The NBA Playoffs can be legacy-defining times for the elite players in the league. And nothing helps to seal a legacy better than making one of the all-time great plays in the history of the postseason. These plays, in particular, had massive impacts – not only on the playoff series in which they occurred, but on the legacies of the players who made them.
LeBron James’ Block
The Golden State Warriors had just defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the previous NBA Finals and were looking to do so again. This time, the series went seven games, with the Warriors having home-court advantage in the decider. In a back-and-forth game, the Warriors looked poised to take the lead on a late Andre Iguodala layup. That is, until LeBron James got involved.
James, with superhuman strength and athletic ability, managed to sprint down the court and block Iguodala’s shot just in time. The block was an incredible play on its own, but was made even more special by the circumstances surrounding it. The Cavaliers managed to close out that seventh game thanks to that block and a big shot from Kyrie Irving, and James helped achieve his goal of winning a title for his home state of Ohio. In the process, James provided the play that those who think he is the best ever to point to when making their argument.
Michael Jordan’s Jumper
The Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls were opposites in a number of ways. The Jazz were a hard-nosed and fundamentally sound team, while the Bulls had a ton of glamor surrounding them, thanks to the attention commanded by all-time greats like Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson. Those opposite personalities made for two memorable clashes in the NBA Finals, with the second ending on one of the most iconic shots in NBA history.
With the Bulls up three games to two on the Jazz, with a chance to close out the series in Utah, Michael Jordan had the ball up top. In an isolation setting, one on one with Jazz defensive specialist Bryon Russell, Jordan stepped back and hit what would be the last shot of his Bulls career to seal a sixth championship.
Some have argued that Jordan pushed off of Russell to create the space needed to get the shot off. But, offensive foul or not, this was another example of just how cold-blooded Michael Jordan was when it mattered most. It is also one of the many reasons cited by those who think that Jordan, not LeBron, is the best to ever play the game.
Steph Curry’s Buzzer Beater
Normally buzzer beaters to end the third quarter of a game aren’t worth much attention. This is especially true for games that don’t end up being all that close. But the Golden State Warriors and Steph Curry put one together in a playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies to defy those conventions because of just how cool the shot was.
Curry, in a game that was tight at the time, nailed a buzzer beater from three-quarter court to give the Warriors the momentum they needed to keep applying pressure to a feisty Grizzlies squad. It is the perfect microcosm of the Warriors dynasty, in that you can play your best basketball against Golden State and still lose to them due to their ability to produce magic like that shot.
The almost-whimsical ability of Curry to decide from anywhere on the court that he is going to make a shot is what makes him one of the best shooters ever. And it helped his Warriors reach another NBA Finals in this case.