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Friday, June 9, 2006
Updated: June 21, 10:42 AM ET
Watch, vote: NBA's 10 greatest playoff moments ever

By Ken Shouler

Who can forget "Havlicek stole the ball," Gar Heard's shot heard around the world and rookie Magic Johnson playing guard, forward and center in the Lakers' clincher over Philly? What about Jerry West's 60-foot shot at the buzzer, Willis Reed's inspirational appearance at the Garden and Michael Jordan's farewell jumper that gave the Bulls their sixth ring?

The NBA Playoffs have provided us with some of the greatest moments in sports history, and the NBA's expert panel -- including several ESPN contributors -- has boiled down all the great moments to the 10 most memorable.

We want to know what you think: Which NBA playoff moment is the greatest of all time?

Watch these amazing clips from the archives and then vote in's SportsNation poll to the right.


Pettit got 50 in 1958

If not for Bob Pettit's 50 points in Game 6 of the 1958 Finals, the Boston Celtics could have won 10 consecutive championships.

Through three quarters, Pettit had delivered 31 points and the St. Louis Hawks led 83-77. Boston edged ahead, but Pettit got hot, scoring 19 in the fourth quarter. His 15-footer with 15 seconds remaining made it 110-107 and iced the game.

St. Louis won 110-109. Pettit's 50 points were a playoff record for a regulation game.

Havlicek stole the ball

Bill Russell's late-game inbound pass deflected off a guide wire, and the violation gave Philadelphia the ball. On the inbounds play, 76ers guard Hal Greer lobbed a pass nearly 30 feet in the direction of teammate Chet Walker.

Havlicek got his hand on the ball, leading to Boston broadcaster Johnny Most screaming, "Havlicek stole the ball!"

Havlicek's steal put Boston in the Finals against L.A., where the Celtics won their seventh straight title.

West's 60-footer

New York had a two-point lead with three seconds left. Jerry West took an inbounds pass in the backcourt and hoisted a 60-footer that found the bottom of the net.

The Knicks limped back to their huddle, and Dick Barnett (West's former teammate) brandished his court jester humor. "This game isn't over," he chided his mates. "It's just getting started." New York dominated the overtime period and won 111-108.

Because it was 1970 and West's shot counted for just two, the Knicks survived his 60-foot miracle.

Willis Reed's entrance

The Knicks went through their warmups without Willis Reed. Then just before game time, after taking cortisone shots for a torn thigh muscle, Reed limped out to a thunderous ovation.

He bodied Wilt Chamberlain for 27 minutes, forcing Wilt further from the basket. And the Knicks' league-leading defense held down the Lakers for a 113-99 victory.

Reed finished with just four points, but he was the Knicks' backbone. "I didn't think I could walk out there," he said later. "But this was the championship. I had to do what I could."

Gar Heard's shocker

In Game 5 of the 1976 Finals, Boston led by 20 early. But Paul Westphal and Curtis Perry brought Phoenix back, and at the end of regulation, the game was tied at 95. A first overtime also ended in a tie.

In the second OT, Phoenix had the ball at half court, down by two, with a second remaining. Perry inbounded to forward Garfield Heard, who turned and launched a 20-foot, high-arcing shot that found its mark.

It was tied at 112 entering a third overtime. Then Boston reserve Glenn McDonald scored six points to help Boston win 128-126.

Magic does it all

It was a night when necessity was the mother of invention.

Rookie point guard Magic Johnson found himself jumping center in Game 6 of the 1980 Finals. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had injured his ankle in Game 5 and coach Paul Westhead asked Johnson to man the pivot.

Johnson would play all five positions and, with a dazzling array of drives, hooks and jumpers, poured in 42 points, snatched 15 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. Los Angeles won 123-107 and Johnson, just 20 years old, walked off with the Finals MVP award.

MJ goes off for 63

Chicago battled the Celtics -- with Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale -- to a standstill. At the end of regulation Michael Jordan had 54 points and it was 116-all. Jordan had bounced around the Boston Garden floor while every Celtics player looked mired in wet cement.

Jordan upped his total to 63 in two overtimes, but Boston prevailed 135-131, as Jordan surpassed Elgin Baylor's playoff record of 61.

"That was God disguised as Michael Jordan," said Larry Bird.

Larry Bird's steal

While Larry Bird was never picked for an NBA All-Defense first team, he is remembered for a steal which turned around the 1987 conference finals.

Detroit had the ball out of bounds and a 107-106 lead with five seconds left. Isiah Thomas looped a soft inbounds pass that gave Bird enough time to cut in front of Bill Laimbeer and intercept it.

Falling out of bounds, Bird found Dennis Johnson flashing to the basket. Johnson's layup with a second remaining gave Boston a dramatic 108-107 win.

Magic's junior sky hook

Boston had a 106-104 lead over the Lakers with 12 seconds remaining in Game 4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made a free throw and the second caromed off Boston out of bounds. The Lakers had time for one play.

Magic Johnson took the inbounds pass and stutter-stepped past Kevin McHale into the lane. He elevated for a 10-foot hook before Robert Parish could bother his shot, which swished through for the 107-106 win.

"That was my junior sky hook," Johnson said. "You expect to lose to the Lakers on a sky hook. But you don't expect it to be from Magic."

MJ's parting shot

Chicago led the series 3-2, but trailed 86-85 in the final seconds at Utah. Michael Jordan, who would score the Bulls' final eight points, stole the ball from Karl Malone.

Jordan calmly dribbled up and drove on Bryon Russell. As Russell slipped, Jordan pushed off, elevated and nailed his shot with 5.2 seconds remaining. Jordan, who finished with 45 points, held the pose, as if wanting that to be his snapshot for the ages. Chicago clinched the series with the 87-86 victory.

Steve Kerr summed it up. "That guy was ridiculous. He is so good it's scary."