To celebrate Pinnacle’s 20th anniversary this series will look back over the biggest moments from our most popular sports. These are the top 10 moments from the last 20 years of the NBA.
1998: Micheal Jordan’s shot vs Utah Jazz
"Give the ball to Michael and get out of the way,"
With the NBA title on the line in game 6 of the finals there was only one man Chicago wanted on the ball.
After he had already recorded a basket and a steal in the final 40 seconds of the game, a record 72 million viewers watched on as, with just 5.2 seconds left to play, Michael Jordan buried the game-winning shot. It was Jordan’s last shot for the Bulls and an iconic way to depart the franchise he defined.
Jordan would return to the NBA for a spell with the Wizards but his last shot for the Bulls will endure as the legend’s real goodbye to the league.
2000: The Kobe-to-Shaq alley-oop
Facing the Blazers on the way to the first of three consecutive NBA championships, the Lakers duo of Kobe and Shaq produced perhaps their most iconic moment.
In game seven of the Western Conference finals The Blazers had led by 15-points at one point in the fourth quarter but The Lakers turned the game around to lead by four with under a minute to play. Not contented with merely securing the win, Kobe and Shaq rubbed salt into Portland wounds with a play that will live long in the memory.
A Kobe Bryant crossover was followed by the famous alley-oop to Shaquille O'Neal who slammed the ball home. The duo had dispatched the Blazers and their early 2000s dominance of the NBA had begun.
2000: Vince Carter’s 360 windmill dunk
You don’t earn the nickname “Half-man, half-amazing” by settling for the ordinary. Fortunately Vince Carter’s 2000 NBA Slam Dunk Contest performance was anything but that.
Vinsanity’s dunks included a between the legs bounce dunk and an "elbow in the rim" dunk but it was his 360 windmill dunk that will go down as the greatest in the history of the contest. That performance pushed Carter into mainstream consciousness during an outstanding season that also saw him win the NBA Rookie of the Year award.
2003: A draft class for the ages
The 2003 draft saw the selection of players that went on to define the NBA for years to come. While LeBron James (eleven-time all-star) was the headline number one overall pick, Carmelo Anthony (ten-time all-star) (No. 3), Chris Bosh (eleven-time all-star) (no.4) and Dwyane Wade (Twelve-time all-star) (no.5) rounded out the top five of what might be the consensus No.1 Draft class in history.
Those players went on to compete for titles and become the faces of their franchises
In amongst all of those greats the Detroit Pistons were left wondering what could have been. They chose to draft Serbian Darko Milicic at number two ahead of Anthony, Bosh and Wade. The big man did not have the same impact as his 2003 draft alumni averaging just six points a game during his NBA career before retiring to run an orchard in his native Serbia.
2009: Phil Jackson breaks Red Auerbach’s record
In 2009 Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson finally achieved what many had once considered to be impossible.
Red Auerbach’s record for the most NBA titles won as coach had stood for 43 years and looked unlikely to ever be beaten. Auerbach had won an unprecedented nine titles in ten years in charge of the Boston Celtics between 1956 and 1966. Jackson’s achievement was perhaps even more impressive considering he won his titles with two different franchises.
The decorated coach also spanned the gap between Jordan and Kobe Bryant, two era-defining players, further cementing his place as a pillar of the modern NBA.
Jackson would go on to add an eleventh championship just one year later but, after six years without a title, the one that broke the record will always be the most memorable.
2011: Derrick Rose becomes the youngest ever MVP
At 22 years and 5 months old Derrick Rose became the league's youngest MVP in history supplanting Wes Unseld. Rose was also the first Bulls player to win the award since the retirement of five-time winner Michael Jordan.
This was a huge achievement for such a young player and, whilst injuries have deprived us of his prime years, it is important to remember just how outstanding a player Rose was regardless of his age.
He became only the third player since the 1972–73 NBA season to record 2,000 points and 600 assists in a single season. The other two players on that list are LeBron James and Michael Jordan. Esteemed company for a player as good as any in the NBA in his prime.
2014: Adam Silver appointed NBA commissioner
In 2018 the NBA goes from strength-to-strength and continues to grow worldwide. The league is forward thinking and primed for success in the internet age and much of that is due to the appointment of Adam Silver as NBA commissioner.
Silver’s open-minded approach to internet highlights, legalized sports betting and social issues has placed the league in a strong position to continue its growth into the future and potentially challenge for the position of America’s most popular sports league.
2016: Kobe Bryant’s final game
Great Kobe moments are not in short supply and his 81-pointer against the Raptors was as good a performance as any in modern NBA history. However, it was the way he departed the league that will be remembered just as fondly as that performance in his prime.
Like Jordan’s final bow for the Bulls, Kobe’s finale took place against the Jazz. Bryant failed to score a point during the first six minutes of his final game as, for once, nerves got the better of him. Once he started though he was impossible to stop.
With the Lakers down by ten with 2:36 left on the clock Kobe’s farewell looked as though it would end in defeat. Determined not to let that happen Kobe rediscovered some of his magic to drive home 13 unanswered points and snatch a victory in the final minute.
Bryant scored 60 points on the night to depart the league in a way befitting a legend of the game.
2016: "The Block"
Game seven of the NBA Finals, a tied game, two minutes on the clock. Big players step up at important moments and nobody could ever accuse LeBron James of shrinking away from the spotlight.
When Golden State’s Andre Iguodala burst towards the basket it seemed certain the Warriors would take a vital lead that may have tipped the deciding game in their direction. That was until LeBron appeared from nowhere to make a game-changing block.
That piece of stellar defensive play was the turning point as Cleveland went on to win their first ever NBA title.
2016: Durant completes Golden State Warriors “Super Team”
"One of the best teams I ever played… and then they added Kevin Durant"
- LeBron James.
Only a LeBron inspired Cavaliers comeback prevented The Golden State Warriors from securing two consecutive NBA titles. Steph Curry and his teammates were already the best team in the NBA and it took one of the games’ all-time greats to stop them.
Unfortunately for the rest of the league the increase in TV revenue came at the perfect time for Golden State. The increase in cap space allowed them to sign 2014 MVP Kevin Durant.
Adding Durant to a lineup already featuring three all-stars in Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, not to mention 2015 NBA finals MVP Andre Iguodala, created one of the league’s greatest super teams.
The addition of KD has left the Warriors poised for success for years to come and with a potential dynasty opportunity, unless LeBron can again somehow find a way to stop them.
Has your favourite moment made the list? Tweet @PinnacleSports to let us know what you think is the best NBA moment of the last 20 years.