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Top Ten Greatest NBA Playoff Performances By Former Tar Heels

Posted on May 4, 2015 by

The NBA Playoffs have been fun to watch this year, in part because there is no shortage of North Carolina alumni playing postseason basketball. Whether it’s Danny Green blocking shots for the Spurs, Vince Carter turning back time or Harrison Barnes filling his role perfectly for the Warriors, it’s fun to watch former Tar Heels play on basketball’s highest stage.

That being said, there are some moments in NBA Playoff history that stand out as the greatest by former Tar Heels. Let’s count them down, shall we? (SPOILER ALERT: A lot of Michael Jordan awesomeness to follow, deal with it):



10. Vince Carter Beats the Buzzer Against San Antonio (2014 Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game 3):

This may just be recency bias, but I recall screaming “TAR HEEL” very loudly after Vince drained this impossible 3. The shot itself wasn’t entirely important (San Antonio would go on to win the series) to that postseason, but it was typical Vinsanity, and any Vince Carter highlight we can get in the 2010s is a huge plus. (Video courtesy of NBA)

9. Danny Green Breaks the NBA Finals 3-Point Record (2013 NBA Finals, Games 1-4):

Danny Green will go down as one of the most popular Tar Heels of all time, but he etched his name in NBA history in shocking fashion in the 2013 NBA Finals. Green hit 23 3-pointers in the first four games of the series, and would have been a legitimate candidate for Finals MVP if the Spurs had won the series. Instead, this will go down as one of the best losing performances by a Tar Heel in NBA Playoff history, as LeBron James and the Miami Heat won their second consecutive NBA Title. Still, this series made Green a household name, and if you’re like me, you yelled “DANNY!” after every single shot he hit. (Video courtesy of NBA)

8. Michael Jordan’s “Shrug Game” (1992 NBA Finals, Game 1):

This is our first Jordan entry of the list, and it might be too low. Sometimes, #23 was too good for even his own comprehension. In the first game of the 1992 NBA Finals against Portland, Jordan was FEELING it, scoring 35 points in the FIRST HALF. He was draining shots, throwing down dunks, being the greatest player to ever step on a basketball court. (Video courtesy of GD’s Latest Highlights)

7. James Worthy Takes Over for Lakers, Wins Finals MVP (1988 NBA Finals):

You know, sometimes I feel bad for James Worthy. He was an integral part of a National Championship for North Carolina and three NBA Championships for the Los Angeles Lakers, but was immediately overshadowed by his former college teammate Michael Jordan in the 1990s. That being said, Worthy’s dominance in the 1988 NBA Finals was legendary, especially his Game 7 statline: 36 points on 69% shooting, 16 rebounds, 10 assists and 2 steals. Worthy helped the Lakers win their second NBA Title in a row, and is a forgotten gem in the history of the Association. (Video courtesy of TheNBAIndia)

6. Michael Jordan’s “Spectacular Move” (1991 NBA Finals, Game 2):

Speaking of Michael Jordan and James Worthy, the two former teammates went head-to-head against each other in the 1991 NBA Finals. This was Jordan’s first NBA Finals appearance, and he saved one of his greatest moves of his career for the big stage. It’s just vintage Jordan. Nobody else could even dream of having the confidence to pull that move off, let alone do it in the NBA Finals against a Los Angeles Lakers team that had dominated the 1980s. That’s what Jordan did, though, and this was the first of many memorable Finals moments for His Airness. (Video courtesy of Marcos Fernandez)

5. Michael Jordan Posterizes Patrick Ewing (1991 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 3):

While that last Jordan play was legendary, it would have been a lot cooler if it had been, you know, a dunk. This time, Jordan victimizes 1982 National Championship foe Patrick Ewing, faking two defenders out of their shoes before pouncing on the Knicks’ big man. It’s one of the greatest and most memorable dunks in NBA history, and it only makes #5 on this list, only because the next four are that great. (Video courtesy of MySternumHurts)



4. Michael Jordan Scores 63 Points Against the Boston Celtics (1986 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 2):

The NBA Playoff record for points in a single game. Mind you, it took two overtimes, and the Bulls lost the game to the Celtics, but still. This was a young, hungry Michael Jordan, one who wasn’t quite ready to win a title, but damn if he wasn’t going to do everything in his power trying. It’s one of the iconic postseason performances in NBA history, but again, it isn’t even sniffing #1 on this list. (Video courtesy of GD’s Latest Highlights)

3. Michael Jordan Hits “The Shot” Against Cleveland (1989 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game 5):

Now we’re getting into “Impossible To Rank” range. This video features not one, but two clutch shots by Jordan, the second becoming an all-time great NBA moment. Poor Cleveland. After Craig Ehlo hits his layup, it looked like Chicago was dead in the water, while Cleveland would advance with a deciding Game 5 victory. Instead, Michael Jordan would alter NBA history. Think about this: If Jordan doesn’t hit this shot, the Bulls don’t win the 1991 NBA Title, and the first title of Jordan’s first threepeat doesn’t exist. It’s one of the most important shots in NBA history, and naturally it came from the hands of #23. (Video courtesy of procsi03)

2. The Flu Game (1997 NBA Finals, Game 5):

38 points. 7 rebounds. 5 assists. 3 steals. 1 picture that can possibly describe it:

jordan crying

Photo courtesy of Boston.com/Every meme on Twitter

(Video courtesy of Michael Jordan game videos)



1. “The Shot,” Part II (1998 NBA Finals, Game 6):

You don’t need me to tell you about this one. (Video courtesy of Tamas Karacsony)

So, there you have it. What started as a list to remember the greatest NBA Playoffs moments by former Tar Heels turned into a Michael Jordan tribute post, and that’s by no coincidence; Jordan was that good, and embodied the word “clutch” in his illustrious career. He saved his absolute best for the biggest stage, and made North Carolina fans damn proud throughout the 1990s.

Disagree with the list? Any notable snubs? Like what you see? Generally hate Top 10 lists by people who weren’t alive for half of the moments named? Let us know in the comment box below!

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