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The Top 75 Players in NBA Finals History

Updated: Jun 19, 2022

The 2022 NBA Finals are underway, and, with the NBA celebrating their 75th Anniversary throughout the season, it inspired me to take on the long and tedious project of ranking the Top 75 performers in NBA Finals history. So, below is my personal, unscientific ranking of the Top 75 performers throughout the first 75 NBA Finals series (this year is actually the 76th season in NBA history - the celebration was supposed to be in 2021, but was pushed back a year due to COVID - so we have 75 players for 75 years).


Quick things to note before we start:


1. This list is a ranking of players strictly based upon how they performed in the Finals. It is not the top 75 players who played in the NBA Finals, it is the 75 greatest performers in the NBA Finals.

2. I was trying to get this article done and posted in time before these Finals started, but was off by a few days. Therefore, for the four Warriors on this list playing in the ongoing series, all of their stats are as of before the 2022 Finals.

3. All stats are via Basketball-Reference, StatMuse, and NBA.com

4. Once again, these rankings are solely based on my opinion. There was no scientific formula, although I tried to personally weigh team success, individual success, stats, era, strength of opponent, etc. Also, keep in mind that I was born in 1999 and my first firsthand memories of the Finals were in 2006, so apologies in advance for any generational oversight. I tried my best to remove my inherent recency bias.


 

Finals Appearances Key:

Bold = Won the Series

* = Finals MVP

Non-Bold = Lost the Series

 

75) Don Nelson


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976

  • Finals Stats:

    • 8.4 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 45% FG, 74% FT, 19.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1969 Game 7:

      • 16 PTS, 6 REB, 6-12 FG

      • Nelson put up a more-than-respectable 16-6 line in Game 7, but most notably hit the dagger which clinched one of the greatest NBA Finals series of all-time for the Celtics.

Before he became one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, Don Nelson was pulling off the rare feat of playing in the Finals with both the Lakers and the Celtics. Nelson and the Lakers lost the 1965 Finals to the Celtics. He averaged 7 Points and 5 Rebounds in the series. After the Finals, Nelson signed with the Celtics in free agency. From there, he won five titles, with three of the Finals victories coming against the Lakers. His best series was in 1968, when he averaged 14 Points and 8 Rebounds per Game while shooting 59% from the field. He hit the dagger, as previously mentioned, to clinch the 1969 Finals. In that series, he averaged 12 Points and 6 Rebounds per Game. Nelson was also a key contributor in the Finals that the Celtics won in 1966, 1974, and 1976. He ranks 16th all-time in Finals Games played and 33rd in Rebounds.

 

74) Chris Bosh


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

  • Finals Stats:

    • 14.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 46% FG, 28% 3PT, 80% FT, 36.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2013 Game 6:

      • 10 PTS, 11 REB, 3 STL, 2 BLK, 5-12 FG

      • Facing elimination in the 2013 Finals, the Heat needed Bosh to do all of the dirty work. He did exactly that in Game 6 with a double-double, three steals and a pair of blocks, with one of the blocks being the most important of his career; stuffing a potential game-tying Danny Green three in overtime to force a Game 7. Of course, he also grabbed the offensive rebound which set up Ray Allen’s overtime-forcing shot.

Playing in the Finals for four-straight years from 2011 to 2014, Chris Bosh had plenty of opportunity to get much higher on this list. He did average 19 Points and 7 Rebounds in the 2011 Finals, but the Heat lost in stunning fashion. In 2012, Bosh was fantastic, averaging 15 Points and 9 Rebounds with 45-40-88 shooting splits, as the Heat defeated the Thunder in five games. In Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, Bosh made some of the biggest plays of his career (see above). However, with a chance to add to his Finals legend, Bosh went 0-5 with 0 Points in Game 7. Lucky for him, the Heat won and nobody remembers his O-fer. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t slip my mind, so it hurt him when it came to climbing up this list. In the 2014 Finals, Bosh did average 14 Points on 55% shooting, but the Heat were mostly non-competitive in the 4-1 series loss to San Antonio. Bosh’s biggest contribution (aside from the block and offensive rebound in 2013 Game 6) in his Finals career was his ability to stretch the floor and allow the Heat to play small-ball, something that completely changed the way basketball is played in the NBA to this day.

 

73) Elvin Hayes

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1975, 1978, 1979

  • Finals Stats:

    • 20.5 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 1.4 APG, 44% FG, 65% FT, 40.5 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1978 Game 7:

      • 12 PTS, 8 REB, 5-10 FG

      • Most of Hayes’ biggest Finals performances came in losses, but he did come through in the biggest game of his career. His 12 Points and 8 Rebounds helped the Bullets win Game 7 on the road in Seattle, as Hayes won the title which had been eluding him.

Elvin Hayes basically averaged 21 Points and 12 Rebounds per Game in his Finals career, which, in 16 games, should’ve been enough to at least crack the top-60 on this list. However, his team’s record in those 16 games was just 5-11. The stats from Hayes were great, but, unless I am missing something, he didn’t really have any clutch moments or big games. However, I will commend the consistency as, per game, he averaged 21 Points in 1975 and 1978, and 20 Points in 1979, 12 Rebounds in 1978 and 1979, and 11 Rebounds in 1975, and then 2 Blocks in 1978 and 1979, with 2.8 Blocks in 1975. In Finals history, he ranks 6th all-time in Blocks per Game (13th in total Blocks), and 15th in Rebounds per Game.

 

72) Dave DeBusschere

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1970, 1972, 1973

  • Finals Stats:

    • 15.5 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 43% FG, 69% FT, 35.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1973 Game 4:

      • 33 PTS, 14 REB, 13-21 FG

      • Leading the 1973 Finals 2-1, the Knicks got a huge boost from DeBusschere, who led the team with 33 points and 14 rebounds.

Dave DeBusschere was an unsung hero on the great Knicks teams of the early 1970s. In the Knicks’ 1970 NBA Finals victory, DeBusschere averaged 19 Points and 13 Rebounds per Game, providing great support for stars Willis Reed and Walt Frazier. DeBusschere struggled in the Knicks 1972 Finals loss, averaging just 10 Points and 13 Rebounds per Game on 38% shooting, but returned to form with 16 Points and 12 Rebounds per Game in 1973, as the Knicks reclaimed their title. His 12.4 Rebounds per Game in the Finals were good enough for 12th most all-time.

 

71) Maurice Cheeks

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1980, 1982, 1983

  • Finals Stats:

    • 14.8 PPG, 7.3 APG, 2.7 RPG, 51% FG, 69% FT, 36.7 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1980 Game 2:

      • 23 PTS, 10 AST, 6 STL, 11-13 FG

      • While Philadelphia famously lost the 1980 Finals, Cheeks had a huge Game 2. The 76ers’ Point Guard made 11 of his 13 shots, dished out 10 assists and tied what was then the Finals record of 6 steals in one game. His efforts helped lead the Sixers to a tight road victory in Los Angeles.

Maurice Cheeks was pretty consistent in his three Finals appearances. He averaged 14-7-3 with 2.5 Steals per Game in 1980, 15-9-3 with 2.0 Steals per Game in 1982, and 15-6-2 with 2.8 Steals per Game in 1983. The 76ers lost in 1980 and 1982, but, led by Cheeks running the offense, swept the Lakers (the team that beat them in 1980 and 1982) in the 1983 Finals. Cheeks’ 2.4 Steals per Game in the Finals rank 1st among players with 10 or more games played. His 7.3 Assists per Game rank 10th.

 

70) Byron Scott

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991

  • Finals Stats:

    • 11.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 45% FG, 25% 3PT, 75% FT, 30.5 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1988 Game 7:

      • 21 PTS, 3 REB, 7-12 FG

      • While James Worthy’s Game 7 heroics are what everybody remembers most from the 1988 Finals, Byron Scott also stepped up in the winner-take-all game. He was second on the Lakers with 21 Points, and made 7 of 12 shots while dealing with Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas (still dangerous despite his ankle injury) on defense.

Byron Scott was a great role player in the Finals for the Showtime Lakers, but he probably only sneaks onto this list due to what he did in 1988. In the 1988 Finals, Scott averaged 19-5-2 on 48-46-77 shooting splits in 40.1 Minutes per Game. He was especially huge, as noted, in the Game 7. That series was a bit of an outlier, as he averaged 11 Points per Game in the Lakers’ 1985 and 1987 Finals victories. In 1984, his first Finals, Scott played just 15 Minutes per Game, and in 1991, his last Finals, he averaged just 4.5 Points per Game, got hurt, and missed Game 5. Both series resulted in losses for the Lakers. It is also worth noting that the Lakers were swept in the 1989 Finals, a series that Scott missed due to injury. Scott ranks 19th all-time in Finals Steals, and 34th in Games played.

 

69) Jason Terry


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2006, 2011

  • Finals Stats:

    • 20.0 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.1 RPG, 48% FG, 35% 3PT, 74% FT, 36.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2011 Game 6:

      • 27 PTS, 3 REB, 11-16 FG, 3-7 3PT

      • In a series featuring Dirk Nowitzki and the first year of the Miami Heat Big 3, Jason Terry stole the show in the closeout game. On the road in Miami, Terry came off the bench red-hot with 19 Points on 8-10 shooting in the first half. He finished with 27 Points on 11-16 shooting, and the Mavericks won their first title in franchise history.

If we’re discussing strictly role players, I’d put Terry’s two Finals appearances up against a lot of guys. The Mavericks lost the 2006 Finals to the Heat in disappointing fashion, but Terry was a bright spot averaging 22-4-2 on 48% shooting. However, he did fall flat in Game 6, shooting 7-25 from the field (and 2-11 from three) as the Mavericks were eliminated. Terry was able to get his revenge on Miami in 2011, as he averaged 18 Points per Game off-the-bench in the Mavericks’ six-game series win. His big 2011 series was highlighted by the closeout Game 6 (see above).

 

68) Jason Kidd


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2002, 2003, 2011

  • Finals Stats:

    • 15.4 PPG, 7.8 APG, 5.8 RPG, 39% FG, 33% 3PT, 77% FT, 41.1 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2011 Game 5:

      • 13 PTS, 6 AST, 3 STL, 3-5 3PT

      • Kidd’s best statistical games in the Finals came in 2002 and 2003 with the Nets, but the 2011 Mavericks don’t win the title without his veteran leadership and experience. The 38-year-old played 40 minutes of high-IQ basketball on both sides of the floor as the Mavericks won a pivotal Game 5 over the Heat.

Jason Kidd’s Nets teams were completely overmatched in the 2002 (swept by the Lakers) and 2003 (lost in six to San Antonio) Finals, but he still put up 21-10-7 and 20-8-6, respectively, in those series. Nearly a decade later, in the 2011 Finals, at the age of 38, Kidd averaged 8-6-5 on 43% shooting from three as his Mavericks upset the Heat. Kidd’s impact in that series, especially on defense, and obviously from a leadership perspective, cannot be overstated. Without Kidd, there is no way the Mavericks recover from being down 2-1. In Finals history, he ranks 8th all-time in Assists per Game, and 26th in total Assists.

 

67) Andrew Toney

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1982, 1983

  • Finals Stats:

    • 24.4 PPG, 7.0 APG, 2.5 RPG, 49% FG, 86% FT, 37.4 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1982 Game 5:

      • 31 PTS, 8 AST, 13-18 FG

      • The 76ers ended up losing the 1982 Finals in 6 to the Lakers, but Toney helped them fight off elimination in Game 5. He led the team with 31 points and had an incredibly efficient 13-18 shooting night.

Andrew Toney, also known as “The Boston Strangler,” did a lot of his Postseason damage against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but he was pretty good in the Finals against the Lakers too. Toney averaged 26-8-3 on 53% shooting in the 76ers six-game series loss to Los Angeles in 1982. Toney, who averaged 22-6-2 in the series, avenged their loss from the year prior with a sweep of the Lakers in the 1983 Finals. Toney ranks 11th in Finals Assists per Game, and 17th in Points per Game.

 

66) Danny Green

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020

  • Finals Stats:

    • 9.7 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.0 APG, 42% FG, 42% 3PT, 86% FT, 27.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2013 Game 5:

      • 24 PTS, 6 REB, 3 BLK, 6-10 3PT

      • A few years before Stephen Curry and the Warriors completely changed the way that NBA teams and fans alike look at three-point shooting, we had Danny Green’s record-breaking 2013 Finals. I can remember being in awe of the fact that Green, on the sport’s biggest stage, was actually taking and making a ton of threes. The best example of this came in Game 5 as Green made 6 of his 10 attempts from three (two games after he went 7 of 9) and the Spurs took a 3-2 series lead with the sharpshooter looking like the Finals MVP favorite.

Danny Green is one of four players (LeBron James, Robert Horry, John Salley) who has won an NBA Championship with three different teams. He broke onto the Finals scene in 2013 when he got red-hot from three as the Spurs went up 3-2 on the Heat. As I mentioned above, he legitimately looked like the Finals MVP. Then, in Games 6 and 7, his shooting completely fell apart as the series slipped away from the Spurs. Green went 1 for 7 from the field (1 of 5 from three) in Game 6, and 1 for 12 from the field (1 of 6 from three) in Game 7. So much happened in the epic series that everybody kind of forgot how cold he got. Also, he was so hot in the first five games that he still finished the series averaging 14 Points per Game on 55% shooting from three. Green never reached those 2013 heights again, but he did win a title with the Spurs in 2014 (shooting 45% from three in the Finals), with the Raptors in 2019 (he made 6 of 10 threes in the Raptors’ big Game 3 road victory), and with the Lakers in 2020. He ranks 4th all-time in Three-Pointers made in the Finals, and is 23rd in 3PT%.

 

65) Danny Ainge

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1992, 1993

  • Finals Stats:

    • 10.4 PPG, 4.1 APG, 2.6 RPG, 47% FG, 42% 3PT, 76% FT, 28.3 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1986 Game 6:

      • 19 PTS, 4 AST, 2 STL, 7-9 FG

      • Ainge had a handful of big Finals moments, I went with his 19-point performance to close out the Rockets in Game 6 of the 1986 Finals. Ainge stepped up as the third-option behind Larry Bird and Kevin McHale and even had as many points as Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rockets’ leading scorer in the game.

Danny Ainge was a fantastic role player for the Celtics in their 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987 Finals appearances. He won two titles (1984 and 1986), and had multiple big Finals games in support of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson. His best Finals came in 1986 when he averaged 15-6-4 with 2.5 Steals per Game and shot 56% from the field in the Celtics’ victory over the Rockets. Ainge is best remembered as a Celtic, and rightfully so, but he made two more Finals appearances in the early 1990s. With the Trail Blazers in 1992, Ainge averaged 10 Points per Game and shot just 4 of 17 from three in their six-game loss to the Bulls. The following year, Ainge squared off with the Bulls again, this time with the Phoenix Suns. He made 8 of his 12 threes this time, in 27 Minutes per Game, but his hopes for a third championship were dashed by Chicago once again. Ainge is sneakily high on multiple Finals leaderboards, including; Steals (12th), Assists (18th), Games (18th), Three-Pointers (22nd), and Points (41st).

 

64) Kyrie Irving


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2015, 2016, 2017

  • Finals Stats:

    • 27.7 PPG, 4.2 APG, 4.2 RPG, 47% FG, 40% 3PT, 93% FT, 39.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2016 Game 7:

      • 26 PTS, 6 REB, 10-23 FG

      • It was tough to not pick Irving’s 2016 Game 5 where he scored 41 points on 17-24 shooting to start the Cavaliers’ 3-1 series comeback, but when you make a game-winner in Game 7 of the Finals, that has to be the case. It is especially the case when the shot caps a historic 3-1 comeback and comes in a game where Irving scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half.

The 2016 Finals is obviously what stands out for Kyrie Irving. He averaged 27-4-4 with 2.1 Steals per Game on 47-41-94 shooting splits. He also had 41 Points in an elimination game and hit one of the biggest shots in league history with the Game 7 game-winner. He was truly special in that series. He was almost as special in the 2017 Finals, averaging 29-4-4 with 47-42-90 splits, but his Cavaliers were defeated in five by the Warriors. The big what if for Irving is if he doesn’t get hurt in overtime of Game 1 in the 2015 Finals. Irving missed the rest of the series, and the Cavaliers lost in six. If Irving doesn’t get hurt, the Cavaliers may have won the series, and then he would have been much higher on this list.

 

63) Wes Unseld

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1971, 1975, 1978*, 1979

  • Finals Stats:

    • 11.3 PPG, 14.1 RPG, 4.1 APG, 47% FG, 59% FT, 41.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1978 Game 7:

      • 15 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST, 4-8 FG

      • Having to play Game 7 on the road in Seattle, it looked like Wes Unseld was going to lose in the Finals for the third time. However, that wasn’t the case as Unseld’s 15-9-6 performance in 45 minutes helped the Bullets win the title on the road.

Wes Unseld is the lowest ranked Finals MVP on this list. The 11-14-4 average is great, and the Finals MVP (even though it came as he averaged just 9-12-4) is too, but Unseld’s overall record in Finals games was just 5-15. His team was swept twice (1971 and 1975), he lost in five in 1979, and it took a road Game 7 victory in 1978 to avoid a 0-4 series record. On a positive note, Unseld ranks 6th all-time in Finals Rebounds per Game and 16th in total Rebounds.

 

62) Dennis Rodman


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1988, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997, 1998

  • Finals Stats:

    • 4.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 48% FG, 56% FT, 27.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1996 Game 6:

      • 9 PTS, 19 REB, 5 AST, 3 STL

      • As someone who was born the year after Rodman played in his sixth and final NBA Finals series, it was tough for me to pick a standout Rodman game because so much of his success came in areas that don’t show up in the box score. I settled on 1996 Game 6 because the Bulls clinched the title, he had 11 offensive rebounds, and he held Shawn Kemp to just 18 points.

As I mentioned before, so much of Dennis Rodman’s greatness can only be appreciated by actually watching him play. Therefore, he may be way too low on this list (and if that is the case, I apologize). What I do know is that he definitely isn’t too high. With six Finals appearances and five championships, and the fact that teams were willing to ignore all of the headaches that he caused, it is clear that he made a major impact on winning. In the Finals, he ranks 14th all-time in Rebounds, 28th in Games, and 33rd in Steals.

 

61) Michael Cooper

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989

  • Finals Stats:

    • 10.3 PPG, 3.9 APG, 2.9 RPG, 45% FG, 38% 3PT, 81% FT, 30.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1987 Game 2:

      • 21 PTS, 9 AST, 3 STL, 6-7 3PT

      • Cooper, one of the best role players in NBA history, had a lot of big Finals games. The one that stood out most to me was his 21-Point, 9-Assist, 6-three-point performance off the bench in the Lakers’ Game 2 141-122 drubbing of the Celtics in 1987.

One of the best assets on Cooper’s Finals resume is his laundry list of clutch performances. He never blew anybody away with a 30-plus point game, but all of his solid, efficient games made it very hard for me to pick a “signature moment.” Other than 1988 (when he shot 9-44 from the field and 3-20 from three), Cooper was great in every Finals that he played in during the 1980s. In the Finals, he ranks 7th all-time in Steals, 10th in Games, 14th in Assists, 15th in Three-Pointers, 16th in Minutes, and 32nd in Points.

 

60) Klay Thompson

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

  • Finals Stats:

    • 18.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.9 APG, 45% FG, 41% 3PT, 82% FT, 36.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2019 Game 6:

      • 30 PTS, 5 REB, 2 STL, 8-12 FG

      • Down 3-2 against the Toronto Raptors, the Warriors needed “Game 6 Klay” to show up and keep their season alive. That looked like exactly what was going to happen as Thompson had 30 points on 8 of 12 shooting in just 32 minutes. However, late in the 3rd quarter, Thompson landed awkwardly after getting fouled on a dunk attempt and tore his ACL. After being helped off the court, he somehow returned from the locker room to shoot the two free throws (which he made, of course). The craziest part is that he even wanted to stay in on defense. Unfortunately, he came out of the game after the free throws and the Warriors fell in the 4th quarter without him.

I came into this project thinking Klay Thompson was going to be right on the bubble to even get on the list. For whatever reason, I feel like I remember far more “bad” Klay Finals games than good ones. That is clearly not the case as, across five series, Thompson has averaged 18.8 Points per Game on 41% shooting from three. His 14-point game (6-17 from the field, 2-10 from three) in Game 7 of the 2016 Finals is a big blemish, but aside from that, he’s been pretty consistent. He averaged 16 Points per Game in the 2015, 2017, and 2018 Finals, all Warriors wins. His best Finals were in 2019, where he averaged 26 Points per Game on 54-59-88 splits. However, he missed Game 3 of that series due to injury, and tore his ACL in the third quarter of Game 6. Like his three teammates that we’ll get to later in the article, Klay will soon be able to shoot up this list.

 

59) Paul Pierce


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2008*, 2010

  • Finals Stats:

    • 19.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.5 APG, 44% FG, 40% 3PT, 84% FT, 39.3 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2008 Game 2:

      • 28 PTS, 8 AST, 9-16 FG, 4-4 3PT

      • The right answer here is probably Game 1 of the 2008 series where Pierce went from injured, to a wheelchair, to back on court in a span of just a few minutes, but since then Pierce has admitted he just needed a bathroom break, so I’m not rewarding the fake theatrics. However, he was amazing in the following game hitting all four of his threes and scoring 28 points as the Celtics took a 2-0 series lead over the rival Lakers.

I’ll get to it more later on, but I don’t think Paul Pierce deserved the 2008 Finals MVP. He would still be on this list without it, because he did average 20-5-5 on 44-40-84 splits in 13 Finals games, but it would be towards the bottom. Pierce was very good in the Celtics’ 2008 victory (22-5-6, 43-39-83 Splits), just not the Finals MVP, in my opinion. In 2010, he was solid, but shot just 5-15 in the Celtics’ Game 7 loss to the Lakers. Overall, Pierce’s two Finals trips were good, but not great, so the Finals MVP helps his ranking a lot. Then again, you either hate Paul Pierce, or you’re a Celtics fan… and I’m a Knicks fan. So, maybe my bias seeped in too much here.

 

58) Satch Sanders

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969

  • Finals Stats:

    • 10.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 46% FG, 73% FT, 26.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1961 Game 4:

      • 22 PTS, 9 REB, 10-14 FG

      • Sanders was a crucial role player for the Celtics’ 1960s dynasty. Arguably his brightest moment came as a rookie in 1961 as he scored 22 points (tied for the team-high) in the Celtics’ Game 4 road victory.

Tom “Satch” Sanders was never a star in the NBA, but he won eight championships and had multiple big Finals series. In his first six Finals appearances (all Celtics victories), Sanders averaged 12.5 Points per Game and 7.7 Rebounds per Game. He added two more rings in 1968 and 1969, but played a very small role in those series. Overall, Sanders makes the list due to his 8-0 Finals record and because he is 13th all-time in Finals Games, 17th in Rebounds, 24th in Minutes, and 35th in Points.

 

57) Jamaal Wilkes


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1975, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984

  • Finals Stats:

    • 14.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 44% FG, 77% FT, 31.4 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1980 Game 6:

      • 37 PTS, 10 REB, 16-30 FG

      • A common theme in this article will be great performances being overshadowed by iconic performances. Everybody remembers Magic Johnson’s 42-15-7 as he started in place of Kareem Adbul-Jabbar to close out the 76ers in the 1980 Finals, but Wilkes was also incredible as he picked up some of the scoring load and poured in 37 points on 16-30 shooting.

Jamaal Wilkes is incredibly underrated (a label I’ll probably use at least 20 more times in this article), and I’m probably contributing to that by putting him at just number 57. In 1975, as a Rookie, Wilkes averaged a near double-double as his Warriors swept the Washington Bullets. He was back in the Finals in 1980 with the Lakers, and averaged 21-8-3. As I mentioned above, his Game 6 is one of the best, but forgotten, performances in NBA history. He averaged 20-6-3 in the Lakers’ 1982 Finals win, and led the team with 27 Points in their Game 6 closeout victory. The Lakers were swept in the 1983 Finals, but Wilkes did average 19 Points per Game. In 1984, his last NBA Finals series, Wilkes played just 14.1 Minutes per Game. Overall, Wilkes ranks 25th all-time in Finals Steals and 38th in Points. For somebody with three rings and multiple big-time performances, this ranking may be too low.

 

56) Jo Jo White

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1974, 1976*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 18.9 PPG, 6.5 APG, 4.1 RPG, 45% FG, 81% FT, 45.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1976 Game 5:

      • 33 PTS, 9 AST, 6 REB, 15-29 FG, 60 Minutes

      • The 1976 Finals MVP played 60 minutes as the Celtics defeated the Suns 128-126 after three overtimes in arguably the greatest game in NBA history. White’s game high 33 points along with 9 assists and 6 rebounds helped the Celtics take a 3-2 series lead.

Jo Jo White is up there when it comes to the most “random” Finals MVPs. Honestly, if he just averaged 19-7-4 in two Finals appearances without the individual award, he probably doesn’t make this list. But if doesn’t exist, so Finals MVP Jo Jo White shoots all the way up to number 56. He was great, averaging 17-7-4 in the Celtics’ 1974 Finals victory, and then stepped it up to win Finals MVP with 22-6-4 in the 1976 series. Statistically, White’s biggest Finals achievement is that his 45.9 Minutes per Game ranks second among players with ten or more games played.

 

55) Cliff Hagan

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961

  • Finals Stats:

    • 23.0 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 45% FG, 83% FT, 37.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1960 Game 6:

      • 36 PTS, 13 REB, 4 AST, 13-24 FG

      • Most of Hagan’s biggest Finals games came in losses, even when the Hawks won the title in 1958, so I’ll go with Game 6 in 1960 when he scored a game-high 36 points. He helped the Hawks stave off elimination in that one, but they would ultimately lose to the Celtics in Game 7.

Cliff Hagan was Bob Pettit’s underrated sidekick on the St. Louis Hawks in the 1950s and 1960s. In the Finals, he is best known for a handful of things. He averaged 25-10-4 in the Hawks lone NBA Finals win, he made a rare Finals buzzer-beater in Game 6 of the 1957 series (to force a Game 7), and he had a 40-point game (a Game 2 loss in 1961). Hagan, who is 19th all-time in Finals Rebounds, 23rd in Points per Game and 25th in total Points, would be much higher on this list if he had more than one title.

 

54) Draymond Green


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

  • Finals Stats:

    • 12.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 6.7 APG, 43% FG, 30% 3PT, 77% FT, 39.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2016 Game 7:

      • 32 PTS, 15 REB, 9 AST, 11-15 FG, 6-8 3PT

      • Blowing a 3-1 lead and Green’s Game 5 suspension are what we remember most when it comes to the Warriors in the 2016 Finals. From Game 7, we best remember Kyrie Irving’s game-winner and LeBron James’ chasedown block. What has been forgotten is the fact that Green was the best player on the court in Game 7. He was his typical all-time great self on the defensive end, but he also carried the Warriors with an out-of-character 32 Points and 6 threes. If the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, had held up their end of the deal in the winner-take-all-game, Green would have been the 2016 Finals MVP, and his Game 7 would have been remembered as one of the best performances ever.

Only LeBron James and Magic Johnson have more triple-doubles in the NBA Finals than Draymond Green. Usually I feel like triple-doubles can be overrated, but in this case, on the biggest stage, they highlight how Green impacts the game in every possible way. He was the engine of the 2015 Warriors’ championship team (16-11-10 in the closeout Game 6 on the road, and 13-8-5 averages in the series), and played that same role in their 2017 (averaging 11-10-5) and 2018 (averaging 9-6-9) Finals wins. In 2019, Green stepped up and nearly averaged a triple-double (13-11-9), but the Warriors lost in six games. The series that I haven’t mentioned, aside from in the previous section, is 2016. Green famously was suspended for Game 5 after accumulating too many flagrant points. This lapse in judgment helped spark the Cavaliers historic 3-1 comeback (but also may have led to the Warriors getting Kevin Durant… it’s truly one of the biggest what-ifs ever), but then he was the only player to truly show up for Golden State in Game 7. Yes, the suspension was costly, but he was also a few minutes away from winning Finals MVP. In Finals history, Green is in the top-20 in Steals (9th), Assists (12th), and Three-Pointers (17th). He is also 21st in Rebounds and 22nd in Blocks. Of course, he will move up those leaderboards in this year’s series.

 

53) Chauncey Billups

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2004*, 2005

  • Finals Stats:

    • 20.7 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.2 RPG, 46% FG, 35% 3PT, 92% FT, 39.7 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2004 Game 1:

      • 22 PTS, 4 AST, 3 STL, 8-14 FG

      • The mid-2000s Pistons were so well-rounded that it was hard for Billups to have a true signature performance. He did have 34-7-5 in Game 5 of the 2005 series, but they lost the game at home. Therefore, I’ll go with his 22 Points on 8 of 14 shooting in Game 1 as the Pistons began their beatdown of the Lakers in 2004.

Spoiler alert, Chauncey Billups is the only member of the mid-2000s Pistons on this list. The Pistons crushed the Lakers in five to win the 2004 title, and fell just short in Game 7 against the Spurs in 2005. Billups makes the list by virtue of winning the 2004 Finals MVP. He averaged 21-5-3 on 51-47-93 splits in the series. He backed up the 2004 performance, and earned a higher spot on this list, by putting up 20-6-5 in the 2005 Finals. His shooting numbers did dip, and he shot just 3 of 8 in the Game 7, but he was by far the Pistons’ best player in the series. On a per game basis, Billups is 24th all-time in Finals Assists, and 30th in Points.

 

52) Dave Cowens

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1974, 1976

  • Finals Stats:

    • 21.7 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 4.0 APG, 47% FG, 73% FT, 43.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1974 Game 7:

      • 28 PTS, 14 REB, 4 AST, 13-25 FG

      • He may not have won Finals MVP, but the Celtics don’t win the 1974 title without Cowens. Cowens led the team with 28 points and 14 rebounds (as Finals MVP winning teammate John Havlicek shot 6-20 from the field) and Boston won Game 7 on the road in Milwaukee.

Dave Cowens was an absolute star on the Celtics’ two 1970s championship teams, and he averaged 22-13-4 in the two Finals series. However, he is outside of the top 50 on this list because he didn’t win Finals MVP. Cowens averaged 23-10-5 in the Celtics’ 1974 victory over the Bucks (a series that included the huge Game 7 mentioned above), but it was teammate John Havlicek (26-8-5) who won the Finals MVP. Cowens averaged 21-16-3 in Boston's 1976 Finals victory over Phoenix, but Jo Jo White (22-6-4), took home the trophy. Cowens was fantastic in the Finals, but just two appearances and the missing Finals MVP hold him back from a higher spot on this list.

 

51) Andre Iguodala


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2015*, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

  • Finals Stats:

    • 9.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 49% FG, 35% 3PT, 37% FT, 29.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2015 Game 6:

      • 25 PTS, 5 AST, 5 REB, 9-20 FG

      • Iguodala won the 2015 Finals MVP because his insertion into the starting lineup led to three straight Warriors wins and because of his defensive efforts on LeBron James. However, he came through offensively as well, putting up 25-5-5 on the road in Game 6 as the Warriors closed out the Cavaliers.

It’s high praise, but Andre Iguodala has become the Robert Horry (who we’ll get to soon) of this generation. The 2012 All-Star came to the Golden State Warriors in 2014 and reinvented himself as the ultimate role player. Unsurprisingly, that led to immediate success for Golden State. Iguodala played in his first Finals in 2015 (his second season with Golden State). After spending the first 95 games (Regular Season and Postseason) in 2015 coming off of the bench, Iguodala was put into the Warriors starting lineup after they went down two-games-to-one against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The rest is history, as the Warriors won the next three games and Iguodala won one of the most surprising Finals MVPs ever. In hindsight, it probably should’ve gone to Steph Curry, but Iguodala’s defense on LeBron and his 16-6-4 averages with 40% shooting from three made it understandable in the moment. Over the next five years, Iguodala kept playing in the Finals. In 2016, he was banged-up but still managed 9-6-4 in the series. However, his most memorable 2016 moment is being the victim of LeBron James’ iconic Game 7 chasedown block. In 2017, he averaged 9-3-3, made a big defensive play stripping James in Game 3, and won his second championship. He missed two games in the 2018 Finals, but returned in time to help the Warriors sweep the Cavaliers. In 2019, with the Warriors missing Kevin Durant due to injury, Iguodala had to step up once again. He made the game-clinching three to take Game 2 of the series in Toronto, and scored 22 Points in Game 6 (which was the game the Warriors were closed out by the Raptors). In the bubble in 2020, Iguodala played in his sixth-straight Finals, this time with the Heat. He played just 19.7 Minutes per Game and the Heat lost to the Lakers in six. In the Finals, Iguodala ranks 13th all-time in Three Pointers, 25th in Steals, 28th in Blocks, 29th in Games, and 31st in Assists.

 

50) Robert Parish

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987

  • Finals Stats:

    • 15.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 48% FG, 63% FT, 32.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1984 Game 4:

      • 25 PTS, 12 REB, 3 STL, 2 BLK

      • Trailing 2-1 in the series and on the road in Los Angeles for Game 4, Robert Parish came up huge on both sides of the floor with 25 points and 12 rebounds along with 3 steals and 2 blocks. The Celtics tied the series up, and ultimately prevailed in seven games.

Throughout his Finals career, Robert Parish was a model of consistency. In 1981, he averaged 15 Points and 8 Rebounds per Game. In 1984, 15 and 11. In 1985, 17 and 9. In 1986, 13 and 7. In 1987, 17 and 7. While he doesn’t have a specific moment that everybody remembers from his Finals career, something has to be said for that level of consistency as a top player on a Celtics team that played in five Finals in the 1980s (winning three). In the Finals, he ranks 4th all-time in Blocks, 20th in Rebounds, 24th in Steals, and 30th in Games. He even picked up a fourth championship, as a 43-year-old (!) with the 1997 Bulls, but he did not play in the Finals. I’ll admit that this is probably too low for Parish, whose consistency and impact on winning should be rewarded, regardless of if he has an iconic moment or not.

 

49) Derek Fisher


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012

  • Finals Stats:

    • 8.7 PPG, 2.4 APG, 2.2 RPG, 43% FG, 42% 3PT, 81% FT, 28.1 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2009 Game 4:

      • 12 PTS, 4 REB, 2-7 3PT

      • Fisher played in 43 Finals games throughout his 18-year career, but his biggest moment came in 2009 against the Magic. On the road in Orlando, Fisher made a three-pointer to force overtime at the end of regulation, and then hit what would end up being the game-winning three in the extra period. Fisher’s heroics helped give the Lakers a 3-1 series lead.

Derek Fisher is the epitome of a great role player. He showed this time and time again on the NBA’s biggest stage. Fisher was a major contributor for the Lakers during their 2000-2002 three-peat. He came off the bench (and went 7 of 12 from three) in their 2000 series victory, but started at Point Guard in both 2001 and 2002. His best moments came in 2002, when he averaged 13-4-4 and made 8 of 12 threes. He was back on the bench, backing up Gary Payton, in the 2004 Finals, and apparently less Fisher meant less success for the Lakers, who lost in five games. Fisher and the Lakers returned for three more Finals from 2008 to 2010. He struggled in their 2008 series loss, shooting just 3-16 from three, but bounced back with a big 2009 series (11 Points per Game and the clutch moments mentioned above) that the Lakers won. The 35-year-old Fisher was as-reliable-as-ever in 2010, averaging 9 Points in 30.6 Minutes per Game as the Lakers repeated. He even made an eighth Finals trip in 2012, as a 37-year-old, playing 25.6 Minutes per Game with the Oklahoma City Thunder in their loss to the Heat. Fisher won five championships and, in the Finals, ranks in the top-20 in Three-Pointers (8th), Games (13th), and Steals (13th).

 

48) Cedric Maxwell

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1981*, 1984, 1985

  • Finals Stats:

    • 11.7 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 52% FG, 81% FT, 29.1 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1984 Game 7:

      • 24 PTS, 8 AST, 8 REB, 14-17 FT

      • Maxwell was the surprise Finals MVP in 1981, but it was the 1984 series where he had his best performance. Facing the Lakers in Game 7, it was Maxwell, and not Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish or Dennis Johnson, who led the way for the Celtics with 24 Points. He also added 8 rebounds and 8 assists while making 14 of 17 free throws to help the Celtics defeat their great rival.

As soon as Chauncey Billups gets in, Cedric Maxwell will revert back to being the only Finals MVP not in the Basketball Hall of Fame. In the Celtics’ 1981 Finals victory over the Rockets, it was Maxwell who won the MVP after averaging 18-10-3 on 57% shooting. He probably clinched the award in Game 5, when, with the series tied at two, he scored 28 Points (on 10-13 shooting), and grabbed 15 Rebounds (7 offensive), as the Celtics took a 3-2 lead. He was clutch once again in 1984, especially Game 7 (see above), averaging 13-6-3. In the 1985 Finals, he played just 10.8 Minutes per Game as the Celtics lost to the Lakers. This may seem too high for Maxwell, but the Finals MVP combined with the 1984 Game 7 feels like enough to crack the top 50.

 

47) Pau Gasol

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2008, 2009, 2010

  • Finals Stats:

    • 17.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 53% FG, 71% FT, 41.1 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2010 Game 7:

      • 19 PTS, 18 REB, 4 AST, 2 BLK

      • Game 7 of the 2010 Finals was an absolute rock fight. This allowed Gasol to come up huge on the glass with 18 rebounds, 9 of them being offensive, and he added 19 points with 4 assists and 2 blocks. Without Gasol’s Game 7 performance, the Lakers don’t repeat as champions.

Pau Gasol was the Lakers’ second best player in three-straight Finals series from 2008 to 2010. In 2008, he was solid, averaging 15-10-3 on 53% shooting, but the Lakers lost the series in six. He stepped his game up in 2009, helping the Lakers win the title with averages of 19 Points and 10 Rebounds per Game on 60% shooting from the field. Where Pau Gasol was most impressive in his Finals career was when the Lakers went down 3-2 in the 2010 series. Needing to win both Games 6 and 7 at home to go back-to-back, Gasol upped his level. In Game 6, he put up a near triple-double with 17-13-9 and added 3 Blocks. His Game 7 performance as the Lakers won the title is discussed above. He finished the series averaging 19-12-4 with 2.6 Blocks per Game, and had a legitimate case to win Finals MVP over teammate Kobe Bryant (Bryant won the award). In the Finals, Gasol ranks 18th all-time in Blocks per Game, and 19th all-time in both Field Goal Percentage and Rebounds per Game.

 

46) Moses Malone

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1981, 1983*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 23.7 PPG, 16.6 RPG, 1.6 APG, 44% FG, 68% FT, 42.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1983 Game 4:

      • 24 PTS, 23 REB, 3 BLK, 9-22 FG

      • Malone’s iconic “Fo fo fo” prediction did not come true in 1983 (they lost a game to the Bucks in the Conference Finals), but that was irrelevant as they did come through with a sweep of the Lakers in the Finals. Malone closed the series out in style with a team-high 24 points and 23 rebounds.

He only played in two NBA Finals, but it’s impossible to not be in awe of Moses Malone’s average of 23.7 Points and 16.6 Rebounds per Game. He played his first Finals in 1981 with the Houston Rockets, who he brought there in surprise fashion. In the Finals, he averaged 22-16 with 2.2 Blocks per Game, but shot just 40% from the field and lost the series to the Celtics in six games. Malone was back in the Finals with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1983. He won Finals MVP as he averaged 26 and 18 in the Sixers’ sweep of the Lakers. The more I think about it, Malone probably deserves to be higher on this list. I’ll keep him here at 46 and justify it by saying he only played in two Finals, shot just 40% in 1981, and was playing on a loaded Philadelphia team in 1983, but I admittedly don’t feel great about it.

 

45) Bob Dandridge

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1971, 1974, 1978, 1979

  • Finals Stats:

    • 19.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 45% FG, 73% FT, 41.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1978 Game 2:

      • 34 PTS, 8 REB, 14-22 FG

      • The underrated Dandridge led the Bullets to victory with 34 points (on highly efficient 14-22 shooting) in Game 2 of the 1978 Finals, as they avoided falling down 2-0. He also scored 19 points, tied for the team high, on the road in Game 7 as the Bullets won the title.

Bob Dandridge is one of the more underrated players in NBA history. What stands out most on his Finals resume, other than his 19.6 Points per Game, is that fact that he had two separate runs during the 1970s. He made the 1971 and 1974 Finals with the Bucks, and the 1978 and 1979 Finals with the Bullets. In 1971, Dandridge, playing with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson, averaged 20 Points and 10 Rebounds per Game as the Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets. In 1974, the Bucks lost in seven games to the Celtics, but Dandridge still put up a solid 17 Points per Game. In the final two years of the decade, Dandridge split two more Finals appearances. In 1978, he averaged 20-7-4 and, as mentioned above, was tied for the team high in points in their road Game 7 victory. The next year, despite the loss, Dandridge averaged 22-8-5 in the Finals. Bob Dandridge is on the relatively short list of players who can say that they were major contributors on two different championship teams, especially when the titles come seven years apart.

 

44) Ray Allen


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014

  • Finals Stats:

    • 13.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 45% FG, 43% 3PT, 91% FT, 34.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2013 Game 6:

      • 9 PTS, 1-3 3PT, 41 MIN

      • In 2010, Ray Allen made a then-Finals-record 8 threes in Game 2, and then followed it up going 0-13 from the field and 0-8 from three as the Celtics lost home-court in Game 3. However, neither of those games, representing a great high and a huge low, come anywhere near what he did in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Allen hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history, tying the game with a corner three and keeping the Heat’s season alive. As the Heat then won in overtime, and then again in Game 7, Allen’s shot has been immortalized in NBA lore.

There isn’t much more that needs to be said about Ray Allen’s 2013 Finals than what I wrote above. Even at 37-years-old, he was great, he made 55% of his threes, and he hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history. His performance as a 38-year-old in the Heat’s 2014 Finals loss was impressive as well, averaging 10 Points on 41% from three in 31 Minutes per Game. In the 2010 Finals, he was bad. He somehow shot 29% from three and went 3-14 from the field in the Celtics’ Game 7 loss to the Lakers. Forget those three series though, let’s get to what I was hinting at before. How did Ray Allen not win Finals MVP over Paul Pierce in 2008? Allen put up essentially equal numbers on far better shooting percentages, spent more time guarding Kobe Bryant, and played better in the pivotal games. I’ve never understood that one, and definitely would have voted for Allen (Kevin Garnett, a tough omission from this list, also deserved consideration). Regardless, Allen would’ve made this list based just off of what he did in his two Celtics Finals, but his two Heat series (especially 2013) helped move him up about 20 spots.

 

43) Manu Ginóbili

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2003, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2014

  • Finals Stats:

    • 14.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 44% FG, 35% 3PT, 83% FT, 30.4 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2005 Game 7:

      • 23 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 8-13 FG

      • Facing a Game 7 after blowing a chance to wrap the series up at home in Game 6, the Spurs needed Manu Ginóbili to come up clutch. Ginóbili scored 16 of his 23 points in the second half and helped lead the Spurs to their second title in his first three NBA seasons.

Whether it was starting or coming off the bench, Manu Ginóbili did whatever it took to help the Spurs win four championships during his 16-year career. He won his first title in his rookie season, 2003, averaging 9-5-2 with 2.2 Steals per Game in 28.5 Minutes per Game off the bench. His best Finals series came in the Spurs’ 2005 seven-game victory over the Pistons. Ginóbili started all seven games and averaged 19-6-4 on 49-39-85 shooting splits. He capped the series off with the great Game 7 mentioned above. In the 2007 Finals he was back on the bench, but was just as impactful as he averaged 18-6-3 and made 10 of his 23 attempts from three (44%). The biggest, and maybe only, blemish on Ginóbili Finals resume is Game 6 of the 2013 series vs. the Heat. Yes, his late missed free throw may have cost the Spurs the title, but Kawhi Leonard also missed a late free throw, Coach Gregg Popovich took Tim Duncan out for the final defensive possession, and Tony Parker shot 6 of 23, so there is plenty of blame to go around. However, the missed free throw just added to what was already a terrible game for Ginóbili. He attempted just five shots and turned the ball over eight times (including twice in overtime), as the Spurs saw their title chances slip away in Game 6, and then lost Game 7. However, in the 2014 rematch vs. the Heat, Ginóbili, even at 36-years-old, averaged 14 Points per Game and won his fourth championship. In his Finals career, he ranks in the top-20 in both Three-Pointers (11th) and Steals (18th).

 

42) Robert Horry


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2007

  • Finals Stats:

    • 9.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.9 APG, 43% FG, 39% 3PT, 71% FT, 32.7 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2005 Game 5:

      • 21 PTS, 7 REB, 5-6 3PT

      • Horry had plenty of amazing Finals moments, but none stand out more than what he did in 2005. The 34-year-old, already with a whole hand full of rings, scored all 21 of his points off the bench in the second half and overtime (including 5 of the Spurs’ 7 OT points). He hit five of his six attempts from three-point range including the game-winner with 5.8 seconds left in overtime. Big Shot Rob added to his postseason legend and helped the Spurs take a 3-2 series lead with the road victory.

Robert Horry has to be considered the greatest role player in NBA history. His seven championships are the most by any player outside of the 1960s Celtics dynasty. He won his seven titles with three different teams (two with the Rockets, three with the Lakers, and two with the Spurs), and never lost in the Finals. He hit big shot after big shot (hence the nickname “Big Shot Rob'') throughout the playoffs every season, and had a handful of big Finals moments. He started his Finals career with back-to-back titles with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995. 1995 stands out in particular, because he was much more than just a role player. He averaged 18-10-4 on 43-38-67 splits with 3 Steals and 2.3 Blocks in 46.8 Minutes per Game as the Rockets swept the Magic. During the Lakers’ three-peat, Horry didn’t start a single game in their 2000 or 2001 series victories (he still averaged 9-5-3 and 8-5-1, respectively, in big minutes off the bench), and then stepped up as a starter in their 2002 sweep of the Nets. From the Lakers he moved to the Spurs, where he had a huge 2005 Finals (11-5-2 on 44-48-73 splits), highlighted by the above-noted Game 5. In 2007, at 36-years-old, Horry still contributed 22 Minutes per Game in the Spurs sweep of the Cavaliers, winning his seventh title. In the Finals he ranks 6th all-time in Three-Pointers, 8th in Blocks, 9th in Steals, 18th in Games, and 21st in Minutes. With his undefeated record and perfect 3-and-D skillset that every championship team needs, you could make the case that Horry, who averaged just 9.7 Points per Game in his Finals career, is still too low on this list.

 

41) Clyde Drexler

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1990, 1992, 1995

  • Finals Stats:

    • 24.5 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, 46% FG, 82% FT, 40.3 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1995 Game 3:

      • 25 PTS, 13 REB, 7 AST, 9-18 FG

      • Drexler played in two Finals as the star player, but his greatest moment came in 1995 as the Robin to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Batman. Drexler put up an impressive 25-13-7 as the Rockets took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Magic.

In Clyde Drexler’s first Finals appearance, 1990 against the Pistons, he averaged a strong 26-8-6 on 54% shooting, but his Trail Blazers lost to Detroit in five games. Then in 1992, by no fault of his own, Drexler was set up for embarrassment. He finished as the Regular Season MVP runner-up behind Michael Jordan. So, naturally, with Jordan’s Bulls and Drexler’s Trail Blazers squaring off in the Finals, the narrative became that they were equals going head-to-head. Unsurprisingly, that proved to be far from the truth. Just look at Game 1, where Jordan scored a Finals record 35 first half points and gave his famous shrug, while Drexler scored 16 Points on 5 of 14 shooting. Drexler finished the series with a relatively respectable 24.8 Points per Game (on 41% from the field and 3 of 20 from three)... but Jordan averaged 35.8 Points per Game and the Bulls won in six. Then, in 1995, Drexler was able to redeem himself (to an extent, at least). In his first season with the Rockets, who were seeking a second-straight title, Drexler averaged 22-10-7 as Houston swept Orlando, and he won his first ring. Even with the disappointment of losing as the best player on Portland in 1990 and 1992, his strong 1995, and the fact that he’s top 20 in both Finals Points per Game (15th) and Assists per Game (19th) justify his spot at 41 on this list.

 

40) Joe Dumars


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1988, 1989*, 1990

  • Finals Stats:

    • 19.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, 2.3 RPG, 50% FG, 89% FT, 36.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1990 Game 3:

      • 33 PTS, 5 AST, 11-22 FG

      • Dumars was the Finals MVP in 1989, but what he did in Game 3 the following season stands out the most. Dumars’ father had passed away shortly before the game, something that he was not aware of when he took the court. In the game, Dumars scored 33 points, including a miracle high-arching floater as the shot clock expired, and helped the Pistons regain home-court on the road in Portland.

Dumars played in three-straight NBA Finals, but he grabs the last spot in the top-40 because of what he did in the second of the three. In 1989, Dumars averaged 27 Points per Game on 58% shooting and earned Finals MVP as the Pistons swept the Lakers. This followed up a disappointing 1988 Finals where he averaged just 13 Points per Game in the Pistons’ loss to the Lakers. In 1990, as the Pistons repeated as champions, Dumars put up 21-6-3 in a five-game victory over the Trail Blazers.

 

39) Bill Walton

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1977*, 1986, 1987

  • Finals Stats:

    • 9.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.5 APG, 57% FG, 74% FT, 21.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1977 Game 6:

      • 20 PTS, 23 REB, 8 BLK, 7 AST, 8-15 FG

      • Walton’s 1977 Finals performance is one of the best in NBA history. He made his biggest impact as the Trail Blazers won their first and, to this day, only championship in Game 6. He had a near quadruple-double, and his 8 blocks were a Finals record at the time (remember, blocks weren’t officially a stat until 1974).

Bill Walton makes the top-40 here strongly thanks to how he played in the 1977 Finals. Walton, who led the Trail Blazers to a title from 2-0 down in the series, won Finals MVP and had one of the best performances in league history. He averaged 19-19-5 on 55% shooting and with 3.7 Blocks per Game. Walton’s career was unfairly plagued by injuries, but in 1977 he showed why he had all-time great potential. He picked up a second championship as a bench player with the Celtics in 1986. He averaged 8 Points (on 62% shooting) and 7 Rebounds in 19.5 Minutes per Game in the Finals. He was a non-factor in the 1987 series, playing just 24 total Minutes in the Celtics’ six-game loss to the Lakers. He ranks 5th all-time in Finals Field Goal Percentage, 20th in Blocks per Game, and 23rd in total Blocks.

 

38) Frank Ramsey

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964

  • Finals Stats:

    • 13.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 41% FG, 82% FT, 24.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1960 Game 7:

      • 24 PTS, 13 REB, 11-20 FG

      • Ramsey, considered the NBA’s first true Sixth Man, came up huge for the Celtics in a pair of Finals Game 7s. He scored 23 points and made 15 of 16 free throws to clinch the 1962 series, but his biggest moment came in 1960 as he led the team with 24 points and added 13 boards.

Frank Ramsey’s biggest Finals moments came in the previously mentioned 1960 and 1962 Game 7s. However, Ramsey was a key contributor in all eight of the Finals (seven wins) that he played in with the Celtics. His contributions ranged from averaging 23-6-3 in the 1959 Finals to playing 16.4 Minutes per Game and averaging 8.2 Points in the 1964 Finals (his final NBA games). His versatility, strength as an all-time great role player, and the fact that these 1960s Celtics are tough to rank, help me justify Ramsey’s maybe-too-high ranking. Further justifying the ranking, Ramsey is 8th all-time in Finals Games played, 24th in Points and 25th in Rebounds.

 

37) Kevin McHale

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1981, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987

  • Finals Stats:

    • 17.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 54% FG, 77% FT, 32.5 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1986 Game 6:

      • 29 PTS, 10 REB, 4 BLK, 10-22 FG

      • 1986 was a dream season for the Celtics, and they closed it out with a 4-2 Finals victory over the Houston Rockets. McHale teamed up with Larry Bird (who had a triple-double) to bring the Celtics their third title of the decade.

The first time Kevin McHale played in the NBA Finals was his rookie season in 1981. He played just 13.8 Minutes per Game in the Celtics six-game series victory over the Rockets. In 1984, McHale’s role had grown, but he was still coming off the bench. He averaged 13 Points and 6 Rebounds per Game in the Celtics seven-game series victory over the Lakers. In 1985, 1986, and 1987, McHale was a full-fledged star in the Finals. The Celtics lost the 1985 series to the Lakers, but McHale, a starter now, averaged 26 Points and 11 Rebounds. In the Celtics’ 1986 victory over the Rockets, he once again averaged 26 Points, adding 9 Rebounds and 2.5 Blocks per Game. His numbers dropped to 21 Points per Game in 1987, and the Celtics lost to the Lakers in six. McHale’s evolution from bench player, to elite Sixth Man, to second star throughout his five 1980s Finals trips is the strongest part of his resume. If he could have wrestled the 1986 Finals MVP from Larry Bird, McHale would have been an easy top-30 choice.

 

36) Bill Sharman

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961

  • Finals Stats:

    • 19.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 43% FG, 93% FT, 32.1 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1957 Game 5:

      • 32 PTS, 3 AST, 13-24 FG

      • Tied 2-2 and seeking their first NBA title, the Celtics were able to rely on Sharman for a team leading 32 points on 13-24 shooting and, of course, a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line, in the pivotal Game 5 victory.

As I’ve mentioned before, these Boston dynasty members are really hard to rank. Bill Sharman was mostly a role player on those early Bill Russell-led Celtics teams, so maybe this is too high. Then again, if a more modern player won four titles and averaged nearly 20 Points per Game in the Finals, I would feel fine with this ranking. In the Finals, Sharman ranks 4th in Free Throw Percentage, 26th in Points, and 36th in Points per Game, so maybe 36th on this list is about right.

 

35) Joe Fulks

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1947, 1948

  • Finals Stats:

    • 24.7 PPG, 81% FT

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1947 Game 5:

      • 34 PTS, 10-34 FG, 14-18 FT

      • Joe Fulks led the Philadelphia Warriors over the Chicago Stags to win the inaugural NBA (when it was still the BAA) championship. He closed out the first Finals series with a 34-point performance on 10-34 shooting (ignore the poor percentage, the Warriors went 26-102 in the game, and the Stags went 30-117!).

I’ll just come out and say right away, this is probably way too high. I really had no clue what to do with Joe Fulks, who played in just two Finals (the first two in NBA History). We barely have any stats on record for him, but we know he averaged 24.7 Points per Game (albeit most likely on sub-30% shooting), which is enough for 14th all-time in the Finals. I’m trying to reward the clear-best players on championship teams, and am really trying to be fair to the early Finals participants, but I even feel guilty about this one. Let’s just move on…

 

34) Dirk Nowitzki


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2006, 2011*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 24.4 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 40% FG, 30% 3PT, 93% FT, 42.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2011 Game 2:

      • 24 PTS, 11 REB, 4 AST, 10-22 FG

      • Down 1-0 in series and on the road in Miami, it looked like Nowitzki and the Mavericks were set to fall into a 0-2 hole. This was especially the case when they went down by 15 points. From there, Nowitzki led a furious comeback, scoring 15 second half points, including 5 in the final 30 seconds, and tied the series at one.

Dirk Nowitzki played in two NBA Finals during his 21-year career. The first one was a heartbreaker, and the second one was an all-time great triumph. In 2006, the Mavericks blew a 2-0 series lead to the Heat and lost in six games. Nowitzki averaged just 23 Points per Game on 39% from the field and 25% from three. Nowitzki flipped the script in 2011, as the Mavericks got revenge on the Heat with a 4-2 series victory. He won Finals MVP averaging 26 Points and 10 Rebounds per Game on 42-37-98 shooting splits. This may seem a little low, especially when you see who’s next on the list, but I can justify it. 2006 was really bad, and that’s obviously the biggest reason why he’s in the 30s and not the 20s. Regarding 2011, I feel like we conflate his Finals performance too much with his entire vintage playoff run. In my opinion, of the four series he played in the 2011 Playoffs, the Finals was his “worst” performance. Of course, he was still amazing, and the storyline of him taking on a superteam without another star holds up really well (and looks even better now). However, I don’t consider it an all-time great individual Finals, and that Mavericks team, despite not having a second star, was still really, really good.

 

33) Giannis Antetokounmpo


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2021*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 35.2 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 5.0 APG, 62% FG, 66% FT, 39.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2021 Game 6:

      • 50 PTS, 14 REB, 5 BLK, 16-25 FG, 17-19 FT

      • Antetokounmpo silenced all of his critics throughout the 2021 Finals, but no moment was bigger than Game 6. In the closeout game, Antetokounmpo had the seventh 50-point game in Finals history and made 17 out of 19 free throws after going 39-66 in the first five games of the series.

This might be the most controversial ranking on the list. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the only player on this list who has not played in multiple Finals. However, I think this high ranking is justified because his 2021 performance was one of the best in Finals history. After a “bad” Game 1 (he had “just” 20-17-4), Antetokounmpo, who was under immense pressure legacy-wise, responded with one of the best five-game stretches we’ve ever seen. In Games 2 to 6, Antetokounmpo averaged 38-12-5 with 2.0 Blocks per Game. That stretch featured his incredible block of DeAndre Ayton to help the Bucks win Game 4, his dagger dunk to seal Game 5, and other-wordly Game 6 (see above). Antetokounmpo led the Bucks back from 2-0 down and won Finals MVP averaging 35-13-5 on 62% from the field. If I write this article again for the 100-year anniversary, don’t be shocked if he’s near the top ten.

 

32) Rick Barry

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1967, 1975*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 36.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 4.0 APG, 41% FG, 84% FT, 43.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1967 Game 3:

      • 55 PTS, 12 REB, 5 AAST, 22-48 FG

      • From a team perspective, Barry’s 1975 was much more successful than 1967. However, in Game 3 of the 1967 series, Barry scored 55 points, and added 12 rebounds and 5 assists, putting himself only behind Elgin Baylor’s 61 points in a Finals game.

With 36.3 Points per Game in 10 total games, Rick Barry is the NBA Finals’ leading scorer (on a per game basis, of course). In 1967, Barry’s Warriors lost to the 76ers in six games, but Barry went on a tear averaging 41 Points per Game. In 1975, the Warriors swept the Washington Bullets. Barry won Finals MVP after averaging 30 Points per Game, and 3.5 Steals per Game (a single-series Finals record). Despite playing in just ten games, Barry still ranks 45th all-time in total Finals points.

 

31) Julius Erving


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983

  • Finals Stats:

    • 25.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.5 APG, 53% FG, 77% FT, 39.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1980 Game 4:

      • 23 PTS, 5 REB, 9-17 FG

      • It wasn’t the best game of Erving’s Finals career, but Game 4 in 1980 featured one of the greatest moves in league history. To this day, Erving’s acrobatic, mind-boggling baseline scoop layup is one of the most impressive things ever done in an NBA game, let alone during the Finals.

Although he won just one of the four Finals series that he played in, Julius Erving always showed up on the big stage (he also won two ABA titles… maybe I’ll make that list next). In Erving’s first Finals, his 76ers blew a 2-0 series lead to the Trail Blazers, but he still averaged 30-7-5 with 2.7 Steals and 1.2 Blocks per Game. Erving scored 37 and 40, respectively, in the final two losses, but the 76ers came up just short. He brought the 76ers back to the Finals in 1980, averaged 26-7-5 with 2 Steals and 2.3 Blocks per Game, but fell short once again as the Lakers, behind some iconic performances, won in six. The 76ers lost to the Lakers once again in 1982, as Erving averaged 25-8-3. In 1983, on his fourth try, Erving finally won an NBA championship. Alongside new 76ers addition Moses Malone, Erving averaged 19-9-5 with 2.8 Blocks per Game in their sweep of the Lakers. Malone was named Finals MVP, but Erving finally won his title. In the Finals, on a per game basis, he ranks 5th in Steals, 12th in Points, and 12th in Blocks. He also ranks 10th in total Blocks, 15th in total Steals, and 27th in total Points.

 

30) Tony Parker

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2003, 2005, 2007*, 2013, 2014

  • Finals Stats:

    • 16.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.4 RPG, 46% FG, 35% 3PT, 63% FT, 36.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2013 Game 5:

      • 26 PTS, 5 AST, 10-14 FG

      • 2013 was the only Finals series that Parker lost during his career, but Game 5 is memorable as he, in a game that featured LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Tim Duncan, and Kawhi Leonard, was the best player on the floor. Parker made 10 of his 14 shots and scored 15 second half points to bring the Spurs within a win of another title (and then we know what happened next, unfortunately for him).

Tony Parker was the NBA’s first European-born Finals MVP. He was also the perfect complement to Tim Duncan throughout the Spurs dynasty. Parker won his first two championships in 2003 and 2005 at the ages of 21 and 23, respectively. The young version of Parker was still fantastic. The Point Guard averaged 14 Points per Game in both series. Two years later, in 2007, Parker broke out in a huge way. He averaged 25 Points on 57% shooting, and was named Finals MVP in the Spurs’ sweep of the Cavaliers. In the 2013 Finals, Parker had some amazing moments (his Game 1 game-winner, the aforementioned Game 5), but he did go 6 of 23 shooting in Game 6 (and missed what would’ve been the series-winning shot), and 3 of 12 in the Spurs’ Game 7 loss. He bounced back nicely in 2014, averaging 18 Points and 5 Assists as the Spurs beat the Heat in five. Parker ranks 22nd in Finals Assists and 30th in Finals Points. Speaking of 30, this spot may be a tiny bit high for Parker. However, four rings and a Finals MVP are hard to come by, so I’m comfortable with it.

 

29) Dennis Johnson

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1978, 1979*, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987

  • Finals Stats:

    • 18.3 PPG, 6.2 APG, 4.7 RPG, 42% FG, 81% FT, 40.1 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1985 Game 4:

      • 27 PTS, 12 AST, 7 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK

      • The Celtics lost the 1985 Finals, but Johnson’s 27-12-7-2-2 in Game 4 was arguably his finest moment, in a Finals career filled with fine moments. He put up those big numbers and won the game for the Celtics with a buzzer-beating jump shot on the road in Los Angeles.

Dennis Johnson is one of the most underrated players in NBA history, he is one of the most underrated players in postseason history, and, most importantly (at least for the sake of this article), he is maybe the most underrated player in NBA Finals history. With that being said, Johnson’s Finals career started off pretty rough. Playing with the Seattle SuperSonics in 1978, Johnson went 0-14 (!) in a home Game 7 loss to the Washington Bullets. However, Johnson bounced back the following year, as the SuperSonics got revenge over the Bullets, defeating them 4-1 in the 1979 Finals. Johnson was named Finals MVP averaging 23-6-6, 2.2 Blocks and 1.8 Steals per Game. Johnson returned to the Finals in 1984, playing Point Guard for the Larry Bird-led Celtics. In that series, Johnson averaged 18 Points and 5 Assists, and came up huge in Game 4 going for 22 and 14 in 50 minutes as the Celtics tied the series on the road. The Celtics won in seven games, and Johnson got his second title. He continued to play well in a supporting role as the Celtics made the Finals three more times in the 1980s. Johnson won his third ring in 1986, and averaged 21-9-4 in the Celtics’ 1987 Finals loss. Johnson ranks 6th in Finals Assists, 11th in Steals and Blocks, 14th in Minutes, 18th in Games, and 21st in Points. It’s safe to say that he came a long way from the 0-14 Game 7 in 1978.

 

28) Kawhi Leonard

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2013, 2014*, 2019*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 20.1 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 50% FG, 41% 3PT, 85% FT, 36.9 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2019 Game 4:

      • 36 PTS, 12 REB, 4 STL, 11-22 FG, 5-9 3PT

      • Kawhi Leonard was already an NBA Champion and Finals MVP when he arrived in Toronto, but his legendary 2019 playoff run catapulted him into all-time great status. Leonard’s finest Finals performance that year came on the road at Oracle Arena as his 36 points, 12 rebounds and 5 threes helped give the Raptors a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Kawhi Leonard played his first NBA Finals in his second NBA season. In 2013, at the age of 21, Leonard averaged 15 Points, 11 Rebounds, and 2 Steals per Game and was the Spurs’ primary defender on LeBron James. Kawhi’s 2013 Finals may be best remembered for the key free throw he missed, leaving the door open for the Heat to come back in Game 6, but the series still marked his big-stage-breakout. Leonard was even better the following year, as the Spurs got revenge over the Heat, defeating them in five games. He averaged 18 Points and 6 Rebounds on 61% shooting (including 11-19 from three), and won his first Finals MVP. After playing his role perfectly with the Spurs in 2013 and 2014, Leonard went to the Finals as the star of his own team with the Raptors in 2019. He led Toronto to their first NBA title, stuffing the stat sheet with averages of 29-10-4, 2.0 Steals, and 1.2 Blocks per Game. He joined LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players ever to win Finals MVP with multiple franchises. Leonard is the lowest ranked of the twelve multi-time Finals MVPs, and that is mainly because those Spurs teams were loaded, and because I believe the Warriors, if healthy, beat Toronto in 2019. Regardless, number 28 on this list is nothing to sneeze at.

 

27) Isiah Thomas


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1988, 1989, 1990*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 22.6 PPG, 7.9 APG, 4.2 RPG, 48% FG, 46% 3PT, 79% FT, 37.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1988 Game 6:

      • 43 PTS, 8 AST, 6 STL, 3 REB, 18-32 FG

      • The Pistons lost Game 6 of the 1988 Finals, and lost the series in Game 7, but Isiah Thomas still had one of the greatest performances in NBA history. Despite a severe ankle injury suffered mid-game, Thomas was able to battle through the pain and scored 25 of his 43 points in the 3rd quarter (an NBA Finals record for points in a quarter).

Isiah Thomas made a memorable impact in all three Finals series that he played in. Although the Pistons lost the 1988 Finals, the performance he had on his severely injured ankle in Game 6 is considered one of the best single-games in NBA history. Also, if Thomas doesn’t get hurt, or if the refs didn’t call a phantom foul on Bill Laimbeer in Game 6, Detroit may have three-peated. They had to settle for back-to-back titles in 1988 and 1989, and Thomas was an integral piece in both Finals. While Joe Dumars won Finals MVP, Thomas’ leadership was essential to the Pistons team that swept the Lakers in 1989. Then, in 1990, Thomas took home the Finals MVP honors averaging 28-7-5 on 54% shooting. Overall, Thomas is 2nd all-time in Finals Steals per Game, 6th in Assists per Game, 11th in 3PT%, 20th in Steals, and 23rd in Assists.

 

26) Bob Pettit

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1957, 1958, 1960, 1961

  • Finals Stats:

    • 28.4 PPG, 16.6 RPG, 42% FG, 75% FT, 41.5 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1958 Game 6:

      • 50 PTS, 19 REB, 19-34 FG

      • Pettit’s career played out largely in the shadows of the Celtics dynasty, but he was able to get the better of Boston in 1958. Pettit scored 50 points in Game 6 to clinch his first and only NBA title and hand Bill Russell (who, worth noting, was hobbled by injury in the series) his only finals loss in 12 appearances.

Bob Pettit is one of the more underrated stars from the pre-merger NBA. The reason for this is the fact that he won just a single championship in an era where the Celtics won 11. Naturally, the Celtics are the reason why Pettit won just one championship. Pettit’s St. Louis Hawks lost to the Celtics in the 1957, 1960, and 1961 Finals, but they did flip the script in 1958. Pettit was consistent across all four series, averaging 30-18 (1957), 29-17 (1958), 26-15 (1960), and 28-16 (1961). The footnote on his one title is that Bill Russell missed two games in the series and was not 100% as Pettit scored 50 points in the closeout game. Regardless, I can’t punish Pettit for going 1-3 in the Finals against a far deeper and more talented team. He ranks 4th in Finals Rebounds per Game, 7th in Points per Game, 8th in total Rebounds, 10th in Free Throws, and 18th in total Points.

 

25) Willis Reed


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1970*, 1973*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 20.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 49% FG, 65% FT, 34.2 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1970 Game 7:

      • 4 PTS, 3 REB, 2-5 FG, 27 MIN

      • Reed had some massive moments throughout the 1970 Finals (37-16-5 in Game 1, 38-17 on 17-30 shooting to go up 2-1 on the road), but nothing came close to his four-point Game 7. Reed, who missed Game 6 with a torn thigh muscle, shocked the Knicks’ home crowd as he emerged from the tunnel for the pregame warmups. He scored the Knicks first four points and, despite not making another shot in just 27 minutes of play, the rest was history as the Knicks won their first championship.

Reed “only” played in two Finals, but it is hard to keep someone with two Finals MVPs and one of the league’s most iconic moments out of the top 25. That being said, and I’ll get to it with the next player on this list, Reed may be lucky to have two Finals MVPs. His stats don’t blow you away, as he averaged 23-11-3 in the six games he played during the 1970 series (obviously those numbers dipped with him playing through injury in Game 7), and then 16-9-3 in just 30 Minutes per Game in 1973. Regardless, being one of just twelve players with multiple Finals MVPs plus his inspiring 1970 Game 7 gets him into the top-third of the list. Also, he missed a chance to add to his Finals legacy in 1972 as he missed the series with an injury (his Knicks lost in five to the Lakers).

 

24) Walt Frazier


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1970, 1972, 1973

  • Finals Stats:

    • 18.9 PPG, 8.2 APG, 7.5 RPG, 54% FG, 72% FT, 44.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1970 Game 7:

      • 36 PTS, 19 AST, 7 REB, 12-17 FG

      • Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals will always be remembered for Willis Reed’s dramatic entrance and inspiring first four points. However, this is completely dismissive of Walt Frazier’s extraordinary 36-19-7 performance to close out a star-studded Lakers squad. While the Reed moment is rightly celebrated, don’t forget that Frazier had one of the best performances in NBA history that same night.

Honestly, Walt Frazier’s 1970 Game 7 performance alone is enough to justify this spot on this list. I truly believe that it is the most underrated performance in NBA history. Yes, I understand why the Reed moment has overshadowed it, but I’ll repeat; Walt Frazier put up 36-19-7 and missed just five shots in a winner-take-all Game 7 against Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain (three players coming up on this list), with his star teammate Reed limited by injury. Frazier, who averaged 18-10-8 on 54% shooting for the series, arguably should’ve won Finals MVP over Reed. The same is true for 1973, when Frazier averaged 17-7-5, but Reed won another Finals MVP. In the one Finals that Frazier lost, he averaged 23-8-8 on 59% shooting. He ranks 5th all-time in both Assists per Game and Minutes per Game in the Finals.

 

23) Wilt Chamberlain

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1964, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972*, 1973

  • Finals Stats:

    • 18.6 PPG, 24.6 RPG, 3.8 APG, 56% FG, 38% FT, 47.3 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1967 Game 6:

      • 24 PTS, 23 REB, 4 AST, 8-13 FG

      • Chamberlain’s iconic career surprisingly lacks an iconic Finals moment (he did have 45-27 in a 1970 elimination game, but he then lost the series in Game 7). That makes the choice here simple as his 24-23 double-double helped clinch the title for the 76ers. In his eighth season, Chamberlain “finally” got his championship.

It feels like Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 30.1 Points per Game in his NBA career, should be at least above 20 Points per Game in his Finals career. Instead, he sits at a surprising 18.6. To be fair, Chamberlain averaged 33 or more points every year in the regular season from 1960 to 1966 and only made the Finals once in that span. Five of his six Finals appearances came after he turned 30-years-old and was not as dominant scoring wise. In the one Finals during his true “prime,” Chamberlain averaged 29 Points and 28 Rebounds, but his San Francisco Warriors fell in five games to the Celtics, led by his rival Bill Russell. Chamberlain secured his first ring in 1967, averaging 18-29-7 on 56% shooting as his 76ers defeated his former team, the Warriors. With the Lakers, Chamberlain played in four Finals. The team went 1-3, and Chamberlain averaged just 12 Points per Game in both the 1969 and 1973 losses. In 1970, Chamberlain was great, averaging 23-34-4 on 63% shooting, but the Lakers lost to the Knicks in seven. In the Lakers’ 1972 rematch with the Knicks, Chamberlain averaged 19-23-3 and won his only Finals MVP. On the plus-side, Chamberlain played in six series, is the all-time leader in Finals Minutes per Game and Rebounds per Game, and is 2nd in total Rebounds. The negatives are his 2-4 Finals record and major dip in scoring production from his sky-high regular season standards. 23rd feels about right for Chamberlain, but if you play his career over again, say 100 times, I would imagine probably 90 out of 100 would’ve gotten him even higher on this list.

 

22) Bob Cousy

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963

  • Finals Stats:

    • 17.0 PPG, 9.5 APG, 5.0 RPG, 34% FG, 77% FT, 39.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1957 Game 5:

      • 21 PTS, 19 AST, 8 REB, 8-21 FG

      • In a series tied at two games a piece, the veteran Cousy, playing alongside rookies Bill Russell and Tom Heinsohn, stepped up with a then Finals record 19 assists to go along with 21 points and 8 rebounds, as the Celtics took a 3-2 lead over the St. Louis Hawks.

In 2022, Bob Cousy has become a bit of a punchline. Of course, it’s just unserious to make the argument that Cousy would be an elite player in today’s NBA. He played most of his career in the 1950s, shot 38% from the field in his career, and just didn’t have the body type or game that would translate into today’s NBA like some other older legends (such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, etc). However, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the “Houdini of the Hardwood.” The league’s first great Point Guard was fantastic on the NBA Finals stage. Surrounded by plenty of great talent, the floor general helped lead the Celtics to six titles in a seven year span. In the Finals, his 9.5 Assists per Game are the 2nd most all-time. He is also 5th in total Assists, 10th in Minutes, 15th in Games, and 17th in Points. Also, his 13 Finals games with 10 or more Assists has only been surpassed by Magic Johnson and LeBron James. The pendulum of public opinion has swung too far anti-Cousy in recent years, so let’s celebrate him at number 22 here.

 

21) Dwyane Wade


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2006*, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

  • Finals Stats:

    • 23.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 48% FG, 31% 3PT, 75% FT, 38.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2006 Game 6:

      • 36 PTS, 10 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL, 3 BLK, 16-21 FT

      • In just his third NBA season, Wade (with a little bit of help from the refs) led the Heat from 2-0 down to win their first title in franchise history. Wade capped the four-game run with a stat-sheet-stuffing 36-10-5-4-3 to close out the Mavericks on the road in Game 6.

Dwyane Wade’s Finals career was pretty tough for me to evaluate. I’ll come out right off the bat and admit that 21 might not be high enough. After all, Wade averaged 35 (!) Points per Game as a 24-year-old as he dug the Heat out of a 0-2 hole to win their first NBA title in 2006. In the four victories, he averaged 39-8-4 (also, notoriously, shooting 18.3 Free Throws per Game). That fact alone should probably have him higher on this list. He returned to the Finals in 2011, once again against the Mavericks, but this time with LeBron James and Chris Bosh on his team, and he was Miami’s best player after 27-7-5 on 55% shooting. However, he struggled with just 17 Points (6-16 shooting) as the Heat were closed out at home in Game 6. In 2012 and 2013, the Heat went back-to-back, and Wade was great again in the Finals (23-6-5 in 2012, and 20-4-5 in 2013). However, fair or not, I just remember those Finals being so much more about LeBron James that Wade felt like an afterthought. To his credit, he did have a massive 32-6-4 (with 6 Steals, tied for the second most in a Finals game) on 14-25 shooting Game 4 against the Spurs in 2013 with the Heat trailing the series 2-1. Aside from that game, I struggle to recall many other moments where Wade was more than just a glorified sidekick. Then, in Miami’s 2014 loss to San Antonio, Wade was clearly injured. Overall, Wade definitely has a strong case for top-20 (or beyond), but I’m comfortable enough with him here considering everybody ranked ahead of him has either multiple Finals MVPs, or more than two truly phenomenal series.

 

20) Kevin Durant


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2012, 2017*, 2018*, 2019

  • Finals Stats:

    • 30.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 4.5 APG, 55% FG, 45% 3PT, 91% FT, 39.3 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2017 Game 5:

      • 39 PTS, 6 REB, 5 AST, 14-20 FG

      • It feels wrong to not pick either of Durant’s game-winners on the road in Cleveland in 2017 or 2018, but 2017 Game 5 was essentially a perfect game. Durant won his long-awaited first NBA title with 39-6-5 in the closeout game. What I most remember from the game was that every time the Cavaliers would make a run, Durant was there to answer with a difficult shot that he made look easy.

Just take another look above at the stats that Kevin Durant has put up in his Finals career. In 15 games, he’s averaged 30 Points on 55-45-91 splits. Honestly, I can’t think of a single bad Finals moment for Durant. In 2012, at the age of 23, Durant and the young Oklahoma City Thunder were defeated in five games by the “Big 3” Miami Heat, no shame in that. In that losing effort, Durant still averaged 31 Points per Game on 55-39-84 splits. Then, as everybody knows, after a handful of seasons not returning to the Finals, Durant made the move to the Warriors. Just ignore all of the debate over whether or not his move was “right” (it was), because this article is strictly ranking Finals performance. In 2017, Durant won his first title playing one of the best Finals series in recent memory. He averaged 35-8-5 on 56-47-93 splits and added 1.6 Blocks and 1.0 Steal per Game. He followed that up in 2018 winning a second-straight title and Finals MVP with 29-11-8 on 53-41-96 splits. He played basically nine perfect games in those two Finals (the Warriors went 8-1), and you have to keep in mind the fact that he was going up against LeBron James (yes, Durant obviously had the better team, but he still won the head-to-head matchup both times). Durant was even amazing in his 2019 Finals cameo. After missing a few weeks with a calf strain suffered earlier in the playoffs, Durant returned for Game 5 with the Warriors trailing the series three-games-to-one. He looked like his typical Finals self, scoring 11 Points in 12 Minutes before tragically tearing his Achilles. If the Achilles tear doesn’t happen, the Warriors probably ride Durant’s return to a 3-1 comeback and win a third-straight title. In the NBA Finals (among players with at least 10 games played), only Rick Barry, Michael Jordan and Jerry West averaged more Points per Game than Durant.

 

19) Hakeem Olajuwon


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1986, 1994*, 1995*

  • Finals Stats:

    • 27.5 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 48% FG, 74% FT, 42.5 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1994 Game 6:

      • 30 PTS, 10 REB, 4 BLK, 11-21 FG

      • Trailing 3-2 in the series, Olajuwon pulled out his best performance when the Rockets needed it most. Game 6 is most known for Olajuwon’s block of John Starks’ potential series-winning shot, but he also added a 30-Point double-double and held Patrick Ewing to 6-20 shooting on the other side of the floor.

In a vacuum, Hakeem Olajuwon’s three Finals appearances are up there with anybody's best three Finals appearances. In just his second NBA season, Olajuwon averaged 25 Points, 12 Rebounds, 3.2 Blocks and 2.3 Steals per Game in the 1986 Finals. His Rockets lost to the Celtics, who were one of the greatest teams in NBA history, but Olajuwon teased the success that he would later have on the big stage. He didn’t return to the Finals until 1994, but that was when he averaged 27-9-4 with 3.9 Blocks and 1.6 Steals per Game in the Rockets’ seven-game series victory over the Knicks. Olajuwon was sensational in the Game 6 I mentioned above, and in the Game 7 he put up 25-10-7 with 3 Blocks, leading the Rockets to their first championship. After outplaying Patrick Ewing in 1994, Olajuwon spent the 1995 Finals going head-to-head with a young Shaquille O’Neal. Olajuwon dominated the series, averaging 33-12-6-2-2 as the Rockets defended their title with a sweep of the Magic. Once again, he was sensational when it came to closing out the series, going for 35-15-6 in the Game 4 victory. Despite playing in just three series (and not even cracking the top 100 in terms of games played), Olajuwon is tied for the 4th most Blocks in Finals history (keep in mind, however, blocks were not counted until 1974). He also ranks 1st, naturally, in Blocks per Game, 7th in Steals per Game, 9th in Points per Game, and 3rd in Steals. Justifying Olajuwon’s high place on this list is simple, sometimes quality is greater than quantity.

 

18) James Worthy


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988*, 1989, 1991

  • Finals Stats:

    • 22.2 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 3.3 APG, 53% FG, 68% FT, 39.6 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1988 Game 7:

      • 36 PTS, 16 REB, 10 AST, 15-22 FG

      • “Big Game James” quite literally made his name as he secured the second Game 7 triple-double in NBA Finals history. Worthy led the way as the Lakers, who trailed 3-2 in the series, won their second straight title and fifth of the 1980s.

There are few nicknames in sports more fitting that James Worthy’s “Big Game James.” In the regular season, Worthy was a really good player. In the playoffs, he was a great player. In the Finals, he became an elite player. In his six Finals appearances, Worthy put up big game after big game. Of course, the aforementioned 1988 Game 7 is his most famous, but that is just a sample of his Finals success. In the 1985 Finals, with the series tied at 2-2, Worthy put up 33 points on 13 of 17 shooting to give the Lakers a 3-2 lead over the Celtics. In 1987, Worthy opened the series with 33-10-9 as the Lakers won Game 1 over Boston. The following Finals, in the Game 6 prior to his iconic Game 7, Worthy scored 28 Points to save the Lakers from elimination for the first time. He was the perfect complement to the Lakers’ 1980s dynasty led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. At times he was an elite third option, at times he shouldered the brunt of the offensive workload. In the Finals, Worthy ranks 13th in Points, 17th in Minutes, 20th in Steals, and 25th in Games.

 

17) Tom Heinsohn

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965

  • Finals Stats:

    • 19.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 40% FG, 74% FT, 30.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1957 Game 7:

      • 37 PTS, 23 REB, 17-33 FG

      • The Celtics’ dynasty began, in large part, because of Heinsohn’s incredible Game 7 performance. Boston won their first title thanks to Heinsohn, in his rookie season, scoring a team-high 37 Points to go along with 23 Rebounds.

Entering the league in 1957 (in the same Celtics’ rookie class as Bill Russell), all Tom Heinsohn did was win in his nine-year career. Heinsohn won eight titles and made the finals every season. He started building his Finals resume in his rookie year, averaging 24 Points and 13 Rebounds as the Celtics beat the St. Louis Hawks in seven games (see his Game 7 masterpiece above). He continued stacking up double-doubles, clutch performances, and titles throughout his Finals career. In his nine finals appearances, Heinsohn averaged 20 or more Points five times and 9 or more Rebounds seven times. All-time in the Finals, Heinsohn ranks 6th in Games and Rebounds, 8th in Points, and 11th in Minutes.

 

16) Elgin Baylor


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1959, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970

  • Finals Stats:

    • 26.4 PPG, 13.5 RPG, 43% FG, 76% FT, 42.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1962 Game 5:

      • 61 PTS, 22 REB, 22-46 FG, 17-19 FT

      • Naturally, Baylor’s Finals career is mostly remembered by the fact that he was on the losing end of all seven series he played in. However, he carved out a great spot in Finals history by scoring 61 Points (a series record that has stood for 60 years) and gave the Lakers a 3-2 series lead in 1962. Unfortunately, the Lakers fell to the Celtics in seven games, but the 61-point game remains historic.

Elgin Baylor lost all seven NBA Finals series that he played in. That is obviously a record, and I doubt anybody will ever come close to matching it. Despite that dubious honor, it wasn’t like Baylor was the reason for all of the losses (however, he did shoot 13-40, 6-22 and 8-22 in three of the four Game 7s that he played in). Six of the losses came to Bill Russell’s Celtics, and the seventh came when Baylor was 35-years-old. Even without a title, Baylor is all over the Finals leaderboards. He is 3rd in Rebounds, 5th in Points, 7th in Rebounds per Game, 8th in Minutes, 11th in Games and 11th in Points per Game. In the Lakers’ seven-game 1962 loss to the Celtics, Baylor still played one of the best series in Finals history. He averaged 41-18-4 (the series featured his above-mentioned record-setting 61-point game) and even went for 41-22-4 (on 13-40 shooting) in the Game 7 loss. The sad thing for Baylor is that he retired nine games into the 1972 season, the year the Lakers finally won it all. Instead, Baylor gets to be the only player on this list without a ring.

 

15) Stephen Curry


  • Finals Appearances:

    • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

  • Finals Stats:

    • 26.5 PPG, 6.2 APG, 5.7 RPG, 42% FG, 39% 3PT, 93% FT, 39.4 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 2015 Game 5:

      • 37 PTS, 7 REB, 4 AST, 13-23 FG, 7-13 3PT

      • Curry has already had plenty of big moments in his Finals career (with more to come this year), but the standout for me was his Game 5, with the series tied 2-2, in 2015. Curry, playing in his first NBA Finals, went toe-to-toe with LeBron James (albeit with a depleted Cavaliers team) made clutch-three after clutch-three, scoring 22 second half points and giving the Warriors control of the series.

As we’re about to hear about for the next two weeks, Stephen Curry’s Finals resume is missing one thing. He’s won three titles (in five appearances), averages 27-6-6 on 42-39-93 splits, and holds numerous records, but he hasn’t won a Finals MVP. In his 2015 Finals debut, Curry put up 26-6-5 on 44-39-89 splits as the Warriors beat a short-handed Cavaliers team in six games. Curry shot 5 of 23 in Game 2, and that one game somehow cost him the Finals MVP. Instead, the voters picked Andre Iguodala, whose insertion into the starting lineup swung the series and defense (somewhat) slowed down LeBron James. In hindsight, Curry should have been the obvious choice there. In 2016, Curry was on the wrong end of one of the worst moments in Finals history. Playing through an injury he sustained earlier in the playoffs, Curry came up small as the 73-9 Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead against the Cavaliers. In Game 7, Curry scored just 17 Points (6-19 from the field, 4-14 from three), turned the ball over four times, and had the game-winning three from Kyrie Irving sunk in his face. While he was obviously banged up, the injury excuse can’t explain away his Game 7 performance considering the fact that Steph had just put up 38-6-5 on 7-13 from three in Game 4 of the series. Also, even if the Warriors had won in Game 7, Curry would have lost Finals MVP to Draymond Green. In 2017 and 2018, the Warriors went back-to-back, but it was new addition Kevin Durant who won both Finals MVP. Curry was great (27-9-8 on 44-39-90 in 2017, and 28-7-6 on 40-42-100), but Durant was just better. In 2019, with Durant limited to just 12 minutes in the series, Curry had his best scoring Finals with 31 Points per Game (including a 47-Point performance in the Warriors’ Game 3 loss), but he once again came up small in the biggest moment. He was without Durant, and Klay Thompson after his injury in the third quarter, but Curry scored just 21 Points (6-17 from the field, 3-11 from three) as the Raptors closed out the Warriors on the road. Overall, Curry’s Finals resume is pretty great. He has the most Three-Pointers all-time (he also has the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th most threes in a single series), is 14th in Points (10th in Points per Game), 15th in Assists, and 16th in Steals, despite being “just” 43rd in Games. The lows for Curry were bad, but his Finals struggles have been completely overblown. He lands nicely at 15th on this list, with plenty of room to move up with a strong (Finals MVP-winning) performance this year.

 

14) George Mikan

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954

  • Finals Stats:

    • 23.9 PPG, 80% FT

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1950 Game 6:

      • 40 PTS, 13-20 FG, 14-17 FT

      • In the second-earliest entry on this list, Mikan scored 40 Points on an efficient 20 shots to help the Minneapolis Lakers close out the Syracuse Nationals. The title made the Lakers the first back-to-back champions in league history.

George Mikan was the NBA’s first superstar. In the first eight seasons in the league’s history, Mikan led the Lakers to five championships. This run included the first ever back-to-back titles, and first ever three-peat. Unfortunately for Mikan, playing in the 1950s really hurts him on this list. Realistically, the best player on five championship teams should be in the top ten. What hurts him is the fact that the stats from those series are so incomplete. We know he averaged 22 Points and 17 Rebounds per Game in 1952, but in the other four series we don’t have an exact rebound number. His 23.9 Points per Game, the only stat we have record of for all five series, is good enough for 18th best in Finals history (he ranks 14th in total Points). If we had confirmation that Mikan averaged 15+ rebounds in the Finals, he’d probably be even higher on this list. Regardless, he’ll have to settle for number 14, which should be fair enough considering the fact that the pre-Celtics Dynasty era of NBA history is largely ignored.

 

13) Scottie Pippen

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998

  • Finals Stats:

    • 19.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, 43% FG, 75% FT, 42.0 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1991 Game 5:

      • 32 PTS, 13 REB, 7 AST, 5 STL

      • Pippen’s best Finals game came in the first of six Bulls title runs. On the road in Los Angeles, Pippen partnered with Michael Jordan (he actually outscored him 32 to 30) to close out the Lakers with a vintage two-way effort and jumpstart one of the NBA’s greatest dynasties.

Of course it was done as Michael Jordan’s sidekick, but Scottie Pippen’s six rings and Finals performances cannot be overlooked. He was a two-way superstar throughout the entirety of the Bulls’ 1990s dynasty. In his six Finals, Pippen was tasked with guarding (or at least sharing duties with Jordan) players such as Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Clyde Drexler, and Dan Majerle. He was also a threat offensively, averaging over 20 Points per Game in four of his six Finals appearances. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but we can’t let time (or pro-Jordan propaganda, or crazy statements from Pippen himself) erase the impact that he had in the NBA Finals and minimize how he is viewed historically. He ranks 3rd all-time in Finals Steals, 8th in Assists, 11th in Blocks, 15th in Rebounds, and 22nd in Points.

 

12) Larry Bird

  • Finals Appearances:

    • 1981, 1984*, 1985, 1986*, 1987

  • Finals Stats:

    • 23.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 6.0 APG, 46% FG, 42% FT, 87% FT, 42.8 MPG

  • Signature Game/Moment:

    • 1984 Game 5:

      • 34 PTS, 17 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 15-20 FG

      • Bird’s Finals career doesn’t necessarily have a true signature game, which is surprising (or an age-induced oversight by 22-year-old me), so I’ll go with his 34-17 on 15 of 20 shooting to take a 3-2 series lead over the Lakers.

Larry Bird played in “only” five Finals, but he definitely made the most of them. In his sophomore season in the NBA, Bird averaged 15-15-7 as the Celtics defeated the Rockets in the 1981 Finals. He returned to