The NBA Finals is the brightest stage of the NBA postseason. With two of the best teams that made it out of the grueling playoffs, the stakes are high and teams are looking to outduel their last foe that stands in the way to the coveted NBA title. Although there's immense pressure in the NBA Finals, it's also the stage for NBA stars to shine the brightest. In fact, throughout history, we've witnessed record-breaking performances in the Finals that only immortalized the legacies of basketball legends. Let's take a look at the 10 most iconic NBA Finals performances of all time.
10. Kawhi Leonard: Game 4 of 2019 NBA Finals
Known as The Klaw, Kawhi Leonard took it upon himself to put a stop to the Warriors dynasty. In Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals, he scored 36 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in just 41 minutes while shooting an efficient 50 percent from the field overall. Because of his efforts, the Raptors raced to a commanding 3-1 lead that eventually led to a championship.
9. Kevin Durant: Game Five of 2017 NBA Finals
Kevin Durant received a lot of flak for taking the shortcut to winning a chip. However, his production and performances with the Warriors say otherwise. En route to his first NBA championship, Durant finished with 39 points, six rebounds and five assists while shooting 70 percent from the field. He also made five threes from rainbow country to take Finals MVP after the title-clinching game.
8. Kobe Bryant: Game 1 of 2009 NBA Finals
In an attempt to prove that he can win a championship without Shaq, after a disappointing 2008 NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant brought the Lakers back to the Finals a year later. Going up against Dwight Howard and the Magic, Bryant immediately set the tone of the series in Game 1 by exploding for 40 points to go alongside eight rebounds and eight assists.
7. Shaquille O'Neal: Game 6 of 2000 NBA Finals
Pitted against a gritty Pacers team led by Reggie Miller, Shaq and the Lakers needed to bounce back after a deflating Game 5 loss that placed their title hopes in jeopardy. Fortunately, in an attempt to stop the Pacers in their tracks, Shaquille O'Neal proved to everyone why he's the MVP. He tallied 41 points, 12 rebounds, and four rejections to win the first championship of the Lakers' three-peat .
6. Giannis Antetokounmpo: Game 6 of 2021 NBA Finals
Despite dealing with knee injuries early in the playoffs, Giannis Antetokounmpo proved that he can win in the brightest stage. With the chance to win it all, the Greek Freak shut down the Suns' chances of winning a championship when he exploded for 50 points and 14 rebounds. His 50-point masterpiece was tied for the most points in a championship-clinching contest.
5. Jimmy Butler: Game 3 of 2020 NBA Finals
Despite being pitted against a favored Lakers team, Jimmy Butler took the injury-hit Heat team on his back in the third Game of the 2020 NBA Finals. Butler would finish with 40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists to prevent a 3-0 series hole.
4. Stephen Curry: Game 2 of 2018 NBA Finals
Although Stephen Curry and the Warriors benefitted from Kevin Durant's arrival, no one can take away that the Warriors thrived because of Stephen Curry's hot shooting. In Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals, he dropped 33 points, while breaking the Finals record for most threes in a single game with nine. The Warriors would go on to sweep the Cavs to capture their second straight NBA championship.
3. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving: Game 5 of 2016 NBA Finals
Despite facing a 3-1 series deficit in the Finals, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving conspired to score 41 points apiece, the first time a pair of teammates scored 40 in a single Finals game. Moreover, James also added 16 rebounds and five assists. Their efforts sparked the most historic comeback in Finals history by climbing all the way from the series deficit to winning the Cavaliers' first championship banner.
2. Tim Duncan: Game 6 of 2003 NBA Finals
Although quiet in personality, Tim Duncan lets his game do the talking. In Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Finals, the Spurs got exactly that. Duncan dropped a near quadruple-double stat line of 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and eight blocks to capture his second NBA championship at the expense of the Nets.
1. Michael Jordan: Game 6 of 1998 NBA Finals
Saving the best for last, Michael Jordan made sure he concluded his time in Chicago with a bang. In Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals against the Jazz, Jordan sank a game-winning jumper to seal the franchise's second three-peat. Furthermore, Jordan also finished with 45 points, spiked by three threes while shooting 43 percent from the field overall.