Remember last year, when the Cavs were down 1-3 and we said the series was over, and we were all wrong because basketball is the best thing in the world next to pizza? That’s not going to happen this year. If you’re a fan who’s into seven games of down-the-wire basketball worthy of valuable sick leaves, then this year’s finals is definitely an emotional downer. KD doesn’t care about your emotions. Luckily for us, several NBA Finals matchups have gone the distance in the past. Here are eight of them.
1970 NBA FINALS
It was straight out of a sports movie. With the series tied at 3 wins apiece, the New York Knicks were looking at a disadvantage in the deciding Game 7 after losing their team captain and MVP Willis Reed to a thigh injury in Game 5. Reed skipped Game 6 and was expected to sit out the final game due to a torn muscle. Yet before tipoff, Reed limped onto the court to join his team, providing the much-needed morale boost. He delivered the Knicks’ first four points (the only points he scored in the game), and the rest of Game 7 became nothing more but an inspiring 48-minute Knicks montage. In that now iconic moment when Reed—hobbling and heroic—showed up in the arena, the Knicks had already won.
1984 NBA FINALS
It was the first NBA Finals encounter between two greats: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. The much-awaited showdown lived up to the hype, with several storylines (Hollywood vs blue-collar; Showtime vs Celtic Pride; Chick Hearn vs Johnny Most; Pat Riley vs KC Jones) intertwining to form an emotionally-charged narrative. But even the drama surrounding the series was no match for the heated action happening on the court. Lakers vs Celtics in ’84 took physicality to a higher notch—elbows were thrown and bodies were pushed to the ground. At one point, a beer cup was thrown to the face of Celtics’ forward ML Carr. The Celtics won the battle in Game 7, chipping in a valuable contribution to the Lakers vs Celtics war.
1988 NBA FINALS
It was bizarre. Heading into Game 6 with a 3-2 lead, the Detroit Pistons had the championship within reach. Isiah Thomas put on a Hall of Fame performance in that game, but injured his ankle in the process. Like Willis Reed before him, Thomas continued on, limping all over the court. The shining moment was stolen from him in the closing seconds as Bill Laimbeer was called for a shooting foul, resulting to two game-winning free throws from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Thomas dragged his sore ankle into Game 7, where the Pistons would lose. It got weird in the end when fans and photographers stormed the court to celebrate the Laker victory—with 2 seconds still left in the close game. Laimbeer was able to throw a halfcourt pass amid the chaos, but Thomas dropped to the floor and wouldn’t get to attempt a last shot. It would be hard to imagine this sort of thing happening in 2017.
1994 NBA FINALS
It was all about peak Olajuwon vs peak Ewing. Olajuwon carried the Houston Rockets with his 27 points and 9 rebounds per game average while Ewing anchored the New York Knicks with averages of 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. Both centers also blocked an average of four shots per game. John Starks tried to hijack the narrative when he dropped 27 points (16 in the fourth quarter) in Game 6, but he pretty much cancelled himself out when he shot 2-18 and missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts in Game 7. Not Starks’ un-shooting nor an OJ Simpson car chase in Game 5 could overshadow an old-school wrestling match between the two 7-footers. And when one of the 7-footers is named Hakeem Olajuwon, the other wouldn’t succeed. David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal would know this.
2005 NBA FINALS
It was all about defense. Scoring in bunches wasn’t on top of the agenda of both the Detroit Pistons and the San Antonio Spurs. In seven games, only the Pistons breached the 100-point mark (they scored a total of 102 points in Game 3). Game 5—unquestionably the best game of the series—went into overtime, but the final score (96-95) still reflected both squads’ lockdown fetish. The low-scoring affair throughout the series was more an intense chess match between two rivals at a retirement home than a brawl; a cerebral battle of wits between Gregg Popovich and his mentor Larry Brown. Brown and the Pistons took the L in the series, along with thousands who are into basketball for the flashy highlights.
2010 NBA FINALS
It was sweet revenge for the Lakers. The last time the bitter rivals met in the NBA Finals in ’08, the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in six games. The last time they met in a Game 7 Finals, the Lakers also lost. So in 2010, the Lakers brought with them a blunt object in the form of Ron Artest, who surprisingly turned out to be the third guy stepping up behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Artest was known for his rock solid defense and outrageous antics, yet when the Lakers needed a crucial basket, it was the artist formerly known as Ron who delivered the dagger.
2013 NBA FINALS
It was the one that got away from the San Antonio Spurs. And the one that would cement Ray Allen’s place among the deadliest shooters in NBA history. Allen’s three-pointer to send Game 6 into overtime was one of the deadliest shots in NBA Finals history; a cold-blooded move to snatch the souls of the Spurs and all those who cheered for them. It saved the series for the Miami Heat, and probably saved the social experiment of the James-Wade-Bosh faction. The Miami Big 3 was already 1 of 2 in the finals. A 1-3 record—after all the “not one, not two” talk—would have been not only disappointing, it would also be catastrophic. Game 7 was tightly contested and was decided when Tim Duncan missed a short hook in the final minute, followed by a LeBron James jumper.
2016 NBA FINALS
It got crazy. The stage was already set for the Golden State Warriors, the team that only lost 9 games in the regular season, to win back-to-back titles at the expense of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The shirts have been made, Facebooks posts have been scheduled, Crying Jordan memes have been spread. Then an unfortunate thing happened in Game 5, involving Draymond Green’s hand and LeBron James’ crotch. This hand-to-crotch incident (probably) changed the course of history for the Warriors, and more so for the Cavs, which eventually won an unprecedented 3 straight games to win the title despite being down 1-3. Shirts had to be recalled, Facebook posts had to be deleted, and Crying Jordans had to swap jerseys. It was that crazy. If only a dash of the craziness rubbed off on the 2017 NBA Finals.
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