After years of heckling and what seemed like true hatred, LeBron James finally made it up to Cleveland fans in 2016. After going down 3 to 1 in the NBA Finals against the 73-9 Warriors, James (with some help from Kyrie Irving) dragged his team back, and he gave them the last jolt they needed with "The Block." On a 2-on-1 with two minutes remaining, Curry passed the ball to Andre Iguodala on what seemed to be an easy layup before LeBron came out of nowhere to pin the ball on the backboard with ESPN's Mike Breen in disbelief saying "Oh! Blocked by James!" After Kyrie's shot and Kevin Love's stop, the Cavs won and brought Cleveland its first championship in any sport in over fifty years.
Michael Jordan has ample moments to choose from for this list, but his shot over Craig Ehlo in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs between the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989 tops them all. With two seconds left while being mauled by Larry Nance, Jordan somehow got free. He then made a jumping mid-range shot over Craig Ehlo, which is also Craig Ehlo's most iconic moment of his career despite Ehlo's quality career, to give the Bulls a 3-2 series lead and help the Bulls move on. The celebration is just as iconic as the actual shot with Jordan jumping high in the air fist-pumping and showing the competitive streak that is now well-known from MJ.
While LeBron has definitely done enough on his own to establish himself as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, he has Ray Allen and Chris Bosh to thank for keeping his Miami Heat alive in the 2013 NBA Finals. With 15 seconds left, losing by three, and down 3-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in the series, James missed a three-pointer, and a rebound would have most likely won the Finals for the Spurs. Instead, Bosh rebounded the ball and passed it out to legendary sharpshooter Ray Allen who made a heavily contested three pointer to send the game to overtime. The Heat won in overtime and then also won in Game 7, giving LeBron his second championship at the time.
One of the first truly memorable moments of the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors somehow broke triple digits in a late regular season game against a struggling New York Knicks team. Chamberlain, who was notorious for ranking individual accomplishments over team accomplishments, greatly outmatched anyone else on the court with his size and skill. Wilt took 63 shots and went 28-32 from the free throw line. His teammates helped propel him to this feat by constantly feeding him the ball. The photo of him holding a piece of paper with the number 100 on it is etched into the history of both the NBA and sports in general.
More infamous than iconic, the "Malice at the Palace" is the biggest disgrace in NBA history. In the last minute of a blowout between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, Ron Artest fouled Pistons center Ben Wallace hard, and Wallace retaliated. After the situation seemed to calm down, a fan threw a beer at Artest who was on the scorer's table, and chaos ensued. Artest and teammate Stephen Jackson jumped into the stands and started fighting fans at the Palace at Auburn Hills. The situation continued to escalate and the game was called without the time running out.
In a career filled to the top with memorable moments and accolades, the late-great Kobe Bryant's 81-point showcase is his career's defining moment. It was the perfect Kobe game with him shooting 46 shots and going 18-20 from the free throw line. In typical Kobe fashion, he never let the man guarding him, NBA personality Jalen Rose, forget it and used to remind him of his success on every occasion possible. It is the second most points scored in a game in NBA history only behind Wilt's 100.
One of the biggest mysteries in NBA history is the cause of Michael Jordan's illness before Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. Was it actually the flu? A hangover? A sabotaged pizza delivered by malicious Jazz fans as Jordan claimed in his documentary? Regardless, Michael Jordan did not look well before this extremely important game during Jordan's quest for a fifth Larry O'Brien trophy. MJ played through the pain and managed to drop 38 points in one of the greatest acts of resilience in NBA history. The Bulls went on to win the Finals behind Jordan's legendary performance.
In the midst of a renaissance of the NBA that truly brought the sport to the mainstream for the first time, the Lakers with Magic Johnson and the Celtics led by Larry Bird were the biggest rivalry in the sport. During the two teams' bout in the 1987 NBA Finals, Johnson stole the show in Game 4. With the Lakers trailing 106-105 with under 10 seconds left, Johnson hit a junior sky hook over Celtics legend Kevin McHale to give the Lakers the lead that they would not lose and a 3-1 series lead en route to an NBA Finals victory. The shot emulated that of Johnson's teammate, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.
After shockingly retiring after his third championship in a row after the 1993 season, Michael Jordan took his talents to baseball. Jordan played in the Chicago White Sox organization for a year with the motives unclear. He was terribly broken about the sudden and mysterious death of his father, and he wanted a reprieve from the NBA at the time. After never truly dominating baseball like he did basketball, Jordan announced his comeback on March 18, 1995 through a press release with two words: "I'm back." While the Bulls did not win the finals that season, he later led the Bulls to another three-peat, cementing his legacy.
The first buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA Playoff history, this play encompasses exactly why the Toronto Raptors took a one-year loan on NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard. With time dripping down in a 90-90 defensive stalemate that looked as if it was heading for overtime, Kawhi shot a covered fadeaway from the corner that bounced on the rim at least four times before finally going through the net and sending the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Raptors then won that series and the Finals with Kawhi as the MVP to win their first championship in franchise history.