Most NBA games are packed full of action, memorable moments and brilliant plays. After all, the league is stacked with the best basketball players in the world. However, every so often, we are treated to games that surpass all expectations. This could be due to an unexpected outcome, an amazing individual player performance or a particular play that sticks in our memories.
These games come around every so often and usually go against NBA odds or defy logic. Indeed, if you were a betting person, you probably would have never predicted the outcome of any of the five unforgettable NBA games we have picked below!
1. Malice at the Palace
This game is remembered for the wrong reasons and has been called “the most infamous brawl in NBA history”. The Indiana Pacers were playing the Detroit Pistons and were looking to take the reigning champs down a peg or two. Tensions were high and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric.
With just 45.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Ben Wallace and Ron Artest got into a scuffle that eventually escalated. This culminated in Artest rampaging into the crowd and fighting with spectators. Other players followed, a brawl broke out, and the rest is history.
2. Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz – Game 6 1998 NBA Finals
On a personal level, this game stands out for me. I can remember watching it on VHS the next day, with my dad not telling me the score. It was 1998, and the Bulls were up 3-2 in the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. They had beat them previously and winning again would mean their sixth NBA Championship in 8 years.
The Bulls were down 85-86, MJ stole it from Karl Malone, dribbled down the court, crossed Bryon Russell and swished what would be the game winner. John Stockton ended up missing a potential game-winning three pointer and the Bulls won – history was made. The perfect ending (for Bulls fans!) to a legendary game.
3. Los Angeles Lakers vs Philadelphia 76ers – Game 6 1980 NBA Finals
Who can forget Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals where a 20-year-old Magic Johnson had to step in for reigning MVP Kareem Abdul Jabbar and play center… as a 6ft9 point guard? The Lakers were up 3-2 against the 76ers and this game would clinch them the title.
The rookie took the challenge and had an incredible performance with 42 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists. This was not expected, and it demonstrated just how talented he was. Apparently during the flight to Philadelphia, Magic sat in Jabbar’s seat, winked at the coach and confidently announced to his teammates: “Never fear, EJ is here!”. Indeed, he was.
4. Kobe Bryant’s 81-point Masterpiece
This is perhaps one of the greatest single performances in NBA history – not just due to the point total, but the staggering efficiency too. We are never likely to witness anything like this again, and those who saw it live were truly blessed.
Of course, we are referring to the late Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant was unstoppable and couldn’t miss. He finished going 7-13 from three pointers, and 18-20 from the line, with a 61% FG percentage. He indeed outscored the entire Raptors team by scoring 55 in the second half, while they put up just 41!
5. Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors – Game 7 2016 NBA Finals
The 2016 NBA Finals is possibly one of the greatest matchups and stories in basketball history. However, Game 7 has become the stuff of legend. The Golden State Warriors had enjoyed a masterclass season and took a commanding 3-1 lead in the finals that people didn’t expect the Cavs to come back from.
However, LeBron James simply wouldn’t be defeated, and the Cavs ended up winning the last three games to claim their first ever professional sports title. Game 7 of course, included the infamous chase-down block by LeBron on Iguodala that kept the score tied at 89-89, before Kyrie Irving hit the game-winning three pointer. This combination of events and the constant changing leads in the game make it an all-time classic.
These are games that immediately spring to my mind but there are many more too. My particular favorite is the Bulls vs Jazz Game 6 match, and it is the lasting memory I have of my icon, Michael Jordan. However, the other games are just as legendary for varying reasons. Which are your favorites? Perhaps you have a different list? If so, we would love to hear your thoughts!