Even if you were a major stud throughout the regular season, it won’t matter a single bit if you’re not able to deliver when it matters the most to take your team to the ultimate glory: in the NBA Finals.
Over the course of history, superstars and hall of farmers have stand out from the pack due to their great performances in the NBA Finals, while others hadn’t been as effective as they’ve been during the regular season.
Even though winning a Chip is a team effort, some players haven’t been able to prevent their teams from losing despite their top-tier performances. Today, we’ll let you know about how some of the greatest players ever have fared in the Finals.
16. Dirk Nowitzki: 12 Finals Games, 1-1 Record
24.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 40.4 FG%, 30.2 3PT%
Dirk Nowitzki is the best shooting big man ever, and one of the greatest foreigners to ever lace them up. He took the Mavericks to the Finals in 2006, but Shaq, Wade and the Miami Heat were just too much to handle en roue to a 4-2 series loss. 5 years later, he would take the Mavs back to the Finals against the very same team, this time with LeBron James and Chris Bosh also on board. The Mavs beat the odds and embarrassed the Heat in 6 games, with Dirk winning the Finals MVP.
15. Julius Erving: 22 Games, 1-3 Record
23.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.9 STL, 1.6 BPG, 0.52 FG%
Julius Erving was one of the most athletic players in NBA history and Michael Jordan and other players enjoy watching him when they were young. He won 1 NBA Championship with the Philadelphia Sixers while losing 3 NBA Finals. He never played for the Lakers, Knicks and Celtics and maybe he would won more championship if he played for them.
14. Dwyane Wade: 29 Finals Games, 3-1 Record
23.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 1.8 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 47.6 FG%, 31.1 3PT%
Dwyane Wade is the greatest player in Miami Heat history, and most of it comes because of the fact that he’s actually been a major factor in all of the 3 Championships the franchise has ever won. Wade is the second best shooting guard of the decade, trailing just Kobe Bryant. His clutch defense, relentless scoring, grit and grind in both ends of the hardwood, made him deadly in the Finals.
13. Stephen Curry: 22 Finals Games, 3-1 Record
25.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 42.1 FG%, 39.6 3PT%
Even though Curry has averaged over 25 points and 6 dimes on almost 40% shooting from three-point land, everybody feels as if he has underperformed during the NBA Finals. He really stepped up during this past series, though, as many people (me included) feel like he was snubbed of the Finals MVP, the lone major accolade he’s yet to win.
12. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 56 Finals Games, 6-4 Record
23.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 2.2 BPG, 52.3 FG% (Blocks and Steals not recorded in the 1971 Finals)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar pretty much puts the Milwaukee Bucks in the map, leading them to the Championship next to Oscar Robertson before taking them to the Finals again. Still, after pretty much outgrowing the team, he forced a move to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he will dominate the league during the Showtime era. Besides winning a couple of Finals MVPs, Kareem always kind of underperformed during the Finals, at least considering his standards.
11. Tim Duncan: 34 Finals Games, 5-1 Record
20.8 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 48.4 FG%, 0 3PT%
Besides, Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan is the only person that has been a huge part in all of the 5 Championships in San Antonio Spurs history. He may not be the flashiest player or the craftiest scorer, but he definitely made his presence felt in both ends of the hardwood throughout his entire career. Winner of 3 Finals MVPs, he made the Spurs perennial Championship contenders and one of the strongest dynasties in the history of the game.
10. Larry Bird: 31 Finals Games, 3-2 Record
23.0 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 6.0 APG, 2 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 45.7 FG%, 42.2 3PT%
Larry Legend led his team to the ring in the first two times he played in the Finals, beating the Rockets and their longtime rivals: the Los Angeles Lakers. He was money from everywhere in the floor, played outstanding defense and was as consistent from three as he was from within close range. He would go on to win another Chip against Hakeem and the Rockets, but the Lakers got the best of him twice. Also, he won a couple of Finals MVPs.
9. Magic Johnson: 50 Finals Games, 5-4 Record
19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 11.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 51.5 FG%, 24.3 3PT%
Magic Johnson became the main reason why the Los Angeles Lakers were able to put an end to the Boston Celtics dominance, building the Showtime dynasty, arguably the most entertaining team to watch in the history of the game. During his tenure, the Lakers made it to 9 Finals, winning 5 of them and taking home 3 Finals MVPs. Magic is the greatest point guard ever and definitely made his presence felt in both ends of the hardwood, especially against the Boston Celtics.
8. Kobe Bryant: 38 Finals Games, 5-2 Record
24.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 41.2 FG%, 31.3 3PT%
Kobe Bryant was a bit of a late bloomer, and truth to be told, he kind of took the backseat to Shaquille O’Neal in a couple of Championships. Even though, he grew to become the Lakers’ ultimate leader and greatest player ever, leading the franchise to a couple of rings following Shaq’s departure. He lost against the Pistons with that infamous Fab Four squad and was also taken down by Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics once.
7. Elgin Baylor: 44 Finals Games, 0-8 Record
26.32 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 3.86 APG, 42.47 FG % (Blocks and Steals not recorded when Baylor played)
Elgin Baylor was the best undersized forward in NBA history and he had really amazing NBA Finals performances but unfortunately, he lost eight NBA Finals. He scored 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals and that is still a record. Baylor averaged unbelievable 13.6 rebounds per game, and the only player who averaged more rebounds in NBA Finals is Wilt Chamberlain.
6. Wilt Chamberlain: 35 Games, 2-4 Record
22.8 PPG, 20.6 RPG, 4.98 APG, 62.23 FG% (Blocks and Steals not recorded when Chamberlain played)
Wilt had great stat line in the regular season, but in the Playoffs, he only once scored more than 30 points per game. He won 2 NBA Championship, with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers. He had a superteam with Elgin Baylor and Jery West but they lost 2 NBA Finals against the Celtics and the Knicks. Wilt Chamberlain will be remembered as one of the best players in NBA history and probably the most dominant player of all time.
5. Hakeem Olajuwon: 17 Finals Games, 2-1 Record
27.4 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.9 SPG, 3.1 BPG, 48.8 FG%, 100 3PT% (2/2)
Hakeem Olajuwon was beaten by the Boston Celtics in the Finals 8 years before he was able to go back to basketball’s ultimate stage. He really made the most out of Michael Jordan’s retirement, winning back-to-back Championships to go along with back-to-back Finals MVPs, and he became the first player to ever win the MVP, All-Star MVP and Finals MVP on the very same season.
4. Kevin Durant: 14 Finals Games, 2-1 Record
31.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 54.5 FG%, 43 3PT%
Kevin Durant was great during his first trip to the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat when he was still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Still, youth, nerves and the fact that they were facing the greatest player on earth took away his first shot at the ring. And now that he’s taken the easy way out by joining the Dubs, he’s won not just back-to-back rings, but also back-to-back Finals MVPs.
4. LeBron James: 49 Finals Games, 3-6 Record
28.2 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 7.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 47.2 FG%, 34.2 3PT%
LeBron James’ huge question mark will always be his losing record in the NBA Finals. After losing yet another time vs the Dubs, it feels like he’s no longer in the GOAT debate and Michael Jordan has established himself as the unanimous greatest ever. Nonetheless, James has always shown up to play in the Finals, his performances have been outstanding, even improving his 3 point shooting, but he’s failed to win without top-tier players next to him.
3. Shaquille O'Neal: 30 Finals Games, 4-2 Record
28.8 PPG, 13.1 RPG, 3.4 APG, 0.5 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 60.1 FG%, (No 3pt Att)
The Big Diesel is the most dominant big man this game has ever seen, and he really stepped up when it mattered the most. He won 3 Championships with the Lakers to go along with 3 Finals MVPs despite playing next to Kobe, finally getting payback from the time the Rockets sweep him in Orlando. He would go on to win another Championship with the Heat after losing against the Pistons during his last year as a Laker.
2. Jerry West: 55 Games, 1-8 Record
30.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.6 APG, 46% FG, 83% FT
Jerry West was the best shooting guard before Michael Jordan' era and he averaged an amazing 30 points per game in the Finals, but unfortunately, he won only 1 NBA Championship. He was a modern shooting guard with a great mid-range game and he won a championship for the Los Angeles Lakers with Wilt Chamberlain on their roster. He is probably in the top 20 best players of all time and he is probably the best GM in NBA history.
1. Michael Jordan: 35 Finals Games, 6-0 Record
33.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 48 FG%, 36.8 3PT%
Michael Jordan is the greatest player to ever set foot on an NBA hardwood and that’s not even up for debate, we just wanted to remind you all. Jordan never lost in the Finals and that’s just one of the main reasons why no one will ever come close to his greatness. He was a lockdown defender and a killer in the offensive end and took the Bulls to a couple of three-peats.