Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Jordan and the 15 Gutsiest Performances in NBA History

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2011

Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Jordan and the 15 Gutsiest Performances in NBA History

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    Was Michael Jordan's "flu" game the gutsiest performance in NBA history? What about Willis Reed? Or is there someone else who simply doesn't get enough credit?

    The 2010-11 season was one of the best in NBA history, and the playoffs in 2011 offered some of the gutsiest performances we've ever seen.

    Where does Wesley Matthews and his numb right foot rank all time? What about Dirk Nowitzki playing through illness and a torn ligament?

    Here are the 15 gutsiest performances in NBA history...


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15: Wesley Matthews

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    In January of this past season, Wesley Matthews tore a tendon in his right ankle. In January.

    He went on to play all 82 games in the regular season and labored through six more in the postseason.

14: Bernard King

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    On April 27, 1984, Bernard King lit up the Pistons for 44 points, despite having two dislocated fingers and a 102 degree fever.

13: Patrick Ewing

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    On May 16,1999, Ewing dropped 22 points and dished out 11 assists against the Miami Heat, despite playing with an achilles injury that had been plaguing the aging center for a while.

12: Geroge Mikan

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    In 1949, George Mikan broke his wrist during Game 4 of the finals and came back to score 22 points in a cast for Game 5.

11: Joe Dumars

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    Joe Dumars' father was on his deathbed during the 1990 NBA Finals.  

    He died right before the Pistons' June 10 game against the Blazers. Not knowing of his father's death until after the game, Dumars dropped 33 points.

10: Jason Terry

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    Jason Terry tattooed a picture of the Larry O'Brien trophy on his right bicep prior to the start of the 2010-11 season and backed it up by playing a critical role in Dallas's only championship run.

9: Steve Nash

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    During the 2010 playoffs, Steve Nash's eye swelled shut after he took a third-quarter elbow against the Spurs.  

    He came back for the fourth quarter, dropping 10 points and dishing five assists in the final frame of a Phoenix victory.

8: Rajon Rondo

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    I'm one of those guys who has to look away from grotesque injuries, and the picture on this slide is a tough one for me.

     I could not believe when Rondo came back from this injury dealt to him by the under-the-radar-dirty Dwyane Wade.

    At least Miami finally got what they had coming to them against the Mavericks.

7: Derek Fisher

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    During the 2007 playoffs, Derek Fisher flew to New York on the morning of a game to be with his daughter who was suffering with a rare cancer of the eye.  

    He made it back to Salt Lake during the third quarter of the game and scored five points in overtime.  

    The Jazz beat the Warriors 127-117.

6: Dirk Nowitzki

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    Dirk Nowitzki sealed his place among the league's absolute greatest players during the 2011 postseason.

    He showed serious guts when he torched the Heat while playing through illness and a torn tendon in his finger.

5: Willis Reed

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    This moment's actually a bit overrated by most.  

    I mean, he only scored four points and played a couple minutes in the game he's probably most famous for.  

    The dramatic element of Reed coming out of the tunnel before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals still holds a ton of weight.

4: Kevin McHale

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    Kevin McHale broke his foot toward the end of the 1987 season and ignored doctor's orders by playing throughout the postseason.  

    He averaged 21 and nine on the way to a Eastern Conference championship.

3: Michael Jordan

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    This is another one that I may be slightly overrating. Tons of guys have played through illness. The fact that Jordan dropped 38 is pretty impressive.

2: Isiah Thomas

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    In Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals, Isiah Thomas scored 43 points (including 25 in the third quarter) on a fractured ankle.

1: Brandon Roy

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    This slide is a combo deal. Brandon Roy has shown an unbelievable amount of guts over the last couple years.

    Right before the start of the 2010 postseason, Roy had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. Eight days later, he played for the Blazers and provided 10 points and an emotional spark that led to a Game 4 victory.

    This year, following operations on both knees during the regular season, people had pretty much counted Roy out again. During Game 4 of the Blazers first-round series against the Mavericks, Roy scored 24 points off the bench (including 18 in the fourth and the game-winning basket).