Greatest NBA Finals Performances of All Time

Greatest NBA Finals Performances of All Time

The NBA Finals is basketball’s ultimate battleground. When you put the top teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences on the same floor, you know you’re going to see something epic – like we did in 2019 when Kawhi Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to the title in six games over the mighty Golden State Warriors.


It’s amazing how far these NBA Finals have come since the original Basketball Association of America (BAA) was launched in 1946. The Minneapolis (now Los Angeles) Lakers dominated the early years, then the Boston Celtics lorded over the 1960s. Those two juggernauts produced some memorable Finals when they met, 1966 and 1969 in particular, but the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird rivalry of the 1980s is where business really picked up, especially for NBA Finals betting.

Today, fans still have the four consecutive Finals between the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers fresh in their memory. Golden State won three of those, but the Cavaliers also got their first-ever chip in 2016, and they did it after falling into a 3-1 hole heading into Game 5 – putting a certain Ohio native on our list of the top seven greatest NBA Finals performances of all time at Bodog Sportsbook.

7. 1969: Jerry West

First up, we have the only player ever to win NBA Finals MVP while playing for the losing team. West was the point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and arguably the best offensive player in the entire league during the ‘60s, but he kept running into the Celtics. Boston beat the Lakers in 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1968. It was getting old.

West, on the other hand, was still in his prime. He was the best player on the floor during the 1968 playoffs, and he was even better during the 1969 Finals, scoring 37.9 points per game with 7.4 assists. The Celtics still won in seven after overcoming a 2-0 deficit.

6. 2021: Giannis Antetokounmpo

The two-time league MVP hasn’t always shone in the playoffs – as Raptors fans saw first-hand in 2019 – but Antetokounmpo put it all together for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021. Statistically, Antetokounmpo’s Finals versus the Phoenix Suns was off the charts: 35.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.

Antetokounmpo’s performance was even more remarkable given that he hyperextended his left knee during Game 4 of the Eastern finals. And he capped it off by dumping 50 points on Phoenix in Game 6 to give Milwaukee their first title in 50 years.

5. 1993: Michael Jordan

Jordan won six rings with the Chicago Bulls and was named NBA Finals MVP each time, so was always going to feature in our greatest NBA finals performances list. However, his 1993 Finals against Phoenix really stands out. His Airness scored 41 points per game with 8.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists while playing virtually every minute.


Game 4 saw Jordan drop 55 points on the Suns, his career high for the Finals, then he took over the fourth quarter of Game 6, scoring all of Chicago’s 16 points before finding John Paxson for that famous title-clinching 3-pointer.

4. 2000: Shaquille O’Neal

The Lakers went through some dark times in the 1990s, but everything changed in 1999 when Phil Jackson, Jordan’s head coach in Chicago, took over the reins in LA. Jackson got Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant on the same page – more or less – and with a talented supporting cast, they won three straight titles to give Jackson his third patented three-peat.

O’Neal was the story of the 2000 Finals. He mauled the Indiana Pacers for 38 points, 16.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game, and he did it despite having 7-foot-4 Rik Smits in his grill.

3. 2003: Tim Duncan

The third “big man” on our Finals list, Duncan was doing many of the same things for the San Antonio Spurs that O’Neal did for the Lakers, but with a bit more finesse and considerably fewer words spoken. Duncan’s 2003 Finals saw him rack up 24.2 points, 17 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 5.3 blocks versus the New Jersey Nets en route to his second title and second Finals MVP award.

Duncan also had one of the most incredible title-clinchers of all-time. In Game 6, he posted 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks – the closest anyone has come to a quadruple-double in NBA Finals history.

2. 2001: Shaquille O’Neal

Not only is O’Neal on our list twice, we could have included his 2002 Finals performance as well. For that matter, it’s not easy choosing which of those three consecutive Finals was the best, but we’re going with his 2001 series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

O’Neal put up 33 points, 15.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.4 blocks per game in a five-game romp over Philly, and this time, he did it while matched up against Dikembe Mutombo. No offense to Smits, but he was a league-average defender at best; Mutombo won his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award in 2001.

1. 2016: LeBron James

We end where we began, with King James at the 2016 NBA Finals. While all of the seven performances on this list of the greatest NBA finals performances were incredible, we’ve got James at the top because he helped Cleveland make history by not only winning their first NBA championship, but also being the first to come back from down 3-1 in the Finals – and he did it against a Warriors team that won a record 73 games during the regular season.

James’s 2016 Finals stat line:

29.7 points

11.3 rebounds

8.9 assists

2.6 steals

2.3 blocks, including that series-changing block against Andre Iguodala in Game 7, where James sealed the victory and the title for the Cavaliers.


Will this year’s NBA Finals produce yet another historic performance? Check out our NBA odds page at Bodog Sportsbook to see what’s on tap, and enjoy the greatest show in basketball.