|Readers: NBA Finals performances|
From the Page 2 mailbag
Earlier this week, Page 2 presented our list of the 10 best performances in NBA Finals history, and we asked you to send us your choices.
After going through more than 300 e-mails, here is how Page 2 readers ranked their picks. Be sure to vote in the poll at right to crown the No. 1 performance in an NBA Finals series.
1. Michael Jordan, 1998 (42 letters)
We have all grown accustomed to Jordan's game-saving plays, so what better way to sum up his career than that parting shot from the '98 Finals? Absolutely incredible.
How can it not be him? Hitting the championship-winning shot after stealing the ball.
And the only reason his team was still in that game was him. He won the game by himself; with Pippen hurt, Jordan picked up the slack and a little bit more, as he made the final three plays that made his career end picture perfectly, until he came back and ruined the legend that is Mike.
Hands down, Michael. The last 30 seconds of the 1998 Finals will go down as the greatest single string of plays by any athlete. Who else would have the guts to go for a steal, risking a foul, down by one with less than a minute to go? And to hit that shot, like it was any other along his magical career. Amazing, simply amazing!
2. Michael Jordan, 1997 (40 letters)
That was the year in which Michael Jordan showed pure magnificence. Malone won the MVP, true, but he sucked it all up in the Finals. Dennis Rodman did his job, and he let Michael do the rest.
Game 1 -- Great game by both teams. However, at the end, Michael sealed the victory by making the game-winning 3.
Let's skip to Game 5 -- Michael's sick, really sick. He played amazingly in Utah!, scoring 38, including a game-clinching 3. After he made the shot, he collapsed into Scottie's hands, and showed that even gods can get sick.
Game 6 -- Michael ended the Finals with another amazing show. And then, when everyone thought he was going to shoot the ball, he gives it to Steve Kerr, to win the Finals!
What a guy! Why can't he play for the Bulls again?
3. Isiah Thomas 1988 (34 letters)
It's often been said that you can't consider an NBA player "great" unless he leads his team to a title. Isiah's Game 6 performance on a sprained ankle proved that one could be "great" even in defeat. That game defined his career for me more than the two titles that followed.
How about Isiah Thomas dumping in 21 points in a quarter against the Lakers in '88? All the while, he was playing with a severely sprained ankle. Had the officials not had it out for Bill Laimbeer (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar knows he didn't get fouled), that series would have marked the first of three straight championships for the Pistons. At least give Isiah's performance a mention! I realize they were not popular with many people, but it should not take away from their achievements.
4. Magic Johnson, 1980 (32 letters)
With Kareem injured, Magic was asked to do it all for the Lakers, and he responded with a game for the ages. He ran the offense, he rebounded, he even jumped center on tipoffs that day. He scored 42 points. And he was just 20 years old! He should have been a junior at Michigan State! He was too young to realize that he had absolutely no business having a game like that with the kind of pressure that a Game 6 in the Finals would bring.
With Kareem out, and the 1980 Lakers not yet having James Worthy, Byron Scott or any of the other great players on the roster that would help them to four more titles in the decade, the burden fell on his young shoulders. Did Jordan ever have to play a Finals game without Pippen? No. MJ probably would have scored more than 42 points without Scottie in the lineup, but would he have bettered Magic's totals in rebounds or assists? No way.
It took MJ eight years to reach the Finals. It took Magic eight months. 'Nuff said.
5. Allen Iverson, 2001 (26 letters)
His bench sucked and the other starters weren't worth their weight in dog crap when the going got tough. Iverson likes it when the going gets tough; that's why in the playoffs last year he turned in one of the best performances in NBA history. Not because he scored about 40 points a game or dominated the boards like Shaq, but because he played with his heart and soul.
He tried harder than all the other players on the team combined. He's a small guy, but he makes up for his lack of size with all his heart and desire. There is no question in my mind that he deserves a spot on this list.
Allen Iverson 2001. Down three, under two minutes in the NBA Finals, in OT against the mighty Lakers, and AI hits two free throws, a 3-pointer in transition, and buries a jumper from the corner in Ty Lue's face! What a game, what a series. The Sixers ended up losing in five, but AI averaged nearly 36 a game, and had the Sixers supporting cast hit some shots at the end of Games 2 and 3, the parade is going down Broad Street instead.
6. Bill Russell, 1962 (15 letters)
Is it because Russell won 11 championships out of 13 seasons in the league,and Page 2 could not decide which one was the most impressive. Is that why Joe Fulks!? made the Top 10 list over Bill Russell. Joe Freakin' Fulks!? Who the hell is Joe Fulks?
7 (tie). Larry Bird, 1984 (11 letters)
Not to mention his performance in Game 5: 34 points, 17 rebounds on 15 of 20 shooting.
7 (tie). Michael Jordan, 1993 (11 letters)
9. Hakeem Olajuwon, 1995 (10 letters)
The whipping seems to have stuck with O'Neal, who had this to say in response to complaints made by the Portland Trailblazers about officiating in last year's playoffs:
10. Larry Bird, 1986 (six letters)