This past Saturday I took time out of my day to watch the New York Knicks play the Cleveland Cavaliers, not only because I wanted to see Zydrunas Ilgauskas get his number raised to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena, but because I am a masochist. I am a glutton for pain, and had nothing better to do than watch the Cavs play the Knicks last Saturday.
At halftime I got a little nostalgic thinking about all the great games I saw while Big Z and LeBron James were together, and started thinking about the greatest basketball game I’ve ever seen. A few came to mind, but I pretty much settled on this one.
It had everything you want in a really good movie. It had an underdog, an evil villain, and Shaq.
So it got me to thinking, why don’t I round up some of my fellow BMF compadres and ask them, what’s the greatest NBA game you have ever watched?
I had to think on that for a minute. I’ve been blessed enough to witness a lot of NBA hoops and I’ve seen some epic games. But when I think about the greatest game that I ever watched, I begin thinking about the greatest player I’ve ever seen, playing on the biggest stage.
Contrary to any ludicrous counter-theories, Michael Jordan was, and still is the absolute greatest player we’ve witnessed in professional basketball. So in the 1997-98 NBA Finals, when Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced the Utah Jazz for the second consecutive year, I knew something special was brewing. Not only was Jordan looking to cement a second “threepeat” for the Bulls, but the whispers were in the air of his second (and assumed final?) retirement. The Utah Jazz had their own dynamic duo in Karl Malone and John Stockton, and the previous season Malone stole the MVP award from MJ. The Jazz were bitter from losing the season before and Malone and Stockton were ripping through the ’98 playoffs. With Chicago leading the series 3-2, the stage was set for possibly the most memorable game-winning basket in NBA history. Don’t miss the pose.
My easy answer for the greatest game I’ve ever seen could be any of a number of Jordan games if only for the fact that I am nothing if not a Jordan fanboy. But if I’m being honest, a real “greatest game” should meet the following criteria:
1. A real back-and-forth between the teams that leaves the outcome in doubt.
2. Great performances by multiple players on either team.
3. A relatively unbiased opinion.
I don’t think anyone ever really expected Chicago to lose an important game as long as Michael Jordan was on the floor, and aside from a handful of games, MJ’s brilliance was never met by the opposition when it mattered. That essentially eliminates my favorite Bulls games from being my choice here, no matter how much I enjoyed watching them.
Instead, my pick for greatest game I’ve ever seen is Game 2 of the 2011 NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat.
This game is famous for Dallas’ incredible fourth quarter comeback, but this game also had all the makings of a great movie, with the LeBron-led Heat as the villains, the aging Mavericks that were supposed to have lost in the first round as the unlikely underdogs, and a classic finish. It also gets bonus points for being one of the only games I couldn’t believe was actually happening.
The greatest game I have ever witnessed may just be part of the greatest NBA playoff series I’ve ever seen as well.
The 2009 playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics was freaking epic. Three of the first five games went into overtime, including a Game 4 that went two extra periods. Another came down to the wire in regulation, but Game 6 easily trumped them all!
Ray Allen torched the Bulls for a career playoff-high 51 points! John Salmons (yes, that John Salmons) led the Bulls in scoring with 35, while playing a game-high 60 minutes. Brad Miller came off the bench and dropped 23 points and 10 rebounds, while knocking down clutch threes. Derrick Rose was everywhere on the court doing Derrick Rose things, including a block on a potential game-winning shot by Rajon Rondo. Even everyone’s favorite towel waiver Brian Scalabrine played 20 minutes of meaningful basketball! And the jawing, oh the jawing. These teams did not like each other at all.
Oh, and did I mention it went to triple overtime?!
If it sounds like I’m being hyperbolic, I am! This game still excites me to point where I feel the need to end every sentence with and exclamation point!
It had everything you want in the perfect game. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, if not standing or jumping off the couch. It ran me through the gambit of emotions and ultimately when it was done I was happy with the outcome, but also a little bummed it was over.
The only real negative takeaway from game was Kevin Garnett was out with an injury. Eh, if the Bulls had to play Tyrus Thomas 38 minutes, I say it’s a wash.
Featured image courtesy of Josh Hallett/Flickr.