Tonight’s showdown in Miami between the Heat and Spurs is the third Game 7 in the NBA Finals in the last nine years. Prior to that, there had been just one in the previous 16 years.
Game 7’s are like tax returns, pizza and sex; they’re never really bad. But they can be really good, and as Game 7’s go, we haven’t had a really good one in a long time.
Yes, Celtics-Lakers in 2010 had the allure of the league’s two greatest franchises, a second-half comeback by LA and a gallant effort down the stretch by Boston. But the game was like a trip to the dentist as the teams combined for 162 points.
Yes, Pistons-Spurs in 2005 featured the league’s last two champions, with good friends and coaches Larry Brown and Gregg Popovich trying to outsmart each other and the game tied entering the fourth quarter. Overall, it was another tooth extraction as the teams combined for all of 155 points without a signature moment.
Before that, you have to go back to Knicks-Rockets in 1994, which has a lasting image of John Starks unable to hit the ocean from the shoreline. That entire season – equipped with a shorter 3-point line but without the retired Michael Jordan – set back the sport about a decade.
Here’s how unmemorable those games really are. On the NBA’s website, they have pages dedicated to the greatest moments of each decade. Pistons-Spurs in 2005 and Knicks-Rockets in 1994 don’t make the cut.
Let’s hope that tonight’s game reminds us why “Game 7” are the two best words in sports, gives us indelible moments that stay with us forever and crashes the list of top five NBA Finals Game 7’s, which is below:
5. Lakers-Knicks, 1970: If game quality was our only measuring stick, Celtics-Bucks in 1974 probably would occupy this spot, because this game wasn’t good at all. The Knicks led by 27 points at halftime and won, 113-99. But the staging was spectacular.
Knicks center Willis Reed suffered a knee injury in Game 5, missed Game 6 and was doubtful for Game 7, which would have left New York without anyone to battle Wilt Chamberlain, who had scored 45 in Game 6.
Fortified with a cortisone shot, Reed hobbled out of the tunnel onto the court, sending the Madison Square Garden crowd – anticipating the franchise’s first title – into a frenzy. He scored twice in the first two minutes and nearly brought down the building.
Reed didn’t score again, but the Knicks didn’t need him, because Walt Frazier was having his way with Jerry West, lighting up “Mr. Clutch” for 36 points, 19 assists and five steals. It was LA’s seventh Finals loss in nine years. Think about the never-ending narrative that run of failure would have in today’s media.
You can watch the whole game right here.