The Top 5 Forgotten NBA Finals Performances of All Time

The Top 5 Forgotten NBA Finals Performances of All Time

The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks will open the 2024 NBA Finals this Thursday, a stage that glorifies decisive games and etched a player’s name forever in the history books, but whose pages may rarely be read in the future.

So let’s take a look back and relive five iconic performances that have been overlooked in the NBA Finals.

Bob Pettit, Game 6 of the 1958 Finals

After losing to Boston in the previous season’s Finals, the St. Louis Hawks were leading 3-2 against a packed Celtics team featuring Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Bill Sherman, Frank Ramsey and Tom Heinsohn.

If Boston could win Game 6, they would have home-field advantage in the final game. But Pettitte didn’t miss a Game 7 performance from the Hawks’ superstar for the ages.

Pettitte finished with 50 points and 19 rebounds on 19-of-34 field goal shooting (55.9%). To put that efficiency in perspective, the league average for the 1958 season was 38.3%.

Only six other players in NBA history have scored 50 points in a single game during the Finals: Elgin Baylor, Michael Jordan, Rick Barry, Jerry West, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The Hawks also needed every basket as they won Game 6 by just one point. It was truly a “give me the ball” moment, as Pettitte’s teammates combined to shoot just 33%.

Their title win in 1958 was the only one in Hawks history, further adding to the legend of Pettitte’s outburst in Game 6.

Overall, this is one of the most underrated games of all time, played by one of the most underrated superstars of all time.

Following this loss, Russell and the Celtics went on to win eight straight championships.

Jerry West, Game 7, 1969 Finals

Before this famous matchup, Boston had beaten Los Angeles in the Finals a whopping five times in the 1960s.

Tired of losing, Jerry West took control of the game, scoring 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists on 48% field goal shooting (4.1% better than league average). He completely tore apart the NBA’s best defense, including Russell, one of the best defensive players of all time.

Unfortunately, the unexpected comeback was in vain. Los Angeles lost by two points after trailing by 15 in the fourth quarter.

Russell ended his career on a high note, winning his 11th ring, while the Lakers were once again denied their first title since the George Mikan dynasty (1949-1954).

West’s heroics in this series earned him the title of Finals MVP. He is the only player to win the award on a losing team. “The Logo” finally won the title in 1972 after missing his first seven Finals appearances.

Walt Frazier, Game 7 of the 1970 Finals

Willis Reed was named the regular season MVP, and his dynamic partnership with Walt Frazier led New York to their first Finals appearance since 1953.

But then disaster struck when Reed tore his right hamstring in Game 5 and missed the next game. Los Angeles then beat the Knicks by 22 points in Game 6, and it looked like the series was over with New York’s MVP out of action.

Before the game, as Reed came out onto the field through the tunnel with a slight limp, the game commentators yelled, “I think we see Willis coming out.”

No one knew how big an impact his injury would have, so when Reed sank his first two shots of the game, the crowd went absolutely wild.

Despite playing great defense against Wilt Chamberlain, Reed’s hamstring injury prevented him from contributing offensively, finishing with 4 points and 1 assist in 27 minutes.

This is a death sentence for Chamberlain, West, Baylor and Happy Hairston. Frazier disagrees.

Frazier destroyed Los Angeles with 36 points and 19 assists, sinking 12 of 17 field shots and contributing 7 rebounds when Reed couldn’t protect the backboard. It was an all-time great performance that led New York to its first league championship.

Considering Reid’s injury and Los Angeles’ star-studded lineup, Frazier’s Game 7 was arguably one of the best performances in NBA history.

To date, only Magic Johnson has managed more assists than Frazier’s 19 in a Finals game.

Bill Walton, Game 6 of the 1977 Finals

The Blazers were leading the series 3-2 against an impressive 76ers team featuring All-NBA forwards Julius Erving and George McGinnis and All-Star guard Doug Collins.

Irving scored 40 points, but it was Bill Walton who stole the show.

“Big Red” had a great game in every respect, finishing with 20 points, 23 rebounds, 7 assists and 8 blocks. He also held his own against Irving’s jump shot that could have tied the game with 8 seconds left, helping to avoid the miss.

Overall, Walton showed off his basketball IQ and game feel on both ends of the court.

Thanks to an incredibly hard-fought performance, Portland won by two points.

With the Blazers still in search of their second title, Walton’s sixth game will likely be the greatest moment in franchise history.

Draymond Green, Game 7 of the 2016 Finals

This series will live in infamy for as long as the NBA exists. After coming back from a 3-1 deficit against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, the 73-win Warriors took a 3-1 lead against LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

It’s littered with iconic moments, including LeBron James’ “The Block” and Kyrie Irving’s incredibly decisive three-point throw.

But when fans reminisce about this legendary duel, Draymond Green seems to get ignored.

In a monumental Game 7 that featured James, Irving, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it was Green who actually played like the best player on the court. He finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and two steals, while making 11 of 15 shots from the field (6 of 8 from 3-point range).

Green was the man who led Golden State to the brink, shooting just 33 percent from the field and committing nearly twice as many turnovers as assists, while Curry and Thompson combined to make just 26 points.

Perhaps his accomplishment would be viewed differently today if the Warriors had been able to avoid the collapse and win Game 7.

Either way, this was a historic achievement from Green that hasn’t been talked about enough.

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