Greatest Performances in NBA Finals History (Part 2)
I’ve decided to release this countdown gradually, as each performance is truly remarkable and I didn’t want to simply rush through the list. Today is the second instalment, numbers 19 to 16. I accidently did 6 performances in the first part, so this one will only have 4. But don’t worry! These amazing moments are still sure to satisfy even the most seasoned of NBA and sports fans out there. Click here for Part 1
19. Bill Walton, Game 6, 1977 NBA Finals
20 Points, 23 Rebounds, 7 Assists, 8 Blocks (Video)
The first of the pre-three point era performances to be selected, a case for this game to go higher could easily be made. Bill Walton’s performance throughout the entire NBA finals was almost biblical, and despite the monster stats he posted, it’s impossible to gauge his importance just from the box score. If you’re going to watch only one video on this countdown, I encourage you to check this one out. You’ll see what a high powered offensive machine Philadelphia was, and how Walton absolutely anchored that Portland defensively. If you replaced him with any NBA centre, whether it’s Russell or Kareem or Shaq, and I’m not certain Portland wins this game or the series. On offense, his precision passing and fundamentals were simply a joy to watch. This was one of the greatest games in NBA history, and is only fuelled by the class of the opposition that Portland faced in Dr. J and the 76ers.
18. Michael Jordan, Game 1, 1992 NBA Finals
39 points (16/27 fga), 6/10 3 Pointers, 11 Assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals in only 34 minutes played (Video)
In what was labelled as a heavyweight contest between the two best players in the world at the time (Jordan vs. Drexler) very quickly became apparent that it was nothing more than a colossal mismatch. The Blazers came out on fire, making their first 8 shots before Jordan stepped his game into, not just high gear, but maybe the highest gear the game has ever seen. Drexler and the Trailblazers were completely helpless as Jordan’s offensive explosion led Chicago to a game 1 blowout and emphatically answered the question as to who the best player alive was. Portland, to their credit, were able to come back and win game 2 and make a series out of it, but this was Jordan’s league, and an iconic moment not just for him, but the league’s history.
17. Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Game 2, 1985 NBA Finals
30 Points (15/26 fg), 17 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 3 Blocks, 1 Steal (video)
As I mentioned in the previous analysis, giving Portland credit for coming back from a monumental arse kicking, imagine for a second the fragile state of mind the Lakers were in after losing 148-114 in game 1 to Boston. The year before, they had played The Celtics in the finals, and after holding a 2-1 lead, were run off the court with Boston’s tenacity and mental toughness. Magic made critical errors and was being questioned for the first time in his basketball life, and Kareem looked old. Boston had everything going for them, including a game 2 at home. Enter Kareem, at 38 years of age. He completely dominated the Celtics with 30 and 17 (along with 8 assists), at thirty-fucking-eight! Kareem would keep it up the rest of the series, leading Los Angeles to a franchise and NBA altering championship. He would be named MVP and be placed in a, count-on-one-hand list of greatest players to have ever played the game.
16. Michael Jordan, Game 4, 1993 NBA Finals
55 Points (21/37 fg), 8 Rebounds, 4 Assists (Video)
Where do I even begin with this one? After winning 6 straight games (4 against New York, and the first 2 in Phoenix to start the Finals), The Bulls (and the basketball world) were shocked by The Suns’ resiliency in game 3 as they won a triple over time thriller in game 3. Jordan admitted after the game that he did not play up to expectations, and did he ever make up for it in game 4. Phoenix was a confident team after the game 3 win, and Chicago needed some leadership. Jordan would provide it with a relentless assault on the basket (only one of his 37 shot attempts was a 3 pointer) as he picked the Suns defense apart, despite often being double teamed as soon as he touched it (and triple teamed if you include the big man protecting the rim once he got there). Phoenix kept it close and were on the verge of stealing the game before Jordan would take it to the basket one last time, and in an iconic 3 point play over the league MVP Charles Barkley, sealed the game and a 3-1 series lead for Chicago