Skip to main content

The Five Greatest Performances in NBA Playoff History

The NBA is one of the biggest sports leagues in the world, and I have been a fan for nearly three decades.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant (Game 5 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals)

Kevin Durant does not shy away from the big moments in the playoffs. He has been to four NBA Finals (one with Oklahoma City and three with Golden State) and won twice. He also had multiple deep playoff runs through his illustrious career.

Kevin is this generation's version of Larry Bird. He can shoot from anywhere on the court, and his height and length help him shoot over defenses. While Kevin is no bruiser, he uses his length and athleticism to collar rebounds and block shots. Kevin is clutch. He shines brightest when the pressure is the greatest. He is in fact a two-time Finals MVP.

One of his finest performances came in Game 5 of the 2021 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks. He played all 48 minutes and scored an impressive triple-double with 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists. This helped the short-handed New Jersey Nets overcome a tough Milwaukee Bucks team. The Nets were without Kyrie Irving and were playing with a hobbled James Harden. Kevin's leadership helped spark the Nets to a hard-fought 114-108 victory.

Shaq

Shaq

Shaquille O’Neal (Game 1 of the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals)

To a younger audience, Shaq is the basketball analyst on TNT who is best known for his "Shaqtin' a Fool" segments where he highlights NBA bloopers. Back in his prime, Shaq was one of the most dominant players to ever grace the hardwood.

Shaq was a mountain of a man who was the size of a professional wrestler. He stood at 7'1" and weighed more than 300 pounds. He was also athletic and had decent handles. There have been multiple highlight reels of him dribbling the ball coast to coast. The best version of Shaq was the one who played for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Sacramento Kings had a nice young core of Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, and "White Chocolate" Jason Williams. Williams was later swapped for Mike Bibby. Unfortunately, the Lakers would eliminate the Kings in the playoffs for three consecutive years from 2000 to 2002. Shaq had a monster game in Game 1 of the 2001 Western Conference Semifinals. He had 44 points, 21 rebounds, and 7 blocks. He basically scored like Michael Jordan, rebounded like Dennis Rodman, and rejected shots like Dikembe Mutombo.

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley (Game 3 of the 1994 Western Conference Quarterfinals)

The "Round Mound of Rebound" is known to younger audiences as a basketball analyst on TNT who often feuds with Shaq. Back in his heyday, Barkley was one of the greatest players to ever grace the court. Despite standing at a mere 6'6" at power forward, Sir Charles easily bullied his way into the paint and used his strength and positioning to grab a lot of rebounds.

One of Barkley's finest performances was in Game 3 of the first round of the 1994 NBA Playoffs. He went Super Saiyan and scored 56 points while shooting 74.2% from the field. He even threw 14 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block for good measure. That is the third-highest playoff scoring total behind Michael Jordan (63) and Elgin Baylor (61).

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan (Game 2 of the 1986 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals)

The 1986 Boston Celtics were one of the greatest teams in NBA history. It was stacked with five Hall of Famers: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson, and Bill Walton. This team would eventually become the 1986 NBA Champions.

Despite facing an all-time great team, this did not faze a young Michael Jordan. He scored 63 points in the fabled Boston Garden in Game 2 of the 1986 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. He even threw 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks for good measure. Larry Bird, the star player of the opposing team, marveled at this performance and quoted, "He is the most exciting, awesome player in the game today. I think it's just God disguised as Michael Jordan."

The Bulls did not have the personnel to compete against the talent-laden Celtics team and were swept in the series. However, Jordan's performance was forever etched in stone.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson (Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals)

All drafts, no matter how bad, have good talent. However, not all drafts have generational talent. The 1979 NBA Draft had one such talent in Magic Johnson.

From the moment Magic stepped onto the floor, he was an NBA-ready talent. He was able to be the engine of the "Showtime Lakers" who had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, and Norm Nixon as their primary options. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went down, many pundits picked the 76ers to win the Finals.

Magic Johnson responded to adversity and played one of the best games of his career, even as a rookie. He played all five positions and nearly made a triple-double. He scored 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists in the pivotal Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals. Magic became a winner in all levels - high school, college, and the NBA.

© 2021 Jan Michael Ong

Comments

hira from faisalabad on June 22, 2021:

so Good