide sensation when he entered the league. He had already proven his worth with the Michigan State Spartans and he made an immediate impact as a rookie. However, it wasn’t until Game 6 of the NBA Finals that he proved that he was poised to become a legend.
Superstar big man Kareem Abdul-Jabbar got hurt and wasn’t coming back that season. The Lakers were up 3-2 in the series but losing their star meant they couldn’t afford to drop a potential title-clinching game. Magic started at the five and went nuts with a 42-point, 15-rebound, 7-assist masterpiece.
And, of course, no NBA Finals play will ever be more iconic than this one. The Bulls led the Jazz 3-2 in the 1998 NBA Finals. Utah was on the verge of evening things up, leading by one with 18.9 seconds left and the ball. Then, Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone in the post to have the last shot of the game.
Jordan dribbled off the clock and shook off Bryon’s Russell defense. He pulled up and knocked down a buzzer-beater to give the Bulls their second three-peat and his final ring. At the time, that was also Jordan’s final NBA shot, as he retired for the second time after that season.