Basketball fans around the United States and beyond were shocked, but not surprised when the National Basketball League suspended the 2019-2020 season in early March 2020. To make up for the lack of live basketball games, the league is temporarily offering a free version of NBA League Pass, which includes every game from the current season as well a vast library of classic games, including some of the most intense games from the NBA playoffs.
But with nearly 60 years of games to choose from, the task of finding your favorite NBA Playoffs memory can be a little daunting, to say the least. Fear not, as I have gone through the list of classic games and hand-picked 10 of the most iconic games from the NBA Playoffs. With greats like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, and the late Kobe Bryant, there are plenty of moments to get you through the league's hiatus.
Here are the best NBA Playoffs games you can watch for free until April 22, 2020.
June 9, 1984: Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Boston Celtics
There wasn't an NBA Finals matchup in the 1980s that didn't include either the Boston Celtics or the Los Angeles Lakers. Ahead of the 1984 postseason, both teams had each won at least one championship (Lakers had won two by this point), so it was only a matter of time before the Celtics, led by Larry Bird, and the Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, went head-to-head with everything on the line. And boy, did they go at it.
The Celtics and Lakers proved that this historic matchup was well worth the wait. In the first five games of competition, the two teams traded victories leading to a crucial Game 6 elimination game in Los Angeles. In this win or go home battle, Lakers' stars Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 21 points and 30 points, respectively to edge Bird and the Celtics by a score of 119-108. The Celtics, however, would later go on to clinch their second championship of the decade two nights later in Boston.
May 1, 1988: Chicago Bulls Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Michael Jordan was well on his way to becoming the greatest basketball player to ever live by the time he led the Chicago Bulls to an Eastern Conference series against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1988 playoffs, but he would become a legend after dropping buckets left and right during this insane performance.
Jordan opened the first-round series by scoring 50 points against Cleveland when he led the Bulls to a 104-93 victory. Not wanting to settle for the half-century mark, Jordan would follow up the performance with 55 points in Game 2 of the series. Those five points were much-needed as the Bulls beat the Cavs by a score of 106-101. Though Chicago didn't make it out of the Eastern Conference that year, it was just the beginning for Jordan and the Bulls.
May 7, 1989: Chicago Bulls Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
One year and six days after dropping 55 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers, Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls found themselves back in familiar territory in the first-round series of the 1989 NBA Playoffs. After trading victories for the first four games of the series, it all came down to a Game 5 elimination game in Cleveland.
Down by one point with three seconds on the clock, Jordan was passed the ball and ran with it the foul line where he landed one of the greatest jump shots in NBA history. Now known simply as "The Shot," Jordan secured victory for himself and the Chicago Bulls. The GOAT was here.
June 12, 1991: Chicago Bulls Vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers and Magic Johnson ruled over the NBA in the 1980s like it was nobody's business, during which time they secured five NBA Championships. That would all change in the 1991 Finals when the Lakers would take on the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan, who was in near peak form.
The Lakers would get off to a hot start with a Game 1 victory in Chicago, but Los Angeles failed to win another game after narrowly beating the Bulls 93-91. The Bulls would route the Lakers in the next three games leading up to an epic Game 5 in Los Angeles. Led by Scottie Pippen's 32-point performance and John Paxson's 10 points in the second-half of the fourth quarter, the Bulls beat the Lakers 108-101, securing the first of Chicago's impressive run in the 1990s.
June 1, 1993: Phoenix Suns Vs. Seattle Supersonics
It's a shame that Charles Barkley never won an NBA Championship, but the Hall of Famer, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and 1993 NBA Most Valuable Player, had one of the best careers in the history of the sport. In addition to being named the best player in the league after his 1993 campaign, Barkley also took the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals after a thrilling seven-game series against the Seattle Supersonics.
During Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Barkley led the Suns with one of the greatest performances of his career with 43 points, 15 rebounds, and 10 assists for one of the most impressive triple-doubles in the playoffs. The Suns would lose the following game 118-102, but came through in the deciding Game 7 with a final score of 123-110.
June 1, 1997: Chicago Bulls Vs. Utah Jazz
After stepping away from the game of Basketball following the murder of his father, Michael Jordan picked up where he left off and took the Chicago Bulls to three consecutive NBA Finals victories between 1996 and 1998.
The 1997 NBA Finals saw the defending Chicago Bulls take on the Utah Jazz in a matchup that saw Michael Jordan take on Utah's Karl Malone in one of the most exciting championship series of the decade. Jordan didn't waste any time with the theatrics in this series as he score another buzzer-beater to secure a Game 1 victory, a shot and reaction that was reminiscent of "The Shot" just eight years earlier.
June 19, 2000: Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Indiana Pacers
It's crazy to think about all the stars who played/coached in the 2000 NBA Finals. You had Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Phil Jackson (coach) on the Los Angeles Lakers and Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, and Larry Bird (coach) on the Indiana Pacers. All six of those names are either in, or about to be in, the Basketball Hall Of Fame. Stacked!
This first championship of the new millennium brought all the fireworks and drama you'd expect from a series featuring some of the greatest names in the sport. The series would come down to Game 6 showdown at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where O'Neal led Kobe and the rest of the team to a deciding victory with 41 points in the 116-111 victory. And like the Lakers of the 80s, this young team was ready to prove that they weren't one-timers.
May 20, 2001: Philadelphia 76ers Vs. Toronto Raptors
By the time the 2000-2001 season rolled around, Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers was one of the hottest, and most controversial, players in the NBA. He was on the cover of magazines and video games, and made nightly appearances in highlight reels on every sports channel. Love or hate him, Iverson was on fire. Iverson and the 76ers would make it all the way to the finals that year, but the team was given a run for its money against Vince Carter and the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In a winner-take-all nail-biter of a Game 7, the 76ers led the Raptors by one point as time expired with a final score of 88-87. Toronto outscored Philadelphia in all but the first period, but it still wasn't enough to get past Iverson and dominating 76ers, who would go on to face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Conference Finals.
May 31, 2007: Cleveland Cavilers Vs. Detroit Pistons
Three years after Lebron James made his debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the future Hall of Famer took his team all the way to the NBA Finals where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four games. Prior to that however, James led the Cavs to 4-2 series victory against the Detroit Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, which included one of the greatest performances by James early on in his career.
With the series tied 2-2 going into the historic Game 5, Cleveland and Detroit traded the lead multiple times in what would eventually end up in a double-overtime victory by the Cavs thanks to the heroics of Lebron James, who scored a staggering 48 points to lead his team to a 109-107 victory. Cleveland would route the Pistons in the deciding Game 6 by a score of 98-82.
June 17, 2010: Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Boston Celtics
The legendary rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics took some time off during the 1990s, but the two teams picked up where they left off in the final years of the 2000s. The Celtics took down the Lakers in the 2008 NBA Finals, but Kobe Bryant and Los Angeles would get revenge two years later in a seven-game marathon of a series against the foes.
It all came down to the Game 7 winner-take-all game in Los Angeles on June 17, 2010, where Kobe, the eventual Finals MVP, scored 23 points to secure an 83-79 victory in the "Black Mamba's" final NBA Championship. I'm sure a lot of people are going back and watching this historic game following the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020.
Those are just 10 of the iconic NBA Playoffs games you should rewatch on NBA League Pass now that it's free for a short time. Despite all those classics, however, it blows my mind that Michael Jordan's "Flu Game" is not included in the library.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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