Greatest Performances in NBA Finals History (Part 1: 25-20)

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I often talk about the NBA Playoffs and refer to it as the very best system in determining who the best team truly is, and when it winds down to the NBA finals, this becomes even more of the case. 95% of the time, we see such a tiny of a margin between the two teams competing for the championship that it does indeed come down to a stella performance in one game by a single player. But which are the best performances that we have seen? We have compiled the top 25, so go grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy.

25. Kobe Bryant, Game 3, 2001 NBA Finals


32 Points, 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 2 Steals (Video)

After splitting the first two games in L.A., Kobe found himself back in his hometown of Philly for game 3. He did not disappoint, scoring 20 first half points including a stretch of 7 straight made shots. As the 76ers defense adjusted to contain him, he was willing to distribute the ball until Shaq fouled out. Kobe stepped up with a clutch runner and an assist on a Robert Horry 3 in the corner that sealed a pivotal win in a game that Bryant himself described as a “must win” and catapulted the Lakers to a 4-1 series victory and their second straight championship.

24. Robert Horry, Game 5, 2005 NBA Finals


21 Points, 5-6 3 Pointers, 7 Rebounds, 2 Assists (Video)

You know this is going to be an amazing list if this performance is ranked number 24. The Spurs were in dire straits at this point after losing back to back games to the defending champion Pistons. Duncan was struggling against Ben Wallace, Rasheed and Antonio McDyess, and Tony Parker was being completely dominated by Billups. Detroit was surging at home, and had won their past 5 games in the finals at the Palace dating back to their emphatic 4-1 win over The Lakers the season before. Ginobili was playing well and the game was close, but The Spurs needed a spark. Enter Robert Horry. He dropped 5 three pointers on his way to 21 points, including the game winning shot in overtime. It would be the last time Big Shot Bob would score 20 points in a game, and cemented his legacy as one of the game’s most reliable performers under pressure.

23. Karl Malone, Game 5, 1998 NBA Finals


39 Points (17/27 fg), 9 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Block (Video)

The Mailman had developed a reputation for not delivering during the 1997 NBA Finals, and with Utah trailing Chicago 3-1 in the 98 finals, that further tarnished his reputation. Game 5 was in Chicago, and everyone expected The Bulls to wrap up their 6th title in 8 years. Karl Malone had other ideas, however, as he would torch one of the greatest defenders in NBA history (Dennis Rodman) for 39 points and single-handedly send the series back to Utah for game 6.

22. Hakeem Olajuwon, Game 4, 1995 NBA Finals


35 Points, 15 Rebounds, 6 Assists, 3 Steals (Shaq: 25 Points, 12 rebounds, 6 turnovers) Video

Despite Houston sweeping the Orlando Magic, this was actually quite a close series. Games 1 and 3 went into overtime, and in game 4, The Magic held a lead at halftime. Hakeem’s consistently good play on both ends of the floor resulted in him posting 35 points and 15 rebounds and secured his place in history as one of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

21. Dwyane Wade, Game 3, 2006 NBA Finals


42 Points (14/26 fg), 13 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals (video)

Down 2-0 to Dallas and trailing by 13 points with 6 minutes left in the 4th quarter in the first NBA finals game at home, things were looking disastrous for Miami. Dwyane Wade, in just his second season, stepped up and took control, leading a furious comeback to steal game 3. He finished with 42 points and 13 rebounds and sealed the game with a game saving steal at the front of the rim.

20. Kobe Bryant, Game 4, 2000 NBA Finals


28 Points, 4 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 2 Blocks, 1 Steal (Video)

Some of you will remember this from our Kobe’s most memorable moment’s countdown, but it more than qualifies for this list as well. The Lakers, despite being up 2-1 in the series, were facing a stiff challenge from a gutsy Pacers team. Kobe was still rusty from a sprained ankle which forced him to miss game 3, and when Shaq fouled out on the first play of overtime, things were looking bad for Los Angeles. Kobe, however, stepped up mightily, carrying The Lakers to a memorable victory which propelled them to the first of 3 straight championships.

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