As the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics battled in another epic overtime contest, I began to wonder. Is this the best seven game series this decade?
There have been 65 series that have gone the full seven games since the turn of the millennium. By their very nature, a seven game series is spellbinding, but here are the very best of the best during that period. Enjoy!
This series wasn't only great because of the unprecedented comeback by the Red Sox (or historic collapse by the Yankees depending on your perspective), it was also a series with four games decided by three runs or less, and two games that went into extra innings.
On the precipice of being swept, trailing in the ninth inning, the Red Sox battled back, tying the game on Bill Mueller's RBI single. In the 12th, David Ortiz hit a walk off grand slam to put the Red Sox into the win column for the series.
The Red Sox would go on to become the first baseball team to win a seven game series after trailing 3-0, winning game five in thrilling fashion in 14 innings, and winning game seven by a decisive 10-3 score.
From 1987 through 2004, only five teams won NBA championships (Lakers, Pistons, Bulls, Rockets, and Spurs). The 2005 Finals matched two of these franchises, who also happened to be the past two champions.
The first four games were won decisively by the home teams. Game five made the series interesting.
Robert Horry hit the game winning shot—one of many in his NBA career. The Spurs went on to win the championship—the only final to go the full seven games so far this decade.
The 2002 NHL Western Conference finals were a culmination of perhaps the greatest rivalry in the league, stemming back to 1997.
With three overtime games, and none of the first six games decided by more than two goals, this was a closely contested series.
Unfortunately, game seven was a Red Wing blowout, a 7-0 victory that propelled Detroit to a Stanley Cup championship.
While the 2004 series between these two hated rivals will be remembered for the historic comeback, this series should be recalled as a series where every single contest was close.
Game three was especially memorable as Clemens started for the Yankees, in his former home of Fenway Park. Clemens' inside pitch to Manny Ramirez sparked Ramirez to make his way to the mound, and Don Zimmer to make his way off the Yankee's bench.
Zimmer was met by Pedro Martinez, and the confrontation resulted in one of the most memorable take downs, this side of Nolan Ryan.
Clemens again opposed Pedro Martinez in game seven, although neither figured in the decision. Jason Giambi homered twice for the Yankees, but Aaron Boone was the hero. His home run in the bottom of the eleventh sent the Yankees to the World Series. They haven't been back since.
The series began pedestrian enough, with the combatants splitting the first two games. By game four, things got interesting, and Robert Horry was heroic.
Horry's shot as time expired tied the series at two a piece. Game five has similar drama with the King's Mike Bibby playing the role of hero and last second shot maker.
The Lakers would go on to take game six, and then game seven in overtime. The final game cemented this series' place in history.
The series would add some infamy to its fame, when Tim Donaghy alleged that game six was fixed by referees trying to help the NBA garner ratings.
Like many great series, this one started slow, with each of the first three games decided by three goals.
Game four was a defensive stalemate with the exception of an early goal by Stanley Cup MVP, Brad Richards.
Game five went into overtime, and game six went to double overtime, setting up the decisive game seven.
The final game was led by the Lightning most of the way until Calgary tallied to make the game close, but in the end Lord Stanley's Cup landed in Florida for the first time.
Only three other NHL series, that have gone the full seven games this decade, have had as many games decided by one goal (five) as this match-up in 2006.
Included in those five games, are two overtime games. I don't know about you, but playoff overtime, to me, is perhaps the best thing in sports. It's as sudden as sudden death can be.
In the end, the Hurricanes would move on to another seven game duel, where they would be victorious in winning the Stanley Cup.
In the days that followed the tragedies of Sept. 11, sports, baseball specifically, became an escape for many Americans.
I found myself becoming a short-term Yankees fan, sympathetically rooting for the Big Apple to prevail. Those emotions, combined with an objective look at the closeness of the games of this series, places it at No. 3 on this list.
The series featured four games decided by one run, and two extra inning matches. Game seven was won when the Diamondbacks scored twice in the bottom of the ninth, capped by Lis Gonzalez's bloop hit to plate diminutive Craig Counsell.
Randy Johnson got the win, pitching in relief, to split the MVP award with game seven starter Curt Schilling.
With three games that came down to the final possession, and another two that went overtime, this is the second closest seven game series of the decade.
There's nothing more you can ask for from a series than to have this many games be as close as these...or is there?
That's right. This series is already the best of the decade for the three major sports that play seven game playoff series. No matter what happens on Saturday, this is the closest series we've seen in at least a decade.
Four games have gone one or more overtimes, and five of the first six have been decided by three points or less.
That makes it the best on paper, but for anyone who has watched this series, you know the experience has been even greater. Clutch shots, terrible plays, great offense, poor officiating, and stitches.
The series has had it all. And there's still one game left. Saturday night tune in for the best seven game series of the decade.