NBA Finals: Stars Who Have Closed out a Finals Series in Style
The NBA Finals is where players become legendary. From an athlete's perspective, no accolade compares to leading a team to the ultimate glory—a championship.
When the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs kicks off on June 6, another chapter will be added to the legacies of both LeBron James and Tim Duncan—two players who have had a number of memorable playoff moments.
That said, here is a short list of players who have closed out a title-clinching game by recording a triple-double.
Magic Johnson: Los Angeles Lakers (1982, 1985)
Whether you know Magic Johnson from his days with the Los Angeles Lakers or as a current analyst on NBA Countdown, he is one of the greatest players to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.
With Johnson running the heralded "show-time" offense in the 1980s, the Lakers collected five titles— enabling the franchise to become the modern-day version of a basketball dynasty.
In the 1982 Finals, Johnson helped the Lakers close out the Philadelphia 76ers in six games, recording 13 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists in the series finale.
Johnson came up big again in Game 6 of the 1985 Finals against the Boston Celtics with another impressive performance that included 14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists—leading Los Angeles to its third title of the decade.
Great players find a way to have an impact on a game without necessarily having to score a ton of points and that is exactly what Johnson accomplished in both of these outings.
Larry Bird: Boston Celtics (1986)
The Boston Celtics were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1985 Finals, but that did not deter them by any means.
In the 1985-1986 campaign, the Celtics rolled to a 67-15 mark while losing only one game at home.
Bird was the catalyst of the Celtics offense as he averaged 25 points,10 rebounds and seven assists per contest—en route to his third consecutive regular-season MVP award.
With the Celtics nursing a 3-2 series lead against the Houston Rockets, Larry Bird made sure there would not be a seventh game.
Bird scored 29 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and handed out 12 assists—leading the Celtics to their third title of the decade.
Unfortunately, for the Celtic faithful, the franchise would not witness another championship for 22 seasons.
James Worthy: Los Angeles Lakers (1988)
James Worthy, also known as "Big Game James", was a key component of the Lakers championship teams in 1985, '87 and '88.
While Magic Johnson was the floor general, Worthy was the player who often finished the fast break with one-handed dunks that sent the forum crowd into a frenzy.
Worthy has a number of great postseason performances on his resume, but none were greater than his outing in Game 7 of the 1988 Finals.
With the series tied at 3-3 and the Lakers facing a rugged Detroit Pistons team, Worthy proved to be the difference with an impressive stat line of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
As a result, the Lakers narrowly defeated the Pistons 108-105—earning them their fifth championship of the decade.
Worthy was crowned Finals MVP.
Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs (2003)
Tim Duncan was already averaging 24 points, 16 rebounds and four assists per contest through the first five games of the 2003 Finals against the New Jersey Nets.
However, in Game 6, Duncan put on a performance for the ages—recording 21 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists.
If you thought those numbers were impressive, Duncan also blocked eight shots, including three in the fourth quarter—to help force the Nets into a woeful 6-of-25 shooting from the field.
When it was all said and done, Duncan had led the Spurs to their first title since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season while capturing the Finals MVP award in the process.
Tim Duncan is one of the best big men to play the game and this performance validates that sentiment.
LeBron James: Miami Heat (2012)
Like it or not, LeBron James is the best player in the league today.
Learning from his miscues from the previous year, James led the Heat to a second Finals appearance against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012.
With the Heat leading the series 3-1 and the chance to clinch the title in front of the home crowd, James paced the team with 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a 121-106 victory—giving Miami its first title since 2006.
Per ESPN, James had this to say following his title-clinching performance:
I'm happy now that eight years later, nine years later since I've been drafted, that I can finally say that I'm a champion, and I did it the right way. I didn't shortcut anything. You know, I put a lot of hard work and dedication in it, and hard work pays off.
With two of the players on this list set to face off in this year's Finals, it will be interesting to see which of them will add another championship to their storied career.
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