The Most Iconic Images in NBA Postseason History
Pictures can catch our attention and then hold it, evoking plenty of emotions and memories as we pore over the pixels. Some are instantly recognizable and immediately transport the viewer back to the place they were when the actual event transpired.
Each of these images, the most iconic ones in NBA postseason history, can leave me staring at my computer screen, either remembering the moment or wishing I'd been alive for it.
They're simply awe-inspiring and tell some of the best stories that professional basketball has to offer.
These are my 15 most iconic images, but what would make your list?
Havlicek Stole the Ball!
The Boston Garden eagerly watched and then stormed the court after John Havlicek stole Hal Greer's inbounds pass to seal a Game 7 victory in the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals.
This was the play that inspired Johnny Most's legendary call ("Havlicek stole the ball!"), even if it was some random Boston Celtics fan that actually ended up with the rock during the festivities.
Willis Reed Limps onto the Court
How's this for a goosebump-inducing moment?
Just two games after tearing a muscle in his leg, Willis Reed walked out of the tunnel onto the court at Madison Square Garden, shocking the world with news that he would indeed play. Inspired by Reed's gutsy showing, Walt Frazier took over Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals to help the New York Knicks win their first title.
Dr. J and Kareem
Before the 1983 NBA Finals, Andrew Bernstein took to the locker room to capture this iconic photo of Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fighting over the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
The Los Angeles Lakers had won each of the past two Finals clashes against the Philadelphia 76ers, but this series belonged to the team in red. It's only fitting that Dr. J seems to be controlling the prize, because it was his to hold once more after a four-game sweep.
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson
Larry Bird and Magic Johnson might have been adversaries on the court, but they maintained a healthy relationship off it.
The two rivals were separated by only the Larry O'Brien Trophy before the 1984 NBA Finals, but it was eventual Finals MVP Bird and the Boston Celtics who would emerge victorious after seven hard-fought games. Bird and Magic's clashes would come to define basketball in the '80s and drastically increased the popularity of the sport.
Magic Johnson's Junior, Junior, Junior Sky-Hook
Magic Johnson drilled this "junior, junior, junior sky-hook" over the outstretched arms of Robert Parish and Kevin McHale to give the Los Angeles Lakers a 107-106 victory in the closing seconds of Game 4 in the 1987 NBA Finals.
As Larry Bird explained, "You expect to lose to the Lakers on a sky-hook. You don't expect it to be from Magic."
It was no secret that Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas were well-acquainted with each other both on and off the basketball court, but this kiss before the 1988 NBA Finals still took the basketball world by storm.
Nothing more than a simple exchange of pleasantries between friends and rivals, the kiss stood in stark contrast to the intensely competitive sequence resulting in yet another title for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Aftermath of "The Shot"
I couldn't have hit the shot over Craig Ehlo that inspired this reaction, and I certainly couldn't have elevated to the skies of the Coliseum at Richfield like Michael Jordan.
No basketball celebration has inspired more imitations than Jordan's expression of pure joy after hitting what would come to be known simply as "The Shot."
Jordan's buzzer-beater won both Game 5 and the 1989 first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It will forever live on throughout history.
Even the legendary Michael Jordan was capable of performing at such a high level that he could surprise himself.
Such was the case during Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals when No. 23 hit his sixth three of the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers and just shrugged. The expression on his face couldn't be more perfect.
Reggie Miller Choke Gesture
In Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Reggie Miller dropped 39 points in Madison Square Garden, but no shot will endure as long as this choke sign that he directed at Spike Lee.
Miller scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, then flashed this infamous gesture in the direction of the New York Knicks super-fan, thereby ensuring that he'd remain public enemy No. 1 in the Big Apple.
Patrick Ewing Embraces the Crowd
After Patrick Ewing's legendary performance in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals helped the New York Knicks advance to the NBA Finals for the first time in 21 years, the big man turned to the crowd and gave us this timeless pose.
Ewing made the series-winning putback dunk the finishing touch on his 24-point, 22-rebound, seven-assist, five-block masterpiece. But surely no moment felt sweeter than this one, as he was finally able to victoriously embrace the Madison Square Garden faithful.
The Flu Game
Fans in Salt Lake City got to witness one of the more outstanding and famous performances in NBA history when Michael Jordan overcame both the flu (food poisoning?) and the Utah Jazz to record 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.
Jordan expended so much energy and effort helping the Chicago Bulls to a 90-88 victory in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals that he couldn't even make it off the court, instead collapsing into Scottie Pippen's arms for a bit of assistance.
This is an unforgettable image of an unforgettable performance.
Michael Jordan's Final Shot*
The final shot of Michael Jordan's tenure with the Chicago Bulls produced arguably the most famous photograph in basketball history.
In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, Jordan stole the ball from Karl Malone, worked his way free of Bryon Russell—he may or may not have pushed off—and then elevated for this attempt while down by just a single point.
I don't think I need to tell you whether or not it went in.
The Passing of the Torch
How's this for a passing of the torch from one legend to another?
After the San Antonio Spurs won the 2003 NBA Finals by beating the New Jersey Nets in six games, David Robinson embraced Tim Duncan while the confetti streamed down. The mutual admiration, respect and friendship are readily apparent in this image.
It would be the last title for The Admiral, but the second of many for his successor.
Derek Fisher's 0.4-Second Miracle
Derek Fisher proved to the world that it only takes 0.4 seconds to get off a game-winner when he drilled this one against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals.
Look at the clock indicating that the buzzer has already sounded, then find the ball. It's barely left Fisher's hands.
Now you might understand why this sight still causes some Spurs fans to experience physical pain almost a decade later.
Anything Is Possible
I've never seen a more euphoric celebration than the one Kevin Garnett granted us after his life's work finally paid off.
After winning the 2008 NBA title with the Boston Celtics, the notoriously intense power forward threw his head back and screamed, "Anything is possible!" to the heavens. It echoed through the rafters and still rings clear in the mind of any NBA fan who witnessed the primal scream.
Will an image from the 2013 postseason be the next to become truly iconic?
As KG said, anything is possible.