The 2021 NBA season has been full of twists and turns. We are now reaching the business end of the year, with all eyes firmly set on this summer’s Playoffs. After that of course, is the NBA Finals - one of the grandest sporting stages of all.
In years gone by this seven-game series has seen some incredible players take their performance to new heights and inspire their franchises to glory. In this article, we will look back at some of the players who have done this most memorably. We will also be opening on the current odds to win NBA Championship by highlighting which current players are best suited to clinch the MVP crown this season. Without further delay, let’s get going.
Michael Jordan transcends basketball. The icon became one of the most recognizable figures on the planet in the 1990s, appearing in blockbuster films and multi-million-dollar advertisement campaigns. Before all this though, he was the NBA’s first global superstar.
The key to cementing Jordan’s mystique was his incredible record in the NBA Finals. Between 1991-1993 and 1996-1998, the shooting guard won two sets of three consecutive Finals MVP awards. Widely considered the greatest player to ever play the game, his stats line is quite remarkable.
In all of the Finals games, he competed in during his legendary career Jordan averaged 33.6 points. At times, there was nothing the opposition could do to stop him from getting to the basket, as his 48% field goal percentage can attest to.
It was not just his scoring that was so impressive either. He also chipped in with six assists per game as well as just shy of two steals.
If Jordan is the best player in NBA history, LeBron James is a very close second. Like Mike, King James has a tremendous record in the NBA Finals, clinching a championship ring with three teams: the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and most recently the LA Lakers.
No player has featured in more Playoff games than James in their career but it took him until 2012 to finally end his wait for a title. During that Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, James had a fierce rivalry with Kevin Durant - an upstart small forward many were tipping to come for his crown.
The Heat may have been favorites but the pressure was still very much on their star player. Not for the last time, he would come up clutch for his team. He led the Heat in assists, rebounds, and points per game in the Finals, helping them clinch the title in just five games. This is where his Finals story began, but there have been plenty more excitement since.
Recognized by most basketball fans as the best point guard of all time, Magic Johnson always saved his best for the NBA Finals. Of his five championships, none were more memorable than the two he secured in 1985 and 1987 against the Boston Celtics.
In both of these series, he locked horns with his on-court nemesis Larry Bird, in a rivalry that elevated both men’s performances. In the 1985 series - which the Lakers won 4-2 - Johnson averaged an incredible 14 assists per game while also chipping in with over 18 points.
Two years later, Johnson would get the better of Bird again. This time he won the last of his three Finals MVP awards, leading his team for points, steals, assists, and rebounds. He also hit a game-winning hook shit in Game 4, which all but assured his team’s victory.
Between 2000 and 2002 Shaquille O’Neal made the NBA Finals his playground. Playing for the LA Lakers at the time, the powerful center won three consecutive MVP awards and put in some staggering one-off performances.
His most dominant Finals of all came in the 1999/2000 season. Here, he helped his team beat the Indiana Pacers in six games by averaging 38 points, alongside just shy of 17 rebounds and three blocks.
In the subsequent two Finals, O’Neal would be similarly inspirational. He averaged well over 30 points per game in both as the Lakers made light work of the 76ers and then the Nets. For this period alone, Shaq must be considered one of the all-time great NBA Finals performers.
Who could star in the 2021 NBA Finals?
This Year's Greatest Player
The question is, which current NBA star is ready to follow in these four legendary players’ footsteps in this year’s Finals? A good place to start looking for this year’s Finals MVP is the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets have at least three players capable of putting in world-class displays when the pressure is on in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden. They are also going well in the East and are likely to land one of the top seeds for the postseason. Provided he stays fit Durant may be the safest pick for this year’s MVP. The small forward won it in back-to-back years between 2017 and 2018.
Other strong candidates ply their trade in LA. LeBron James has shown little sign of slowing down this season and will be motivated to secure his fifth Finals MVP award. However, Anthony Davis should not be ruled out either. The versatile power forward and center is a scoring machine when he gets going and is also one of the best interior defenders in the league.
Sports Team History takes a look at the history and the logo history of each and every professional sports team to have ever existed from the MLB, MLS, NBA, NCAA, NFL, NHL, Premier League, WNBA, XFL, ABA, AAF, or USFL.
Our partner site is Sports Logo History which is a community of sports logo enthusiasts who enjoys the history of each team’s logo history. In addition, we have added Sports News History to our sports history websites. 24/7 non-stop sports news that's worth knowing.