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The most iconic NBA Finals moments in history

The most iconic NBA Finals moments in history

The NBA Finals is the championship series of the National Basketball Association where the league’s best teams play against each other to win the campaign title. It features intense and thrilling rivalries that capture the attention of basketball fans worldwide.

With the NBA as one of the most popular leagues in the world, its championship games are known to deliver GOATED (Greatest of All Time) moments and impressive victories. Let’s re-live a few unforgettable NBA Finals moments over the decades.

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1980: Rookie Magic Johnson steps up and secures title for the Lakers

While Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rested an ankle sprain he got in the previous game at home in Los Angeles, rookie Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson stepped in at centre and played every position. He scored 42 points, dished out seven assists, and pulled 15 rebounds in a 123–107 win that sealed the championship.

The 1980 NBA Finals Game 6 is forever marked as one of Johnson's best nights of his career. Since he was the first pick in the draft and came from a famous team, all the attention he got during the season was just the beginning of his great achievements.

1988: Injured Isiah Thomas scores 25 points in the third quarter

In the third quarter, Isiah Thomas set an NBA record with 25 points while limping due to an injured ankle. Witnessing a player produce a legendary quarter with an injured leg was impressive and brave, considering it a top moment for all basketball fans.

The iconic moment started when Thomas made a comeback for the Detroit Pistons with 14 points in the third quarter before rolling his right ankle while assisting Joe Dumars. After a brief absence, Thomas came back into the game and scored 11 of Detroit's final 15 points in the quarter. Despite the injury, he still managed to secure 43 points and 8 assists.

1992: The historic Michael Jordan shrug after hitting six 3-pointers

In the second half of the 1992 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan started one of the greatest performances in NBA Finals history. He led the Chicago Bulls to a 57-23 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers by making a record-tying six 3-pointers in the first half of the game.

As soon as Jordan made his fourth 3-pointer of the game, Chicago Stadium began to rumble, and it got more intense after he made his fifth 3-pointer. A sixth 3-pointer instantly followed it while Cliff Robinson was guarding him.

Instead of shrugging as the ball swished, he started shaking his head tauntingly in Robinson's direction. When Jordan glanced across at Magic Johnson, an analyst for NBC at the time, he gave his iconic shrug.

1993: John Paxson becomes the hero for the Bulls

John Paxson became an unlikely hero when he hit a 3-pointer with only 3.9 seconds left to lift the Bulls over the Suns in a 99-98 win, giving them their third consecutive championship. The iconic shot was made after an early pass by Michael Jordan from the backcourt and Mark West's defence forced Scottie Pippen to abort a drive to the basket.

Paxson's wide-open left-wing shot secured the first three-peat since the Celtics of the 1960s. His impressive shot was also the deciding factor that sent the Bulls to compete for the championship in Game 7 that year.

1997: Michael Jordan played sick but still won

A dehydrated and fatigued Michael Jordan scored 38 points against the Utah Jazz in a crucial Game 5. He played his way to winning despite suffering from flu-like symptoms that caused him to wobble at times, making him a legend and a relentless rival.

Jordan scored 17 points in the second quarter despite appearing unfocused in the first. After having a rough third quarter, he scored 7 points during a 10-0 run in the fourth. The Bulls came from being the underdogs, with a a 77-69 loss, to eventually taking the lead. His last-second 3-pointer did the job and set up the iconic moment wherein Scottie Pippen helped Jordan off the floor, looking as tired as ever.

2000: Kobe Bryant plays on a bad ankle and scores 28 points

After sitting out in Game 2 and Game 3 with an ankle strain, Kobe Bryant returned to help the Lakers defeat the Pacers in a 120-118 win during overtime. After Shaquille O'Neal fouled out, the 21-year-old Bryant finally came through.

During this match, all of Bryant's best qualities like his physical toughness and drive were on full display. He scored two jump shots in a row and then sealed the win with 5.9 seconds remaining by nailing a reverse layup putback despite an injured ankle.

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2005: Robert Horry secures win for the Spurs

Rasheed Wallace gave an impressive assist to Manu Ginobili with only 5.8 seconds remaining in overtime, creating a golden opportunity for Robert Horry. It was a major mistake on Wallace's part to leave Horry unguarded from beyond the 3-point line.

Horry took this chance to bring the Spurs a 3-2 series lead with his fifth and last 3-pointer, ending in a 96–95 overtime win. The Finals’ MVP Tim Duncan helped put an end to the Pistons in Game 7 of the series in San Antonio, as the Spurs went on to win the series in seven games.

2008: Celtic makes an epic comeback in Game 4

The Celtics made their Big 3 consisting of star players including Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett to finally secure a win. With this roster, the Lakers were doomed to draw the series at two games each despite their impressive start.

The greatest comeback in an NBA Finals game since 1971 happened when the Celtics rallied from a 24-point deficit to win. They won 97-91 thanks to a second-half 23-3 surge which ‘took the air out of the building’ according to Lakers coach Phil Jackson. In Game 6, the Celtics defeated the Lakers to claim their first championship in 20 years.

2016: LeBron James's chase-down block in Game 7

In the final two minutes of the game, Golden State's Andre Iguodala nearly completed the Warriors' fast break after reclaiming the ball when Kyrie Irving missed a floater. He received a bounce pass from Stephen Curry and soared for a layup, igniting the Oracle Arena crowd and breaking the 89-89 deadlock.

However, LeBron James pursued Iguodala and made his shot on the right backboard of the basket, giving the ball back to the Cavaliers. Reportedly reaching a speed of 20.1 mph, James flew 35 inches to stop the shot, making it the most famous of his defence blocks.

2021: Bucks’ comeback from 0-2 against the Suns

Giannis went on a scoring binge after his team, the Bucks fell behind and scored more than 30 points in four games in a row. This helped the Bucks in a 4-2 win in the series. With this impressive performance, Giannis dominated the largest stage in the game, cementing his position as one of the top players in basketball history.

Road to the 2024 NBA Finals: What you can expect

With plenty of iconic moments, the NBA Finals became one of the most talked about and watched basketball tournaments. Many are excited to witness new record-breaking moments with the 2023-24 NBA Finals scheduled to start on June 6, 2024.

Jump right in on the hype of the tournament with these predictions:

Who is the team favourite to win?

The Denver Nuggets have consistently displayed what it takes to be a top team with star players like Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon who offensively challenge the opponent's strategies. They also have Nikola Jokic who’s the reigning MVP in the 2022-23 NBA Finals and is considered one of the best players in the league.

Will there be a Game 7?

There will likely be a Game 7 since the NBA Finals are a best-of-seven series, meaning the first team to win four games takes the championship. If the series is tied 3-3 after six games, a deciding Game 7 will be played on June 23, 2024, to determine the winner.

Who’s most likely to win the MVP award?

The Sixers' performance this season will determine if Joel Embiid is still considered a top contender for the 2023-24 MVP award. Bradley Beal, Devin Booker, and Kevin Durant are top contenders.

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Rica Miranda17 Apr 2024

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