MIAMI — Tony Parker’s shot to clinch Game 1 wasn’t pretty, but it quickly took its place among some of the great NBA Finals finishes.
From Michael Jordan’s last basket with Chicago to Magic Johnson’s baby hook in Boston, some of the game’s biggest stars have saved their best for last.
Parker’s banked-in bucket and Jordan’s finals farewell both came with the same time on the clock — 5.2 seconds. Here’s a look at some of the memorable moments in the NBA’s championship round.
HOLD THE POSE, MICHAEL: Jordan scripted the perfect ending to his Bulls’ career with a jumper, holding the pose as the ball fell through the net to give Chicago an 87-86 lead over the Utah Jazz with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 1998 finals. Did Jordan get away with pushing off on Bryon Russell, as the beaten defender would always maintain? Maybe. But when you’re a six-time NBA Finals MVP, you might get away with a bit more. “What a finish!” coach Phil Jackson screamed as he hugged Jordan after the buzzer. Sure was.
Down 1-0 and losing big late in Game 2 of the 2011 finals against Miami, the Dallas Mavericks made a big fourth-quarter rally behind Dirk Nowitzki, who was playing with a torn tendon on the middle finger of his left hand. Nowitzki ignored the pain to score the Mavs’ final nine points, making his last two baskets with that injured hand, including the go-ahead lefty layup with 3.6 seconds left in a 95-93 victory. Dallas would win the series in six games, with Nowitzki the finals MVP.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the sky hook, but it was teammate Magic Johnson’s baby hook with 2 seconds left that gave the Lakers a 3-1 lead in the 1987 finals over the rival Boston Celtics. With the Lakers trailing by one, Johnson drove to his right into the paint, lofting a hook shot over Kevin McHale as Robert Parish and Larry Bird tried to help contest for a 107-106 lead. The Lakers couldn’t relax until Bird missed at the buzzer, and they would eventually close out their longtime rivals at home in Game 6.
With the Spurs clinging to a two-point lead late in Game 1 against the Heat on Thursday, Parker needed every trick in his bag to pull off his remarkable shot-clock beater. He zipped past Chris Bosh and eluded a swipe from Dwyane Wade before running into LeBron James near the baseline. After losing the handle, Parker regained control of the ball, only to slip as he tried to turn the corner on James. He fell to his knee, but didn’t panic even as the shot clock ticked toward zero. Parker stood back up, leaned under James and released the shot a split-second before the buzzer sounded. James even got a hand on it, but the ball banked high off the glass, hit the rim twice and fell through. “Tony did everything wrong and did everything right in the same possession,” James said.
OK, there was more than a minute left, but Don Nelson’s shot was about as crazy as Parker’s. With the Celtics protecting a one-point lead over the Lakers in Game 7 of the 1969 finals, the ball was batted away from John Havlicek and went right to Nelson at the foul line. He quickly fired a jumper that hit the back of the rim, bounced straight up in the air, and eventually fell to put the Celtics up 105-102 with 1:15 to go. Boston hung on for a 108-106 victory, its last of 11 titles in 13 years with Bill Russell.