As this nail-biting NBA Finals heads into tomorrow night’s critical contest with Golden State holding a 3-2 series advantage, I’ve spent the majority of this morning reflecting back on some of the legendary Game 6 performances, wondering if we’re in store for another career-defining moment.
Historically, Game 6’s have provided us with some of the most memorable feats that still leave us scratching our heads in amazement. I’m hoping that tomorrow’s game in Cleveland delivers another.
Here’s my Top Ten list of favorite Game 6 moments –
#10. Michael Jordan stuns the Jazz with his Final shot ever in a Bulls uniform, 1998 NBA Finals, Game 6: Most people rank this near the top of their most incredible playoff moments, but not me. But it was pretty dern remarkable. The Bulls were losing by three points in the final minute. Jordan proceeds to get a bucket while driving to the basket and the strips Karl Malone before burying the game-winner over Byron Russell, securing the 87-86 series-clinching win and Chicago’s sixth championship in eight years.
With the clock ticking down to the game’s final seconds, Russell was D’ing up Jordan one-on-one. The Walt Disney version says that Russell fell for MJ’s fake and slipped to the floor while Jordan buried another clutch shot.
“As soon as Russell reached, he gave me a clear lane. I made my initial drive, and he bit on it, and I stopped, pulled up and I had an easy jump shot,” Jordan said after the game. “I had a great look, and it went in.”
There’s only one thing Jordan left out, which is why I can’t include this among the best Game 6 moments ever. Ayo Mike, you pushed off and fouled the cat! Anybody who knows ball knows that that was an offensive foul!!!
#9. Steve Kerr’s game-winner, 1997 NBA Finals and John Paxson’s game-winner, 1993 NBA Finals, Game 6: I never understood the fools who disparaged LeBron early in his career for making the right basketball play by passing to an open teammate in the waning seconds of a critical game. To paraphrase Roy Jones, Jr., they musta forgot that the incomparable Michael Jordan leaned on John Paxson, Craig Hodges and Steve Kerr in similar moments.
#8. John Starks and Patrick Ewing fight valiantly, but have no answer for The Dream, 1994 NBA Finals, Game 6: Most people remember this game for Olajuwon’s startling agility on both ends of the floor, and his game-winning block of a Starks jumper to force a Game 7. Unfortunately, Starks is remembered for his J.R. Smith-like 2-for-18 shooting performance in the series' final game when the Knicks blew their best chance at a championship in the Patrick Ewing era.
But I prefer to remember this version of Starks. He scored 27 points while connecting on five of his eight 3-point attempts and dished out eight assists. His 16 fourth quarter points, and Ewing’s strong play, allowed the Knicks to overcome a nine-point deficit.
With 5.5 seconds left and the Knicks trailing by two, Charles Oakley inbounded the rock to Starks, who was dribbling towards his left. The game was in his hands, but Olajuwon got a piece of his jumper. Ewing was outstanding with 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks, but Olajuwon was other-worldly. Hakeem’s fingerprints were all over the dramatic 86-84 Rockets victory as he finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
#7. Dr. J and Bill Walton do battle as the Blazers win their first title, 1977 NBA Finals, Game 6: This was the first NBA Finals since the merger of the NBA and the ABA. For people who questioned the ABA’s talent pool, as many called it an inferior league, five of the ten starting players in this series were products of the dispersal draft once the ABA folded.
No player in the world was better than Julius Erving in 1977, who’d won the ABA title with the New York Nets the year prior. Dr. J was phenomenal during the entire series and scored 40 points in Game 6, but Bill Walton was extraordinary in his own right while collecting 20 points, 23 rebounds, eight blocked shots and seven assists. Portland’s 109-107 victory delivered the franchise and Dr. Jack Ramsay their only NBA Title, a mere seven years after joining the NBA as an expansion team.
#6. Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, 1986 NBA Finals, Game 6: As a life-long, die hard Knicks fan, it pains me to include Bird and McHale on this list, but to exclude them would be dumber than the LeBron haters saying that King James in not great.
This Celtics team was one of the best the NBA has ever seen. Their passing, ball-movement and synergy were an incredible thing to witness. They won 67 regular season games and only lost one game at home, playoffs included, all year. Larry was coming off perhaps the best season of his career, and punctuated it with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in Boston’s 114-97 victory over the Houston Rockets.
McHale was equally mesmerizing with his innumerable moves in the paint while adding 21 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.
#5. Tim Duncan comes close to a Quadruple-Double, 2003 NBA Finals, Game 6: Timmaaaaay put on one of the most remarkable Finals performances ever seen in San Antonio’s 88-77 series clinching victory against the New Jersey Nets. If you want to know why he’s considered the greatest Power Forward of all time, just go back and watch the tape of this game. Duncan destroyed the Nets with his 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocked shots.
Duncan averaged 24.2 points, 17.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and a record 5.3 blocks en route to Finals MVP honors, while staking his claim, in only his fifth season, as the best player in the league at the time. It also signified that we were witnessing one of the all-time greats.
#4. Kareem gives Boston the Old Man Business, Magic Dazzles and James Worthy overwhelms to get the Celtic monkey of L.A.’s back, 1985 NBA Finals, Game 6: 157-year-old Kareem Abdul Jabbar averaged 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.0 blocked shots to claim the series MVP award while finally giving the Lakers a championship series victory over Boston, something they had failed to do in eight previous attempts.
Kareem scored 29 points, Magic collected 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists and Worthy made 11 of his 15 shots, earning the nickname "Big Game James."
If many of the social media idiots and dummies today were around to witness Larry Bird’s sub-par 12-for-29 shooting performance in Game 6, and you didn’t know any better, you’d probably think, like you have about Steph Curry throughout this year's Finals, that he didn’t play well.
Ummmm,hello!!! Bird had 28 points and 10 rebounds!!! And Kevin McHale was a beast with his 32 points and 16 rebounds. I’m sorry, but if anybody thinks that Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley, Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Webber were better power forwards than Kevin McHale, they’re crazier than Rachel Dolezal.
#3. Isiah’s insane 3rd Quarter, 1988 NBA Finals, Game 6: This is reason Numero Uno why the Dream Team was not truly the Dream Team, because petty rivalries and politics left Isiah Thomas off of the greatest squad ever.
Thomas’ ankle was so severely sprained that he was basically playing on one leg, yet still managed to score 25 points in the third quarter while connecting on 11 of his 13 shots in the period.
The Lakers narrowly defeated Detroit, 103-102, and went on to win the series to fulfill Pat Riley’s promise of a repeat, but to me, this series will always be remembered by Isiah’s heart and desire. His final stat line of 43 points, eight assists and six steals was a performance for the ages.
#2. LeBron, Tim Duncan and Ray Allen, 2013 NBA Finals, Game 6: Tim Duncan was incredible with 30 points and 17 rebounds, LeBron astonished with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds and all of the surrounding drama and intrigue make this one of the greatest NBA Finals games in NBA history. Miami was down in the series three games to two.
At the end of the third quarter, San Antonio led 75-65. With 28 seconds left in regulation, league staffers began wheeling champagne into the Spurs locker room as they led 94-89. But LeBron and Ray Allen would have the last word, and Miami ultimately prevailed in Game 7.
#1. Magic fills in for Kareem, 1980 NBA Finals, Game 6: No need to rehash the particulars here. If you don’t already know the story behind Magic’s majestic Game 6 performance in Philadelphia, while playing all five positions in lieu of Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s ankle injury in 1980, you need to enroll in Basketball 101.
No one thought the Lakers had a chance with Kareem out, but Magic, just a rookie, proceeded to dazzle while playing all five positions en route to a 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Here's hoping that Steph Curry and LeBron can conjure up a memorable performance tomorrow that can knock Michael Jordan’s (uncalled) offensive foul against Byron Russell and the Utah Jazz off this list.