NBA Power Rankings: The Top 50 Individual Celebrations in NBA History
Under the guise of a recent Gatorade campaign, the words of rap megastar Lil Wayne have seemed to encapsulate the current sporting climate. In today's society, professional sports transcend that of a simple game; rather, gameplay is also a celebration of personal expression, achievement and individual quirkiness.
You may know this concept by its more common name—swag.
Watch an NFL game, and you'll be hard pressed to find a player walk away from a touchdown reception, bone-jarring hit, or clutch interception without some sort of personal touch. On the baseball diamond, Sammy Sosa mastered swag with his kiss-pat-kiss-pat-peace sign ritual following every longball.
On the soccer pitch—well, don't even get me started.
Perhaps more than any other sport, swag has hit the National Basketball Association circuit head-on, especially in the past decade or so. However, the idea of swag, or whatever its precursor may have been referred to as, originated well before the days of the John Wall dance and Ron Artest music videos. Having been firmly entrenched in the NBA culture for quite awhile now, swag has not only been institutionalized, in many ways, its been immortalized.
With that said, lets take a look at the top 50 individual celebrations in NBA history. Whether these expressions of victory are recurrent rituals or a result of one, dramatic moment is irrelevant. Regardless, all of the individuals on this list have got some serious swag.
50. Big Baby's Alien Tongue
For all of you who have theorized that Glen Davis is actually a frog trapped in a human's body, here is your proof.
Big Baby's tongue lick is far and and away the most peculiar celebration out there. The gesture leads one to believe that Davis is mimicking salivating over his rather "delicious" play against opposing defenses, but he looks more like Disney's "Beast" than a civilized human being.
49. Damon Jones
Despite garnering career averages of 6.6 ppg and 2.6 apg, Jones has always made everyone well aware of the moments where he has made a big impact on the court.
After hitting a shot, usually a three-pointer, Jones has been known to engage in a rather obnoxious, for lack of a better name, "Step n' Wash" dance. After a dramatized step, Jones will mimick polishing off some sort of surface, assumedly making it as shiny and smooth as his sweet shooting stroke.
Maybe if he spent less time dancing and a little more time polishing his game, he'd be able to celebrate more frequently.
48. DeShawn Stevenson
Either DeShawn Stevenson thinks the basketball court is a club, or there is constantly a rather pesky fly hindering his view.
Following a basket, Stevenson had made it a tradition of sorts to celebrate with the now notorious "you can't see me" hand shimmy, representing his complete unstoppable-ness as a basketball player.*
*Unfortunately for Stevenson, players usually can see him. The 11-year veteran has been a role player for virtually all of his career, never elevating his game to an All-Star caliber level.
47. Tim Thomas: The Tony Yayo/John Cena
Thomas' "you can't see me" is basically the same exact gesture as Stevenson's. For those of you up on your taunting history, you'll know that neither Thomas nor Stevenson invented the move.
In 2002, a rising WWE star (you may know him as John Cena) began to celebrate his conquests over weaker oppositions with the hands-over-face move, demonstrating that his opponents "could not see him." For those not up on their swag, the gesture implies that being unable to see an opponent meant that they were not in the same league as Cena.
Not too long thereafter, G Unit rapper Tony Yayo burst on the scene, introducing the Tony Yayo dance, which is more or less a more exaggerated version of Cena's move.
It just so happens that a few seasons ago, Thomas performed alongside G Unit in the song, "The Clean Up Man." Soon enough, Thomas had translated Yayo's dance into on-the-court jubilation.
(Thomas beats out Stevenson by virtue of street cred.)
**video contains explicit content
46. Chris Childs
In Game 3 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Playoff series against the hated Miami Heat, Knicks guard Chris Childs would add insult to injury following big plays from his team by ferociously drawing his right arm across his throat in mock decapitation, suggesting that the Heat's chances to win the game were all but dead.
The gesture became somewhat of a cult classic, gaining considerable fame throughout all major professional sports, and was subsequently utilized by NFL stars Keyshawn Johnson and Warren Sapp. In the NFL, the move was nicknamed "The OJ," a direct reference to his 1995 double homicide trial.
Eventually, the move was banned by both the NFL and NBA.
45. Eric Murdock's Retaliation
The throat slash craze started by Childs eventually backfired, as it was the Heat who had the last laugh. In the very same Game 3, the Heat's Eric Murdock used the throat slash to his own liking after nailing a three with 36 seconds left to secure a Miami Heat victory.
Judging by the amount of blood shed between those two teams over those few crazy years, each squad really took the throat slash to heart.
44. Sonny Weems Pregame Ritual
Sonny Weems probably will never make it into the pantheon of NBA greats. His pregame ritual however, deserves some Hall of Fame recognition.
Before tipoff during home games, Weems has gained notoriety for his dance, chest bump, scorer's-table-diving routine.
Probably one of the more unique entrances out there—the Raptor has found a way to swag up while providing some refreshing originality.
43. Derek Fisher Hits Shot With 0.4 Seconds Left, Then Runs Away in 0.4 Seconds
After Tim Duncan hit a near-impossible fadeaway over Shaquille O'Neal to give the Spurs a one-point edge with 0.4 seconds to go in the pivotal Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, the Lakers chances to win the the series looked to be on the brink, with the Lakers staring an elimination game straight in the face.
There was simply no time left for the Lakers to answer. San Antonio had entered a state of euphoria.
Derek Fisher didn't care.
With 0.4 seconds left in the game, Fisher did his best imitation of basketball hot potato, catching and releasing faster than—well, anything. The ball somehow went in, giving the Lakers an improbable victory and a 3-2 series lead.
Smartly, Fisher decided to sprint to the locker room immediately after making the shot, clearly attempting to prevent the refs from overturning the ruling on the court. Watching it over again, I am convinced that in that moment, even Usain Bolt would have a tough time outrunning Fisher.
42. Stromile Swift's Wings
One of the league's better leapers in recent memory, Stro has made everyone well aware of his high-flying ways.
Following an emphatic block or thunderous dunk, the journeyman often took to exhibiting his affinity for human flight, lifting his hands above his head and flapping them around like wings.
Despite never living up to his billing as the second overall pick of the 2000 NBA draft, its tough to disparage Swifts athleticism, as he has provided quite the highlight reel over his otherwise pedestrian NBA career.
41. 2010 NBA Finals: Big Baby's Primal Scream
He may be known as Big Baby, but there was nothing childish about this particular celebration.
Riding the momentum wave that was the Celtics' unlikely run to the NBA Finals last year, Davis and the Celtics kept the engine churning against the Lakers, coming oh-so close to an eventual series win.
Following a particularly significant Celtics run during Game 4 of the Finals, Davis celebrated a putback with a rather emphatic scream at half court. The celebration—half Wovlerine, half Terrell Owens—looks even more outrageous in slow motion.
40. Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson Head Bump
Straight out of high school, Darius Miles was supposed to be a superstar in the NBA. Although that expectation never completely surfaced, Miles made sure never to forget his swag.
I'm not really sure what to call it, so I've settled for the "head bump." After every bucket or big play from the prep school standout, he would pound his head in order to make sure everyone knew how great he was, even if his Clippers were down by 20.
Miles shared the celebration with teammate Quentin Richardson. The head pound was somehow immortalized by a Nike commercial, although it is highly likely that the Nike official who created the campaign had accrued a severe concussion from practicing the ritual himself.
39. D-Wade Buzzer Beater
One of the more memorable plays of the 2008-09 NBA season also brought about a classic celebration.
Tied at 127 in the dwindling seconds of double overtime, Dwayne Wade decided that he didn't want to play another extra period. Flash proceeded to steal the ball from a tentative John Salmons, raced down the court, and fired up a buzzer-beating three to win the game.
Wade, donning Miami's "El Heat" uniform, climbed onto the scorer's table in triumph, pounding his chest while sharing quite a dramatic victory with thrilled Heat fans.
38. The Birdman
One of the more ferocious players in today's game, Chris "Birdman" Andersen has a rather colorful celebration to go along with his nickname.
After a big play, the eccentric Nuggets center has gained recognition with his ritualistic "Birdman" tribute, during which Andersen will extend his arms and flap his wings like a...
Don't want to give it away now. That would just be anticlimactic.
37. Wilt Chamberlain 100 Points Sign
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
If Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game had occurred sometime in the last two decades, there would likely be a parade, celebratory song, and chart-topping music video created just for the occasion.
Unfortunately for Wilt the Stilt, league-wide swag had not yet caught up to the legendary center's mammothic frame. Thus, his celebratory gesture was limited to holding up a large sign that read "100," which is now considered one of the more famous images in NBA History.
Not to worry however. Wilt made sure to celebrate in style—just not in public....
36. Wilt Chamberlain's Bedroom
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We'll keep this one as PG-rated as possible.
Following big wins or big achievements, Chamberlain was known for his prowess off the court, specifically in the bedroom. A precursor to Tiger Woods of sorts (just without the marriage part), Chamberlain, a true celebrity in his time, claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.
I could only imagine what a modern-day Wilt would be like. The thought itself is frightening.
35. LeBron James: Roc Boy and Handshake
One of the poster boys of swag, LeBron has made quite the spectacle of celebratory gestures. Although the powder toss is probably his most notable of his antics, the "Roc Boy" and handshake is definitely up there.
A tribute to good friend Jay-Z, LeBron has taken to flashing the diamond-shaped "Roc Boy" signal, a gesture that is usually followed by an exaggerated handshake.
It's tough to describe, so I'll just leave it to the video. Regardless, his handshake epitomizes LeBron's fun-loving side, something that often gets lost amidst "The Decision" and LeBron's other "look at me" ways.
34. John Wall
The Cali Swag District's "Teach Me How To Dougie" has become somewhat of an anthem amongst swag-stricken athletes these days. Rookie standout John Wall has wasted no time translating his fun-loving, dancing-induced quirkiness into the NBA, bringing the Dougie along with him.
I guess when you're that good, it doesn't matter how preposterous your dance moves are.
33. Brian Scalabrine
No, this isn't an actual celebratory gesture. But given Scalabrine's outstanding motivational pedigree, his fiery passion has gotta be worth something.
Scalabrine, despite garnering limited minutes for his entire career, has made a living through extremely animated bench performance. The idea may sound quite comical, but the truth is, Big Red's ceaseless words of encouragement, chest bumps and sideline fist pumps are undoubtedly manifestations of a unique, slightly warped version of swag.
Now a member of the Chicago Bulls, let's hope he can help lead his team deep into the playoffs yet again. Remember, he was with a title contending New Jersey before he was shipped up to Boston.
Coincidence? Definitely not.
32. Fred Carter Knuckle Bump
Chances are, you've never heard of Fred Carter. To be completely fair, you probably shouldn't have. After all, he played for the Washington Bullets.
Who is this mysterious, swag-induced player? Well, legend has it that in the 1970s, the NBA guard began to employ the worldwide phenomenon that is the knuckle bump. Being that this ubiquitous greeting of success is so firmly entrenched in American sports folklore, its appearance on this list is a must.
31. Shaq's Duck Walk
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Shaq may be 100 times the size of a duck, but the size disparity is seemingly not a problem for the Big Diesel.
Following a dunk, Shaq has been known to engage in his now-infamous duck walk. I'm not sure how much resemblance he actually bears to a duck, though you've gotta cut the effervescent Shaq some slack.
After doubling as a desert plant, crazy wizard and Socrates statue, he's bound to mix up his many identities at some point or another.
30. Kevin Garnett
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
We all know that Kevin Garnett's intensity level has rendered him the Ray Lewis of the NBA. In terms of pregame rituals however, Garnett might actually be even more intense than his hard-hitting counterpart. After all, Lewis' entrance routine doesn't include risking a concussion.
Before each game, Garnett decides to knock off a few brain cells by pounding his head, oftentimes into the backboard padding.
Though it may not be the smartest of pregame routines, you can't necessarily argue with results.
29. Vince Carter
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Many basketball experts considerable Carter a lost superstar. The kind of player who had all the potential to earn numerous MVP awards and NBA championships, but simply never did. Somewhere along the way, something went awry. What that something was, nobody seems to know.
The fact remains, however, that Carter will always be the superstar that "coulda woulda shoulda."
Regardless, Carter is no stranger to individual celebrations. His most famous may be his ridiculous "engine rev," during which he emphatically puts his hands up as if he were on a motorcylce, mimicking revving an engine to help the crowd get into gear and help raise their volume level.
Now that I think about it, though, that may have just been because he spent the majority of his playing days in New Jersey and Toronto...
28. Dwight Howard's Pregame Ritual
Superman is far and away one of the most colorful personalities in the league today. Between his impersonations, press conference words of wisdom, and general on-the-court antics, its not surprising that Howard is also one of the game's most beloved players.
Dwight's trademark move is quite possibly his pregame paper toss. Whether it is a playful jab at other pre tip off rituals regarding power is unknown, but Superman has definitely added some unique flair to his on the court entrance.
Moments before tipoff, Howard has taken to doing a little dance and crumbling up a piece of paper a sequence that concludes with Howard shaking off an imaginary defender and firing the paper into the crowd. In this particular incident, Superman rained his paper on an unsuspecting Knicks fan.
27. Shaq's Hands
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Shaq will appear on this list more than Derek Jeter used to appear on those "most eligible bachelor" rankings. I can't speak for the latter, but Shaq definitely deserves his multiple appearances.
The "disembodied hand" may be Shaq's most constant, and thus most well known, ritual. Following a posterizing dunk, the Big Shamrock has been known to stare at his hand, half amazed, half horrified at its destructive powers.
The reason? Either O'Neal experiences recurring yet unexpected revelations that he is in fact a human being, or he is rightfully appalled by his ability to decimate opposing defenses.
26. Cassell's Coconuts
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This was perhaps one of the more surprising celebrations out there. Needless to say, the below the belt gesture definitely takes some serious swag to pull off.
During Game 4 of the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals, the Clippers (yes that's right, the Clippers were in the Western Conference Semifinals) guard capped off a wild 28 points, 11 assist and nine rebound night with a three-pointer to put the game out of reach for a defensively challenged Phoenix squad.
Cassell, drunk off euphoria, decided to cup his arms in celebration, showing the world that Cassell and the Clippers had in fact the biggest coconuts out there.
25. LeBron James Powder Throw
It's no secret. The King loves to freshen up before every game.
LeBron's pregame celebratory kickoff has gained so much fame over recent years that it has become immortalized as a drink. Although all Cleveland bars probably took the "LeBomb James" off the drink menu following a certain July 8th announcement, it had been quite the craze in recent years.
The drink consists of a shot of crown royal (for the king), some red bull, and Splenda. After dropping the shot in the red bull, the drinker must rub together the splenda (in imitation of the powder rub), and throw it in the air in celebration.
Despite being one of the most famous individual celebrations of all time, it does not deserve placement in the top 10, let alone the top 20. LeBron's ritual is completely unoriginal, as it was directly stolen from another Hall of Famer, a trend setter who will appear later in this slideshow.
24. Kevin Garnett Powder Toss
Garnett's is virtually exactly the same as LeBron's, though it was KG who initiated the powder toss well before King James. Unlike LeBron, Garnett is known for taking the powder on the go, pacing up and down the scorer's table while clapping to stir up the front row fans.
Funnily enough, neither of the these future Hall of Famers invented the powder phenomenon. The real pioneer?
23. MJ and tHe Powder
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Although there was no toss involved for MJ, His Airness was the first player ever to powder up before a game.
If you're surprised, you shouldn't be. In many ways, the explosion of the "look at me, I'm awesome" movement could be attributed to Jordan. A true pioneer of modern swag, this slide is by no means MJ's lone appearance on this list.
22. Vince Carter Nearly Punches KG in Face
Although this wasn't technically an NBA celebration, its certainly epic enough to merit a spot on this list.
In the 2000 Olympic Games, Vince Carter wowed the international world with a dazzling dunk over 7'2" Frenchman Frederick Weis. Weis, who had been drafted by the Knicks, never played an NBA game, likely due to the fact that he was forever scarred by Carter.
The real razzle-dazzle came after the dunk, during which Carter let loose a fist pump for the ages, coming inches away from knocking Kevin Garnett flat on his face.
21. The Tim Duncan
To the casual NBA fan, swag and Tim Duncan are less synonymous with each other than Gus Johnson and monotony.
In this case, the casual fan would be absolutely correct.
Especially in this day and age, there is something honorable about scoring a bucket and getting back down the court. After all, there is something called defense.
Duncan's consistency, impeccable character, and quiet confidence is what has made him and the Spurs a model franchise over the past decade. And after such an illustrious career, Duncan's impact on the game and his own interpretation of "swag" is certainly cause for celebration.
20. 1998 Eastern Conference Finals: Reggie Miller
In terms of swag, Miller was well ahead of his time. This celebration however, was based on raw, uncultivated emotion more than anything.
In Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Miller wowed the home crowd with a clutch three to beat the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. More excited than an eight-year-old on Christmas, Miller ran down the court in celebration, spinning around with a fury worthy of a Shaun White half-pipe demonstration.
We all know what happened in 1998. In this particular game, however, we were all treated to a healthy dose of Miller time.
19. Andrew Bogut High-Fiving Himself
Apparently, Andrew Bogut has a sense of humor—and a pretty good one at that.
With a dearth of players at the free-throw line, Andrew Bogut had no teammates to congratulate on him for making his free throws. Instead of pouting or engaging in an alternate celebration, Bogut decided to get creative, proceeding to high-five a number of "imaginary teammates."
This celebration is definitely one of the craftier gestures on this list. Whether or not this move was pre-planned or completely off-the cuff, it has duly earned some recognition.
18. 2000 Western Conference Finals: Shaq's Dunk & Point
Long before he was crowned the Shaqtus and long after the days of Kazaam, Shaq was in the midst of his most dominant season ever. The Most Valuable Player of a team poised to capture their first NBA championship since the Magic Johnson era, Shaq put quite a cap on one of the most thrilling Game 7 comebacks in league history.
Down 15 in the fourth quarter, Shaq and the Lakers rallied against the Trail Blazers to advance into the NBA Finals. The famed Kobe-to-Shaq alley-oop, probably the pinnacle of their friendship, resulted in a rather animated celebration from the Big Aristotle.
Wide-eyed, triumphant and pointing exuberantly to the crowd, Shaq, in that one moment, demonstrated everything that is right with basketball. Perseverance, accomplishment, and celebration all in one, Shaq's emotional tribute to the Lakers and their fans is not something a fan is treated to everyday.
Moments like these can only occur when the improbable, incredible and undeniably amazing all become wrapped into one timeless event.
17. 1999 NBA Eastern Conference Quarterfinals: Allan Houston
Squeaking into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed, the Knicks entered the decisive fifth game with chance to dethrone the top-seeded Miami Heat squad. The teams were in the midst of one of the most heated rivalries in NBA history, with each team eliminating the other over the previous two years, brawl-induced suspensions included.
Down one point with less than 10 seconds remaining, Houston received an inbounds pass at the top of the key, muscled his way to the right elbow and heaved up a running floater. The ball proceeded to float in midair for about seven years, bounced off the top of the front rim, lightly ricocheted off the backboard, and miraculously fell in the hoop to give the Knicks a one-point lead with less than a second remaining.
An elated Houston sprinted down the court in celebration, puffing out his cheeks in a way not all too far removed from a blowfish.
That season, the Knicks rode Houston's incredible shot all the way to the Finals, where they were defeated by Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
16. Ron Artest: 2010 Championship Celebration
After capturing his first NBA championship, Artest had a celebratory response for the ages.
Between the postgame interview where Artest thanks everyone from his "hood" to his psychiatrist, the "I've got Wheaties" press conference, and the subsequent music video titled "Champions," there were just too many individual moments to remember to narrow it down to just one.
Thus, the journey that is Ron Artest's NBA championship celebration is an all-encompassing, "hold on tight" story for the ages.
If the Lakers win this year, I fully expect Artest to come up with something even better.
15. 2002 Western Conference Finals: Robert Horry
Horry, or "Big Shot Bob," certainly lived up to his nickname throughout his illustrious NBA career. His reaction after one of his more unexpectedly clutch game winners, however, certainly deserves mention in the celebration category.
The Lakers were staring a 3-1 deficit in face in a Game 4 battle against the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Down two points in the closing seconds, the Lakers looked to be doomed after missed game-tying attempts from both Kobe and Shaq.
Fortunately for the Lake Show, the ball couldn't have rolled to a more perfect spot just before time expired.
A deflection brought the ball right into Horry's lap as he stood at the stop of the key. Without hesitation, Horry fired the now-infamous three to win the game and even the series at two, a series that the Lakers would eventually win en route to their third consecutive NBA title.
In celebration, Horry proceeded to do a sort of "pout and glide" movement towards midcourt, where he was then accosted by an enthralled Laker bench.
14. Antoine Walker
He may have appeared like one of the slower and lazier basketball players in recent memory, but Walker certainly knew how to dance.
His wiggle, shimmy, or whatever else you want to call it, is definitely one of the funnier celebrations out there. A true classic, and should lauded as such.
If Walker still needs to pay off his gambling debt, he should definitely try to get on Dancing With the Stars.
13. The Kobe Scowl
It's not so much a celebration as it is an assertion of masculine competitiveness. Either way, it's Kobe's trademark.
The scowl, the chin raise, or whatever else you want to call it, is a kind of "duck and cover" warning signal for opposing defenses. Serving as Kobe's "gameface," the scowl became the mantra for an uber-competitive, "I won't stop at anything" Bryant during the 2009 Finals run.
A symbol of Kobe's insatiable competitive desire, the scowl, although unsightly, has proven that it's got quite the flair for victory.
12. 2000 Eastern Conference Finals: Mark Jackson Cross
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
With his ceaseless razzle-dazzle and point guard post moves, Mark Jackson was one of the more prolific players of his generation. Between the dances, shakes, and other idiosyncracies, Jackson did not hesitate to celebrate upon nearly every positive play. It wasn't until the tail end of his career, however, that he would bring it out his most memorable gesture.
In Game 5 of the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, Jackson was facing his hometown foes and former team, the New York Knicks. During that particular contest, the Pacer proceeded to supplement every big assist or bucket with a gesture that entailed forming an "X" with both his arms.
"I thought I was glorifying God," Jackson told the Associated Press after the game.
And right then and there, the cross was born. Fashionable on the playground, in high-school gymnasiums, in the collegiate ranks, and even in the NBA, Mark Jackson certainly proved to be a trend setter.
11. Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible
One of the fiercest competitors in the NBA, Kevin Garnett made sure not to hold anything back after finally capturing an NBA title.
One year prior to this roaring declaration, Garnett found himself on a declining team with a rather dim future. Despite giving everything he had to the T-Wolves franchise, Garnett was unable to carry the excruciatingly burdensome load in Minnesota. With his best days behind him, it was seemed unlikely that he'd ever win a championship.
On the opposite side of that coin was the Boston Celtics. Coming off one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the C's abysmal 24-58 record seemed to indicate that the unraveling franchise was about to lose their one shining star, Paul Pierce.
Then, almost of of nowhere, Danny Ainge worked his magic, delivering Boston Garnett, Ray Allen and, ultimately, an NBA championship.
I guess anything is possible. Even the Lonely Island seems to think so, immortalizing Garnett's line by utilizing the lyric in the hit song, "I'm On A Boat."
10. Kobe's Fist Pump
The gesture kind of looks like a reincarnation of the Tiger Woods fist pump. Regardless, its definitely Kobe's go-to celebratory move.
Unlike his more ferocious fist-pumping counterparts (Jordan, Vince Carter, Garnett, LeBron, Mike the Situation), Kobe's iron knuckles maintain a concentrated intensity. That is, Kobe's fist pumps are still, allowing its energy to coil up in one area, ready to burst on cue.
The most memorable performance of the Kobe fist pump likely came following his overtime game=winning buzzer beater against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of their playoff series in 2006. Like Kobe's undying will to win, the fist pump's energy is palpable.
9. Mark Madsen's Dance
Although this celebration occured off the court, there is no doubting its greatness. Well, and its awfulness too.
During the Los Angeles Lakers' 2001 victory parade, the Lakers decided to please the crowd with a little celebratory dance. Madsen, not the most athletic player on the roster, also demonstrated that he wasn't exactly the teams best dancer.
Combining Shaq's rap to the whole thing only underscores the hilarity of the moment. But hey—it takes two, right?
8. Larry Johnson
Larry Johnson didn't have a Hall of Fame-worthy professional career, but he certainly proved his effectiveness during his years as a mainstay with the New York Knicks.
After a three-pointer or a clutch shot, Johnson would form an L-shape with his arms, signaling to the opposition and the crowd his indubitable presence.
The most famous instance of the Johnson L came after his memorable four-point play against the Indiana Pacers in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals. Down three points in the final seconds of the contest, Johnson was fouled at the three-point line, made a wild shot to tie the game, and sunk the ensuing free throw to give the Knicks a one-point lead, a lead which they would hold to gain an improbable win over Reggie Miller and the hated Pacers.
7. Larry Bird 1988 3 Point Contest:
The man, the myth, the legend, or whatever else you may want to call him, Larry Bird was perhaps one of the cockiest—and most confident—individuals to ever play the game. Especially when it came to three-point shooting.
Known for his endless trash-talking escapades, Bird's style of play could be accurately summed up through his antics during the inaugural 1988 three-point contest. Down a number of shots with two racks to go, Bird sunk his entire second-to-last rack, then rallied to tie the score at 15, only to sink the last money ball to secure the championship.
Where does the celebration come in? Well, Bird seemingly knew he had earned the title before that last money ball even dropped through the hoop, waving his finger in the air to mark his triumph, a finger that he continued to hold once the ball finally did pass through the nylon.
6. 1992 NBA Finals: Jordan's Shrug
After putting up an astounding 35 points in the first half against against a helpless Blazers squad during Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, not even Jordan could believe his performance.
MJ made it rain in a huge way during that half, knocking down a then-Finals record six three-pointers. After his sixth trey, Jordan, unable to account for his scorching hand, just shrugged his shoulders.
The incident has been immortalized in NBA folklore, and is arguably one of the most memorable moments in Finals history.
5. Shaq And The JabbaWockeeZ
Of all Shaq's ridiculous stunts, this one may take the cake.
The JabbaWockeeZ, an all-male modern hip-hop dance group, gained international fame upon winning the inaugural season of America's Best Dance Crew. The group is notorious for their white masks and gloves, which allow the audience to focus more on their collective uniformity rather than individual dance moves.
In 2009, Shaq decided to add to his legend by teaming up with the dance crew to produce an All-Star entrance that no one will forget any time soon.
4. 1994 Eastern Conference SemifInals: Reggie Miller's Choke Sign
Throughout the years, Reggie Miller has been known as a Knick killer. In Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Miller made a move that will forever chill the bones of Knick fans across the country.
In a heated Game 5 with the series tied at two, the perpetually clutch Miller went off for 25 points in the fourth quarter, during which Reggie had a rather ferocious ongoing exchange with diehard Knick fan Spike Lee.
Following yet another long bucket that helped give the Pacers a 3-2 edge in the series, Miller motioned the now famous "choke sign" to Lee, causing quite a stir in MSG.
3. 2001 NBA Finals: Iverson's Stepover
Swag and Allen Iverson go together better than Danny and Sandy from Grease.
More times than not however, Iverson's swag often got in the way of his playing. Between his dissenting views on practice, his reluctancy to come off the bench, and his relentless taunting, the Answer was often unable to encapsulate his swag into on-the-court moments celebrating his great success as a basketball superstar.
In the Game 1 2001 NBA Finals, however, Iverson had a moment to remember. Facing the heavily favored Lakers on the road, AI managed to single-handedly lead the 76ers to their only victory of the series, exploding for 48 points.
The "stepover," as it is now called, came after a beautiful between-the-legs cross-up that baffled Laker defender Tyronn Lue to the point of imbalance. Lue, who fell down as Iverson released his long-range shot, lay on the Staples Center floor helplessly, watching a scorching AI hold his release.
Needing to get back on defense, Iverson decided to go through Lue rather than walk around him. Perhaps one of the most "in your face" moments in Finals history, the move represents both Iverson's on-court attitude as well as provocative style of play.
2. 1989 Game 5 Eastern Conference Playoffs: Jordan Over Ehlo
This shot is likely the most famous buzzer-beater in NBA history, and deservedly so.
In a decisive Game 5 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Bulls found themselves with the ball in the game's closing seconds down by one, needing a bucket to stave off elimination. Luckily for them, they had some guy named Michael Jordan on their roster.
Jordan proceeded to drive, pull up and elevate over an unfortunate Craig Ehlo, whose now best known for his role as MJ's victim. Air Jordan sunk the tough jumper as time expired, giving the Bulls a fairytale ending to a classic series victory.
Perhaps the most entertaining portion of the entire sequence came in the seconds following Jordan's miraculous bucket. Enthralled by his clutch play, Jordan triumphantly jumped in air to begin a series of animated fist pumps.
Out of the corner of his eye, a dejected Ehlo saw this happening. For a split second, he must have been afraid MJ's celebration was going to knock him over, as Ehlo took the liberty of falling down himself.
The moment is not only hilarious, but it also represents the immortality of the game's greatest player. Head and shoulders above the rest of the NBA figuratively and literally, Ehlo's duck and cover makes it appear that he was absolutely frightened by the titanic Jordan.
1. The Mutombo Finger Wag
"Oh no you didn't!"
Such is the mantra of the Mutumbo finger wag. The gesture itself is so powerful, it has becoming almost as well known as the future Hall of Famer himself.
The greatness of this gesture is a result of not only its effectiveness, but its inherent meaning. Mutombo, who has the second most blocks in NBA history, is considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest, defensive players ever to step on the court.
To those who tried to enter Mutombo's lair in the post, the finger wag was not necessarily a taunt. Instead, it was more of a "shame on yo," signal, suggesting that the big man was disappointed in the opposing guard's judgement, and that he should have known better than to be so foolhardy as to think he'd be welcomed in Mutombo's house.
The Mutombo wag is expressed in ubiquitous fashion all over the world, and you will be hard-pressed to find an aspiring shot blocker who hasn't utilized the finger wag at one point or another.