Top 10 Most Iconic Moments In NBA History
The NBA features the best players with the biggest personalities, competing on the largest stages. Naturally, many iconic moments have happened during the NBA’s long history. Find a list of the most dramatic and memorable moments in NBA history below.
What Are the Most Iconic Moments in NBA History?
- “The Block”
- “The Shot”
- Ray Allen’s Three-Pointer
- Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-Point Game
- “Malice at the Palace”
- Kobe’s 81-Point Game
- Michael Jordan’s Flu Game
- Magic Johnson’s Baby Hook
- Michael Jordan: “I’m Back”
- “Kawhi Leonard Gets the Bounce”
1. “The Block”
After years of heckling and what seemed like true hatred, LeBron James finally made it up to Cleveland fans with a game-making block in 2016. After going down 3-1 in the NBA Finals against the 73-9 Warriors, James (with some help from Kyrie Irving) dragged his team back and 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. ESPN’s Mike Breen was notably caught in disbelief, yelling “Oh! Blocked by James!” After Kyrie’s shot and Kevin Love’s stop, the Cavaliers won and brought Cleveland its first championship (in any sport) in over fifty years.
2. “The Shot”
Michael Jordan has caused many iconic NBA moments, but his shot over Craig Ehlo in the first round of the 1989 Playoffs 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 Ehlo’s most memorable moment of his long career, to give the Bulls a 3-2 series lead over the Cavaliers. The celebration is just as iconic as the actual shot, with Jordan jumping high in the air, fist-pumping, and showing off his now well-known competitive streak.
3. Ray Allen’s Three-Pointer
While LeBron has definitely cemented 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.
4. Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-Point Game
In 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 both his size and skill. In the game, Chamberlain took 63 shots and went 28-32 from the free-throw line. His teammates, of course, 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 the NBA.
5. “Malice at the Palace”
More infamous than iconic, the “Malice at the Palace” is often considered 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 time running out.
6. Kobe’s 81-Point Game
In a career filled with memorable moments and accolades, the late-great Kobe Bryant’s 81-point showcase is his career’s defining moment. It was the perfect game for the Lakers shooting guard, 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 also the second-most points ever scored in a game in NBA history (only behind Wilt’s 100-point game).
7. Michael Jordan Flu Game
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 of the reason, Michael Jordan did not look well before this extremely important game during Jordan’s quest for a fifth Larry O’Brien trophy. MJ infamously 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, largely thanks to Jordan’s legendary performance.
8. Magic Johnson’s Baby Hook
In the midst of a renaissance of the NBA that truly brought the sport to the mainstream, 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 even emulated that of Johnson’s teammate, Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.
9. Michael Jordan: “I’m Back”
After shockingly retiring following 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 unclear motives. The only known reasoning was that he was grieving the sudden and mysterious death of his father, and he thus 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 long legacy in the sport.
10. “Kawhi Leonard Gets the Bounce”
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.
“The Greatest Game Ever Played”
Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns was a triple-overtime thriller that has been dubbed “the greatest game ever played.” The Suns were a new expansion team in only their second playoff appearance. Meanwhile, the Celtics were looking to avenge the previous season’s disappointing loss to Washington in the finals. The Celtics won the first two games of the series at home; then the Suns won the next two in Phoenix.
John Havlicek led the scoring for the Celtics, helping them achieve a 61-45 lead at halftime after going up 42-20 early in the second. After the Suns surged back, two controversial timeout non-calls left them in the lead with five seconds left in overtime. Havlicek scored on a drive at the last second for the win, 111-110. A fan riot ensued; the Celtics also won the next game and the series.
Jerry West’s Half-Court Shot
One of the most shocking moments in the 1970s NBA came during a buzzer-beating shot by Lakers point guard Jerry West. In Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, West made a shot at the buzzer from almost 60 feet and somehow made it. This forced the game into overtime. Even though the Celtics ultimately won, the shot will remain one of the most thrilling shots in NBA history. That shot, combined with his overall shooting excellence, made West the first and last player to ever be given the MVP award for the Finals even though he was on the losing team.
What is the best NBA moment in history?
The best NBA moment in history is “The Block” by LeBron James in Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals. James’s Cleveland Cavaliers were down three games to one against Golden State. With two minutes left on the game clock, James appeared out of nowhere to block an easy layup from Steph Curry to Andre Iguodala. This shifted the momentum of the game, leading the Cavaliers to win the game and the series.