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Top 10 Greatest Single Game Performances in NBA Finals History

The greatest single-game performances in NBA Finals History!
Publish Date: 02/25/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The biggest stage is a time for the legends of the NBA to shine, and today, we will look at who shone the brightest on the biggest stage. The NBA Finals through history has been one of the most compelling sporting events. As you will see this list is full of the greatest players in Basketball history.

 

Criteria

Stats and records set in games doesn’t mean a whole lot in this list. This list is full of players who put a team on their shoulders and drug them across the finish line for a big win. The later it happened in the series. If it happened in game seven, that will place you even higher on this list.

 

10) Jerry West 1969 Finals Game 7

I know the Lakers lost this game seven at home to Boston, but it wasn’t because of Jerry West. West is still, to this day, the only player from a losing team to bring home an NBA Finals MVP. In game 7, West kept the Lakers in the game, scoring 42 points securing 13 rebounds, and adding 12 assists.

West only got one NBA Championship as a player and it’s a shame because he should be in the conversation as one of the top 20 players in NBA history.

Video: 1969 NBA Finals Gm. 7 Celtics vs. Lakers (4th Quarter)

1969 NBA Finals Gm. 7 Celtics vs. Lakers (4th Quarter)

9) Isiah Thomas 1988 Finals Game 6

Thomas finished with 43 points, eight assists, and six steals in Game 6. But the story of this game was the third quarter, which Thomas played a large portion of on a sprained ankle. It seemed in that third quarter everything Thomas threw up was going in, Thomas ended up scoring 25 points in that third quarter.

If Thomas does not get hurt and stays healthy, I think it is safe to assume that the Pistons would have closed out this series in the Forum in six games. Hell, if Thomas had been healthy, they would have won game seven, as Thomas had limited mobility, and the Lakers still only won by three points. Find out if Thomas was considered one of the top 10 NBA Players of the 1980s.

Video: Isiah Thomas Full Highlights 1988 Finals at Lakers G6 - 43 Pts, 25 Pts in 3rd Qtr, Heroic Game

Isiah Thomas Full Highlights 1988 Finals at Lakers G6 – 43 Pts, 25 Pts in 3rd Qtr, Heroic Game

8) Larry Bird, Game 6, 1986 Finals vs. Rockets

Bird’s performance in Game 6 of the NBA finals was indeed legendary; had the score been closer (the Celtics won by 17), this feat would have been even more noteworthy; nonetheless, his efforts helped lead his Celtics team to win in 6 games.

Bird was always clutch and this game 6 was huge because the Rockets had won two out of three in Houston and were trying to send this series to a seventh and deciding game. Bird shut that down and won his third NBA Title.

Video: Larry Bird TRIPLE DOUBLE To Win 3rd RING | 1986 NBA Finals Game 6

Larry Bird TRIPLE DOUBLE To Win 3rd RING | 1986 NBA Finals Game 6

 

7) Elgin Baylor 1962 Finals Game 5

Baylor still holds the record to this day for the most points ever scored in a finals game, as he tallied 61 points against the vaunted Boston Celtics. He made 22 field goals and 17 free throws. This Lakers win extended the series and it would eventually climax in a legendary game seven that Baulor’s Lakers would fall short in because of a miraculous performance by the Celtics Bill Russell, more on that in a bit.

Video: Elgin Baylor at Celtics (1962 NBA Finals Game 5) - 61 Pts, 22 Rebs, Highest Scoring Finals Game!

Elgin Baylor at Celtics (1962 NBA Finals Game 5) – 61 Pts, 22 Rebs, Highest Scoring Finals Game!

6) LeBron James, Game 7, 2016 Finals vs. Warriors

27 points, 11 rebounds (1 offensive), 11 assists, two steals, and 3 blocks in Golden State. An incredible feat achieved in Game Seven of the NBA finals against an extremely difficult opponent is nothing short of astounding, so much so that this feat came in fourth on our list!

LBJ gets a lot of flack for shying away in the biggest moments of the biggest games, but that was not the case in this game seven as LBJ was at his best.

Video: LeBron James Full Game 7 Highlights at Warriors 2016 Finals - 27 Pts, 11 Reb, 11 Ast, CHAMPION!

LeBron James Full Game 7 Highlights at Warriors 2016 Finals – 27 Pts, 11 Reb, 11 Ast, CHAMPION!

5) James Worthy 1988 Finals Game 7

The Lakers in 1988 were vying to become the first team in two decades to repeat as NBA champions; and they would not have accomplished the feat, outlasting the title-worthy Detroit Pistons if James Worthy hadn’t carried L.A. on his back in the winner-take-all Game 7, racking up 36 points, 16 boards, and 10 assists. This led to a title that would stick with Worthy forever, Big Game James!

All of Worthy’s points were needed as the Pistons and Lakers game seven was close from start to finish, and with Magic, Kareem, Dumars, and Thonas on the Floor, Worthy proved that he was every bit as good as those legends.

Video: James Worthy's 1988 Finals MVP Top 10 Plays

James Worthy’s 1988 Finals MVP Top 10 Plays

4) Magic Johnson 1980 Finals game 6

Magic Johnson rolled for 42 points, 15 rebounds, and seven assists in an NBA Finals game, and that in itself is unique, but the circumstances are what gets this performance ranked so high. Lakers center Kareem Abdul Jabbar was out with a sprained ankle, and Magic lined up at center for part of the game. Let’s face it: in this game, Magic did what had to be done to win a title, and he did this in his rookie year.

Are there other point guards that could line up at center in any NBA game and lead his team to victory? Especially Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Video: Rookie Magic Johnson Full Game 6 Highlights vs 76ers (1980 NBA Finals) - 42 Pts, 15 Reb, FINALS MVP!

Rookie Magic Johnson Full Game 6 Highlights vs 76ers (1980 NBA Finals) – 42 Pts, 15 Reb, FINALS MVP!

3) Walt Frazier 1970 Finals Game 7

Everybody forgets because of Willis Reed’s first four points, just how Special Frazier was this night. Frazier dominated this winner-take-all classic for the Knicks, tallying 36 points and 19 assists in New York’s championship-clinching victory over the Lakers. For the night, Frazier made 12 field goals and all 12 free throws.

Frazier also teamed up with Earl Monroe to make up one of the best backcourt duos in NBA history!

Video: Walt

Walt “Clyde” Frazier 36 pts,19 ast, nba finals 1970 knicks vs lakers game 7

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo, Game 6, 2021 Finals vs. Suns

Who could forget his 50 points, 14 rebounds (4 offensive), two assists, and 5 blocks in a closeout victory? What an unbelievable game this was! Trying my hardest to sneak this one in first but couldn’t force my way in; that alone would have put it over the edge – especially given he ran one of the longest con games ever seen in NBA history by pretended not to be able to shoot free throws but then going 17 for 19 from the line in one of his most important games so far; why is this only second again?

It is second because it did not come in a game seven if it had, it would be at the top of this list.

Video: Giannis LEGENDARY 50 PTS & 5 BLKS in MASTERFUL Close Out Performance 🤯

Giannis LEGENDARY 50 PTS & 5 BLKS in MASTERFUL Close Out Performance 🤯

1) Bill Russell 1962 Finals Game 7

Russell’s ultimate greatness lies within Game 7 of the 1962 NBA Finals, with Russell absurdly notching 30 points and 40 rebounds and spurring the Celtics to a 110-107 overtime victory over the Lakers. Could you imagine if somebody had a game like this in game 7 of the NBA Finals today?

Russell was the greatest defensive center in NBA history, and a game like this shows that he was no slouch on the offensive end of the court, either. Chamberlin may have been the greatest centre of all time, but Russell was the best when everything was riding on game 7.

Video: 1962 NBA Finals G7 - Lakers @ Celtics (Russell, West, Cousy, Baylor...)

1962 NBA Finals G7 – Lakers @ Celtics (Russell, West, Cousy, Baylor…)

Honorable Mentions

Bob Pettit 1958 Finals Game 6

Pettit scored 50 points in this game that gave the Hawks franchise their only NBA Title. What made it more remarkable is that Pettit scored 19 of the Hawks last 21 points and every one of those points was huge as the Hawks clinched the Title with a one-point win over the Boston Celtics.

Rick Barry 1967 Finals Game 3

What really makes Barry’s performance in this game special was that it was against the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers (starring Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, and Billy Cunningham) tabbed as the greatest team in NBA history. Battu scored 55 points in leading the underdog San Francisco Warriors to a thrilling 130-124 victory. The thing that makes this game for Barry even more remarkable was the fact that he had no three-point line and he was only 11-19 from the free-throw line. Barry could have easily set the NBA finals single-game scoring record.

Michael Jordan 1993 Finals Game 4

The Phoenix Suns had lost the first two games of this series at home and the series looked all but over. That was until a classic triple-overtime win in game 3 had put the Suns squarely back in the series. Jordan in game 4 scored 55 points and carried the Bulls to a 3-1 series lead over Charles Barkley and the Suns, resulting in 21-of-37 shooting, eight rebounds, and four assists. It also stands as Jordan’s highest-scoring game during the NBA Finals. Who was the greatest NBA Player?

Tom Heinson 1957 Finals Game 7

Nobody really talks about this one, but they should. The Boston Celtics won a double-overtime game 7 because of Tom Heinson. The Celtics stellar backcourt of Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman disappeared in this game shooting a combined 5-40. Heinson, on the other hand, was phenomenal, scoring 37 points to save the Celtics.

Allen Iverson 2001 Finals Game 1

The Sixers were a huge underdog entering this series, and they would eventually lose in just 5 games, but Allen Iverson’s game one performance was one for the ages. Iverson scored 48 points, six assists, five rebounds, and five steals and catapulted Philly to a 107-101 road upset in overtime and that night marked Iverson’s third straight 40-point effort during the playoffs — with the previous two coming in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference finals (against Milwaukee).

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