The NBA Playoffs have given us enticing battles throughout the history of the competition. Basketball fans have witnessed Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell battle in the NBA Finals. They have also experienced Magic Johnson and Larry Bird or even LeBron James against Kevin Durant duel in various best-of-seven series to decide an NBA season.
However, there have been a lot of interesting match-ups that basketball fans never got to see in the NBA Playoffs. Kobe Bryant versus LeBron James was probably the hottest topic in basketball at the end of the 2000s and early 2010s, but what other match-ups did we miss?
In this list, we will talk about great players who played at the same time and also the ones whose careers did not overlap but played in similar eras and had several NBA Playoff appearances between them.
Without further ado, let us take a look at five such match-ups most fans would have loved to see in the NBA Playoffs.
#5 Charles Barkley vs Tim Duncan - 8 regular-season duels, no NBA Playoff meetings
Even though Tim Duncan entered the NBA in 1997 when Charles Barkley was past his prime, the pair did play against each other in the regular season. With Barkley playing for the Houston Rockets at the time, the pair of legendary Power Forwards competed in the same division.
In their regular-season match-ups, Barkley had the upper hand individually, but Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs got six wins in the eight games in which the two players met.
Though both the Spurs and the Rockets made the NBA Playoff bracket in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons, the duels between Duncan and Bradley did not spill over to the postseason. That was because a couple of first-round exits for the Rockets meant that Barkley could never battle the younger Duncan in the biggest stage.
Barkley retired from the NBA after playing 20 games of the 1999-2000 season, which marked the end of an era in the Power Forward position and a missed chance for NBA fans of an enticing playoff match-up.
Duncan and his polished fundamentals were already on full display at that time, allowing him to take the Spurs to their first title in 1999 while grabbing the Finals MVP trophy after a tremendous NBA Playoff run.
In their regular-season match-ups, Barkley averaged 17 points and 11.8 rebounds per game on 47% shooting while Duncan had similar stats - 16 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game - while shooting 46% from the field.
#4 Michael Jordan vs Hakeem Olajuwon - 23 regular-season duels, no NBA Playoff meetings
They won eight NBA titles and as many NBA Finals MVPs in the 1990s, but there wasn't a single NBA Playoff match-up between the GOAT Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, arguably the greatest ever center to set foot on an NBA court .
After Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dominated the NBA Playoff stage by winning three straight championships from 1991 to 1993, Jordan left the NBA to play baseball. Olajuwon and the Rockets then emerged as 1994 NBA Champions, with the legendary center dominating the NBA Playoff picture.
Jordan returned to the NBA for the end of the 1994-95 season, but he could not get past the second round of the playoffs as the Bulls lost to the Shaquille O'Neal-led Orlando Magic in a six-game series. Shaq and the Magic, however, were swept in the Finals by Olajuwon and his crew as the Rockets won their second title in a row.
While the Bulls added Dennis Rodman for the 1995-96 season and dominated the league, Olajuwon and the Rockets fell to the Seattle Supersonics in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. That meant that a likely Finals match-up between the Bulls and the Rockets did not happen.
As the two players played in different conferences, the only way they could have met in an NBA Playoff was in the Finals. Though that did not happen, it does not mean that they were not close to meeting each other at this stage of the competition.
In 1997, the Rockets had traded for Charles Barkley and reached the Western Conference Finals but lost in six games to the Utah Jazz on John Stockton's buzzer-beater in the last game. That prevented the Rockets from facing the Bulls in the deciding round of the NBA Playoff scene.
Both Jordan and Olajuwon entered the NBA in 1984. Houston took Olajuwon (then known as Akeem) with the first pick of the 1984 draft while Chicago selected Jordan with the third pick (yes, the Portland Trail Blazers had the second pick, and they chose Center Sam Bowie from Kentucky).
From the moment these two legends entered the league until their respective retirements (Olajuwon in 2002 and Jordan in 2003), they played nine NBA Finals and 324 NBA Playoff games. But they did not feature in a single minute of NBA Playoff action against each other.