In Game 3 of the NBA Finals, Nikola Jokic scored 32 points, grabbed 21 rebounds, and dished out ten assists for the first 30-20-10 game in NBA history. Jokic now also has more 30-20-10 games (3) than everyone else in NBA history (2) combined. We decided to compile the list of the ten greatest single-game performances in NBA history, and while it might still be too early to know definitively where his Game 3 ranks historically, we would lean to his performance falling just outside the top ten, along with Allen Iverson’s 48 point Game 1 in the 2001 Finals.
Here are our top Ten greatest Finals performances:
Honorable Mention: Dwayne Wade – Game 6, 2006 vs. Mavs
36 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks to wrap up the series in Dallas. This remarkable showing marked the pinnacle of his historic finals run, as he achieved his best all-around game in the series. Wade’s shooting prowess was on full display, with an impressive 67% field goal percentage. Moreover, he expertly controlled the pace of the game and effortlessly drew fouls, resulting in numerous trips to the free-throw line. Ultimately, this exceptional performance led to Pat Riley and the Miami Heat securing their first-ever franchise championship.
10. Jimmy Butler – Game 3, 2020 vs. Lakers
40 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks. This feat marked the only 40-point triple-double in finals history, all while shooting an impressive 70% from the field. Facing a 2-0 deficit against the Lakers, the Heat relied on their top player to carry the team, and Butler rose to the occasion. In an intense battle against LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Butler’s maximum effort 45 minutes resulted in a crucial victory and reignited Miami’s hopes of a series comeback. Although the ultimate championship eluded them, Butler’s 40-point triple-double will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest stat lines in finals history.
9. Michael Jordan, Game 5, 1997 vs. Jazz
“The Flu Game” is a legendary moment in basketball history. With 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists, Michael Jordan’s performance during this game was remarkable. While game 6 of the series, where Jordan scored 45 points and hit the iconic game-winner, is also noteworthy, the flu game holds its own significance. Despite battling illness or whatever condition he was facing, Jordan’s ability to deliver such impressive numbers and regain the series advantage is truly exceptional. His determination and resilience in playing when no one thought he would be able to is both iconic and inspiring. Jordan pushed his body to its limits, earning high praise from Coach Phil Jackson, who described it as the greatest game he had ever witnessed from Jordan. In the fourth quarter alone, MJ scored an impressive 15 points, leading the Chicago Bulls to a narrow two-point victory and ultimately setting the stage for their series-clinching win in game six against the Utah Jazz.
61 points, 22 rebounds. Baylor’s performance in the finals goes down in history as the highest-scoring game ever. Adding to his achievement, his 22 rebounds were the icing on the cake. Baylor’s exceptional efforts led the Lakers to a victory in game five. However, despite his brilliance, they ultimately succumbed to the Celtics in games six and seven, largely due to the greatness of Bill Russell. Nevertheless, scoring 61 points in any game is remarkable, but doing so in the finals while facing off against an all-time great like Russell is nothing short of extraordinary. That is precisely why Baylor deserves his spot on this list.
7. Tim Ducan, Game 6, 2003 vs. Nets
21 Points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, 8 blocks – a performance just two blocks shy of a quadruple-double in a clinching game of the finals is mindblowing. This stands as one of the most dominant displays in basketball history. The “big fundamental” made Dikembe Mutombo look like a high school player in comparison. While this series may have been forgotten by many, this unforgettable performance deserves recognition. The sheer dominance exhibited by Duncan, coming so close to a quadruple-double, remains unparalleled. Until someone replicates it, Duncan deserves all the recognition for this extraordinary, all-time great performance.
6. Walt Frazier – Game 7, 1970 vs. Lakers
36 points, 19 assists, 7 rebounds, (reportedly 5 steals). This game is most notably known as the “Willis Reed game”, but Clyde’s outstanding performance was pivotal to the Knicks’ victory and their subsequent championship. The New York Knicks have only clinched two championships in their history, which makes each one all the more significant and cherished by Knicks fans. Clyde’s statistics in that finals game remain among the best ever recorded. Furthermore, his dominance was even more pronounced as he overcame legends in Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain. He had a direct hand in 67% of the team’s baskets, showcasing his remarkable control and impact on both ends of the court. Even today, Knicks fans and the basketball world as a whole continue to revere Frazier for his exceptional performance in that game and the lasting influence it had on the Knicks franchise.
39 Points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists. There is a very compelling argument that this performance could rank as high as number two on this list, considering the sheer greatness displayed by LeBron. The only reason it falls short is that the game itself turned out to be relatively insignificant in the series, particularly when compared to the games that precede it on the list. However, there is no denying that this is a LeBron career legacy game. At the time, Cleveland’s second-best player was Timothy Mosgov, as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were sidelined with injuries. With his typical resilience and dominance, LeBron once again took charge of the game, narrowly missing a 40-point triple-double. He delivered an exceptional performance, leading the injury-riddled Cavs to a two-point victory in Golden State, knotting the series at one game apiece.
4. James Worthy – Game 7, 1988 vs. Pistons
36 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists. In a series featuring basketball legends such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Isiah Thomas, it was James Worthy who truly stood out. Worthy delivered a monumental performance in the crucial Game Seven, leading the Lakers to a thrilling two-point victory and securing his first career triple-double, as well as the team’s second consecutive championship. This remarkable feat cemented Worthy’s legacy, and he remains immortalized in the hearts of Lakers fans. It was on this unforgettable night that he earned the nickname “Big Game James,” a testament to his greatness throughout the entire series. Worthy’s exceptional display of skill and leadership resulted in him being crowned the Finals MVP. Undoubtedly, this performance ranks among the most gritty and well-rounded in the history of important games.
27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks, “the block”. In one of the most memorable series of all time, LeBron delivered an extraordinary and clutch performance that matched the intensity and magnitude of the series. He was spectacular in the wins of games five and six, but it was in game seven where he truly shined the brightest, proving himself to be the best player on the court and in the world at that moment. It was a dominant display by LeBron, solidifying his legacy alongside Jordan and creating one of the most iconic and significant plays in basketball history. This championship meant everything to Cleveland, and both LeBron and Cavs fans cherished the fact that he was the one to bring it home. In addition to restoring Cleveland’s position at the top of the NBA, he played a pivotal role in defeating the best regular season team in history—a team with arguably the most talented roster ever assembled. This victory stands as one of LeBron’s greatest accomplishments, ranking among his finest career performances and the pinnacle of his illustrious postseason journey. It also stands as one of the most remarkable displays in NBA Finals history, regardless of who has ever played the game.
50 points, 14 rebounds, 5 blocks. It stands as maybe the most dominant performance in NBA Finals history, and its significance was even greater for a city and franchise in desperate need of a triumph. Irrespective of any external factors, putting up 50 points on one end and 5 blocks on the other in a closeout game is simply astonishing. Giannis showcased a level of dominance on both ends of the court, only paralleled by one. This game completely transformed the way people perceived Giannis. The notion that he couldn’t win, lead a team, or even make free throws was unequivocally debunked and silenced after this remarkable game and series. Antetokounmpo solidified his position as one of the greatest players not only in the world but of his generation.
1. Magic Johnson – Game 6, 1980 vs. 76ers
42 points, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals. What sets this game above the rest? A 20-year-old rookie, Magic Johnson was thrust into the center position due to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s injury and shined brightly, delivering one of the most impressive performances in NBA history. Magic compensated for the absence of his Hall of Fame teammate by dominating at both ends of the court. He scored at will, dictated the pace of the game, out-hustled and out-rebounded everyone, all while seamlessly reverting back to his point-guard skills by dishing out seven assists. Not only did he efficiently shoot from the field and the free-throw line, but he also displayed the composure and experience of a seasoned veteran in one of the most hostile environments imaginable. This extraordinary performance by Magic earned him the distinction of being the only rookie to win the Finals MVP award, largely thanks to his mind-blowing display in game six. It not only set the tone for Magic’s illustrious career but also stands as one of the greatest and most memorable performances in NBA history.
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