The best NBA Finals performances of all time have shaped the history of the league. It’s where legacies are defined and reputations are crafted.
So, let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at the greatest individual NBA Finals performances.
Best NBA Finals performances of all time
The NBA’s 75-year history has seen a lot of blood, sweat, and tears shed on the parquet floor. And while there are countless performances that can be regarded as “all-time” favourites, we’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 best single-game Finals performances taking into consideration player efficiency and domination when their teams needed them most.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the best NBA Finals performances of all time.
10. LeBron James, Game 7, 2013 Finals vs Spurs
This series was a grind-out battle from the beginning, and it went the distance. Game 6 was a pivotal momentum changer with Ray Allen saving the Heat with a game-tying buzzer-beater. But it was LeBron in Game 7 who had one of the best NBA Finals performances of all time.
James scored 37 points while shooting 20 of 31 from the field and scoring almost 40% of his entire team’s points. He also managed to grab 12 rebounds, dish out 4 assists, and steal the ball 2 times.
This Game 7 performance by the King is one for the history books.
9. Jimmy Butler, Game 3, 2020 Finals vs Lakers
LeBron was not going to be denied his 4th ring, but Butler left it all on the floor, especially in Game 3 where he dropped a 40-point triple-double becoming the only man to ever record a 40-point triple-double in NBA Finals history.
If that isn’t enough, Butler also shot an unbelievable 70% from the field and 85% from the free-throw line. This man deserves his flowers and his place on this all-time list.
8. Kobe Bryant, Game 5, 2010 Finals vs Celtics
After losing in the 2008 finals in a blowout Game 6, Kobe was adamant about getting his revenge. In a Game 5 in Boston’s TD Garden, the Black Mamba dropped 38 points, 4 assists, 1 steal, and a block on 48.1% shooting from the field.
The game was one of Kobe’s greatest individual NBA Finals performances as he was hitting one contested shot after another.
The Lakers got their revenge on the Celtics, and Kobe got his 5th ring.
7. Michael Jordan, Game 6, 1998 Finals vs Jazz
This Bulls-Jazz series is an underrated one that had all the ingredients of a classic. Even though the Bulls dominated in the 90s, the Jazz were favoured to win the series behind the Mail Man Karl Malone and John Stockton.
Jordan and the Bulls had other plans though, and it all came down to a historic Game 6 where the GOAT put up one of the best single-game Finals performances of all time.
Scoring 45 points in a back-and-forth battle, Jordan finally iced the game with the alleged push-off game-winner that got the Bulls their second threepeat.
This was Jordan’s last game in a Bulls uniform and will forever be remembered as one of Jordan’s best performances.
6. Tim Duncan, Game 6, 2003 Finals vs Nets
Tim Duncan is one of the best big men to ever play the game. “The Big Fundamental” has many great individual Finals performances, but this one stands out because Duncan almost notched a quadruple-double in a championship-clinching game.
21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks.
This performance was the cherry on top of a spectacular season for Duncan where he was named league MVP for a second straight year.
5. Dwyane Wade, Game 6, 2006 Finals vs Mavericks
In this game, Wade had one of the most efficient performances of all time. He shot 67% from the field and filled the stat sheet with 36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks.
4. Magic Johnson, Game 6, 1980 Finals vs Sixers
The Lakers took a commanding 3-2 lead over Philly, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could not play in Game 6 due to injury.
Magic Johnson was a 20-year-old rookie, but he took over the game, scoring 42 points, pulling down 15 rebounds, and grabbing 7 assists. Magic scored 9 points in the last 5 minutes, bringing Los Angeles its 7th title.
3. James Worthy, Game 7, 1988 finals vs Pistons
James Worthy chose the best time to record the first triple-double of his career. The Hall-of-Famer stuffed the stat sheet with 36 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals in a close two-point victory.
Worthy outshined Kareem and Magic Johnson and brought the Lakers a championship that made them the only team in 20 years to ever win back-to-back titles.
2. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Game 6, 2021 Finals vs Suns
This performance by the Greek Freak is one of the best single-game Finals performances of all time. Giannis scored 50 points, grabbed 14 boards, dished 2 assists, and had 5 blocks in a close-out victory.
What’s fascinating is that he shot 55% from the free-throw line coming into the series, but managed to hit 17-19 of his shots at the charity stripe in a clutch game that cemented his legacy in Milwaukee and in the NBA.
1. LeBron James, Game 7, 2016 Finals vs Warriors
This series has to go down as the best NBA Finals performances of all time for multiple reasons. LeBron James and the Cavs completed an unprecedented comeback from 3-1 down to bring Cleveland its first ever NBA championship.
They also happened to do it against a Golden State Warriors team that managed to break the Bulls’ regular season record by winning 73 games. Out of LeBron’s 4 championships, this one has to be the one that defined his legacy and cemented him as at least Jordan’s equal.
The series had countless iconic moments. Game 5 saw both LeBron and Kyrie Irving score 40 points in Golden State. LeBron erupted for another 41 points in Game 6, but it was Game 7 where he notched a triple-double and capped it off with the famous chase-down block on Andre Iguodala.
Moments later, Kyrie iced the game with a go-ahead dagger 3-pointer that sealed the win and ended Cleveland’s 52 years of championship drought.
James won MVP in one of the most remarkable individual NBA Finals performances of all time.
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