From last-second jumpers to spectacular steals, there are a wealth of great moments to choose from in Finals history. So what constitutes a truly great Finals moment? NBA.com sifted through the history books and video highlights to compile an unofficial list of the Greatest Moments in Finals History.
20. 1977, Game 6: Blazers' Frenetic Finish
Portland erupted in a wild celebration of Blazermania after Bill Walton and company held off the Sixers to secure a 109-107 win and complete one of the greatest upsets in Finals history. Philadelphia jumped out to a 2-0 series lead before the Blazers rallied to win four in a row.
19. 1962, Game 7: Cousy Dribbles Out The Clock
After Frank Selvy missed a game-winning shot for the Lakers at the end of regulation, the Celtics prevailed 110-107 in OT. Bill Russell had 30 points and 40 rebounds (!), and Bob Cousy famously scurried around the backcourt with a clock-burning display of right-handed dribbling.
18. 1981, Game 1: Bird's Mid-Air Switch
Called "the greatest play I've ever seen" by Red Auerbach, Larry Bird converted a remarkable shot in the fourth quarter of Boston's 98-95 victory. Following his own miss, Bird grabbed the rebound on the run with his right hand and while in midair, with his momentum about to take him behind the backboard and out of bounds, he switched the ball into his left hand and somehow scooped it into the hoop.
17. 1990, Game 5: Microwave Cooks Portland
Vinnie Johnson hit a 14-footer with 0.7 seconds left to give Detroit a 92-90 win in Portland, sealing a second consecutive championship for the Pistons. The Microwave sparked Detroit's late rally, scoring seven points in a game-closing 9-0 run.
16. 1969, Game 4: Sam Jones' Picket Fence
Only Bill Russell won more rings as a player than ten-time champion Sam Jones, one of the great clutch players of all time. In the closing seconds of Game 4, the Celtics ran a real-life version of the Hoosiers "picket fence". Jones came off the screens and got a shooter's roll to beat the Lakers 89-88, tying the series 2-2 and setting up one of the great upsets in Finals history (see #12).
15. 1955, Game 7: George King Steals a Title
After making a free throw to give Syracuse a 92-91 lead over Fort Wayne, George King chased down Andy Phillip and made a steal to secure Game 7 in dramatic fashion. Bedlam ensued as Syracuse fans streamed the floor to celebrate the Nats' only championship.
14. 1985, Game 6: Kareem, Lakers Conquer Celtics
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar absorbed his share of the blame for L.A.'s crushing 148-114 Game 1 loss to Boston in the Memorial Day Massacre. Then the proud 38-year-old responded with a performance that made him the oldest Finals MVP in NBA history. "Cap" scored 29 points in L.A.'s series-clinching 111-100 road win in Game 6 -- the Lakers' first Finals win over Boston after eight series defeats, and the Celtics' only taste of Finals elimination on the floor of the Boston Garden.
13. 1997, Game 6: Kerr Sinks the J and the Jazz
After Michael Jordan beat the Jazz at the buzzer of Game 1, the Bulls expected MJ might be double-teamed with the score tied at 86 near the end of Game 6. Reserve sharpshooter Steve Kerr said he'd be ready to knock down the game-winner and he was, hitting a 17-footer to send Chicago to its fifth NBA championship.
12. 1969, Game 7: Nellie's Big Bounce
The Celtics were watching a 17-point fourth-quarter lead slip away against the heavily favored Lakers at the Forum. With the lead cut to 103-102 in the final minutes, the ball was knocked away from John Havlicek, into the hands of Don Nelson at the free-throw line. Nellie put up a shot that hit the back of the rim and got the ultimate shooter's bounce: straight down and straight through the net. From there, Boston held on to win 108-106 as Bill Russell retired with the most improbable of his 11 titles.
11. 1991, Game 2: MJ's Spectacular Switch
The succinct call from Marv Albert is iconic: "Oh! A spec-tac-ular move by Michael Jordan!" The mid-air switch from right hand to left was one of 13 consecutive made field goals for Jordan (who went 15-18 for the game), as the Bulls turned a close game against the Lakers into series-tying blowout which propelled them toward their first NBA championship.
10. 1984, Game 2: Henderson Steals the Ball
After losing Game 1 at home, the Celtics were in a state of desperation at Boston Garden in Game 2: the Lakers had the ball and a 113-111 lead with 18 seconds left. Then, Gerald Henderson saved the day for Boston, stealing James Worthy's soft crosscourt pass and driving in for a game-tying layup. The Celtics would go on the win the game 124-121 in OT, and the series in seven games.
9. 1962, Game 3: West Saves the Day on D
With the score tied at 115 with four seconds left in Game 3, Sam Jones of the Celtics tried to inbound the ball at halfcourt to floor general Bob Cousy. Young Laker star Jerry West stepped in, deflected the ball and raced downcourt for a game-winning layup at the horn. West was mobbed by teammates and the L.A. Sports Arena crowd, and carried off the court after giving the Lakers a 2-1 series lead. The Celtics would eventually win the series in an overtime Game 7.
8. 1974, Game 6: Kareem Hooks Celtics in 2OT
After tying this classic in regulation and at the end of the first overtime, John Havlicek hit a rainbow over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to give Boston a 101-100 lead with seven seconds left in the second OT. From there, Oscar Robertson inbounded the ball to Kareem. The league MVP dribbled down the right and hit a difficult sky hook to give Milwaukee a 102-101 win and send the series to a seventh game. The Celtics would rally to win Game 7 on the road.
7. 1980, Game 4: Dr. J's Baseline Swoop
In the fourth quarter of Game 4, with his Sixers trailing 2-1 in the series, Julius Erving delivered perhaps the ultimate move of his highlight-filled career to help Philly to a 105-102 win. Dr. J drove baseline, elevated, reached back behind the backboard with the ball and somehow emerged on the opposite side of the basket to convert the circus shot. Magic Johnson called it "the greatest move I've ever seen in a basketball game." 300k
6. 1993, Game 6: Paxson Makes It a Three-Peat
Down 98-96 with 14.1 seconds left, the Bulls needed a basket to avoid a Game 7 on the road at Phoenix's America West Arena. Chicago worked the ball from Michael Jordan to Scottie Pippen to Horace Grant, who pitched it out into the reliable hands of John Paxson behind the three-point line. Paxson calmly drilled the three that clinched a Chicago three-peat, and later said, "I've shot like that in my driveway hundreds of thousands of times. It was just reaction."
5. 1970, Game 3: Mr. Clutch Sinks a 60-Footer
The Knicks appeared to have a see-saw Game 3 won when Dave DeBusschere made a shot with three seconds left to give New York a 102-100 edge, and the Lakers were stuck with no time outs. L.A. inbounded to Mr. Clutch, Jerry West, who launched and made a miracle shot from beyond midcourt. Unfortunately for L.A., only the ABA had a three-point shot at that time, so the game went to overtime, and the Knicks regrouped to win 111-108.
4. 1976, Game 5: Gar's Shot Heard 'Round the World
Phoenix scored to go up 110-109 with four seconds left in the second overtime of this 3-OT classic, only to see John Havlicek race downcourt and hit a running bank shot. Boston fans celebrated an apparent 111-110 win, but officials put one second on the clock. Phoenix, out of time outs, conceded a technical free throw in order to move the ball to halfcourt. From there, the ball was inbounded to Gar Heard, who hit a stunning game-tying turnaround. The C's rallied to win 128-126 in 3OT.
3. 1987, Game 4: Magic's Junior, Junior Sky Hook
With the Lakers leading the series 2-1, Boston needed to win Game 4 at Boston Garden. L.A. fought back from a 16-point halftime deficit to take a 104-103 lead in the final minute. Larry Bird answered with a gutsy three-pointer with 12 seconds to go. After Kareem made a free throw, Magic Johnson hit a clutch running hook shot over Kevin McHale and Robert Parish with two seconds left. Bird got free for a last-second shot that was on line... but it hit the back rim, and L.A. hung on, 107-106.
2. 1970, Game 7: Willis Reed Answers the Call
With Willis Reed crippled by a torn thigh muscle, the Knicks appeared to be in dire straits after being dominated by the Lakers and Wilt Chamberlain in Game 6. Then Reed emerged from the tunnel prior to Game 7 and Madison Square Garden erupted. After Willis hit New York's first two baskets, the Knicks had all the inspiration they needed, and Walt Frazier took it from there. "Clyde" went for 36 points and 19 assists as the Knicks won their first championship in a 113-99 blowout.
1. 1998, Game 6: Jordan Goes Out on Top
It was, quite simply, the greatest clutch sequence in basketball history. Trailing Utah 86-83 with 41.9 seconds left, Chicago was in danger of facing a Game 7 on the road with Scottie Pippen severely limited by back pain. Then Michael Jordan delivered. First, MJ hit a driving layup to cut the lead to one. Then he stripped Karl Malone from behind in the post, and calmly dribbled upcourt. After a stutter-step and a crossover dribble, Jordan launched a championship-winning 20-foot jumper over a fallen Bryon Russell. 45 points, 6 Finals MVPs, 6 championships.
Howie Dallmar's only two points of Game 5 break a tie in the final minute to clinch the first NBA championship for Philadelphia
Rookie Tiger Harrison hits a 40-footer at the buzzer to win Game 1 for Minnesota
Paul Seymour nails a 43-foot set shot with :07 left in Game 2 to give Syracuse a shocking 62-60 win at Minnesota
Seldom-used reserve rookie center Jim Neal hits a 27-footer with :04 left to win Game 6 65-63 and keep Syracuse alive
Down 125-123 in the final seconds of the second overtime of Game 7 vs. Boston, Hawks player-coach Alex Hannum comes off the bench and finds Bob Pettit with an incredible full-court inbound pass, but Pettit's shot rolls off the rim in a heartbreaking loss
Dr. J sends in a variety of spectacular dunks, highlighted by one flying one-handed slam over Portland's Bill Walton and one over Bobby Gross
With the score tied at 105 in Game 4, Dennis Johnson takes a pass from a double-teamed Larry Bird and drills a game-winning basket to tie the series
Hakeem Olajuwon comes out of nowhere to block John Starks' potential championship-winning 3-pointer, securing an 86-84 Game 6 win
Olajuwon tips in a Clyde Drexler miss with 0:00.3 left in overtime to win Game 1, 120-118
Foreshadowing his exploits a year later, Michael Jordan drains a game-winning jumper over Bryon Russell to give Chicago an 84-82 Game 1 victory at the buzzer
In what may be the greatest pass of all time, John Stockton finds Karl Malone with a gutsy full-court pass thrown over Michael Jordan with little over a minute left in Game 4, giving Utah a lead they wouldn't relinquish
The Little General, Avery Johnson, hits a baseline jumper with 47 seconds left to give the Spurs a 78-77 Game 5 win, and a championship