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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Top 10 Greatest Performances By a Player in Final Four History

Top 10 Greatest Performances By a Player in Final Four History

Those who turned it on when the stakes were the highest
Publish Date: 03/28/2023
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

Greatest Final Four Performances

The greatest performances in a final four is a list compiled of the greatest single performances in Final Four history.

10) Isiah Thomas, Indiana Hoosiers 1981

Thomas in the 1981 Final Four was a tale of two halves in both games. He started slow in the Semi Final as the Hoosiers star got in foul trouble, but in the second half, he dominated LSU. He made this list in the second half of the National Championship game against North Carolina. He could not buy a shot in the first half and the Hoosiers struggled to lead 27-26 at halftime. The Second Half saw Isiah take the game over on offense and defense as he shut down Tar Heel star Al Wood and scored 19 second-half points.

Video: 1981 NCAA Championship Indiana vs. UNC Final Minutes

1981 NCAA Championship Indiana vs. UNC Final Minutes

9) Larry Bird, Indiana State Sycamores 1979

Bird makes this list on the basis of the Sycamores’ semifinal victory over Ray Meyer’s DePaul Blue Demons. That afternoon Bird was on fire, hitting 16 out of 19 shots, scored 35 points, pulling down 16 rebounds, and adding 9 assists in a 76-74 victory over the 6th-ranked Blue Demons, who Mark Aguirre led.

Video: Larry Bird 35 Pts Vs DePaul 79 NCAA Final Four

Larry Bird 35 Pts Vs DePaul 79 NCAA Final Four

8) Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse Orangemen 2003

Sure Anthony led Syracuse to the championship and played well in that win, but the semifinals cemented his name in Final Four history. In that 95-84 victory over No. 1-seeded Texas, Anthony shot 12 of 19, including 3 of 4 from three-point range, to collect 33 points. He also had 14 rebounds and 3 steals in one of the best all-around games in a national semifinals. Anthony was so good in the tournament that some people thought he should be picked number one over Lebron James.

Video: Carmelo Anthony highlights: Top March Madness plays

Carmelo Anthony highlights: Top March Madness plays

7) Don May, Dayton Flyers 1967

Ever heard of Don May? Well, he is a legend in Dayton and led the Cinderella story Flyers to the National Championship game in 1967 against UCLA. The contest that puts him on this list was the semifinal, where he put on one of the most incredible shooting displays ever seen in a game of that magnitude. May hit 16 of 22 shots while scoring 34 points and hauling in 15 rebounds in a stunning upset over the North Carolina Tar Heels. The most impressive part of this performance was that May hit 13 straight shots after the Flyers fell behind. After the dust had cleared, the Flyers had a double-digit victory.

Video: UCLA vs. Dayton: 1967 National Championship | FULL GAME

UCLA vs. Dayton: 1967 National Championship | FULL GAME

6) Jack Givens, Kentucky Wildcats 1978

Givens was good in the Cats 64-59 semifinal win over Arkansas, but the finals are what gets him here, as he dropped 41 points on the Duke Blue Devils in the Wildcats hard-fought 94-88 win. The Goose is a legend in the Bluegrass state because of that night.

Video: Kentucky's Jack Givens 41 vs Duke 1978 Championship

Kentucky’s Jack Givens 41 vs Duke 1978 Championship

5) Gail Goodrich, UCLA Bruins 1965

Goodrich is one of just three players to score more than 40 points in an NCAA title game, and he’s the only guard to do it. He led UCLA over Michigan 90-81, scoring 42 points. Goodrich seemed to own the Final Four, scoring 27 in the 1964 win over Duke and having a 28-point game in the semifinals in 1965 against Wichita State.

Video: 1965 NCAA Basketball Championship Game Michigan vs UCLA

1965 NCAA Basketball Championship Game Michigan vs UCLA

4) Lew Alcindor, UCLA Bruins 1969

Alcindor made 15 of 20 shots, scored 37 points and pulled down 20 rebounds in a 92-72 victory over Purdue in the championship game. 24 of Abdul-Jabbar’s points came in the first half when the Bruins built an 11-point lead. Purdue was an excellent team led by the legendary shooter Rick Mount, but they had no answer inside for Alcindor, who may have been the most dominant player in NCAA history.

Video: [1969] NCAA Championship Game: UCLA Bruins vs Purdue Boilermakers

[1969] NCAA Championship Game: UCLA Bruins vs Purdue Boilermakers

3) Bill Russell, San Francisco Dons 1956

The Dons had a potent 1-2 punch of Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. Unfortunately for the Dons, Jones did not play in the tournament and it was all on Russell’s shoulders. Russell more than answered the bell! He saved his best for his final college game. His 26 points and 27 rebounds only begin to indicate the impact he had in San Francisco’s 83-71 victory over Iowa in the finals. Russell’s defense was a major reason Iowa star Bill Logan, who had scored 36 points in a semifinal victory over Southern Methodist, scored just 12 points. Russell was an all-around stud in this game and won the Dons their second straight National Championship.

Video: Bill Russell vs Iowa (1956 NCAA Championship Game)

Bill Russell vs Iowa (1956 NCAA Championship Game)

2) Danny Manning, Kansas Jayhawks 1988

If ever a player put a team on his back and carried them across the finish line, it was Danny Manning. The Jayhawks lost 11 games during the regular season, finished third in the Big Eight and figured to have no chance to advance far in the NCAA tournament as a No. 6 seed. Heck, most people thought the Jayhawks were the second-best team in their own state as Mitch Richmond led Kansas State. That is until the Jayhawks beat the Wildcats in the Elite Eight.

Come the National Championship game, nobody really gave the Jayhawks much of a chance to win, but Manning mustered up 31 points, 18 rebounds,5 steals and 2 blocks in the Jayhawks’ stunning 83-79 victory. In the semifinal against Duke, Manning scored 25 and had 10 rebounds. Danny and the Miracles are one of the greatest underdog stories in tournament history.

Video: Danny Manning's dominant 1988 NCAA title game

Danny Manning’s dominant 1988 NCAA title game

1) Bill Walton, UCLA Bruins 1973

Walton in 1973 was as perfect as you can get in any game, let alone a championship tilt! Walton shot an insane 21 of 22 and scored 44 points total, the most ever scored in a title game. That led the Bruins to a 87-66 victory over Memphis State. He did it despite being in foul trouble most of the game and despite the presence of two quality big men for the Tigers, 6’9″ Larry Kenon and 6’8″ Ronnie Robinson. You might say it was a blowout, but that is simply not true. Memphis State was a very good team and had it tied at the half. Then Walton made all 10 shots he took in the second half to help the Bruins pull away.

Video: Bill Walton Greatest Games: 44 Points vs Memphis State (1973 NCAA FInal)

Bill Walton Greatest Games: 44 Points vs Memphis State (1973 NCAA FInal)

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