We’re pretty lucky, aren’t we? For the third straight year, the teams that have given us intriguing subplots, pulled off ingenious roster moves and made us question — or at least discuss — “best ever” are meeting in the Finals. The Cavs and the Warriors bring everything to the table, and this one should be epic. Can it top last year’s seven-game masterpiece, though? Before we find that out, let’s relive one of the most compelling Finals ever through its 10 greatest plays.
LeBron dunks on Marreese Speights
Apologies in advance for the plethora of LeBron highlights. But when someone averages 30, 11 and 9 (as well as over two steals and two blocks) and wins Finals MVP, he has to show up on this list a lot.
LeBron had plenty of blow-by dunks this series, so this list wouldn’t be complete without one, and this one had special meaning. In case you forgot, Klay Thompson told LeBron this is a “man’s league” and “he got his feelings hurt” after Game 4. Ayesha Curry even talked trash. But Mo Speights was succinct: He tweeted out a baby bottle emoji. And then LeBron destroyed him. And won three games in a row, starting with Game 5. Man, this series was great.
Klay from deeeeeeeeeeeeep
In the aforementioned Game 5, Klay had 26 points in the first half, including these three from way downtown. LeBron was one point behind at 25 at the break. The game was tied at 61. What more could you want? Also, it’s a good thing the NBA hasn’t implemented the four-pointer yet, because the Warriors would be even better if it existed.
LeBron’s steal and slam
Did LeBron travel on this play? Maybe. Is LeBron’s head at the same height as the rim? Absolutely. This was vicious.
Draymond over the shoulder to Steph
Much like Green’s performance in this series as a whole, this play really flew under the radar. How does he see Steph, much less make this pass at this angle right on the money? Draymond, quite frankly, was brilliant in the six games he did play and not-quite-so-brilliant when he got suspended for one. This pass was on par with any Steve Nash highlight you’ll ever see.
Kyrie makes Steph dance
File this one under “unguardable.” Kyrie going downhill and then stopping on a dime while going between his legs and behind his back? Yes, it has Curry backpedaling into oblivion, but it’s a minor miracle that the reigning MVP didn’t fall over completely and burst into dust. This move is unfair.
LeBron’s block and staredown
This is when you knew. Looking back, you knew the title was LeBron’s when he tossed Steph’s layup aside like a volleyball. But the block isn’t enough to get this into the Top 10. The trash talk and staredown after is. Of course, Twitter had a field day.
Steph steps back on Kyrie
Everyone remembers the other Steph vs. Kyrie stepback three (SPOILER ALERT: It’s coming), but this one was very important as well. The Cavs had cut what was a 20-point deficit to just 11 with more than enough time to pull off an incredible Game 1 comeback, and the Oracle Arena crowd was getting antsy. Then came Steph to the rescue, hitting a stepback three over the opposing point guard. The Warriors won by 15.
Shaun Livingston dunks on Richard Jefferson
Shaun Livingston with the hammer! The Warriors’ lanky guard showed no mercy in Game 5, yamming all over Richard Jefferson. This might have been the best dunk of the series, and boy was it a good one. Both men are still on their respective teams, so could Livingston-Jefferson 2.0 be in the making? Probably not, but we can always hope.
LeBron blocks Andre Iguodala
Forget the implications of this block for a second and just pause the video a few times as Curry and Iguodala run the break. When Iguodala catches Steph’s bounce pass at the elbow, LeBron is behind the three-point line. When Iguodala gathers for the layup, LeBron is at the opposite elbow. And then, somehow, someway, he makes the block that might have saved his team’s season and his own legacy. Oops, looks like I’ve slipped into implications. How can you not? Kyrie hit the biggest shot of the season, but LeBron had the iconic play. Also, give J.R. Smith some credit for at least altering Iguodala’s path. James doesn’t make this block without his teammate’s effort.
Kyrie over Steph
People are quick to forget that Game 7 had turned incredibly ragged near the end. Instead of two of the best teams ever trading buckets, they traded aimless, sloppy possessions that ended in misses. Over the final four-and-a-half minutes, the teams, clearly exhausted, combined to go 1 of 17 from the field.
Good thing for Cleveland, this was the one. Comeback complete.
Narrowing this list down to 10 was nearly impossible, and plenty of great plays just barely missed the cut. Let’s hope for just as good of a series this time around.
The Best Moments From The 2016 NBA Finals – Sports Illustrated