Magic Playing Center Edges Jordan's Flu Game in ESPN Top 10 Playoff Performances

Blake SchusterCorrespondent IIIMay 16, 2020

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - 1980: Magic Johnson #32 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses for a portrait circa 1980 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1980 NBAE (Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images)
NBA Photos/Getty Images

In a top-10 ranking that's sure to get NBA fans debating until dawn, ESPN has named Magic Johnson's start at center in the 1980 NBA Finals the No. 1 playoff performance of all time. 

The Los Angeles Lakers rookie posted 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists while taking the place of an injured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the lineup and earned himself Finals MVP. 

Here's how the full rankings look:

10. Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue in 2001 Finals Game 1 vs. Lakers

9. Larry Bird's "The Heat Game" in 1984 Finals Game 5 vs. Lakers

8. Klay Thompson hits 11 three-pointers in Game 6 of 2016 Western Conference Finals (elimination game vs. Oklahoma City Thunder)

7. LeBron James scores Cleveland Cavaliers' final 25 points in Game 5 of 2007 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Detroit Pistons

6. Isiah Thomas' 25-point quarter in 1988 Finals Game 5 vs. Lakers 

5. Michael Jordan's "The Shrug" in 1992 Finals Game 1 vs. Trail Blazers

4. Bill Russell's 30-point, 40-rebound Game 7 in 1962 Finals vs. Lakers

3. LeBron's Game 6 vs. Boston Celtics in 2012 ECF (45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists facing elimination)

2. Michael Jordan's "The Flu Game" in 1997 Finals Game 5 vs. Jazz

1. Magic Johnson at center in 1980 Finals Game 6 vs. 76ers

With the final episodes of ESPN's The Last Dance set to air Sunday, there may be plenty of fans who are ready to call Jordan's Flu Game the best playoff performance of all time. 

Yet Johnson became the first and only rookie to win Finals MVP after his performance in 1980, and his all-around versatility helped jump-start the idea of positionless basketball in the NBA. 

Perhaps most notably, no performances from the San Antonio Spurs dynasty made the list, and there's nothing from LeBron James' second stint in Cleveland. 

The NBA has been blessed with a number of epic playoff performances. Ultimately, picking the order of the top 10 comes down to personal preference, yet ESPN certainly nailed some of the most iconic games in its rankings. 


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