With a hyped-up Game 7 taking place tonight between the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA fans everywhere will be glued to their TV screens either hoping to see the Warriors return to the NBA Finals or see the Thunder pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBA history. In honor of this potential instant classic, it’s time to take look at the greatest Game 7’s the league has ever seen.
6. 2002 Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Lakers, 112 vs. Sacramento Kings, 106
The Lakers joined the 1976 Suns (at Golden State) as the only road teams to win a Game 7 in the West finals. In a collapse reminiscent of the Thunder’s Game 6 collapse this postseason, the Kings missed almost half of their free throws and couldn’t contain Kobe Bryant, who finished with 30 points. Mike Bibby scored 14 of the Kings’ last 18 points, and was the only high point for Sacramento in their last true chance to succeed with their star-studded team of Bibby, Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakavic. This OT battle signaled the demise of the Kings and showed the dominance of Kobe and his Lakers in the early 2000’s.
5. 2015 Western Conference First Round: Los Angeles Clippers, 111 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 109
This game is underrated in my opinion mainly for how recent it is and the Warriors’ success taking over all of the hype of the 2015 postseason. The game was a back-and-forth, classic battle between the defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the talented, inconsistent Los Angeles Clippers. The teams traded the lead 31 times, with no leads over three points in the last five minutes, showing just how equal the two teams were. The game ended on an incredible, unbalanced shot by an injured Chris Paul at the buzzer to put the Clippers over the 2014 NBA Finals Champions.
4. 2000 Western Conference Finals: Los Angeles Lakers, 89 vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 84
This Game 7 is another one reminiscent of the Thunder’s collapse in Game 6 the other night, except on a bigger scale. The Portland Trail Blazers blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead against a talented Lakers team that ended up winning the NBA Finals, and really fell off hard after. Scottie Pippen’s career declined, many free agents left after not being able to grasp the brass ring in 2000, and the Trail Blazers are just now getting back to their former success, making an appearance in the conference semifinals this season.
3. 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals: Boston Celtics, 118 vs. Atlanta Hawks, 116
2. 1957 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics, 125 vs. St. Louis Hawks, 122
It’s tough to argue against this Game 7. A rookie named Bill Russell (you might’ve heard of him) tallied 19 points and 32 rebounds while other rookie Tommy Heinsohn (you also might’ve heard of him, or at least heard him) had 37 points and 23 rebounds to carry Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman’s poor 12.5% shooting performance. Boston pulled out a double-overtime, thrilling win over the St. Louis Hawks to claim the franchise’s first NBA title, and we all know the history the team would create over the next five decades.
1. 1981 Eastern Conference Finals: Boston Celtics, 91 vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 90
This game was a part of a truly classic series, and it wasn’t even the NBA Finals. It was a battle of two 62-win teams where five of the seven games were decided on the last play of the game. Game 7 was no different as Larry Bird came up clutch and hit a g0-ahead shot in the last minute to win the game for the Celtics over the 76ers. The Celtics were down six points with 4:30 left to go, similar to the Warriors’ Game 6 comeback, and pulled off the win in the greatest Game 7 of all-time.