5 Celtics vs. Hawks, 1988 Eastern Semis
Larry Bird is revered for his epic battles with Magic and the Lakers, but what he had to get through in the earlier rounds is too often forgotten. Case in point, the 1988 Eastern Semis against Atlanta. The series went 7 games and saw the Celtics overcome an absolutely dominant 47 point performance by Dominique Wilkins, thanks in no small part to Larry Legend’s 34 points, an unbelievable 20 of which came in the final quarter. The Celts would win the game 118-116, but lose in the Eastern Finals to the Pistons.
4 Lakers vs. Trail Blazers, 2000 Western Finals
En route to their first championship together, Shaq and Kobe were nearly derailed by the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. Down by fifteen points in the fourth quarter, this game appeared to be all but over until the purple and gold went on a 15-0 run to knot things up. Most fans though, will remember it for the massive alley-oop dunk from Kobe to the Diesel
that capped the win and effectively started another Lakers dynasty.
3 Rockets vs. Suns, 1995 Western Semis
In defense of the title they had won the year before, Houston faced an uphill battle as the Western Conference six seed, needing to beat four teams with better records than them if they hoped to repeat as champs. And while they eventually would, their toughest test came in the semis against Phoenix, a series that went 7 games and ended with 115-114 win on a last-second Mario Elie three-pointer.
2 Mavericks vs. Spurs, 2006 Western Semis
It’s a game that the Spurs’ current big three may not remember too fondly, but it was definitely one for the ages. In a series in which 5 of the previous 6 games had been decided by 5 points or less, game 7 promised to be a burner, and boy was it. With Dirk Nowitzki netting 37 points and Tim Duncan 41, the superstars lived up to their billing in a game 7 that featured two 60-win teams, a 20-point Spurs comeback, and an eventual 119-111 Mavs win in overtime.
1 Celtics vs. Hawks, 1957 Finals
This game took place back before most of us can even remember. When men were men and shorts were underwear. But on their way to what would be the first of just a ridiculous run of NBA championships, Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics had to win the greatest game 7 in league history. In what is still the only game 7 in NBA Finals history to go into double overtime, Bob Pettit and the then St. Louis Hawks gave the Celtics all they could handle, but eventually lost 125-123.