Magic, Kobe, Shaq and MJ: The 10 greatest Game 6 moments in NBA Finals history
We're just hours away from Game 6 of the NBA Finals — the biggest showdown of the season, and, if history is any indication, very possibly the best game of the series.
Because while everyone gets worked up about big Game 7's (and with good reason), most of the NBA Finals' greatest moments have happened in Game 6's.
Don't believe me?
Here are the 10 best Game 6 moments in NBA Finals history.
We'll let you decide.
After the Trail Blazers won Game 5 in Philadelphia, the folks in Portland barely could contain themselves at the thought winning a title on home soil. More than 5,000 people greeted the Blazers at the airport ... days before Game 6 would be played.
But once Game 6 tipped off, the Blazers didn't disappoint. They pulled out a 109-107 victory thanks to one of the best Game 6 performances in Finals history, when Bill Walton went for 20 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists and eight blocks.
Even better than what Walton did during the game is what came after: Walton threw his jersey into the stands, leading teammate Maurice Lucas to comment:
"If I had caught the shirt, I would have eaten it. Bill's my hero."
Considering that this Cavs-Warriors series ended exactly one year ago today, you shouldn't need much of a refresher.
But in case you do, here ya go: After superhuman performances from LeBron James in Games 2 and 3, the Warriors took back control of the series with back-to-back wins in Games 4 and 5.
They officially iced things in Cleveland behind 25 points from both Steph Curry and NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, winning their first title in 30 years.
In this one, there wasn't just a title on the line, but history as well. Prior to 1985 the Lakers had played the Celtics eight times in the NBA Finals ... and lost all eight times. Unbelievable.
The curse officially ended on a June afternoon at the old Boston Garden, with a 111-100 Lakers win.
After the game, Brent Musberger dropped one of the greatest lines in TV history, when he said:
"This trophy removes the most odious sentence in the English language: It can never be said again that 'The Lakers have never beaten the Celtics.'"
We promise this is the first and only time that the word "odious" will be used in this article.
Long before he was known as "Steph Curry's coach", Kerr was known as "Michael Jordan's teammate", and never did he hit a bigger shot than in Game 6 of the 1997 Finals against Utah.
With Jordan still feeling the lingering effects of the "Flu Game" (Game 5 of the series), it was Kerr who stole the show with just seconds to go. Out of a timeout and the game tied, everyone expected Jordan to take the big shot, but instead he passed it to Kerr.
Kerr hit a 17-footer with five seconds to go to give Chicago the lead for good, and the fifth title of the Michael Jordan era in Chicago.
Before they became frenemies, Shaq and Kobe were young Lakers teammates looking for their first ring together. They got it with a Game 6 win over the Pacers in 2000, thanks to 41 points and 12 rebounds from O'Neal.
Michael Jordan and Steve Kerr
The Lakers would go on to win two more titles in the Shaq-Kobe era, losing only one game in their following two Finals.
Four years before Kerr iced a Bulls title in 1997, John Paxson did the same in 1993, when he hit a game-winning 3 with less than four seconds left against Phoenix.
It was the third straight title for the Bulls, and the first of their two "three-peats" in an eight-year stretch.
League MVP Charles Barkley (yes, young children, Barkley once played in the NBA) finished Game 6 with 21 points and 17 rebounds, and later said that the 1993 NBA Finals were the only time in his career when he played a guy (Jordan) who he knew was better than him.
For all the talk about "LeBron's legacy" in these Finals, it's easy to forget how close he is to having only one NBA championship on his résumé.
The first came in 2012 with Miami and the second came the following year, but just barely ... as Ray Allen hit a contested 3 to tie Game 6 against San Antonio with just five seconds to go and send it to overtime.
The Heat went on to win Game 6, and Game 7 a few days later, thanks to 37 and 12 from LeBron.
The poor Pistons had been knocking on the door of a title for years, and it seemed like 1988 might be the year they'd finally break through. Detroit led the Lakers 3-2 heading into a decisive Game 6.
Unfortunately for Pistons fans it wasn't meant to be, as just when things were looking up ... Isaiah Thomas severely sprained his ankle right before the start of the fourth quarter.
Even with a heroic effort from Isaiah — he scored 11 of the Pistons' 15 points at one point, and basically did it on one leg — it wasn't enough, as the Lakers went on to win Games 6 and 7 to repeat as champs — the first team to do so in 19 years.
It also marked the last Finals victory for the "Showtime Lakers."
But don't feel too bad for the Pistons: They went on to win the next two NBA titles.
Considering we just did a whole write-up about this game, we don't need all that much context here.
Just know that with less than 40 seconds to go in Game 6, the Bulls trailed by four before Michael Jordan hit a layup, stole the ball from Karl Malone and proceeded to hit the game-winning basket. That bucket came on the famous play in which Jordan may have (or "definitely") pushed Bryon Russell to create space for the game-winner.
It went down as the final of six NBA titles for Jordan's Bulls.
So what possibly could top Jordan over Russell? How about Magic Johnson over ... everyone!
That's because the true arc of Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals actually really starts in Game 5. There, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar put up 40 points but severely injured his ankle, to the point that he couldn't even travel to Philadelphia for Game 6 because of the swelling.
With Kareem out, coach Paul Westhead decided to insert rookie Magic Johnson at center and jump tip in Kareem's place.
Not only did Magic win the tip, but he also went on to finish the game with 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block.
He won NBA Finals MVP ... again, as a rookie, who wouldn't turn 21 until a few months later.
Let's hope that the Warriors and Cavaliers give us a performance half as exciting as that.