More recently, it was Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving’s 3-pointer nailed with Stephen Curry right in his face with under a minute to play in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. In 2013, it was Miami’s Ray Allen with the 3-pointer from the corner to tie Game 6 with the Spurs that would eventually result in a Game 7.
Before these two iconic moments, there were the two greatest shots in NBA Finals history. The first takes us back to 1987 and the second just might be the most memorable shot in NBA history.
Game 4, 1987 NBA Finals
In the offseason prior to the 1986-87 regular season, the Lakers Earvin “Magic” Johnson took some lessons from teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and learned the sky hook. His lessons would pay off in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
With the Lakers trailing rival Boston by one with just seven seconds remaining in the game, Johnson took an inbounds pass from Michael Cooper. Johnson drove to the basket and commanded help defense from the likes of Larry Bird and Robert Parish. Instead of dishing the ball to Abdul-Jabbar or James Worthy, Johnson launched his new “baby hook” which seemed like it took forever to come down.
When it did, it went right through the hoop giving the Lakers the win. The victory tied the series at 2-2, a series that Los Angeles would go on to win.
Game 6, 1998 NBA Finals
It was the final year of the Chicago Bulls incredible run as chronicled in ESPN’s Last Dance. Bulls head coach Phil Jackson was on his way out and the roster was soon to be overhauled. Chicago had won the two previous NBA Finals and was seeking a second three-peat.
It was Game 6 with the Bulls ahead in the series 3-2. A loss would have made for a Game 7 in Utah. The Jazz’s John Stockton nailed a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left in Game 6 to give Utah an 86-83 lead. Enter Michael Jordan.
Jordan beat Bryon Russell and scored on a layup and then stole the ball from Utah’s Karl Malone on the other end. Down one, Jordan began one of the greatest possessions in NBA history.
His Airness isolated Russell and dribbled the clock to under 10 seconds before making his move. He drove hard right before putting on the brakes. This caught Russell off balance and he ended up on the floor. Jordan pulled up for the iconic game-winning jump shot that went through the net with 5.2 seconds left. It would be Jordan’s last shot as a Chicago Bull.