Basketball

Magic Johnson heads top performances in NBA Finals history

Cavaliers star LeBron James scored 216 points in six games against the Warriors and had two of the best single-game performances in NBA Finals history.
Cavaliers star LeBron James scored 216 points in six games against the Warriors and had two of the best single-game performances in NBA Finals history. AP

The long NBA season finally came to an end late Tuesday night when the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-95 to win the best-of-seven series 4-2.

But there was a surprise twist to the title: Warriors forward Andre Iguodala was voted the series Most Valuable Player over teammate Stephen Curry and Cleveland forward LeBron James.

In a poll of 11 writers and broadcasters, Iguodala got seven votes, James four and Curry, who led the Warriors in scoring in the Finals, didn’t receive any.

Iguodala came off the bench this season, for the first time in his 11-year career, until he was inserted into the starting lineup for Game 4 of the Finals. The Warriors went 3-0 with Iguodala in the starting lineup, and he averaged 16.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in the series. He scored 25 points in the clinching Game 6.

Here’s our look at some of the best single-game performances in NBA Finals history, five that were winners, five that weren’t:

Top 5 single-game performances by a player on the NBA Finals-winning team:

Magic Johnson, 1980, Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers: With teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar back in Los Angeles resting a severely sprained ankle, Johnson, a rookie, showed up and showed out. Starting the game at Abdul-Jabbar’s center position instead of at his customary point guard, Johnson finished with a series-high 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the Lakers’ 123-107 clinching contest.

Michael Jordan, 1997, Game 5 against the Utah Jazz: Strapped by the flu, Jordan had 38 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 44 minutes as the Bulls beat the Jazz 90-88 in Utah to take a 3-2 series lead. Battling fatigue and dehydration, Jordan could barely walk back to the bench during timeouts and was helped off the court after the game.

Tim Duncan, 2003, Game 6 against the New Jersey Nets: Duncan dominated this contest. In a video-game type performance for the ages, Duncan had 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and blocked eight shots in the 88-77 clincher, ending just two blocks shy of a quadruple double against the Nets.

Bill Russell, 1962, Game 7 against the Los Angeles Lakers: Russell scored 30 points and grabbed an incredible 40 rebounds – including 19 in one quarter – as the Celtics outlasted the Lakers 110-107 in a Game 7 overtime thriller. It marked the second and most recent time that Game 7 of the NBA Finals went to overtime.

Larry Bird, 1986, Game 6 against the Houston Rockets: The Celtics’ centerpiece player, Bird was totally locked in during this series-clinching 114-97 win over the Rockets. He had a triple double — 29 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists —against a Rockets team that featured Twin Towers Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson.

Top 5 single-game performances by a player on the NBA Finals-losing team:

Jerry West, 1969, Game 7 against the Boston Celtics: West had 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists in the decisive 108-106 Game 7 loss to the Celtics. In a legend-filled series that included Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, West became the only player from a losing team to earn MVP honors in the Finals.

LeBron James, 2015, Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors: With All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sidelined with injuries, James carried the team. In an improbable 95-93 overtime win in Oakland, James had 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in the first of his two triple-doubles in the series.

Isiah Thomas, 1988, Game 6 against the Los Angeles Lakers: Playing on a badly sprained right ankle for the Detroit Pistons, Thomas hobbled along for 25 points in the third quarter against the Lakers. That’s the most points anyone has scored in one quarter in the Finals. Thomas finished with 43 points and eight assists, but Detroit lost 103-102, and eventually lost the series in seven games.

Jerry West, 1969, Game 1 against the Boston Celtics: The Logo, as West is affectionately called because his image is in the league’s logo, was unstoppable in the opener, scoring 53 points – still the third highest total in a Finals game – as the Lakers won 120-118. But the underdog Celtics won the series in seven games.

LeBron James, 2015, Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors: Even in the face of double and triple teams, James finished the game with 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. But the Cavaliers lost the game 104-91 on the road, then went home and had their season come to an end with a 105-97 loss in Game 6.

Dwain Price, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @dwainprice

Statistics for the NBA Finals MVP since the award began in 1969. (Steals and blocks were first recorded in the 1973-74 season):

Year

MVP

Team

Result

Pts.

Reb.

Ast.

Stl

Blk

1969

Jerry West

Los Angeles Lakers

lost to Celtics 4-3

39.7

4.7

7.4

n/a

n/a

1970

Willis Reed

New York Knicks

def. Lakers 4-3

23.0

10.5

2.8

n/a

n/a

1971

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Milwaukee Bucks

def. Bullets, 4-0

27.0

18.5

2.8

n/a

n/a

1972

Wilt Chamberlain

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Knicks 4-1

19.4

23.2

2.6

n/a

n/a

1973

Willis Reed

New York Knicks

def. Lakers 4-1

16.4

9.2

2.6

n/a

n/a

1974

John Havlicek

Boston Celtics

def. Bucks 4-3

26.4

7.7

4.7

1.9

0.0

1975

Rick Barry

Golden State Warriors

def. Bullets 4-0

29.5

4.0

5.0

3.5

0.8

1976

Jo Jo White

Boston Celtics

def. Suns 4-2

21.7

4.3

5.8

1.5

0.0

1977

Bill Walton

Portland Trail Blazers

def. Sixers 4-2

18.5

19.0

5.2

1.0

3.7

1978

Wes Unseld

Baltimore Bullets

def. Supersonics 4-3

9.0

11.7

3.9

0.6

0.1

1979

Dennis Johnson

Seattle Supersonics

def. Bullets 4-1

22.6

6.0

6.0

1.8

2.2

1980

Magic Johnson

Los Angeles Lakers

def. 76ers 4-2

21.5

11.2

8.7

2.7

0.3

1981

Cedrick Maxwell

Boston Celtics

def. Rockets 4.2

17.7

9.5

2.8

0.2

1.0

1982

Magic Johnson

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Sixers 4-2

16.2

10.8

8.0

2.5

0.3

1983

Moses Malone

Philadelphia 76ers

def. Lakers 4-0

25.8

18.0

2.0

1.5

1.5

1984

Larry Bird

Boston Celtics

def. Lakers 4-3

27.4

14.0

3.6

2.1

1.1

1985

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Celtics 4-2

25.7

9.0

5.2

1.0

1.5

1986

Larry Bird

Boston Celtics

def. Rockets 4-2

24.0

9.7

9.5

2.7

0.3

1987

Magic Johnson

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Celtics 4-2

26.2

8.0

13.0

2.3

0.3

1988

James Worthy

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Pistons 4-3

22.0

7.4

4.4

0.7

0.6

1989

Joe Dumars

Detroit Pistons

def. Lakers 4-0

27.3

1.8

6.0

0.5

0.3

1990

Isiah Thomas

Detroit Pistons

def. Trail Blazers 4-1

27.6

5.2

7.0

1.6

0.4

1991

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

def. Lakers 4-1

31.2

6.6

11.4

2.8

1.4

1992

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

def. Trail Blazers 4-2

35.8

4.8

6.5

1.7

0.3

1993

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

def. Suns 4-2

41.0

8.5

6.3

1.7

0.7

1994

Hakeem Olajuwon

Houston Rockets

def. Knicks 4-3

26.9

9.1

3.6

1.6

3.9

1995

Hakeem Olajuwon

Houston Rockets

def. Magic 4-0

32.8

11.5

5.5

2.0

2.0

1996

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

def. Supersonics 4-2

27.3

5.3

4.2

1.7

0.2

1997

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

def. Jazz 4-2

32.3

7.0

6.0

1.2

0.8

1998

Michael Jordan

Chicago Bulls

def. Jazz 4-2

33.5

4.0

2.3

1.8

0.7

1999

Tim Duncan

San Antonio Spurs

def. Knicks 4-1

27.4

14.0

2.4

1.0

2.2

2000

Shaquille O’Neal

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Pacers 4-2

38.0

16.7

2.3

1.0

2.7

2001

Shaquille O’Neal

Los Angeles Lakers

def 76ers 4-1

33.0

15.8

4.8

0.4

3.4

2002

Shaquille O’Neal

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Nets 4-0

36.3

12.3

3.8

0.5

2.8

2003

Tim Duncan

San Antonio Spurs

def. Nets 4-2

24.2

17.0

5.3

1.0

5.3

2004

Chauncey Billups

Detroit Pistons

def. Lakers 4-1

21.0

3.2

5.2

1.2

0.0

2005

Tim Duncan

San Antonio Spurs

def. Pistons 4-3

20.6

14.1

2.1

0.4

2.1

2006

Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat

def. Mavericks 4-2

34.7

7.8

3.8

2.7

1.0

2007

Tony Parker

San Antonio Spurs

def. Cavaliers 4-0

24.5

5.0

3.3

0.8

0.0

2008

Paul Pierce

Boston Celtics

def. Lakers 4-2

21.8

4.5

6.3

1.2

0.3

2009

Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Magic 4-1

32.4

5.6

7.4

1.4

1.4

2010

Kobe Bryant

Los Angeles Lakers

def. Celtics 4-3

28.6

8.0

3.9

2.1

0.7

2011

Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Mavericks

def. Heat 4-2

26.0

9.7

2.0

0.7

0.7

2012

LeBron James

Miami Heat

def. Thunder 4-1

28.6

10.2

7.4

1.6

0.4

2013

LeBron James

Miami Heat

def. Spurs 4-3

25.3

10.9

7.0

2.3

0.9

2014

Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio Spurs

def. Heat 4-1

17.8

6.4

2.0

1.6

1.2

2015

Andre Iguodala

Golden State Warriors

def. Cavaliers 4-2

16.3

5.8

4.0

1.3

0.3

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