NBA Finals History: The 10 Best NBA Finals series of all time
A look back at the 10 most memorable NBA Finals series in the storied 71-year history of the league.
As the collective NBA world continues to lambast JR Smith for his brain fart at the end of regulation time in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals, in our recency bias, we've lost sight of some of the biggest meltdowns in Finals history. Through the course of this article, we also feature some games comparable to James' 51-point outburst in Game 1 by past legends of the game, and take a look at some truly exciting Finals series.
As the most successful franchises in NBA history, the Lakers and Celtics find several mentions in the article, as we'll see. LeBron's Heatles feature, as do his 2016 iteration of the Cavaliers who came back from a 3-1 deficit in an unimaginably tough comeback in the NBA Finals.
Also read: 9 occasions when teams swept the NBA Finals
Here's a look at the top 10 NBA Finals series of all time:
#10 1993 - Bulls beat the Suns 4-2
This series ended in 6 games, but the point differential over those games was exactly 0 as Jordan's rampaging Bulls ran into an arguably deeper and superior Phoenix Suns team, featuring Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge featuring. The Suns had the better record from the regular season (62-20) as the Bulls (57-25) floundered through a below-par regular season in which they finished 3 games behind the Knicks (60-22).
But the playoffs had always brought out a different animal in Michael Jordan, who powered the Bulls past the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers with a 7-0 record. The Knicks were at the peak of their powers at this time, but the Bulls needed only 6 games to dispatch the top seed from the East.
They won both games in Phoenix by margins of 100-92 and 111-108 as Jordan logged 73 points in these outings. The Suns roared back in Game 3 with a 129-121 win in triple overtime despite Jordan's 44-point tally. They got pegged back 3-1 in Game 4 as Jordan recorded a career Finals high of 55 points to drive the Bulls past the Suns 111-105.
The Bulls had the chance to close out the series at home in Game 5, but the Suns found 3 20-point scorers in Game 5 with Richard Dumas recording a near-perfect 12-of-14 from the field in a 25-point outing.
Jordan was not to be outdone, however, as the Bulls and Suns did battle in a thriller of a Game 6. The Bulls trailed by 2 points with under 14.4 seconds remaining in the game. They came out of a timeout in their own backcourt with Jordan inbounding the ball. He dished to Pippen after advancing past half-court. Pippen found Horace Grant on the baseline cut, but Grant dished it out to Paxson for a wide-open 3-point shot from the left wing.
Paxson made no mistake, and the Bulls emerged from the series with a perfect 3-0 record in Arizona. Jordan was named Finals MVP after averaging 41 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in the best Finals performance of all time.