Manu better than Kobe? Paul Pierce better than Magic? Scottie Pippen in a runaway over Allen Iverson? You gotta be kiddin me! Think so? When it comes to Game 1's of the NBA Finals over the past 20 years there are five performances that are virtuoso. These guys took advantage of the spotlight and laid the smackdown over their opponents in rout to an NBA crown. Roll it.
Manu? Yes. Manu. Hard to believe that before being known for swatting bats, Manu was a key contributor in swatting the Pistons' chances of winning back-to-back NBA titles. In Game 1 of the 2005 NBA Finals, Manu effectively took over the forth quarter, scoring 15 of his 26 points, in route to a 84-69 win. In a series that resembled watching paint dry until Game 5, Manu's effort gave the Spurs the one game difference needed to further solidify their dynasty through the 2000's.
The MVP of the 2008 Finals got started off right against the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 15 points in the third quarter of Game 1 to give the Celtics the lead. Later in the game, Pierce would trip over Kendrick Perkins and be taken off the court in a wheelchair. With his Celtic Pride and green sweatband in tow, Pierce rose from the locker room and hit two consecutive 3-pointers late in the game to seal the win for the Celtics.
Luck of the Irish?
A fake Willis Reed redux?
Doesn't matter, when they roll Hall of Fame tape in a couple of years, that wheelchair will go for 100 grand easy.
Game 1 of the 1997 NBA Finals had the Chicago Bulls Facing the Utah Jazz, in the first of two back-to-back Finals. Pippen scored 27 points to Michael Jordan's 31, but Pippen's mention isn't all about points. With the Bulls trailing 79 to 78 in the fourth quarter, Pippen blocked a jump shot attempt from Antoine Carr and would immediately make his third 3-pointer of the night, after an assist by Ron Harper.
With the game tied and a few seconds left on the clock, Karl Malone stepped to the line with the chance to give the Jazz the lead, when one of the most famous psych-out comments in sports history was uttered by Pippen...
"Just remember, the mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays, Karl."
Malone, clearly punked, would miss both free-throws and the Bulls ran away with another title.
Mailmen still don't deliver on Sunday.
Shaq daddy has had a lot of great Game 1's in his career. O'Neal in the 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers would win the first of three Finals MVPs. While the Pacers would win two games in the series, the total dominance by O'Neal in Game 1 (43 points and 19 rebounds) could best be summarized by a quote he made in 2006:
"I wasn't born. I was found on a train."
Dude, I don't know if you were found on a train or not, but the Pacers haven't been the same since.
Game 1 of the 1992 Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Portland Trailblazers was memorable in large part because of the 35 point first-half performance by Jordan. Funny, he would only score 39 the rest of the game. Underachiever. After his Finals record sixth first-half 3-pointer, he would turn to the broadcasting booth and give a shrug as if to say that how dare the Blazers even consider coming out for the second half, let alone the rest of the series. Game 1 should have been subjected to a mercy rule given the 122-89 beatdown the Blazers got phased-out by.
After this game, the world realized that Jordan was from Krypton. Despite Portland being known as the "City of Roses," even they haven't been able to remove the collective stank from the Sam Bowie pick of 1984.