Needless to say, the NBA Finals is where the best of the best shine. But we all know that some stars also seem to shine a little brighter than others, especially on the big stage. Granted, every NBA Finals produces a series MVP, but that doesn’t mean that all MVPs are created equal. That’s why we wanted to truly separate the best of the best with the great performances in NBA Finals history.
Hakeem Olajuwon, 1995
This was not the most compelling series, although there was a ton of hype going in with Olajuwon, the established veteran, facing Shaquille O’Neal, a young but talented center on the rise. As hard as it is to believe, Shaq was a little out of his depth at this point in his career. Olajuwon dominated the series with 32.8 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
He even averaged 5.5 assists per game while helping the Rockets sweep the Magic and win Finals MVP for the second straight year.
Tim Duncan, 2003
While the Nets made things interesting by forcing the series to six games, Duncan was a one-man wrecking crew. He led all players in points, rebounds, and blocks, averaging 24.2 points, 17 rebounds, and 5.3 blocks per game over the six games.
In a series defined by defense and rebounding, Duncan dominated in both areas. In fact, he was just two blocks shy of a quadruple-double in the series-clinching Game 6 win by San Antonio.
Shaquille O’Neal, 2000
In his first of four championships, Shaq was arguably at his best during the 2000 Finals against the Pacers. He led both teams in scoring, rebounds, and blocks by averaging 38 points, 16.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game.
The Pacers didn’t have an answer for him defensively, even with an aging Rik Smits on the roster. Shaq scored at least 40 points in three of the six games to guide the Lakers to their first of three straight titles.
Michael Jordan, 1993
In the last championship during Chicago’s first three-peat, Jordan was arguably at his best. With league MVP Charles Barkley leading the Suns, the Bulls needed the best version of Jordan.
The 31 points scored in Chicago’s Game 1 win turned out to be his lowest point total of the series. From there, he only got better, culminating in a 55-point performance in Game 4. In the end, Jordan averaged 41 points per game, leading the Bulls to a series win in six games.
LeBron James, 2016
When LeBron promised the city of Cleveland that he’d win a championship, he wasn’t lying. Of course, he never said it’d be easy with the Cavaliers falling behind 2-0 and then 3-1 against a team that was 73-9 during the regular season. But LeBron carried Cleveland on his back, scoring 41 points in both Game 5 and Game 6.
In the end, he led all players in the series in points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals, becoming the first player in Finals history to accomplish such a feat. More importantly, he carried the Cavs to wins in Games 5, 6, and 7 to beat a Golden State team most thought was unbeatable.