Michael Jordan and the 25 Greatest NBA Playoff Moments of All-Time

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 20, 2011

Michael Jordan and the 25 Greatest NBA Playoff Moments of All-Time

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    The 2011 NBA playoffs have gotten off to a fantastic start. 

    We've already witnessed some early-round heroics from the likes of Derrick Rose, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, but nothing quite like the great moments of the past.

    It was what they did in the playoffs that made legends of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and... Ron Artest?

    So, without further ado, here are the top 25 moments in NBA playoff history.

25: Robert Horry against the Pistons

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    Robert Horry earned the nickname "Big-Shot Bob" with several clutch playoff performances for the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs.

    This game in the 2005 NBA Finals may have been his best.  He scored all 21 of his points in the fourth-quarter and overtime and hit the game-winning shot with less than six seconds left.

    The Spurs won the series and denied the Pistons their shot at back-to-back titles.

24: Shaq's Near Quadruple-Double

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    Following a surprising Game 1 loss to the 76ers in the first game of the 2001 NBA Finals, the Lakers bounced back behind a huge game from Shaquille O'Neal.

    He scored 28 points, grabbed 20 rebounds, dished out nine assists and blocked eight shots.

    Los Angeles cruised to the title after that win.

23: Ron Artest Thanks His Psychiatrist

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    The legend of Ron-Ron is filled with ebbs and flows, ups and downs, fights, rants and raps.

    This postgame interview following a great individual performance by Artest in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals gave all of us a reason to smile at the Lakers' lovable small forward.

22: Dr. J's Scoop

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    Julius Erving pulled off one of the craziest moves in NBA history during Game 4 of the 1980 Finals.

    He drove baseline, took off from one side of the rim, put the ball at least a couple feet behind the basket and came out on the other side for the reverse finish.

21: Michael Jordan Dropping Threes on the Blazers

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    During Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan broke the playoff record for three-pointers made in a single half.  His 35 points in the first two quarters were the most for a half in playoff history.

    Jordan was never known as an elite three-point shooter, so even he was a little surprised by his long-range display.  His iconic shoulder shrug helped make this moment timeless.

20: Stockton's Game-Winner

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    After years of early playoff exits, John Stockton hit this huge three in Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals to send the Jazz to their first NBA Finals.

    He scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner as time expired.

19: John Paxson's Game-Winning Three

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    With the Bulls down by two points with 14 seconds left in Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals, most people thought Michael Jordan would take the last shot.

    The ball wound up in the hands of John Paxson, who hit a game-winning three that sealed Chicago's first three-peat.

18: Blazermania

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    Bill Walton led one of the most improbable runs through the NBA playoffs in league history. 

    After trailing two games to none, the Blazers beat the heavily-favored Philadelphia 76ers in four straight games to win the 1977 Finals.

    Bill Walton led Portland in the clincher with 20 points, 23 rebounds, eight blocks and seven assists.

17: Elgin Baylor's 61 and 22

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    In the 1962 NBA Finals, Elgin Baylor had perhaps the greatest individual performance in playoff history.  He scored 61 points and grabbed 22 rebounds.

16: Isiah Thomas Goes off with a Bum Ankle

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    It seems strange to list a moment in which the featured player ended up losing the game.  But Isiah's efforts in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals were that good.

    He scored 43 points (including 25 in the third quarter) on one good ankle.

15: Magic's Sky Hook

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    The rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics is filled with iconic moments, and this was one of the best.

    With Los Angeles down two games to one in the 1987 NBA Finals, Magic Johnson delivered a game-winning and series-tying shot that he dubbed, "my junior, junior sky-hook."

14: Miller Time (in Less Than Nine Seconds)

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    At the end of game one of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, the "Knick-Killer" scored eight points in a mind-boggling 8.9 seconds.

    The Pacers went from down six to winning the game by two in an improbable series-opening victory.

13: Larry Bird's Championship Sealing Triple-Double

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    In Game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals, Larry Bird posted a triple-double as the Celtics captured their 16th championship.

    Bird put up 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in the victory, helping him earn the honor of Finals MVP.

12: Fisher's 0.4 Second Game-Winner

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    In Game 4 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, Derek Fisher connected on the quickest game-winning shot (not tip) of all time.

    He caught the ball and got a shot off in 0.4 seconds.

11: Jordan Scores 63 against the Celtics

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    Following this game, Larry Bird said, "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

    Jordan was truly unstoppable in this first-round game against the Celtics.  In just his second year in the league, he scored 63 points against one of the greatest teams of all time.

10: The Duel Between Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins

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    In Game 7 of the 1988 Eastern Conference semifinals, Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins engaged in one of the greatest duels in basketball history.

    Wilkins put up 47 points, but the Hawks came up short as Bird scored 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter of a Boston win that sent them to the next round.

9: Jerry West Hits from Beyond Half-Court (for Two)

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    In Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers trailed the New York Knicks by two points with three seconds left in the fourth quarter.

    Jerry West hit a 60-foot bomb as time expired to send the game into overtime.  The Lakers went on to lose.  Had the three-point shot been in place back then, Los Angeles would have won the game.

8: Michael Jordan over Craig Ehlo

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    In the deciding fifth game of a 1989 first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Michael Jordan hit a game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo that helped build an emerging legend.

7: Michael Jordan's Flu Game

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    With the 1997 NBA Finals between the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls tied at two games apiece, many wondered whether a flu-stricken Michael Jordan would be able to go for Game 5 in Salt Lake.

    He did, and he lit up the Jazz for 38 points in a Chicago win.  The series shifted back to Chicago, and the Bulls won the title in six games.

    Had Jordan sat that fifth game, Karl Malone and John Stockton probably wouldn't be on lists like this.

6: Three-Overtime Thriller in Boston

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    Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals is considered by many to be the greatest basketball game ever played.

    It took the Celtics all of three overtimes to top the Suns that night.  The win was instrumental in Boston's run to the championship.

5: Havlicek Stole the Ball

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    This game featured perhaps the most memorable call of all time.  Even 20-something youngsters like myself have heard the famous, "Havlicek stole the ball!" countless times.

    It was John Havlicek's tip of the final inbound pass of Game 7 of the 1965 Eastern Conference Finals that wrapped up the series for the Celtics.

4: Magic at Center

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    In the absence of superstar center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson stood in the center circle for the opening tip of sixth game of the 1980 NBA Finals.

    He played every position on the floor that night, scoring 42 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and dishing out seven assists in helping the Lakers win the game and the series.

    Not bad for a rookie.

3: Willis Reed's Return

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    No one knew if Willis Reed was going to play in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals.  He wasn't on the court with the Knicks for pregame warmups, but came limping through the tunnel for the start of the game.

    He scored New York's first two buckets (those wound up being his only points), and his presence proved to be the inspiration the Knicks needed to win the game and the championship.

2: Larry Bird's Steal

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    Trailing by one in the closing seconds of Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, Larry Bird came up with an improbable steal of Isiah Thomas' inbound pass.

    What was almost as impressive was the way he collected himself and dished out the game-winning assist to a streaking Dennis Johnson.

1: Jordan's Game-Winner over Russell

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    As a diehard Jazz fan, I will go to my grave insisting that Jordan got away with an offensive foul on this play.  But even I have to admit this is still the most memorable moment in the history of the NBA playoffs.

    This jump shot sealed a win for Chicago in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals and gave Jordan and the Bulls their sixth title.

    Had Jordan not come back to play for the Wizards, this would have been the last shot of his career.

Your Favorite Moments?

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    Obviously, a list like this is bound to omit some moments that others would include.

    Let me know what memorable playoff moments I missed in the comments section.