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A LETTER FROM THE COMMISSIONER

Dear Fans, Thank you for being part of the most exciting time of our season, the NBA Finals. Over the 26 weeks of the regular season, 30 NBA teams comprised of 450 of the greatest basketball players on the planet competed against each other in 1,230 games. Add in another seven exciting weeks of the postseason, and every game revealed a compelling story: MVP contenders breaking records, a rookie class setting a new bar and top coaches driving their teams to success. We saw the most competitive All-Star Game in recent memory, and it took an overtime game on the last night of the regular season to determine the final playoff picture. And for you – the fans – every game revealed a special experience: the chance to be inspired by athletic greatness, engage with more than one billion fellow fans on social media and celebrate a game that brings people and communities together. Today, you will experience that thrill as it unfolds on one of the biggest stages in sports: the 2018 NBA Finals. Two teams that set themselves apart. Thirty players living a dream they had since they first bounced a basketball. Outside the arena, our marketing partners are creating once-in-a-lifetime moments for fans of all ages. And each host city is displaying worldclass hospitality as it pulls for its team to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy as NBA champions. This is it. And all of us at the NBA thank you for making it possible and for being the best fans in sports. Sincerely,

JENNIFER POTTHEISER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Adam Silver

THE FINALS | 2018

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CONTENTS

The Finals 2018 Commemorative Program Features 34 Centers of Attention Guards and forwards had their moment in the sun, where it was in vogue for teams to pick the next Steph Curry, James Harden or LeBron James, but this year’s draft will go back to its roots of selecting the biggest—in stature and potential—prospect. 43 Summer Blockbusters This summer, the 2018 WNBA season will rival any multiplex for entertaining storylines. Whether it’s a satisfying sequel (the Minnesota Lynx repeating), a familiar face reprising an iconic role (the L.A. Sparks gunning for yet another title) or emerging stars in breakthrough roles (Breanna Stewart, Jonquel Jones, A’ja Wilson), the season will have something for everyone. 52 Breaking Great Think about this for a second: The legendary Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics would have won 10 straight titles (and Red would’ve lit up as many victory cigars) had it not been for the heroics of the St. Louis Hawks and their star forward Bob Pettit. Or you can think about it entirely different and imagine the number of championships St. Louis could’ve gotten if not for the Celtics. 62 Never Doubt the Heart of a Champion By 1968, the Boston Celtics were starting to lose their stranglehold on their decade-long dominance. Just when their longtime Finals rival the L.A. Lakers looked like they were ready to finally knock them off their perch, the Celtics showed renewed life by extending their dynasty another year. 72 Flying Under the Radar As the NBA’s first high-soaring superstar, Elgin Baylor started a still-going love affair with the aerial artist that could capture the imaginations of fans all over. As high as he played, Baylor is still a forgotten star of the League, largely because bad luck, a knee injury—and most of all, the Boston Celtics—kept him from cementing his career with a championship. 82 Breakthrough Performance The Washington Bullets of the 1970s were championship contenders throughout the decade, regularly advancing into the middle rounds of the playoffs and twice coming up short in the Finals. Just when it looked like it would never happen for them, the Bullets finally found their target. 92 Backing Up the Back-to-Back The scent of championship champagne from the 1987 title still wafted in the air of the locker room when head coach Pat Riley boldly proclaimed that the L.A. Lakers would be repeating the scene a year later. Even though the Lakers were at the peak of their powers with Magic Johnson, Kareem AbdulJabbar, James Worthy and an ensemble of players that meshed perfectly, nothing was a given. The still-dangerous Boston Celtics were still around and the Detroit Pistons were on the cusp of future championships, but Riley and the Lakers made good on his prognostication. Departments 102 Picture Perfect After the Boston Celtics, the Chicago Bulls have the greatest stretch of dominance in NBA history. They had owned the decade of the ’90s with five titles, but by the time the 1998 Finals came around, there were questions of whether the Bulls and particularly Michael Jordan would have enough to stave off a precise Utah Jazz squad for a second straight year. As is the case with Jordan, he rose to the occasion and capped off the Bulls’ run with what might be the most iconic shot in Finals lore. 115 2017-18 Rewind A look, through the lens of the NBA’s top photographers, at the many seminal moments that made up another dizzying season.

3

A Letter from the Commissioner

145 2017-18 NBA Monthly and Weekly Award Winners 148 NBA Mind Health 150 Jr. NBA 152 NBA G League 154 NBA Digital 156 All-Time Finals Leaders 160 All-Time Finals Results

The Finals Teams 8

Eye of the Storm

22 Greater Than Five

14 Still Fast and Very Furious

28 The First Steph

16 Cleveland Cavaliers Roster

30 Golden State Warriors Roster

18 Cleveland Cavaliers Stats

32 Golden State Warriors Stats

Editor in Chief Ming Wong

Design Director Kengyong Shao

Associate Editors Phil D’Apolito, Adam Kaufman, John Martin

Copy Editor Trevor Kearney Contributing Writers Michael Bradley, Jon Cooper, Pete Croatto, John Fawaz, Darryl Howerton,

Jeramie McPeek, Rob Peterson, Michelle Smith

Professional Sports Publications 519 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10018 Tel: (212) 697-1460 Fax: (646) 753-9480 Executive VP Operations Jeff Botwinick Executive VP, Business Development Martin Lewis Executive VP, Sales Steve Farkas Executive VP, Sales Mitch Gibbs Executive VP, Team Relations Dave Gerschwer Executive Administrative Director Julie Wanjon Manager, Marketing Services Aron Sawyer Production Manager Jaime Ziegler Production Assistant Will Kilcommons

NBA Publishing/NBA Photos President and Executive Producer, Content Danny Meiseles Senior VP, Corporate Services Jarad Franzreb Senior VP Content, Production Paul Hirschheimer Senior VP, Entertainment & Player Marketing Charlie Rosenzweig Executive VP, Communications Mike Bass VP, Editorial & Daily Content John Hareas President, Global Operations and Merchandising Sal LaRocca Sr.Vice President, Global Partnerships Matt Holt Coordinator, Global Partnerships Daniel Lupin Coordinator, Global Partnerships Harley Opolinsky Manager, Global Media Programs Felecia Groomster Vice President, NBA Photos Joe Amati Director, Photos Imaging David Bonilla Senior Photo Editor Brian Choi Senior Photo Coordinator Kevin Wright Associate Manager Pam Costello Digital Imaging Ryan Stetz All NBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBA Entertainment. All WNBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of WNBA Enterprises. All G League photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of G League Enterprises. The NBA Finals Program is published annually, by PSP. © 2018 Professional Sports Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission of publisher is prohibited. PRINTED IN THE USA

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2018 | THE FINALS


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EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Eye of the Storm The Cleveland Cavaliers were battered with unpredictable elements all season, but they were able to weather it all the way to the Finals. By Michael Bradley

8

2018 | THE FINALS


DAVID LIAM KYLE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

his was supposed to be The One. The series that would finally end the prosperity and squelch the expectations. Toronto had homecourt advantage. Cleveland was reeling. Midseason changes had created a momentary sense of calm and hope—and then uncertainty. The Cavs had needed the full seven games to beat Indiana. Canada was ready. Four games later, it was over. Cleveland had swept the Raptors. LeBron James was neither too tired nor too old to carry a team. His supporting cast was not merely a collection of warm bodies. And as James sat at the podium afterward, patiently answering questions, he summed up 2017-18 perfectly. “We’ve had four or five seasons wrapped in one,” he said. That’s for sure. As the Cavs and James compete in the Finals—again, for the fourth time in a row (and eighth consecutive for LeBron personally)—their fans can reflect on an exhilarating ride that has encompassed just about every emotion possible during a season. Cleveland has experienced highs, lows, unexpected turns, reversals, dead stops, and ultimately, vindication.

THE FINALS | 2018

9


EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Tristan Thompson

Kendrick Perkins

Kyle Korver

Jeff Green

J.R. Smith

Cedi Osman

Larry Nance Jr.

Jordan Clarkson

10

2018 | THE FINALS

That was something nobody could have expected to hear when the playoffs started. The popular opinion was that even with the changes the team made in February, which spurred a short-term burst but didn’t propel the Cavs to the top of the East, it was James and a cast that was unprepared to produce playoff prosperity. That hypothesis has been proven incorrect. James remains the best in the game. But the other Cavs have shown that they are part of one of the NBA’s two best teams. And no matter what happened, James wasn’t going to lose confidence in himself or his teammates. Not when the Pacers fought hard for seven games or when people thought the Cavs couldn’t get past the Raptors. And not against Boston. “At the end of the day, I understand a series isn’t won until you win four, so me, personally, my confidence never wavered,” James said. “It’s just who I am. I believe in what I bring to the table and what I can provide to the team, and I believe in my teammates. So as everyone was burying my teammates alive throughout that first-round series, I just continued to tell them, ‘Listen, we can’t win without each and every one doing their job and being as great as they can be,’ and I continued to preach that. So it’s impossible for me to lose confidence in our ballclub, no matter what the stakes are or where we’re down, because if I do that, then where are we going to go from a team aspect?” Even before the season began, the Cavaliers faced adversity. Following the 2016-17 campaign, Kyrie Irving expressed a desire to move on to a team that would allow him to be the featured performer. As long as he and James were in Cleveland, that couldn’t be the case. It took weeks, thanks to various medical issues, but the deal finally closed at the end of August. Irving moved on to Boston, in return for a package that included Isaiah Thomas.

GLENN JAMES; FERNANDO MEDINA (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; DAVID LIAM KYLE (2); GARRETT ELLWOOD; SAM FORENCICH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Even James, who does so much to control the outcomes of games and seasons, has had to wonder who has been handling the script for this season. How could a team that was blown out in the sixth game of its first-round series against Indiana rebound and not only secure a Game 7 victory but also sweep away the team that had posted the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference? “It’s just this year,” James said after the Cavs won Game 2 in Toronto. “That’s the year we had.” Perhaps the Cavs were waiting for the postseason to put it all together. Then again, the slugfest with Indy went to the limit and could have easily been catastrophic, had James not scored 45, pulled down 8 boards and handed out 7 assists in the clincher. Even with all of that, Cleveland still only managed a 105-101 win that was still in doubt with a minute to play. Those who watched the Cavs struggle with Indiana couldn’t have possibly foreseen a sweep of Toronto and a victory over an albeit compromised (no Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward) but still dangerous Boston team. No franchise can possibly remain on top forever, and maybe this would be the year it changed. Not quite. Despite winning the fewest games (50) of James’ second tenure in town, the Cavaliers continued to believe. And despite criticism from seemingly all corners—including a Saturday Night Live skit that ridiculed James’ teammates—the Cavaliers find themselves again competing for a championship. “We talk about through the whole course of this long season just getting better, getting better,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue after the Toronto series. “Hitting our stride when the playoffs start. And the guys, we’re getting a lot of different contributions from a lot of guys. We got a lot of guys playing well, good team effort.”


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EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

George Hill

Ante Zizic

José Calderón

Okaro White

12

2018 | THE FINALS

LeBron James

postseason presence, despite injuring his left thumb in the Indiana series. Clarkson averaged 12.6 ppg with the Cavs and hit 40.7 percent of his three-point tries, the best rate of his career. And Kyle Korver was his usual dead-eyed self from behind the arc, connecting on 43.6 percent of his tries. Though Smith’s nightly scoring contributions dropped (8.3 ppg), he was a valued veteran presence on the floor and showed repeatedly how dangerous he could be from downtown. After an initial burst of success with the new Kevin Love acquisitions, which brought excitement over how Cleveland had reinvented itself, the Cavs struggled for a bit. But Cleveland regrouped down the stretch and won 10-of-11 at one point, preparing itself for the postseason. Lue, who missed nine games at the end of the year due to chest pains and fatigue, was able to prepare a strong rotation that even included 6-8 Turkish rookie Cedi Osman and approached the playoffs with confidence. He understood that the Cavs had some young players experiencing the playoffs for the first time, but he wanted them to ignore the pressure and get after it. “What I told those guys is, just your first playoff experience, just play hard and compete,” Lue said before Game 1. “Loose balls, diving on the floor, taking charges, getting deflections, get out and get an early basket in transition. That kind of opens up the rim for you, kind of lets you let your hair down a little bit.” Even though the Cavs lost the first game to Indiana, and James was a one-man band in the second contest, Cleveland eventually came together, overcame the Pacers’ challenge to reach Toronto, which it dispatched quickly and clinically. The Cavs have dumped the Raptors three straight seasons, losing just two games in the process. In the final game, James was his usual remarkable self, but he had plenty of help. Love (23 points), Korver (16), Smith (15) and Hill (12) were all strong and capable of providing answers every time Toronto decided to focus on the Cavs’ strongman. From there, it was another Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Boston, which Cleveland survived to reach its fourth straight Finals. James had been outstanding, as usual, but more importantly, the rest of the roster had stepped forward. No man can win alone in the NBA, no matter how amazing he is. The Cavs have reached this point with one great player and a supporting cast that has picked the right time to step forward.

CAMERON BROWNE; DAVID LIAM KYLE (5); JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Speculation began as soon as the deal first germinated about how James and Thomas, a ball-dominant guard, would coexist. Of course, Thomas would first have to get his hip healthy, and that didn’t happen until late December. While media and fans alike speculated about what the deal would mean for James’ long-term future in Cleveland, the Cavs began their quest for a fourth straight Finals appearance with uncertainty due to Thomas’ injury and questions about how he would fit into the team culture. The Cavs broke slowly from the gate, posting a 5-7 mark before winning 13 straight and 18 of 19 by mid-December. Even though Thomas hadn’t stepped onto the court yet, the team looked ready to claim its spot atop the Eastern Conference. Thomas finally joined the lineup on Jan. 2, scoring 17 points in a win over Portland, and took a spot in the starting lineup four days later. But the Cavs went just 6-8 with him in the starting lineup, and on Feb. 8 traded him to the Lakers for Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson. On the same day, Cleveland acquired guards George Hill and Rodney Hood in a three-team deal with the Kings and Jazz. James was still wearing the wine-and-gold, and stalwarts like Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith were still in town, but the rest of the lineup looked a lot different indeed. Even though the Cavs won “only” 50 games and finished fourth in the conference, they were hardly a shell of a contender. Cleveland was fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage and sixth in threepoint success. And despite what critics and satirists maintained, it wasn’t merely James and a collection of people charged with carrying his bags. Love averaged 17.6 ppg and 9.3 rpg while making 41.5 percent of his long-range attempts. And even though he broke a bone in his hand during the regular season, he has been a steady

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EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Still Fast and Very Furious At an age when most players start throttling back, LeBron James is not easing off the gas pedal. By Michael Bradley

14

2018 | THE FINALS

BARRY GOSSAGE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

o the math. LeBron James has played 15 NBA regular seasons since entering the League from high school . His 230-plus postseason contests are worth another three. He has missed more than 10 games just once in his career. His 44,298 minutes played are 18th all time. This postseason he took possession of first place in minutes played in the playoffs. Add it all up, and you get a player who ought to be coasting toward the sunset, burnishing his legacy with a few seminal moments and contemplating whom he wants to introduce him when he is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.


DAVID LIAM KYLE; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; KENT SMITH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

But anybody who has paid even a modicum of attention to James’ outstanding career realizes that’s not how he does things. He’s only 33 years old, and his legendary offseason workouts demonstrate a commitment to building a body capable of withstanding anything he chooses to do. So, this season, he decided to lead the NBA in minutes played per game—for a second straight year. He wasn’t out there for 40-plus a night, as he was four of his first five seasons in the League. But at a time when players are looking for ways to get needed rest, and coaches are sitting stars periodically to preserve them for the playoffs, James played every game of the season—for the first time—and was on the floor for 36.9 minutes each night. When the playoffs started, James was even more omnipresent, logging 41.1 per game in the First Round playoff win over Indiana. Afterward, he admitted the seven-game series had left him “burnt” and said he was exhausted. “I want to go home,” he said. It was the only glimpse into the incredible burden he carries and a revelation that even the most conditioned, strong-willed athletes sometimes need to recharge. Not that anybody thought for a second James had spent his substantial physical reserves in helping to vanquish the pesky Pacers. Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue wasn’t about to throttle back on his usage of the game’s best player. “That’s why you play the minutes throughout the course of the season the way he does: When these types of situations happen, you’re prepared for them,” Lue said. “So he’s used to playing 41, 42 minutes and being able to take it with his body and still be able to produce. A lot of guys, they get in the playoffs, they’re not used to playing that many minutes, and then it being a high-intensity atmosphere, it’s kind of hard for those guys to perform. So he does a great job of taking care of his body, a great job of conditioning himself for these types of situations.” Had James merely spent a lot of time on the court, it would have been impressive, given the mileage he has already accumulated. But he doesn’t just show up for work. He delivers, too. James averaged 27.5 ppg, the most he has since 2009-10. His 9.1 apg were a career high, and his 8.6 rpg tied his best effort. He led the League in Value over Replacement Player, which measures how good a player is versus an ordinary replacement. He was third in win shares and third in Player Efficiency

Rating. While people debate his place in the hierarchy of the best NBA performers ever, James simply piles great season on top of great season. He has the supreme talent of the true greats and the grinding mentality of the 10-day contract guys. The product is a combination that has been seen rarely throughout the League’s history. When the playoffs come, that remarkable blend gets even more impressive. People can speak all they want about James’ 45/8/7 line in the closeout win over Indiana, or his buzzer-beating bank shot in the third game of the Toronto sweep. Even more noteworthy is his minuteby-minute intensity and willingness to prevail. James understands that taking a few minutes off during a February visit to Brooklyn isn’t going to harm his team—or his legacy. Relaxing for just a second in the postseason can be disastrous, no matter how well the rest of the Cavs happen to be playing. The great ones must be present at every moment, ready to provide what’s needed, and more. “At the end of the day, you have to do whatever it takes to win, and we found a way to get another win, so, it doesn’t matter how it happens,” James said after lifting the Cavs to a 3-0 advantage against Toronto. “We’ve just got to be a little better. That’s basically what I’m trying to say. We’ve got to be a lot better, especially coming into Game 4.” That’s the mindset of a winner. He may have rejoiced after the shot went down, for good reason. It was a big one. But James knew that even though Cleveland had a 3-0 lead, its play wasn’t good enough to win in the Eastern Finals and especially the ultimate round. So, he retreated, regrouped, and led the Cavs to a series-clinching rout. James may not admit it, but he is clearly conscious of his legacy, which includes three titles but five Finals losses. He can’t control anything other than his effort, his leadership and his willingness to be the front man for his team. That’s true in January, and it’s especially valid in June, when the money has all been pushed to the middle of the table. “Every time we come to the playoffs he has that edge,” Lue said. “Starting in the second round, I could just see it. And he’s a special player, and we all know that. Just run out of things to say. What he does for us is big.” Every minute of the season. THE FINALS | 2018

15


EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Tyronn Lue

José Calderón

Jordan Clarkson

Jeff Green

Head Coach Birthdate: 5-3-77 College: Nebraska Year Coaching in NBA: 3

No.: 81 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 200 Birthdate: 9-28-81 Country: Spain Year in NBA: 13

No.: 8 Position: Guard Height: 6-5 Weight: 194 Birthdate: 6-7-92 College: Missouri Year in NBA: 4

No.: 32 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 235 Birthdate: 8-28-86 College: Georgetown Year in NBA: 10

Rodney Hood

LeBron James

Kyle Korver

Kevin Love

Larry Nance Jr.

No.: 3 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 188 Birthdate: 5-4-86 College: IUPUI Year in NBA: 10

No.: 1 Position: Guard Height: 6-8 Weight: 206 Birthdate: 10-20-92 College: Duke Year in NBA: 4

No.: 23 Position: Forward-Guard Height: 6-8 Weight: 250 Birthdate: 12-30-84 High School: St. Vincent-St. Mary Year in NBA: 15

No.: 26 Position: Guard Height: 6-7 Weight: 212 Birthdate: 3-17-81 College: Creighton Year in NBA: 15

No.: 0 Position: Center-Forward Height: 6-10 Weight: 251 Birthdate: 9-7-88 College: UCLA Year in NBA: 10

No.: 22 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 230 Birthdate: 1-1-93 College: Wyoming Year in NBA: 3

Cedi Osman

Kendrick Perkins

J.R. Smith

Tristan Thompson

Okaro White

Ante Zizic

No.: 16 Position: Forward Height: 6-8 Weight: 215 Birthdate: 4-8-95 Country: Turkey Year in NBA: 1

No.: 21 Position: Center Height: 6-10 Weight: 270 Birthdate: 11-10-84 High School: Clifton J. Ozen Year in NBA: 14

No.: 5 Position: Guard-Forward Height: 6-6 Weight: 225 Birthdate: 9-9-85 High School: St. Benedict’s Prep Year in NBA: 14

No.: 13 Position: Center-Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 238 Birthdate: 3-13-91 College: Texas Year in NBA: 7

No.: 9 Position: Forward Height: 6-8 Weight: 215 Birthdate: 8-13-92 College: Florida State Year in NBA: 2

No.: 41 Position: Forward-Center Height: 6-11 Weight: 250 Birthdate: 1-4-97 Country: Croatia Year in NBA: 1

COACHING STAFF Associate Head Coach: Larry Drew Assistant Coaches: Jim Boylan, Mike Longabardi, James Posey, Damon Jones Head Athletic Trainer: Steve Spiro Head Strength and Conditioning Coach: Derek Millender 16

2018 | THE FINALS

DAVID LIAM KYLE (11); ADAM PANTOZZI (2); STEVE YEATER; NBA POHOTOS; OSCAR BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Head Coach: Tyronn Lue Associate Head Coach: Larry Drew Assistant Coaches: Jim Boylan, Mike Longabardi, James Posey, Damon Jones Head Athletic Trainer: Steve Spiro Head Strength and Conditioning Coach: Derek Millender NO. 23 0 3 8 9

PLAYER LeBron James Kevin Love Isaiah Thomas Jordan Clarkson Dwyane Wade

G 82 59 15 28 46

MIN 3026 1651 406 632 1069

FIELD GOALS FG FGA PCT 857 1580 .542 334 729 .458 70 194 .361 131 287 .456 198 435 .455

3-POINT FG FG FGA PCT 149 406 .367 137 330 .415 22 87 .253 44 108 .407 23 70 .329

FREE THROWS FT FTA PCT 388 531 .731 234 266 .880 59 68 .868 47 58 .810 94 134 .701

REBOUNDS OFF DEF TOT 97 612 709 101 445 546 7 24 31 13 45 58 39 142 181

MISC. AST STL 747 116 103 43 68 9 48 19 163 42

BLK 71 24 2 3 32

POINTS PTS AVG 2251 27.5 1039 17.6 221 14.7 353 12.6 513 11.2

1 32 1 3 26 22 99 5 13 8 81 4 16 41 21 10 15

Rodney Hood Jeff Green Derrick Rose George Hill Kyle Korver Larry Nance Jr. Jae Crowder J.R. Smith Tristan Thompson Channing Frye José Calderón Iman Shumpert Cedi Osman Ante Zizic Kendrick Perkins John Holland London Perrantes Team Totals Opponents

21 78 16 24 73 24 53 80 53 44 57 14 61 32 1 24 14 82 82

532 1828 308 669 1574 499 1346 2244 1072 545 914 276 672 214 15 174 66 19730 19730

88 295 58 83 222 88 157 240 132 84 93 22 90 49 1 17 2 3311 3429

25 53 6 27 164 1 62 143 0 30 45 7 32 0 0 11 0 981 956

26 203 35 33 64 36 78 39 43 14 24 11 26 21 1 9 3 1488 1200

8 60 10 20 9 53 41 29 126 10 14 7 19 24 0 6 1 694 812

30 99 26 67 88 25 58 141 33 28 117 17 41 5 2 5 5 1916 2122

5 34 4 15 27 18 12 11 17 12 2 4 3 13 0 2 1 312 340

227 846 157 226 672 213 454 662 307 212 255 62 238 119 3 54 7 9091 9014

199 618 132 187 484 160 376 595 235 169 185 58 186 67 2 59 13 6950 7238

18

2018 | THE FINALS

71 170 24 77 376 8 189 381 0 90 97 26 87 0 0 36 3 2636 2596

.352 .312 .250 .351 .436 .125 .328 .375 — .333 .464 .269 .368 — — .306 .000 .372 .368

32 234 41 41 72 50 92 56 79 15 30 15 46 29 2 13 5 1909 1588

.813 .868 .854 .805 .889 .720 .848 .696 .544 .933 .800 .733 .565 .724 .500 .692 .600 .779 .756

With the exception of one injury-shortened season, Kevin Love has grabbed 500 rebounds every year.

46 186 19 44 156 115 132 206 226 100 70 34 101 36 1 18 3 2761 2766

54 246 29 64 165 168 173 235 352 110 84 41 120 60 1 24 4 3455 3578

15 41 3 22 31 29 41 68 16 17 27 9 22 2 1 7 2 582 613

10.8 10.8 9.8 9.4 9.2 8.9 8.6 8.3 5.8 4.8 4.5 4.4 3.9 3.7 3.0 2.3 0.5 110.9 109.9

LeBron James dished his 8,000th assist this season, becoming the 11th NBA player to cross that mark.

DAVID LIAM KYLE (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Kyle Korver shot over 40 percent from three-point range for the 11th time in his 15-year NBA career.

.442 .477 .439 .444 .459 .550 .418 .403 .562 .497 .503 .379 .484 .731 .500 .288 .154 .476 .474


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CHANGING THE WORLD IS A CONTACT SPORT. People with intellectual disabilities are excluded and discriminated against every day. It’s time we team up and take to the field to change this. Together, as one, intolerance and injustice don’t stand a chance. Game On! Join the team at playunified.org


WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Greater Than Fiv The Hamptons 5 get all the headlines for the team’s success, but the Warriors’ real strength lies in their numbers. By Darryl Howerton

22

2018 | THE FINALS


ve e e are not one to promote cliques, but to understand best just how unique these 2018 Golden State Warriors are, we feel it necessary to break the roster down into three separate groups. 1. The Hamptons 5. 2. The platoon center 6. 3. The replacement guard 4.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Each subset has its own value within the Warriors’ “Strength in Numbers” playoff slogan, with all teammates playing a big part in making this season’s 58-24 Golden State squad just as special as the 67-, 73- and 67-win Warrior teams of the previous three seasons.

THE FINALS | 2018

23


WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Kevon Looney

David West

Draymond Green

Nick Young

Zaza Pachulia

Stephen Curry

Andre Iguodala

Patrick McCaw

24

2018 | THE FINALS

sixth-man Iguodala (18) were out with injuries during the regular season. Livingston especially shined when asked to increase his minutes, with the Warriors posting an 8-3 record whenever he played 20-plus minutes, with most of those games coming in a starting role. Livingston’s new cohorts, Nick Young and Quinn Cook, filled voids when necessary, as did two-year Warrior reserve Patrick McCaw, until he went down with a back injury March 31. Thanks to all the role players standing in the gap for the injured starters at the time, the 2018 Warriors team seems to be standing as tall as the 2017 and 2015 NBA Championship editions, as well as the record-setting 2016 Finals runner-up squad that won a League-record 73 games that season. Then again, what choice do they have, but to stand tall as repeat champions with targets on their backs? “It’s not like in the playoffs, you can change who you are,” Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said at a Western Conference Finals press conference. “You’ve got to be who you are. You’ve got to play the way you play. But you’ve got to do that better because that’s what everyone does.” We say this 58-win team can be just as great as its 67- and 73-win predecessors because, unfortunately, injuries end up eventually catch up to dynastic teams when they spend four straight years playing 100-plus games each season while making four straight Finals runs as these Warriors did. After all, Golden State is playing another marathon-type schedule that only the 2014 Miami Heat and 1987 Boston Celtics can relate to in the NBA’s modern era (1980-present). A team can only hope its starters are as healthy as can be at playoff time because that is when it is truly necessary to take your game up a notch.

RON TURENNE; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; NOAH GRAHAM (4); MICHAEL GONZALES; ANDREW D BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Hamptons 5: Former Warriors All-Star David Lee coined the phrase “Death Lineup” for the quintet of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green, bestowing that moniker for their penchant of blowing out teams when closing second and fourth quarters in fast-paced, small-ball fashion. When Kevin Durant replaced Barnes on the 2016-17 team, the nickname changed to Hamptons 5 to reflect the Golden State unit that recruited KD as a free agent at his Hamptons summer rental home (which is coincidentally on the market for a cool $15 million). Since that time, the Hamptons 5 squadron has become even deadlier—posting a plus-234 plus-minus score in 435 minutes together during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 regular seasons and postseasons (entering the 2018 West Finals). Is it any wonder this future Hall-of-Fame quintet has become the Warriors’ starting lineup for a majority of these playoffs after only playing 28 games together as a unit in the 2017-18 regular season, mostly due to the five main Warriors missing a combined 84 games due to injuries in 2017-18. The six platoon centers: The Warriors were unique in distributing their center minutes between two starting forwards in Green and Durant, along with six platoon centers who mostly came into games for six-minute bursts at a time each half. Because none of the sextet played heavy minutes individually, all excelled in whatever hockey shifts were called upon. In retrospect, Golden State was the only NBA team that did not have a center play 1,000-plus minutes in 2017-18, with the Dubs distributing their minutes at the 5 spot between David West, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, JaVale McGee and even prospect Damian Jones. All but the young Jones posted impressive Player Efficiency Ratings between 15 and 22. The four replacement guards: 32-year-old backup floor general Shaun Livingston provided the glue in keeping this reserve guard corps intact, especially when starters Curry (31 missed games), Thompson (9) and


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WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

Jordan Bell

Shaun Livingston

Klay Thompson

Kevin Durant

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2018 | THE FINALS

Quinn Cook

JaVale McGee the Oklahoma City Thunder, well, then technically this foursome has played in three straight All-Star Games. That is history in the making, especially when these legends make a repeat appearance back here on the Finals stage once again. If nothing else, the Hamptons 5 know they now have a familiarity that no one else can match, which provides an advantage over other up-and-coming quintets like Anthony Davis’ plucky Pelicans crew, or James Harden’s Rockets running mates. What also differentiates the Warriors from others is the time invested in second- and thirdstring units. For Kerr never knows when he may delve deep

into his roster for a playoff solution. It is no coincidence that 14 Warriors played 50-plus games this season and 15 Warriors played 600-plus minutes. No other NBA squad plays its reserves like this. When asked what he learned from head coach Gregg Popovich as a San Antonio Spur on the 1999 and 2003 title teams, Kerr told Baxter Holmes in ESPN The Magazine’s NBA preview issue, “It wasn’t just play your best five guys to death. It was play everybody. You go deep into your rotation, even if it means losing a couple of games in the regular season. Just empower everybody. “It’s kind of the beauty of basketball, the old cliché about the total being greater than the sum of its parts. I believe in all of that. Five guys have to operate together, but the other seven on the bench, or nine, however many, they’ve got to feel part of it.” There is a reason Golden State leads the NBA by THISMUCH when you look at offensive and defensive efficiency numbers from the past four seasons where the Warriors dominated their peers with a League-best 1.14 points per possession on offense and ranked second only to San Antonio on defense at 1.04 points allowed per possession. On top of that, the Warriors have an unprecedented .808 winning percentage over those four regular seasons that is 35 wins more than the second-best Spurs. “Still the key to this team is taking care of business when we can,” said Iguodala. “You never want to rest on your laurels because you never know what can happen in a seven-game series.” Is it any wonder the Dubs are back on repeat for their fourth straight Finals? “This is where we wanted to be,” said Curry. “We’re here.”

NOAH GRAHAM (2); ROCK WIDNER; MELISSA MAJCHRZAK; MARK SOBHANI; SAM FORENCICH; LAYNE MURDOCH;

“This is my second year here,” said Durant at a Western Conference Finals press conference. “Like you said, it’s the fourth year for the group, so I’m sure they’re feeling it even more than me. But that’s just the beauty of playing in the postseason and throughout the regular season. You kind of know your routine and know how to help yourself and what your form is. The injuries kind of threw us off a bit as well, but I think we handled it pretty solid.” Kerr, for one, knew from past experience that his troops would deliver. After all, 12 of these 15 Warriors played on last season’s championship team, while six others (Curry, Thompson, Green, Iguodala, Livingston and Durant) have tangible familiarity, sharing the magical 5,000 minute mark (33 of the past 36 NBA champions had at least five players play 5,000-plus minutes together when they won a title). Champions know teammate familiarity and playoff experience really matter. “We have so many gifted players,” said Kerr, who won five NBA Championships as a player with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, along with two rings as the Warriors’ head coach. “As long as we’re solid with the ball, don’t make mistakes and defend with intensity, then our talent’s going to take over.” Curry, Thompson, Durant and Green now are so taken for granted, we sometimes forget Golden State is the first NBA organization to send four representatives to consecutive All-Star Games as these Warriors did at the 2017 and 2018 All-Stars. “It’s incredible,” said Durant. “It shows the work we put in and continue to keep grinding every single day to be the best players we can be.” If you consider the fact that all four also played for the West squad in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game together when Durant was a member of

Damian Jones


WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

The First Steph There are many reasons for the Warriors’ run of success over the past four years, but it begins and ends with Stephen Curry. By Darryl Howerton

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2018 | THE FINALS

GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

here was a game in the past where Steve Kerr felt compelled to show Stephen Curry the box score. It wasn’t from any of Curry’s five 50-point games during his illustrious nineyear NBA career, nor the game this January where he scored 44 points, doled out 10 assists and made 8 of 11 three-point attempts. Nor the February contest where he scored 49 points. No, in this particular game a year ago last March, the Warriors’ head coach showed Curry a box score and pointed out how his poor shooting numbers did not affect the positive influence he still was having on his teammates. “That’s your shooting totals, and that’s your plus-minus,” says Kerr, in the NBA YouTube video titled “Steve Kerr with Words of Encouragement for Stephen Curry.”


GARRETT ELLWOOD; NOAH GRAHAM; LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

“All right? So it’s not always tied together. You’re doing great stuff out there. The tempo is so different when you’re out there. Everything you generate is so positive. It shows up here [in the plus-minus], not always there [in the shooting totals]. You’re doing great. Carry on, my son.” That, my friend, is Curry’s impact, in the gospel according to Kerr. At times, Curry may appear frustrated on the rare occasion he is missing shots—though he posted only six such subpar games in 2017-18 where he registered a GameScore lower than 8.4 (GameScore is the Player Efficiency Rating per-game metric that combines efficiency with productivity), as opposed to 45 uber-efficient GameScores of 14.3 or better in his injury-shortened 51-game season. So even on those rare off nights, according to Kerr, Curry still can draw attention away from the defense, freeing up others for their own stellar performances. “I try to be versatile,” said Curry at a Western Conference Finals press conference, “whether I’m shooting 15 threes or five. Or scoring 18 points or 40. Trying to find a way to impact the game on both ends. I have to be a threat out there at all times, and demand some attention, be sure with the ball and kind of manage the game. That encompasses a lot of different things—playing on the ball, set screens, whatever it takes.” At no time has Curry’s overall impact in that regard been greater felt than this season, with the two-time NBA MVP missing 31 games with a knee injury. His grade 2 MCL sprain effectively kept Curry out of action from March 9 until May 1. During that span of the regular season, the 6-3, 190-pound guard saw his normally unflappable Warriors start flapping, as they went 17-14 in the games he missed, after going 41-10 in the games he did play. “We went through a lot this season,” said Curry, now 30 years old. “We just had to find ways to set mini goals throughout the season, deal with injuries. The big picture was to get to this point. We just had to continue to build momentum down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.” That is precisely what they did, with Curry always excelling in the pockets of the season when he was healthy. His shooting exploits are well-chronicled, with the NBA’s most prolific bomber making at least 41 percent of his three-point attempts, 53 percent of his two-point attempts and 90 percent of his free

throws in each of the four seasons he has led Golden State to an Finals appearance. Quite frankly, during these Finals runs, Curry has bested everyone but Anthony Davis (28.2) in PER from the 2014-15 through 201718 seasons, posting a 28.1 PER himself, while averaging 26 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists along the way. But, as Kerr notes, Curry’s influence on his Warriors teammates is so much greater than mere box-score statistics, perhaps captured best by advanced metrics. Curry’s plus-minus numbers during that four-year span lead the NBA by a country mile, according to Basketball-Reference.com, with Curry registering a plus-3,445 margin, despite missing 39 games. That is over a thousand plus-minus points more than any NBA peer in an opposing uniform (Chris Paul ranks fourth at plus-2,362 these past four seasons), and hundreds more than any of his Warriors teammates (Draymond Green and Klay Thompson have plus-3,044 and plus-2,808 totals, ranking second and third in the NBA respectively). “Steph’s impact has always gone beyond scoring,” said fellow Splash Brother Thompson in a Western Conference Finals press conference. It only amplifies exponentially when you surround Curry, the most accurate shooter (an NBA-best .650 true shooting percentage) of the 100 most prolific three-point shooters (an NBA-best 1,224 three-pointers) these past four seasons, while playing alongside the second-most prolific three-point shooter (Thompson, 1,012 three-pointers) and third-best shooter (Durant, .640) of the aforementioned marksmen. Steph? Klay? And KD? “Passers paradise, for me,” says Green, who averaged 7.3 assists per game. “I enjoy it.” It is no wonder Curry has three of the best four plus-minus campaigns since 2001—when you combine regular seasons with postseasons— which includes his NBA-record plus-1,261 plus-minus margin in 2016-17 in 96 games (a plus-13.1 per game average). For Curry, however, that is just a reflection of the great team he is on. “We’ve got a good thing going,” said Curry. “Everybody knows their role and everybody appreciates the moment that we’ve had, the extended moments we’ve had over the last few years, and hopefully more to come. Just feeding off each other’s energy, and it’s been great.” It is easy to stay positive if you are Curry, or on his side. THE FINALS | 2018

29


WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Steve Kerr

Jordan Bell

Quinn Cook

Stephen Curry

Head Coach Born: 9-27-65 College: Arizona Year Coaching in NBA: 4

No.: 2 Position: Center-Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 224 Birthdate: 1-7-95 College: Oregon Year in NBA: 1

No.: 4 Position: Guard Height: 6-2 Weight: 179 Birthdate: 3-23-93 College: Duke Year in NBA: 2

No.: 30 Position: Guard Height: 6-3 Weight: 190 Birthdate: 3-14-88 College: Davidson Year in NBA: 9

Kevin Durant

Draymond Green

Andre Iguodala

Damian Jones

Shaun Livingston

Kevon Looney

No.: 35 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 240 Birthdate: 9-29-88 College: Texas Year in NBA: 11

No.: 23 Position: Forward Height: 6-7 Weight: 230 Birthdate: 3-4-90 College: Michigan State Year in NBA: 6

No.: 9 Position: Forward-Guard Height: 6-6 Weight: 215 Birthdate: 1-28-84 College: Arizona Year in NBA: 14

No.: 15 Position: Center Height: 7-0 Weight: 245 Birthdate: 6-30-95 College: Vanderbilt Year in NBA: 2

No.: 34 Position: Guard Height: 6-7 Weight: 192 Birthdate: 9-11-85 High School: Peoria Central Year in NBA: 13

No.: 5 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 220 Birthdate: 2-6-96 College: UCLA Year in NBA: 3

Patrick McCaw

JaVale McGee

Zaza Pachulia

Klay Thompson

David West

Nick Young

No.: 0 Position: Guard Height: 6-7 Weight: 185 Birthdate: 10-25-95 College: UNLV Year in NBA: 2

No.: 1 Position: Center Height: 7-0 Weight: 270 Birthdate: 1-19-88 College: Nevada Year in NBA: 10

No.: 27 Position: Center Height: 6-11 Weight: 270 Birthdate: 2-10-84 Country: Georgia Year in NBA: 15

No.: 11 Position: Guard Height: 6-7 Weight: 215 Birthdate: 2-8-90 College: Washington State Year in NBA: 7

No.: 3 Position: Forward Height: 6-9 Weight: 250 Birthdate: 8-29-80 College: Xavier Year in NBA: 15

No.: 6 Position: Guard-Forward Height: 6-7 Weight: 210 Birthdate: 6-1-85 College: USC Year in NBA: 11

Assistant Coaches: Ron Adams, Mike Brown, Jarron Collins Asst. Coaches/Player Development: Chris DeMarco, Bruce Fraser, Willie Green Head Athletic Trainer: Drew Yoder 30

2018 | THE FINALS

JACK ARENT (16)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

COACHING STAFF


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WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Head Coach: Steve Kerr Assistant Coaches: Ron Adams, Mike Brown, Jarron Collins Asst. Coaches/Player Development: Chris DeMarco, Bruce Fraser, Willie Green Head Athletic Trainer: Drew Yoder NO. 35 30 11 23 4

PLAYER Kevin Durant Stephen Curry Klay Thompson Draymond Green Quinn Cook

G 68 51 73 70 33

MIN 2325 1631 2504 2287 741

FIELD GOALS FG FGA PCT 630 1222 .516 428 864 .495 575 1178 .488 281 619 .454 122 252 .484

3-POINT FG FG FGA PCT 173 413 .419 212 501 .423 229 520 .440 77 256 .301 46 104 .442

FREE THROWS FT FTA PCT 359 404 .889 278 302 .921 82 98 .837 134 173 .775 22 25 .880

REBOUNDS OFF DEF TOT 31 433 464 36 225 261 31 246 277 75 460 535 10 72 82

MISC. AST STL 366 50 310 80 185 55 508 94 89 12

BLK 119 8 34 91 1

POINTS PTS AVG 1792 26.4 1346 26.4 1461 20.0 773 11.0 312 9.5

6 3 9 18 34 27 1 2 0 5 15 25

Nick Young David West Andre Iguodala Omri Casspi Shaun Livingston Zaza Pachulia JaVale McGee Jordan Bell Patrick McCaw Kevon Looney Damian Jones Chris Boucher Team Totals Opponents

80 73 64 53 71 69 65 57 57 66 15 1 82 82

1393 999 1622 742 1129 972 615 809 961 910 89 1 19730 19730

201 216 148 120 172 149 136 116 92 112 11 0 3509 3296

123 3 33 10 0 0 0 0 19 1 0 0 926 853

56 60 55 50 50 75 38 30 26 42 3 0 1360 1369

20 64 50 30 32 89 59 60 16 83 5 0 691 893

36 138 210 51 140 109 33 102 81 42 2 0 2402 1934

7 75 38 19 21 17 57 56 10 56 3 0 612 301

581 495 384 300 394 373 310 262 229 267 25 0 9304 8814

488 378 320 207 343 264 219 185 225 193 22 1 6980 7380

32

2018 | THE FINALS

326 8 117 22 5 1 6 4 80 5 0 1 2369 2392

.377 .375 .282 .455 .000 .000 .000 .000 .238 .200 — 0 .391 .357

65 79 87 69 61 93 52 44 34 77 5 0 1668 1807

.862 .759 .632 .725 .820 .806 .731 .682 .765 .545 .600 — .815 .758

Kevin Durant led the Warriors in scoring with 1,792 points and it was the 10th time in 11 seasons that he scored at least 1,500.

105 174 196 170 99 232 110 147 66 132 9 1 2877 2592

125 238 246 200 131 321 169 207 82 215 14 1 3568 3485

38 47 54 18 35 38 21 35 43 34 1 0 655 717

7.3 6.8 6.0 5.7 5.5 5.4 4.8 4.6 4.0 4.0 1.7 0.0 113.5 107.5

Draymond Green is the Warriors’ franchise leader in triple-doubles with 21.

NOAH GRAHAM; ROCKY WIDNER; LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

With 212 three-pointers, it was the sixth straight time that Stephen Curry has notched 200 in a season.

.412 .571 .463 .580 .501 .564 .621 .627 .409 .580 .500 .000 .503 .447


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By Michael Bradley

CENTERS OF ATTENTION

After flirting with the guards and swingmen for a few years, the NBA Draft will be going back to its first love: big men.

C

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2018 | THE FINALS

Height: 7-0 Weight: 243 College: Arizona Projected Position: Center There is some debate over whether Ayton should be the top overall pick, but many people are convinced he’s the one. “He’s a franchise-changing talent,” a Western Conference executive says. “He has every offensive tool in the box.” Ayton has tremendous physical skills and athletic ability. He can shoot to 17 feet and even made some threepointers (12-of-35) for the Wildcats. Ayton rebounds well and he isn’t a bad passer. “He has a high skill level,” an Eastern executive says. “He can face up. He makes free throws. His rebounding is elite.” The question with Ayton comes at the other end. He doesn’t protect the rim. He blocked only 66 shots in 35 games, a low total for somebody with his skill and size. Ayton isn’t good at guarding the perimeter and will have to make a big commitment to improving on that side of the ball. “His defensive game is not as good as you would think it is for someone with his physical package,” the Eastern exec says. The thinking is that some work will fix his defense, but you can’t teach the raw skills that Ayton already possesses.

Jaren Jackson Jr.

Height: 6-11 Weight: 240 College: Michigan State Projected Position: Power Forward The son of former player Jaren Sr., Jackson has the chance to do what pops didn’t do: Go up to the draft stage and shake the Commissioner’s hand. But Jr. will have a long road to go before he matches dad’s 12 years in the League, one of them ending in a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. In order to get there, he’ll have to improve his jump shot and get more consistent with his offensive production. But a team looking for someone with amazing potential would do well to consider him carefully. “He plays the right way, is usually highly engaged in the game, is unselfish and is a really, really good rim protector,” the Eastern personnel man says. “He is good at blocking shots. “His upside stands out.” The Western exec gushes a little more: “He is a freak of nature physically.” Jackson is one of the youngest players in the draft (he doesn’t turn 19 until Sept. 15), which means he has plenty of room to grow. “He’s a very good player,” the Eastern exec says. “He ‘s a great kid, too.”

JOE MURPHY (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

all this one “The Return of the Big Men.” There have been plenty of tall people chosen in the upper reaches of the NBA Draft before, but recently we have been overrun with wings and guards and people who want to do anything but play inside. This year is different. It’s possible as many as four pivots could be chosen during the Lottery portion of the proceedings, and a couple other top prospects have the capacity to handle center duties in smalllineup alignments. “As many six or seven big men could go in the Lottery,” says an Eastern Conference personnel man. While the belief among many in the know is that Arizona center Deandre Ayton is the top prospect, there is no agreement about how the other big men sort themselves out. In a draft that doesn’t include a lot of top-shelf, true guards, people’s eyes will be looking up, and teams will be trying to fortify their interiors with an interesting crop of big men. The following is a rating of the top 15 players, based not on where they will go in the Draft but on how their careers will proceed once they reach the NBA.

Deandre Ayton


LAYNE MURDOCH; JOE MURPHY (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Luka Doncic

Height: 6-8 Weight: 228 Country: Slovenia Projected Position: Shooting Guard/Small Forward Doncic won’t win the decathlon, and asking him to lock down anybody on the perimeter is a mistake— not because he won’t try. But when it comes to understanding the game of basketball and making his teammates better, Doncic is ready to contribute to a winning team immediately. After all, the 19-year-old has been playing professionally in the very competitive Euroleague since he was 16. “He is elite in just about everything but speed,” the Eastern exec says. “He’s slower than most wings, but he’s more skilled and has a higher basketball IQ than any kid his age I’ve seen in a while.” Doncic is a strong shooter and makes good decisions. He’s mature, has good size and the willingness to step up in clutch situations. “He is going to beat you with his mind,” the Eastern personnel man says. Doncic will be a solid defender in a team concept and someone who will always be welcome on the floor by his teammates.

Marvin Bagley III

Height: 6-11 Weight: 235 College: Duke Projected Position: Power Forward There can be no denying Bagley’s ability on the offensive end. He showed throughout his one year in Durham that he has special skills with the ball in his hands. “He really has a knack for scoring,” the Western exec says. “He has unbelievable hands, a great touch, can handle the ball a little bit and has the best first twitch in the draft. He gets a lot of putbacks and offensive rebounds.” Bagley has a good post-up game, with plenty of energy and the ability to maneuver in close areas around the basket. Bagley is a quick leaper who can face up. He could well average 20 and 9 as a rookie—and give up that much at the other end. Bagley doesn’t protect the rim, and last year the Blue Devils went to a zone often to hide his shortcomings as a defender. “On defense, it’s a matter of figuring out if he can be disciplined enough,” the Eastern personnel man says. “He’s physically and athletically gifted enough to play defense.”

Michael Porter Jr.

Height: 6-10 Weight: 215 College: Missouri Projected Position: Small Forward Because of a back injury that limited him to three games, Porter’s body of work is largely taken from his spectacular high school career. On that alone, he’s a top-five pick, and might’ve been in the conversation for the No. 1 pick had he dominated the collegiate ranks, as many had projected. “He can really score the basketball,” the Eastern personnel man says. “He does it effortlessly and easily and from all areas on the court. He can get to the rim in transition.” Porter does so many things well that he will fit nicely in today’s position-less, mix-andmatch NBA. He has a fine feel for the game and has shown the ability to score wherever he has played. “He is the modernday, versatile, inside-out player,” the Western exec says. “You can run the offense through him.”

Mohamed Bamba

Height: 7-0 Weight: 215 College: Texas Projected Position: Center The Eastern personnel man has a plausible reason why Bamba seemed at times to coast and has gained something of a reputation as someone who doesn’t always play hard. “At the high school level, sometimes he got bored,” he says. “Even at the college level, he got bored. Look at the games when something was on the line. He responded.” That may be true, but the NBA offers plenty of opportunities for players to check out. Take that Tuesday night in February on the fourth day of a six-day road trip, for instance. Bamba must prove that he wants to give maximum effort at all times. If he does, his team will receive elite defensive play—3.7 bpg last year—and good rebounding. Bamba isn’t very advanced offensively, but the Western executive says he is in better shape now than Jazz pivotman Rudy Gobert was when he entered the League.

THE FINALS | 2018

35


Wendell Carter Jr.

Height: 6-10 Weight: 260 College: Duke Projected Position: Center/Power Forward Teams expecting Carter to be an immediate standout—or a standout at any time—could be disappointed. But the Western exec says he will “be a really good piece” and has a ceiling of Al Horford. That’s not bad. Carter can shoot and pass from the pivot position, and though he can handle some work at the 4 spot on offense, he cannot defend opponents there. That could be a problem. Also, because he spent much of the 2017-18 season in the shadow of Bagley, it’s hard to tell what Carter can really do on the offensive side. “You don’t know if you are getting a top 10 center with him,” the Western exec says. “But if you put some pieces around him, he can be really good.”

2018 | THE FINALS

Height: 6-7 Weight: 205 College: Villanova Projected Position: Small Forward/Shooting Guard The team that drafts Bridges might not win the press conference or sell many of his jerseys, but it will definitely win some games. “He’s not a sexy pick and not that great of an offensive creator with a million moves,” the Eastern executive says. “But he has made himself into a very good shooter, and he plays with a lot of character. He’s a winning player.” Bridges is an anomaly in the lottery, in that he spent four years (one as a redshirt) in college. But he was part of a Villanova team that won two national titles and has the 3-and-D ability that is so valuable in today’s game. Bridges can defend four positions, understands the game well and will be a great teammate. He’s also a proven winner who will go well with any franchise looking to breed a winning culture. “He’s not a flashy player and isn’t highly touted, but he knows how to play and was well coached,” the Eastern personnel man says. “He helped his team win and is one of those guys who can come in and contribute right away.”

Collin Sexton

Height: 6-2 Weight: 185 College: Alabama Projected Position: Point Guard A franchise looking for someone to run the team could do worse than Sexton, who draws high praise for his motor, character, desire and ability to energize a team. “He has an infectious energy on the court,” the Eastern exec says. “He’s a high-character guy with a 4.0 GPA and off the chart leadership skills,” the Western executive says. “He plays extremely hard every single game, every single possession,” the Eastern personnel man says. While Sexton checks off all the character boxes, his basketball skills are the ones in question. Sexton is a streaky shooter, but he wants to take the big shot. He’s able to play in pick-and-roll situations, and once he gets going toward the basket, he’s tough to stop. Sexton can finish through contact and is a good passer. He’ll defend willingly and wants to win.

Shai GilgeousAlexander

Height: 6-6 Weight: 180 College: Kentucky Projected Position: Point Guard By the time the 2017-18 season was over, anybody heading to Lexington and other college outposts to see UK’s Kevin Knox or Hamidou Diallo came away impressed with Gilgeous-Alexander, who must work on his shot but has plenty of intangibles. “He makes great decisions and has a natural feel for the game,” the Eastern exec says. “He has a 7-foot wingspan. He doesn’t have great speed, but he has size, speed and a good brain.” Gilgeous-Alexander isn’t going to flourish in an uptempo system, and asking him to jet past opponents is a mistake. But he has the ability to set up his teammates and is a willing defender. At Kentucky, he earned the right to lead, something that is usually bestowed upon the Wildcats’ one-and-done players.

JOE MURPHY (4)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

36

Mikal Bridges


JOE MURPHY (4)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Miles Bridges

Height: 6-7 Weight: 230 College: Michigan State Projected Position: Power Forward/Small Forward Bridges took a gamble and returned for his sophomore season in East Lansing, even though many had him in the lottery last year. But since he actually enjoyed being on campus, it wasn’t a horrible move. Now, he finds himself back in just about the same situation: Facing a late lottery destiny and likely to find himself on a team that isn’t too far out of playoff contention. There are worse fates. The question with Bridges is what position he plays. “He’s not a three,” the Western exec says. “He’s a four.” “He can play three and four,” the Eastern personnel man says. Bridges can hit shots if his feet are set. He’s a good rebounder, and he is a capable passer. Bridges is tough, has good character and comes from a strong program. “He can do a lot on the court except create his own offense,” the Eastern exec says. “He doesn’t have a one-onone or pick-and-roll game. That’s what you want from a star. He can be a good role player and a third or fourth option on offense.”

Kevin Knox

Height: 6-9 Weight: 215 College: Kentucky Projected Position: Small Forward/Power Forward “He’s right out of central casting,” says the Western executive. “He looks like a player.” That’s true. If you called room service and asked for a long, athletic forward, you might just find a waiter carrying Knox in on a tray. He has a sweet shooting stroke, can move well and is extremely athletic. He certainly passes the eye test. The question with him is what he does when he hits the floor and whether it translates consistently to the NBA game. “He is really young, but he can score the ball,” the Eastern personnel man says. “He’s still trying to figure out how to get all the way to the rim and finish. Sometimes, he shies away from contact.” Knox isn’t a great rebounder, and his NBA assignment will most likely be as a stretch 4, which could be problematic on the defensive end. “Someone might think they can convert him to a 3, like they tried to do at Kentucky,” the Western exec says. “It hasn’t worked.”

Trae Young

Height: 6-2 Weight: 175 College: Oklahoma Projected Position: Point Guard You will see a lot of mock drafts that have Young as high as sixth, and he may well go that high. But this rating is about a player’s success in the NBA, and Young has some issues in that regard. There is no denying his shooting range, which begins when he enters the arena. He’s a willing and very good passer. And he is quite strong in transition. But there are some big questions about him and they all focus on him on the defensive end. Young doesn’t have great size, and he isn’t very athletic. In fact, his body “still needs a lot of work,” according to the Eastern personnel man. But if a team wants to commit to playing at 100 mph and doesn’t care it surrenders a lot of points at the other end, Young could well be the right guy. “He is off the charts in terms of his skill and basketball IQ,” the Eastern exec says. “But he has a lot of physical deficiencies. He’s very small, very thin and has average speed, at best.”

Lonnie Walker IV

Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 College: Miami Projected Position: Shooting Guard Walker was a heralded recruit for the Hurricanes, and though he didn’t tear things up in south Florida (11.5 ppg), he remains a Lottery level player, in part because there aren’t a lot of European candidates at the 2 position, and collegians like Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter decided against coming out. “He had some moments and showed a lot of talent at times,” the Western exec says. “He’s athletic, can pass it a little bit but is really raw.” Walker can hit shots and has a variety of capabilities. The question with him is what he does particularly well, although having an athletic wing who can knock down shots is attractive to a lot of teams. “I don’t know if he has an elite skill,” the Eastern personnel man says. “He does try to guard people, and he tries to play the right way.”

THE FINALS | 2018

37


POSITION RANKINGS

2018 NBA Draft Order*

1. Collin Sexton, Alabama 2. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky 3. Trae Young, Oklahoma 4. Jalen Brunson, Villanova 5. Aaron Holiday, UCLA 6. Landry Shamet, Wichita State 7. Jevon Carter, West Virginia 8. Shake Milton, SMU 9. De’Anthony Melton, USC 10. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas

1. Phoenix 2. Sacramento 3. Atlanta 4. Memphis 5. Dallas 6. Orlando 7. Chicago 8. Cleveland (from Brooklyn via Boston) 9. New York 10. Philadelphia (from Los Angeles Lakers via Phoenix) 11.Charlotte 12. LA Clippers (from Detroit) 13. LA Clippers 14. Denver 15. Washington 16. Phoenix (from Miami) 17. Milwaukee 18. San Antonio 19. Atlanta (from Minnesota) 20. Minnesota (from Oklahoma City via Utah) 21. Utah 22. Chicago (from New Orleans) 23. Indiana 24. Portland 25. Los Angeles Lakers (from Cleveland) 26. Philadelphia 27. Boston 28. Golden State 29. Brooklyn (from Toronto) 30. Atlanta (from Houston via LA Clippers)

Point Guards

Shooting Guards

Robert Williams

Height: 6-9 Weight: 240 College: Texas A&M Projected Position: Power Forward/Center During the Aggies’ NCAA Tournament run, it seemed the only way to stop Williams was to have an air-traffic controller shut down his flights to the rim. Williams played pogo-stick ball, and it wasn’t hard for NBA fans to imagine him on the receiving end of alley-oops, fastbreak dishes and offensive rebounds. He played the 4 in college, but the Western exec thinks he’s more of a “Clint Capela, Montrezl Harrell type center” with the ability to pass, handle it a little bit and defend at the rim. “He’s a freak and has some tools,” the Western exec says. But there are some off-court issues with Williams that have raised flags. “He could be picked at 25 and could be in the top 10,” the Eastern personnel man says.

1. Luka Doncic, Slovenia 2. Lonnie Walker IV, Miami 3. Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech 4. Donte DiVincenzo, Villanova 5. Khyri Thomas, Creighton 6. Bruce Brown Jr., Miami 7. Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy 8. Gary Trent Jr., Duke 9. Grayson Allen, Duke 10. Rawle Alkins, Arizona

Small Forwards 1. Michael Porter Jr., Missouri 2. Mikal Bridges, Villanova 3. Kevin Knox, Kentucky 4. Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State 5. Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky 6. Jacob Evans, Cincinnati 7. Chandler Hutchison, Boise State 8. Dzanan Musa, Bosnia 9. Kevin Hervey, Texas-Arlington 10. Kenrich Williams, TCU

Power Forwards 1. Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State 2. Marvin Bagley III, Duke 3. Miles Bridges, Michigan State 4. Robert Williams, Texas A&M 5. Jontay Porter, Missouri 6. Moritz Wagner, Michigan 7. Omari Spellman, Villanova 8. Chimezie Metu, USC 9. Alize Johnson, Missouri State 10. Gary Clark, Cincinnati

Centers 1. Deandre Ayton, Arizona 2. Mohamed Bamba, Texas 3. Wendell Carter Jr., Duke 4. Mitchell Robinson, Chalmette (LA) HS 5. Austin Wiley, Auburn

First Round

Second Round

* As of May 17, 2018. Subject to change.

38

2018 | THE FINALS

ROBERY LABERGE/GETTY IMAGES

31. Phoenix 32. Memphis 33. Dallas 34. Atlanta 35. Orlando 36. New York (from Chicago via Oklahoma City) 37. Sacramento 38. Philadelphia (from Brooklyn) 39. Philadelphia (from New York) 40. Brooklyn (from Los Angeles Lakers via Toronto and Orlando) 41. Orlando (from Charlotte via Phoenix and Memphis) 42. Detroit 43. Denver (from LA Clippers via New York and Philadelphia) 44. Washington 45. Brooklyn (from Milwaukee) 46. Houston (from Miami via Memphis) 47. Los Angeles Lakers (from Denver via Chicago and Utah) 48. Minnesota 49. San Antonio 50. Indiana 51. New Orleans 52. Utah 53. Oklahoma City 54. Dallas (from Portland via Denver) 55. Charlotte (from Cleveland via Brooklyn and Philadelphia) 56. Philadelphia 57. Oklahoma City (from Boston) 58. Denver (from Golden State) 59. Phoenix (from Toronto) 60. Philadelphia (from Houston)


PROSTATE CANCER IS A MAJOR CAUSE OF DEATH OF MEN IN AMERICA. Protect the At-Risk Men in Your Life. C Ì• íþ  Ì‰« æʹ͵ЂÍ·Í° ‰â ËÓæí‰íЄâ³æÂÏ&#x;̖Óò≫  ĄÓòâª‰í° âæϚò̖ŠæϚæÓÌæϚ •âÓí° âæϚªâ³ ÌœæϚ‰Ìœ –ÓЄþÓâ âæíÓ« íí æí œÏ&#x;

KEY PROSTATE CANCER FACTS + CONSIDERATIONS RISK FACTORS Age – Most prostate cancer cases occur in men age 60 and older. z íϚ‰泫̳Ĕ–‰ÌíÌò˕ âÓªË Ì are diagnosed in their 40’s and early 50’s. Race/Ethnicity – Black men °‰ý í° °³«° æ휠‰í°â‰í ªÓâ Ã&#x;âÓæí‰í –‰Ì– âÓª‰ÌĄ≖³‰ÅÓâ ethnic group in the US, over twice í° â‰í Óªþ°³í Ë Ì‰––Ó✳̫ to the American Cancer Society. Family History – Men with a ª‰í° âÓâ•âÓí° âþ³í°Ã&#x;âÓæí‰í  cancer are 2.5 times more likely to develop the disease.

SCREENING FOR CANCER

TREATMENT

Prostate cancer screening is via ‰æ³ËÃ&#x;Ã…Â •ÅÓӜí æíЄí° V]Є þ°³–°–° –Âæí° –Ó̖ Ìíâ‰í³ÓÌÓª Ã&#x;âÓæí‰í ЄæÃ&#x; –³Ĕ–‰Ìí³« ÌæÏ&#x;

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Active Surveillance – Increasingly Ë Ìþ³í°˳Ŝ â–‰æ æÓªÃ&#x;âÓæí‰í  –‰Ì– â‰â ‰œý³æ œ•ĄœÓ–íÓâæíÓ • «³Ìþ³í°ÌÓÌЄæò⫳–‰Åí⠉íË Ìí ЄËÓ̳íÓâ³Ì«íòËÓâæý³‰í°  V]‰ÌœÓí° â•ÅÓӜí æíæЄíÓ measure the disease’s progress.

High or rapidly changing PSA levels can lead to additional tests. c° æ ‰â Óªí ÌæÓÃ&#x;°³æí³–‰í œ •ÅÓӜí æíæ‰Ìœ•³ÓÃ&#x;æ³ æÏ&#x;

Get Another Opinion – As testing ‰Ìœœ í –í³ÓÌÓªÃ&#x;âÓæí‰í –‰Ì– â improve, its treatments evolve. Seeking a second or third opinion is a great approach.

At Fans for the Cure, one of our goals is to become a trusted source for information on prostate cancer, early detection awareness, treatment options, and clinical trials.

Get detailed, fact-based information about prostate cancer on our website. Fans for the Cure is a nonprofit charity, recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS under Section 501(c)(3).

fansforthecure.org/MiLB2017


WHAT IS VASCEPA? VASCEPA is a prescription medicine used along with a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet to lower high levels of triglycerides (fats) in adults. • It is not known if VASCEPA changes your risk of having inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis). • It is not known if VASCEPA prevents you from having a heart attack or stroke. • It is not known if VASCEPA is safe and effective in children.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION WHO SHOULD NOT TAKE VASCEPA? • Do not take VASCEPA if you are allergic to icosapent ethyl or any of the ingredients in VASCEPA. WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF VASCEPA? • It is not known if people who are allergic to fish or shellfish are also allergic to VASCEPA. • If you have liver problems and are taking VASCEPA, your doctor should do blood tests during treatment. • The most common side effect of VASCEPA is joint pain. Talk to your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

Intellectual property owned by the Amarin group of companies. ©2018 Amarin Pharma, Inc. Bedminster, NJ, USA. All rights reserved. VAS-00533v3 3/18


PURE EPA OMEGA-3 VASCEPA® FOR VERY HIGH TRIGLYCERIDES VERY HIGH TRIGLYCERIDE LEVELS ARE ≥ 500 mg/dL

Vascepa looks different because it is different. It can be hard work battling very high triglycerides, also known as fat in the blood. But did you know that not all Omega-3s are clinically proven? Nor are they all the same. Discover prescription VASCEPA. Unlike unproven fish oil supplements, COMMON FISH OIL VASCEPA is pure* EPA Omega-3, and it’s FDA approved. VASCEPA, along with diet, is clinically proven to lower very high triglycerides by 33% in adults without raising bad cholesterol.† That’s pure power. Proven to work. Ask your doctor about VASCEPA today. Or visit Vascepa.com to learn more. *Vascepa 1-gram capsules contain 1 gram of icosapent ethyl, a form of the unique Omega-3 fatty acid known as EPA, and inactive ingredients. † In MARINE trial, on average, along with diet changes, adults with very high triglycerides experienced a 33% reduction without raising LDL-C vs placebo. Individual results may vary. Insurance co-pay assistance card referenced below may not be used to obtain prescription drugs paid for in part by Federal or State Healthcare Programs including Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, Tricare, and VA. Not for use by VT residents, VT licensed medical professionals, patients under 18, where prohibited by law or patient’s insurance plan, or where taxed or restricted. Maximum savings of $70 per month or $140 per 90 day supply. Eligible patients include those who participate in commercial insurance, through a healthcare exchange, or pay cash. Offer good through December 31, 2019. Please visit Vascepa.com for more information.

As with all drugs, you may experience a serious side effect when taking VASCEPA. You may report side effects by calling 1-855-VASCEPA or the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088. Tell your doctor if you take medicines that affect your blood clotting (anticoagulants or blood thinners). Take VASCEPA capsules whole. Do not break, crush, dissolve, or chew VASCEPA capsules before swallowing. For more information on VASCEPA, see the Patient Information on the adjacent page or call 1-855-VASCEPA (1-855-827-2372).

VASCEPA is covered without restriction for the majority of patients.

Commercially insured patients pay as little as

$9 for a 90-day supply.‡ Subject to eligibility. Restrictions apply.


PATIENT INFORMATION VASCEPA® (pronounced vas-EE-puh) (icosapent ethyl) Capsules What is VASCEPA? VASCEPA is a prescription medicine used along with a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet to lower high levels of triglycerides (fats) in adults. It is not known if VASCEPA changes your risk of having inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis).

• Your doctor may start you on a diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, and low in added sugars before giving you VASCEPA. Stay on this diet while taking VASCEPA. • Your doctor may do blood tests to check your triglyceride and other lipid levels while you take VASCEPA. What are the possible side effects of VASCEPA? If you have liver problems and are taking VASCEPA, your doctor should do blood tests during treatment.

It is not known if VASCEPA prevents you from having a heart attack or stroke.

The most common side effect of VASCEPA is joint pain. As with all drugs, you may experience a serious side effect when taking VASCEPA. Talk to your doctor if you have a side effect that bothers you or does not go away.

It is not known if VASCEPA is safe and effective in children.

These are not all the possible side effects of VASCEPA.

Do not take VASCEPA if you are allergic to icosapent ethyl or any of the ingredients in VASCEPA. See the end of this summary for a complete list of ingredients in VASCEPA.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Before taking VASCEPA, tell your doctor about all of your medical conditions, including if you: • have diabetes. • have a low thyroid problem (hypothyroidism). • have a liver problem. • have a pancreas problem. • are allergic to fish or shellfish. It is not known if people who are allergic to fish or shellfish are also allergic to VASCEPA. • are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant. It is not known if VASCEPA will harm your unborn baby. • are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. VASCEPA can pass into your milk, and may harm your baby. Talk to your doctor about the best way to feed your baby if you take VASCEPA. Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and dietary or herbal supplements. VASCEPA can interact with certain other medicines that you are taking.

How should I store VASCEPA? • Store VASCEPA at room temperature between 68° to 77° F (20° to 25° C). • Safely throw away medicine that is out of date or no longer needed. Keep VASCEPA and all medicine out of the reach of children. General information about the safe and effective use of VASCEPA. Medicines are sometimes prescribed for purposes other than those listed in Patient Information Leaflets. Do not use VASCEPA for a condition for which it was not prescribed. Do not give VASCEPA to other people, even if they have the same symptoms you have. It may harm them. You can ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider for information about VASCEPA that is written for health professionals. What are the ingredients in VASCEPA? Active Ingredient: icosapent ethyl Inactive Ingredients: tocopherol, gelatin, glycerin, maltitol, sorbitol, and purified water

Especially tell your doctor if you take medicines that affect your blood clotting (anticoagulants or blood thinners).

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How should I take VASCEPA? • Take VASCEPA exactly as your doctor tells you to take it. • Do not change your dose or stop taking VASCEPA without talking to your doctor. • Do not take more capsules than what is prescribed by your doctor. - If you are prescribed the 0.5-gram capsules, you should not take more than 8 capsules each day. - If you are prescribed the 1-gram capsules, you should not take more than 4 capsules per day. • Take VASCEPA capsules whole. Do not break, crush, dissolve, or chew VASCEPA capsules before swallowing. • If you miss a dose of VASCEPA, take it as soon as you remember. However, if you miss one day of VASCEPA, do not double your dose when you take it.

This patient information has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VASCEPA isis aa registered registered trademark of the Amarin group of companies. VASCEPA 07921 All All rights rights reserved ©2016 Amarin Pharma, Inc. Bedminster NJ, 07921 Pharma,Inc. Inc.Bedminster, Bedminster,NJ, NJ,USA USA Distributed by: Amarin Pharma Manufactured for: Amarin Pharmaceuticals Ireland Limited Dublin, Ireland +1-855-VASCEPA (+1-855-827-2372) www.vascepa.com PP00120K

2/2017


SUMMER

BLOCKBUSTERS

This summer will see plenty of intrigue, cliffhanging moments, thrills and chills in a WNBA arena near you.

LAYNE MURDOCH (2); GARRETT ELLWOOD (2); JORDAN JOHNSON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

By Michelle Smith

T

he 2017 WNBA season concluded in similar fashion to 2016— with an epic Game 5 capper to a Minnesota Lynx vs. Los Angeles Sparks championship classic. This time, Minnesota emerged victorious, avenging its 2016 WNBA Finals loss. Any spotlight on the 2018 season starts there. Are we headed for Lynx-Sparks Part III? History will be on the line for Minnesota, as reigning MVP Sylvia Fowles, phenom Maya Moore and company are chasing the franchise’s fifth title, which would break a tie with the Houston Comets for the most in WNBA history. A title for L.A. would be the Sparks’ fourth, vaulting them into a three-way tie for most all-time. But several challengers loom that make another WNBA Finals rematch far from inevitable. Can the Mercury gear up for another run with DeWanna Bonner back in the fold? Does the return of 6-8 center Liz Cambage make the Wings a contender? Are Tina Charles and the Liberty, Jonquel Jones and the Sun, or Breanna Stewart and the Storm ready for a breakthrough? Or is another surprise team looming? Elsewhere, No. 1 pick A’ja Wilson leads the Aces into their inaugural season in Las Vegas, three new head coaches take the helm, four-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry re-joins the Dream…and the list goes on. As the 22nd season of the longest-running women’s professional league in history gets underway, every team in the league is trying to write its new story. THE FINALS | 2018

43


Maya Moore

1. Minnesota Lynx

The Title: The Drive for Five The Plot: The Lynx have a chance to be all alone among WNBA champions if they can pull off another title run with a team that was already the oldest in the league a season ago. But it’s getting to be time to think about the future beyond 2018. Who is the heir apparent to Lindsay Whalen—balancing playing for the Lynx and coaching the University of Minnesota—at point guard? Is Rebekkah Brunson, in her 15th season, going to be able to anchor this team on the boards? How can they build some depth at small forward? If anyone can come up with the answers, it would be Cheryl Reeve. The Star: Maya Moore. All Moore has done is help deliver four titles in her seven years in the league. She is still playing at her peak. One of the best in the world.

2. Los Angeles Sparks

The Title: Third Time’s a Charm The Plot: The Los Angeles Sparks have gone down to the wire against Minnesota in the WNBA Finals in back-to-back seasons, winning the title in 2016 and losing in 2017. The Sparks would very much like to join the four-championships club with Houston and Minnesota in 2018 while they are still at the height of their powers with Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike. Alana Beard is back. Odyssey Sims re-signed in free agency and was a huge factor in last year’s run at a title. Cappie Pondexter, No. 4 on the league’s all-time scoring list, signed in free agency to add even more scoring punch. The Sparks look poised to be back for more success. The Star: Candace Parker. Parker enters her 11th WNBA season still capable of doing everything for her team – scoring, rebounding, dishing. And her close relationship with Ogwumike has solidified this team’s place in the league’s elite. 44

2018 | THE FINALS

3. Phoenix Mercury

The Title: Pieces in Place The Plot: Back at full strength and ready to challenge, the Mercury will have a rested Diana Taurasi, a peaking Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner back after a season away after giving birth to twins. That potent trio alone gives WNBA opponents enough reason to worry that the Mercury are back in championship form. The Star: Brittney Griner. Griner might have given Sylvia Fowles a run for MVP last year if she hadn’t gotten hurt in the second half of the season. Still, she finished as the league’s leading scorer and is at the height of her considerable skill set right now. She is unstoppable.

Skylar Diggins-Smith

4. Dallas Wings

The Title: Creating a Postseason Pattern The Plot: Liz Cambage, the No. 2 pick in the 2011 Draft, is indeed returning to the WNBA this season after five years away. The Wings’ future suddenly looks very bright. One of the best post players in the world gets added to a mix that already includes Skylar Diggins-Smith, reigning Rookie of the Year Allisha Gray and versatile Glory Johnson and Karima Christmas-Kelly. The Star: Skylar Diggins-Smith. While Cambage will get a lot of attention, Diggins-Smith is the one who will pull the spotlight in her direction on the floor with her ability to be among the league’s most exciting scorers.

JORDAN JOHNSON; MICHAEL GONZALES; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Candace Parker (left) and Nneka Ogwumike

Brittney Griner (right) and Diana Taurasi


T.J.MARTELL

FOUNDATION “Music’s Promise for a Cure”

43 YEARS & OVER $280 MILLION RAISED FOR CANCER RESEARCH

www.tjmartell.org


Breanna Stewart

5. Seattle Storm

The Title: Fit for a Title (Run) The Plot: It’s a new beginning for the Storm under head coach Dan Hughes, who is looking to make the most of a roster anchored by the dynamic inside-outside combination of Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart. Sue Bird, at the age of 37, has proven that she has many good basketball days still ahead. The Storm were the second-worst rebounding team in the league last season and need some help on the boards through free agency or the draft. The Star: Breanna Stewart. In her third year as a pro, “Stewie” has a chance to bust out and become an MVP candidate if the Storm can figure out a way to get more consistent.

A’ja Wilson

6. Las Vegas Aces

46

2018 | THE FINALS

7. New York Liberty

The Title: Give Them Liberty The Plot: The Katie Smith era begins for the Liberty, who don’t merely want to be a playoff contender, but a title contender. The Liberty need to shore up a roster that could use another scorer on the wing to support Tina Charles and Epiphanny Prince. The Star: Tina Charles. The Liberty will lock in their star, the player who has made them go for the past few years. Now it’s time to build a championship-caliber team around her.

Jonquel Jones

8. Connecticut Sun

The Title: No More Surprises The Plot: The pleasant surprise period is over for the Sun, who now become a true threat in the league for the first time in half a decade after last year’s breakout success for young stars Jonquel Jones, Jasmine Thomas and Alyssa Thomas. Integrating Chiney Ogwumike back into the lineup will be the biggest task in the early part of the season. But having a player like Ogwumike on the floor only makes the Sun stronger, deeper and more dangerous. The Star: Jonquel Jones. A double-double machine. A raw young talent with a very high ceiling. A player that every veteran in the league is watching with excitement.

NED DISHMAN (2); BRIAN BABINEAU; GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Title: All In The Plot: The Aces will be one of the most interesting stories of 2018 after their relocation to Sin City under the leadership of Bill Laimbeer, one of the most successful coaches in league history. The team that moved from San Antonio has seen its share of struggles, with the worst record in the league over the past three seasons. The time has come for a turnaround behind No. 1 draft pick A’ja Wilson, plus young guards Kayla McBride, Kelsey Plum and Moriah Jefferson, who missed the end of the season with a knee injury and is rehabbing in Vegas. The Star: Bill Laimbeer. The moves Laimbeer makes in this first season will set the tone for this franchise for years. The Aces signed Carolyn Swords and Tamera Young in free agency, plus acquired Kelsey Bone via trade.

Tina Charles


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Elena Delle Donne

9. Washington Mystics

The Title: Second Chances The Plot: The Mystics made a strong statement in 2017 that they were a franchise to be reckoned with after adding All-Stars Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver to the roster. Mike Thibault’s team will be looking to take the next step in 2018 and make a push at being a title contender. But in order to do that, the Mystics need backcourt depth and scoring from the wing. The Star: Elena Delle Donne. One of the best players in the world when she’s healthy. Her versatility in Thibault’s quest to play “positionless basketball” raises the Mystics to a new level.

Courtney Vandersloot

10. Chicago Sky

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2018 | THE FINALS

11. Atlanta Dream

The Title: Dreaming Big The Plot: The Dream get their guardian Angel back for 2018 alongside a backcourt full of talented young guards, including Layshia Clarendon, Tiffany Hayes and Brittney Sykes. They also get a new head coach in Nicki Collen, who will navigate bringing Angel McCoughtry, one of the most consistent scorers in league history, back into the fold. The Star: Angel McCoughtry. Has she lost anything in a year away from the game? We will find out.

Candice Dupree

12. Indiana Fever

The Title: Starting Over The Plot: The Fever ended the league’s longest-ever run of consecutive playoff appearances in 2017 at 12, the first following Tamika Catchings’ retirement. In 2018, the Fever have a new role for head coach Pokey Chatman, who has also taken over general manager duties, and a centerpiece in veteran forward Candice Dupree. Perhaps No. 2 overall pick Kelsey Mitchell, who finished No. 2 all-time in NCAA career scoring, will develop into the player to lead Indiana into the next era. The Fever need her explosiveness, after finishing 2017 as the lowest-scoring team in the league. The Star: Candice Dupree. An All-Star in her first season with the Fever, the forward showed she’s still capable of leading a team on the court. With mainstay Briann January traded to Phoenix, Indiana will rely on Dupree even more as a leader in the locker room.

DAVID SHERMAN; KEVIN LILES; GARY DINEEN; RON HOSKINS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Title: Heading Downtown The Plot: The Sky are headed to a new downtown arena and using the opportunity to start fresh after missing the playoffs in 2017. Not one, not two, but three lottery picks will debut this season: Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams, the No. 3 and 4 picks in this year’s draft, along with Alaina Coates, the former South Carolina star who missed her rookie season with an injury. That rookie trio complements the experienced backcourt of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot. The Star: Experienced, talented point guards are hard to come by. Courtney Vandersloot’s heady play is the key to the Sky’s fortunes, coming off a year in which she set the league record for assists per game average.

Angel McCoughtry


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BREAKING GREAT

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By Michael Bradley

The St. Louis Hawks didn’t know it at the time, but their 1958 Finals victory would prevent the Boston Celtics dynasty from becoming even more legendary.

NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

T

he year before, he had experienced crushing defeat. This time, he would be carried off the Kiel Auditorium court and into the locker room. Bob Pettit deserved every second of the ride. His Hawks, who had lost the NBA title to Boston in an epic, doubleovertime Game 7 showdown in 1957, had vindicated themselves by whipping the Celtics, 110-109, to win the 1958 world championship. Pettit, the future Hall of Fame forward, had scored 50 points in the deciding Game 6 victory to warrant being borne about the arena on a sedan chair—not just carried around by a bunch of sweaty guys—with teammates’ sprinkling rose petals in advance of him. It was the first and only title for the Hawks’ franchise, which was based then in St. Louis, and it was only one of two times the Celtics would fail to win it all during a 13-season stretch from 1956-1969. In that moment, as the Hawks and their delirious fans were celebrating Pettit and the title, no one could have known the extent of the Boston dynasty. It was more a vindication for the previous year’s disappointment than one of the two speed bumps the Celts would encounter during their dominance. “It wasn’t me; it was the team,” Pettit said in the jubilant locker room after the win. “I’m so happy to be with this group.” There was no denying Pettit’s heroics in the game and the series—he averaged 29.3 points—but the 6-9 forward had plenty of help, most notably Cliff Hagan and Slater Martin. Boston, meanwhile, was not at full strength, thanks to injuries to Bill Russell, Bill Sharman and Jim Loscutoff. Still, it would be wrong to consider the victory any less legitimate. Injuries play a part in every season, as some of the Celtics’ victims during that span would note. Even Boston boss Red Auerbach was unwilling to denigrate the Hawks’ triumph. “They deserved the title,” Auerbach said. “They outshot us and won the close ones, but we made ‘em go all the way down to the wire to beat us, and Bill Russell, willing as he was, was far from the Russell of mid-year.” However, Pettit reached top form in the final series. In the fourth season of an 11-year career that featured All-Star appearances in each campaign, he continued to stake his claim as the League’s top frontcourt man—Russell was just a second-year man at the time—by scoring in bunches and pounding the glass. In the finale, Pettit scored 19 of the Hawks’ final 21 points. He was no secret to the Celtics, who had endured his outbursts for a while, particularly in the previous season’s Finals. Forward Tom Heinsohn played against Pettit while at Holy Cross, when the Crusaders beat LSU in the Sugar Bowl Classic. He knew Pettit was “pretty good” then. Once the forward joined the NBA, Heinsohn became even more impressed.

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1957-58 NBA Champion St. Louis Hawks

They deserved the title. They outshot us and won the close ones, but we made ‘em go all the way down to the wire to beat us. —Red Auerbach

“He immediately became a terrific pro,” says Heinsohn, who continues to handle color commentary on Boston TV broadcasts. “He could score, was a terrific jump shooter and knew how to use picks. He was a fabulous rebounder and was a difficult guy to defend. “He had all the stuff you needed.”

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NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

••• When Heinsohn coached the Celtics, he was on the sidelines for one of the wildest Finals games ever, the triple-OT Game 5 slugfest with Phoenix in 1976 that featured enough plot twists to fill an entire season of a Netflix drama. But when he was a rookie in 1956-57, he played a key part in one of the most dramatic games in Finals history. The seventh game of the 1957 Finals, played in Boston Garden, not only went two extra periods, it featured St. Louis head coach Alex Hannum having to play after four of his players fouled out. Heinsohn was magnificent in the game, scoring a team-high 37 points (Pettit had 39 for the Hawks) on 17-of-33 shooting and playing excellent defense. The 125-123 verdict capped a series in which neither team ever led by more than a game. And it gave the city of Boston its first title since the Bruins took the Stanley Cup 16 years earlier. “We were just getting together that year,” Heinsohn says. “Russell was a rookie. I was a rookie. [Frank] Ramsey was just getting back from the service. Winning the championship was a big deal for the franchise.” The Hawks and Celtics already had a history when they

squared off for the ’57 crown, and it was quite a history. As the 1956 NBA Draft approached, St. Louis had the second overall pick, and Boston owned the seventh. Auerbach, who also handled personnel for the franchise, a job he had proven quite adept at when he was the boss of the Washington Capitols in the late ‘40s, coveted Russell. Boston was loaded with perimeter players, including Sharman, Ramsey and the great Bob Cousy, and Auerbach wanted a big man. For him, Russell was the big man. “I had to have somebody who could get me the ball,” said Auerbach, who never actually saw Russell play before he acquired him. “I had been tipped off about Russell by my college college, Bill Reinhart. Bill said Russell was the greatest defensive player and greatest rebounder he had ever seen.” Rochester, which had the first pick, didn’t have the resources to offer Russell the contract he would command. Moreover, the Royals already had a terrific young frontcourt anchored by Jack Twyman and Maurice Stokes. They needed shooting. So Auerbach set his sights on the second pick. He called Ben Kerner, who owned the Tri-Cities Blackhawks when Auerbach was the team’s coach, and offered future Hall of Famer Ed Macauley to Kerner if he selected Russell with the second pick. The Hawks’ owner wanted more, so Auerbach offered Hagan as well. Kerner jumped at the opportunity. Russell averaged 14.7 points and 19.6 rebounds per game in his first season, which was cut short by his participation on the U.S. Olympic team. By the time the Finals came along, Russell was a force all over the court.


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Bob Pettit (#9) and Cliff Hagan (#16)

Cousy

L-R: Tommy Heinsohn, Bob Cousy and Red Auerbach

Hagan

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his ability to imbue players with responsibility and a sense that the game belonged to them. He still had ultimate say—“Red was the complete boss, and we accepted that,” Ramsey says—but he wasn’t so imperious as to dismiss his players’ ideas about what would be successful. During timeouts when the team was struggling, Auerbach wouldn’t dictate. Instead, he would try to reach a consensus with the players on the best course of action. “Red was a terrific competitor and fabulous manager of people,” Heinsohn says. “Many times when I speak about managing people, I point to him and how he got people to be committed to the whole team. He was a shrewd guy who utilized people’s ideas to make them feel part of a bigger thing.” Heinsohn says being part of the Celtics was like “being part of basketball’s Cosa Nostra (mafia or organized crime),” because Auerbach was able to create an insular sensation within the team. “It was our thing,” he says. “We were always involved in the decision making. If there were two minutes left in a game, and we were down 10 points, we would come back and win, and people would say Red was a basketball genius. He was a management

NBA PHOTOS (2); ROBERT RIGER; DICK RAPHAEL (2) /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

“By that time, he was dominant,” Heinsohn says. “People didn’t know what to do with him. He made other teams change their offenses. He changed the game.” The 1957-58 Celtics posted a 49-23 record, eight games better than Syracuse, which finished second in the Eastern Division and the same amount ahead of the Hawks, who won the West by eight games. The team looked every bit the repeating type, thanks to a starting five more talented than any in the League. Even though Auerbach deployed a nine-man rotation for much of the year, which he sometimes stretched to 10 by using rookie—and future backcourt stalwart—Sam Jones, his first five were the key producers. Each scored at least 1,000 points during the 72-game season, with Sharman’s 22.3 ppg leading the way. Russell’s scoring production jumped to 16.6 ppg, but he was still the team’s fourth-leading scorer. His biggest value was on the backboards (22.7 rpg) and the defensive end. The Celtics had great players, but their MVP might well have been Auerbach, the master psychologist and consummate leader. He may have been known (and loathed in other NBA circles) for his victory cigars, but Auerbach’s true genius lay in

Bill Russell (#6) and Pettit


Hagan (#16) and Pettit (#9)

Heinsohn

Pettit

There were very few shots, if any, that a defensive man could stop against [Pettit]. He really shot the eye out of that ball all night. —Andy Phillip

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Western Division. The following year, they were the class of the bunch and were primed for some revenge against the Celtics. It didn’t seem like too many other people were, as the city was focused on hockey. Game 1 of the Finals was merely the matinee ahead of the marquee evening playoff matchup between the Bruins and Rangers in the same building. Only 3,652 fans rolled around the Garden in the opener, which St. Louis captured, 104-102, behind 33 points from Hagan and 30 from Pettit and despite committing 27 turnovers. The Hawks fell behind early and trailed, 23-17, after one quarter but used a robust 42-point second stanza to forge a 59-53 halftime advantage. The final 24 minutes featured plenty of lead changes, and the game remained in doubt until the final 2:12, when Pettit hit a free throw and used a Hagan pass to score the game’s final basket and give the Hawks the victory. Boston had two chances to tie it in the final minute, but an Arnie Risen hook shot and a Cousy jumper missed the mark. St. Louis had stolen the homecourt advantage. The next day, Boston reasserted its primacy in a 136-112 victory. This time, 10,249 fans showed up to watch, and the Celtics didn’t disappoint. Cousy was a maestro, leading the way with 25 points and 10 assists, while Russell added 22 and 27 rebounds. Perhaps more important was his improved eye from the foul line. After missing 6 of the 13 free throws he attempted in Game 1, Russell converted 8 of 10 in the second contest. Sharman (22 points) and Lou Tsioropoulos (12 points, 11 boards) were also sparkplugs. But perhaps the biggest surprise was the play of the rookie Jones, who in nine games against the Hawks during the regular season played only 36 minutes and scored but 13 points. This time, he put up 16 points in 19 minutes. Not that anybody expected it, especially Auerbach. “I sent Jones in on a hunch—and I’d be a liar and an egotist to say there was any planned strategy,” he said. The main story for the Hawks in the 111-108 Game 3 victory was not Pettit’s 32 points, or Ramsey’s 29 points and 10 rebounds, or the Celtics’ 22 missed free

THE STEVENSON COLLECTION (2); DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

genius. He would ask, ‘Does anybody have anything that might work?’ After we gave our thoughts, he would say, ‘Let’s go with Heinsohn’s thing first and then try Cousy’s thing second.’” The Celtics dispatched the Philadelphia Warriors in five games to take the Eastern championship and gain a second straight Finals berth. Meanwhile, out West, the Hawks had posted the first winning regular-season record in franchise history. The team had begun its journey to St. Louis—and ultimately Atlanta—as part of the old National Basketball League in Buffalo, where it existed as the Bisons for all of 36 days. It moved to Moline, Illinois, where it was re-branded the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (Rock Island, IL, and Davenport, IA were the other two cities represented in the name) and joined the NBA in 1949. The coach? Red Auerbach. After one season, which featured plenty of trademark Auerbach wheeling and dealing, the coach quit, because owner Ben Kerner traded away his favorite player, John Mahnken. The franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1951 and St. Louis for the 1955-56 season. By then, Pettit had arrived on the scene. The second overall pick in the 1954 Draft was named Rookie of the Year in ’55 and MVP the following season. But he didn’t have much of a supporting cast until the Hawks traded the rights to Russell to the Celtics for Hagan and Macauley. In the long run, it turned out to be a great deal for Boston, but both of the new Hawks were future Hall of Famers, although Macauley was in the last few seasons of his career. Hagan and Ramsey had grown up 50 miles apart in Kentucky and had played for Adolph Rupp at UK together. Hagan was a 6-4 wing with good scoring instincts and the ability to rebound well. That season, he had earned the first of five consecutive All-Star selections. “He had a good hook shot that he could shoot with either his right or left hand,” Ramsey says. “He could make that shot almost with his eyes closed.” Despite their 34-38 record in 1956-57, the Hawks finished in a three-way tie with Fort Wayne and Minneapolis atop the


Slater Martin

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but its defense may have been even more impressive. The Celts held Pettit to 12 points, on 3-of-17 shooting. St. Louis missed 22 free throws, tying a Finals record set three days earlier by Boston. Russell didn’t play again in Game 5, and this time, the Celtics couldn’t overcome the loss of their defensive leader. Although Pettit made just 7-of-21 from the field, he converted 19-of-22 from the line and led the Hawks with 33 points. In the battle of point guards, St. Louis’ Martin scored 25, while Cousy managed just 10. Nevertheless, the Hawks, leading 99-90 with 2:12 to play, had to withstand a furious Celtics rally to hang on for a 102-100 victory. The Hawks were on the cusp of the franchise’s first title and were heading home with an eye on clinching. Even though Russell played in Game 6, he managed just 20 minutes and scored only 8 points, with 8 boards. It didn’t help that he picked up four quick fouls in the first half. “St. Louis was a good team, but I don’t think they would have beaten us if Russell had been able to play,” Heinsohn says. While Russell struggled, Pettit soared. In the biggest game of his career, he scored 50 points, on 19-of-34 shooting, and pulled down 19 rebounds, to lead the Hawks to a 110-109 win. Nineteen of his points came in the last quarter, including 11 straight at one point. His tip-in, with 16 seconds remaining, gave the Hawks a 110-107 lead that the Celtics did not surmount. His ride off the court, due as much to his exhaustion as to his teammates’ jubilation, was entirely warranted. “There were very few shots, if any, that a defensive man could stop against him [in Game 6],” said Boston forward Andy Phillip of Pettit. “He really shot the eye out of that ball all night.” And brought the Hawks their title.

NBA PHOTOS; DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

throws. It was Russell’s ankle injury, which occurred in the third quarter, as he swatted away a Pettit shot. To add insult to injury, he was whistled for goaltending. “No one pushed me or shoved me,” Russell said. “I just fell after leaping up and landed most of my weight on the right foot.” St. Louis held an 82-67 lead in the third quarter and was in front by 12 in the fourth, but Boston battled back and trailed 110-108 with 39 seconds left after Jones drilled a 30-footer. Both teams failed to convert opportunities after that, and Martin’s free throw with two seconds left to play sealed the victory. The game was played in front of a raucous Kiel Auditorium crowd, and some of the more unruly patrons threw wads of paper onto the court to protest the officiating. The Hawks were no happier than their fans, although they didn’t try to pelt the refs with projectiles. After the game, Hannum and Kerner protested to the NBA’s head of referees, Jocko Collins, about Auerbach’s “ranting and raving” during the game. Hannum was angry that the Boston coach’s antics provided his team with unwarranted rest. “From the time in the third quarter, when Auerbach ran all over the floor and in effect had extra timeouts, without being charged for them, everything went against us,” Hannum said. “If Auerbach can run out there and yap all night, I want the right to speak my mind, too.” The big news before Game 4 was Russell’s attire—street clothes. Although his ankle was healing, he wasn’t available to play. Not that it mattered. The Celtics rolled to a 109-98 win, thanks to a balanced attack led by Cousy’s 24 points. Sharman contributed 21, while Ramsey added 18, and Heinsohn had 17. Boston’s offense was crisp and efficient,

Pettit (#9) and Russell (#6)


NEVER DOUBT THE HEART OF A CHAMPION 62

2018 | THE FINALS

DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Boston Celtics proved in the 1968 Finals that there was still life in their dynastic run.


By Rob Peterson

W

ith Game 5 of the 1968 Finals tied at 108 and three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the ball found its way into the hands of Los Angeles Lakers forward Elgin Baylor, and he was the guy L.A. wanted with the ball in his hands to win the game. But he was in the wrong place to do it: at the Boston Garden, where L.A.’s championship hopes often went to die. The Lakers had been agonizingly close to Finals glory before on the Celtics’ home floor, pushing Boston to seven games in two of their five previous Finals meetings. In Game 7 of the 1962 Finals, with the score tied at 100, Celtics great Bob Cousy lost track of Lakers shooting guard Frank Selvy on an inbounds pass. “Hot” Rod Hundley found Selvy alone in the left corner and no Celtic within five feet of him. Great shooters rarely find themselves that wide open and Selvy, who had once scored 100 points in a game in college, was one of the greatest of them all. The grainy, standard-definition color footage on YouTube shows Cousy making a late lunge at Selvy as he released the potential championship clincher. But because of nerves or leprechauns or simply that Selvy made a rare miscalculation with the shot, the ball hit the rim and bounced into Bill Russell’s hands. The game went to overtime, where the Lakers lost in heartbreaking fashion.

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“That shot,” Russell told the Boston Globe after the game, “was the kind you hoped for.”

The 1967-68 Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ defensive game plan keyed in on Jerry West (#44).

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NBA PHOTOS; DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

In 1966, the Lakers had fought back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7 at Boston Garden. L.A. rallied from 10 points down in the final 45 seconds of that game, cutting the lead to two with three seconds to go, before the Celtics, yet again, triumphed over their rivals, 95-93. In 1959, ’62, ’63, ’65 and ’66, the Finals’ story had the same ending: The Boston Celtics win, the Lakers lose. Yet here was Baylor late in Game 5 in 1968—a crazy back-andforth affair in which the Celtics led by 19 points in the first half and by 18 in the second half—with a chance to win the game. It was a miracle the Lakers even had an opportunity to grab a 3-2 series lead for the first time since that epic 1962 Finals. Add to that the Lakers got their final chance to win thanks to a turnover committed by Russell, the longtime ringleader of their heartache, and stealing this one at the Garden would be extra sweet. Baylor got the ball at midcourt but didn’t have time to drive to the hoop. Instead, he flung a shot from 25 feet, on the same side of the court from which Selvy had come up short on his jumper in the ‘62 series.

As we leave Baylor’s shot in the air for a moment, you need to understand how the NBA arrived at this point—the Celtics and Lakers playing one another in their sixth Finals in 10 years. Because unlike their previous Finals battles, the 1968 clash was not pre-ordained as the prior five meetings seemed to be. The Celtics dominated the NBA like no other franchise has done in any team sport, before or since. Beginning with Russell’s arrival in 1956, the Celtics won 70.6 percent of their regular-season games, finished first in the Eastern Division for nine consecutive seasons, and second for the next three. During that that span, they won nine NBA titles in 11 years, including eight consecutive championships from 1959 to 1966. Also in that span, Russell’s defensive genius would also earn him five NBA MVP Awards, an honor that, at the time, was determined by a vote of the League’s players. And let’s not forget Finals MVP awards—which Russell has zero, but only because the award didn’t exist until Russell’s final year in 1969—but suffice to say he would’ve had a few on his mantel since the trophy awarded to the Finals’ most pivotal performer was named after him in 2005. “The impact [Russell] had on the team, with the players who were there, was significant in the sense that for the first time there was a player from a defensive standpoint who changed the way the game was looked at,” says Jerry West. Baylor was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959 and carried a 33-39 Minneapolis Lakers team to the Finals, where the Celtics—who else?—promptly dispensed of them in the first Finals sweep. In 1960, the Lakers headed to the West Coast, and that same season, they got West, who arrived in L.A. from West Virginia. He and Baylor gave the Lakers the two best players in the Western Division. Together, they won the Western Division four times in five years between 1962 and 1966—where they invariably met their nemesis. Celtics vs. Lakers in the Finals? Pencil it in. Hell, forget the pencil. You could chisel it onto stone. But by 1968, pro basketball was in the middle of radical changes on and off the court. The Celtics, with their fastbreak offense, a center who defended the hoop not from below but from above it, and, at one point, an all-African-American starting five, were often at the forefront this change. And there was no more revolutionary act than Red Auerbach. After winning his eighth consecutive NBA title as coach in 1966, stepped aside from coaching (but continued as GM) and named Russell the first African-American coach (as player-coach) in a major professional sports league. In his first season at the helm, Russell’s Celtics were good,


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John Havlicek (#17) and West (#44) battled all series, both players leading their teams in scoring.

Elgin Baylor (#22) paced the Lakers in rebounds per game (12.5) and was second in points (26.2).

Don Nelson (#19) scored 26 points in Game 5, averaging 14 PPG in the Finals.

[Bill Russell] combined every element that you would love to have on a team, but more importantly, the players who played with him knew how special he was. He brought a different perspective in many ways, and he brought a completely different change in the game of basketball in that period of the NBA’s history because he was so dominant defensively. —Jerry West

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Hawks, winning their semifinals series in six games, while the Lakers breezed past the Bulls in five games, setting up a Western Division Finals meeting with the Warriors, the team that swept them out of the playoffs in 1967. In the East, the No. 2 seeded—and aging—Celtics got the 40-42 Pistons in their opening-round series, instead of the up-and-coming Knicks. Philly’s reward for finishing first was to face New York. And that’s when the mighty Sixers’ season started to unravel. Billy Cunningham, who had provided instant offense for the Sixers all season, averaging 18.9 points in just 28 minutes per game, broke his right wrist in Game 3 against the Knicks and would miss the rest of the postseason. The Sixers would grind their way to a series win, but it took six games. Waiting in the Eastern Division Finals were the Celtics—a team the Sixers thought they had vanquished the previous season. But as the Division Finals were about to start, tragedy struck. On April 4, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated as he stood on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. Celtics center Wayne Embry, who would go on to a Hall of Fame career as an NBA executive and is currently a senior adviser to the Toronto Raptors, remembers trying to reconcile Dr. King’s death and having to play a game the next day. “None of us wanted to play,” Embry recalls now. “It was a horrible, horrific thing, for all that Dr. King meant for civil rights and bringing [social change] along in this country. “There was anger. There were a lot of different emotions that came into play. But after the [NBA] commissioner and mayors of the cities came together, they thought it was best that we did play because it would keep people off the streets and keep their

DICK RAPHAEL (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

winning 60 games in an NBA that had expanded to 10 teams in 1966-67. They couldn’t, however, match their rivals from Philadelphia. In 1966-67, the Sixers destroyed all challengers, raced to a then-record 68 wins, starting 46-4. Exorcising demons that dated back to the days of the Philadelphia Warriors, the Sixers destroyed the Celtics in the Eastern Division Finals in five games, including a 140-116 pasting in Game 5. Philly fans’ chant of “Boston’s dead! Boston’s dead!” reverberated through Philadelphia’s venerable Convention Hall—and throughout the NBA. And if anyone doubted the greatness of Philadelphia’s 79-17 overall record, Sixers coach Alex Hannum tried to set the record straight. “This is the greatest team ever assembled,” said Hannum after the Sixers’ triumph. The Sixers—who returned every player from their title team with the exception of forward Dave Gambee, whom they lost to the San Diego Rockets in the expansion draft—looked primed to repeat the following season. Once again, they finished first in the East in the regular season with 62 wins, eight games ahead of the Celtics. When the NBA expanded for the 1966-67 season, it adopted a new playoff seeding setup. According to the The New York Times from November of 1966, the NBA planned to seed the postseason with the top seed facing the No. 3 seed and No. 2 taking on the fourth seed. Thus, the Celtics and Lakers, who also finished second in their division, faced an easier road in the postseason. In 1968, instead of meeting the 29-53 Chicago Bulls, the West Division regular-season champion St. Louis Hawks drew the 43-39 San Francisco Warriors. The Warriors stunned the


West (#44) led all players in the series with 31.3 points per game.

interest in the game, and that it would be the wise thing to do. So that’s why we came together and played.” Embry and his Celtics teammates were able to regroup enough to stun the Sixers, 127-118, in Philly in Game 1. The NBA decided to push Game 2 of both the Eastern and Western Division Finals to April 10, the day after Dr. King’s funeral in Atlanta, which Chamberlain and Russell both attended. The extra days seemed to give the Sixers the time they needed to get back on track, as they won Game 2 in Boston, Game 3 in

Wayne Embry

The Spectrum. Russell the player had been terrific in the series. Now, with a trip to the Finals on the line, Russell the coach was going to show his stuff. “Before Game 7 in Philly, he comes to me and says, ‘Wayne, you’re going to play a lot in this game because I know you can guard Wilt,” Embry says. “And I’m going to guard Chet Walker. Chet Walker has never had someone like me guard him.’ “That was a stroke of genius. If he could contain Chet, he had confidence that I could contain Wilt because of my strength. I

I thought there would be champagne and all that in the locker room after the game. No champagne. I asked why, and they said, ‘Well, it’s just another game for us. Another year. Another championship.’ —Wayne Embry

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thought it was a great coaching decision.” Russell, who played all 48 minutes, hounded Walker into an 8-for-22 shooting performance. Chamberlain had 34 rebounds, but only 14 points, as the Celtics topped the Sixers, 100-96, in Game 7. Ever the NBA pioneers, the Celtics became the first team in League history to win a series when trailing three games to one. “At this point,” Russell told the Boston Globe after the stunning comeback, “it is my most satisfying victory.” In the West, with the No. 1 seeded Hawks out of the way, the No. 2 seeded Lakers, who had West and Baylor, got revenge for being swept out of the 1967 playoffs by barely breaking a sweat in sweeping San Francisco. For the first time in their illustrious, intertwined histories, the Celtics and Lakers met in the Finals after neither finished first in their respective divisions. It was also the first time in 16 seasons that the top seeds in each division failed to make the Finals. In his book, Hang Time: My Life in Basketball Baylor didn’t shed any tears over the Celtics’ upset of the Sixers. “I’m not heartbroken that we will be facing the Celtics instead of the younger Sixers. The Celtics have added veterans

DICK RAPHAEL (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Philly and Game 4 in Boston to take a 3-1 series lead. In three games, the Sixers had restored order and Boston was staring at consecutive, five-game series defeats in the East Division Finals. In order to make its 11th Finals in 12 years, the Celtics would need to make history once again. They also needed a little inspiration. And they got it, thanks to a wisecracking journalist. “I remember this vividly,” Embry says. “We walked off the practice court in Boston, with the next game in Philly, and one of the old sportswriters in Boston says, loud enough for us to hear as we were walking off, ‘This is the last day we’re going to need this court. We can pack it up and get it ready for hockey. We won’t need this floor anymore.’ “We go into the locker room, and [John] Havlicek and I write ‘PRIDE’ on the board in big letters, and we put little bitty dollar signs beneath that. That may not have been the turning point, but I think it did have an effect, in that we thought pride was going to prevail. “And it did.” With Sam Jones and Havlicek pouring in the points, and Russell controlling the boards, the Celtics easily won the next two games to force a Game 7 in Philadelphia’s brand-new arena,


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Bailey Howell and Don Nelson, Bill turned 33 [actually 34] earlier this year, Sam Jones must be at least our age, and Havlicek is no kid. Bunch of old guys,” Baylor wrote. “They have to be worn out after that Philadelphia series. Overall, we’re younger, quicker, and motivated. We’ll beat them this time, our sixth Finals appearance against the Boston Celtics. Sixth time is the charm. Has to be.”

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West was the Lakers’ primary offensive facilitator. He led the team with 5.7 assists per game.

years and sixth against the Lakers dating back to 1959. It was only the third time the Celtics had captured an NBA title on the road. Havlicek played 291 of a possible 293 minutes and averaged 27.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists for the series. Russell played 292 minutes and grabbed 21.8 boards per game. He added 17.3 points and 5.7 assists per game for good measure. Embry noted that the victory over the Lakers was sort of an anti-climax after the historic comeback against the Sixers in the Eastern Division Finals. Yet, for Embry, who had planned to retire after the 1966 season but was coaxed out of a good job with Pepsi Cola by Russell and Auerbach, this was his first title in his 10 NBA seasons, and he figured that a proper celebration was in order. “I thought there would be champagne and all that in the locker room after the game,” Embry says, laughing at the recollection. “No Champagne. I asked why, and they said, ‘Well, it’s just another game for us. Another year. Another championship.’ “They weren’t as celebratory as I was.” Embry was able to get his bubbly later that night at the hotel, but Boston’s 10th title was seen as business as usual not only then, but years later as well. In his book Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend, Russell gives only a passing mention to the history he and the Celtics made. “In 1968, my second season as player-coach, we won another championship. It was especially exhilarating because I had fulfilled my last basketball agenda: winning a title as a coach. One was enough, so I decided to retire. But when an important personal matter intervened, I changed my mind, for just one year. I kept this to myself but I knew, going in, that 1969 would be my last year in basketball.” And while time has fogged the details of some of those involved in a series 50 years ago, it may also be hard for NBA fans today to imagine the impact Russell had on the NBA as a player and as a coach. But for West, Russell’s greatness endures. “He combined every element that you would love to have on a team, but more importantly, the players who played with him knew how special he was,” says West. “He brought a different perspective in many ways, and he brought a completely different change in the game of basketball in that period of the NBA’s history because he was so dominant defensively. “He was given a great gift and he used it.”

DICK RAPHAEL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

And maybe it would be. After four games, the series was tied, with each team winning a game on the other’s home court. And 47:57 into Game 5 at Boston Garden, the game was tied. Russell had double-dribbled, giving the ball to the Lakers with three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. “You do everything you can to guard it, but it was Elgin,” Embry says. “He was one of the true great ones. And when that shot left his hand, it looked like it was going in.” It didn’t, because in the ’60s good things never happened to the Lakers in Boston Garden. Russell grabbed the rebound, and Game 5 headed into overtime. After the game, Baylor wished Russell had made his mistake a few seconds earlier. “I didn’t have time to drive,” Baylor said. “Five or six seconds, yes. They let me take the shot as I saw Russell fall back.” The Celtics were able to draw from their seemingly bottomless well of talent and good fortune in overtime thanks to a Lakers’ castoff. Nelson, who was released by Los Angeles after the 1965 season, scored a career-high 26 points, including four in overtime. To further underscore how intertwined these franchises had become, a former Celtic played a huge role for the Lakers. Mel Counts, who was traded by the Celtics after the 1966 season, poured in a playoff-best 20 points and frustrated Russell all night. “You know, it’s funny,” Russell told the Boston Globe. “We let Counts go and Los Angeles let Nelson go. And look at the nights they had.” But when a key play needed to be made, the Celtics’ biggest star came through. After nearly giving the game away in regulation, Russell made the play of the game against—who else?—Baylor. The Celtics led 119-117 with 38 seconds remaining and Baylor got Nelson in the post. As Baylor let the ball go, Russell came flying in over Nelson’s shoulder and blocked Baylor’s shot. Nelson corralled the ball and was fouled. He made one of two free throws to give the Celtics a 120-117 lead. The Lakers had two shots in the waning moments, but couldn’t convert. Again, the Lakers missed a golden opportunity to steal one in Boston, and were headed back to L.A. down three games to two. To everyone but the Lakers at the Boston Garden, Russell’s block was another brilliant defensive play in a lifetime of them. But to Russell the coach, it was foolhardy. “My play was actually a bad one,” Russell said. “I came off the weak side and let Mel Counts go free. I really shouldn’t have done that because Counts was shooting me out of the gym already. But I did it and it worked.” Things always seemed to work for the Celtics. Game 6 was in L.A. and, no matter the outcome, the Celtics would return to Boston after the game. They could return with the title or they could have the Lakers join them on the cross-country trip for a Game 7 in Boston Garden. From the start, it was clear that the Celtics wanted no part of a potential Game 7, as they took a 70-50 lead into the half of Game 6. Boston would win going away, 124-109. Havlicek scored 40, Bailey Howell added 30 and Russell grabbed 19 boards. The Celtics had won their 10th title in 12


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By Pete Croatto

FLYING UNDER THE RADAR Elgin Baylor ushered in the ongoing love affair with above-the-rim stars and is easily the best NBA player in Finals history to have never won.

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PHIL BATH/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

ike the on-court action, the history of basketball moves in a blur. To today’s young fans, Michael Jordan is footwear or Bugs Bunny’s intergalactic teammate, not the pseudomortal who defied gravity 82 nights a year. Fans from the era of mood rings and Atari describe Julius Erving as a doctor who performed surgery against opposing forwards in two professional leagues. Every generation has its own aerial artist. Elgin Baylor, who began his career in 1958 with the Minneapolis Lakers, is the first. Baylor literally unleashed moves that nobody had ever seen in a previously ground-bound game. He brought basketball into color, provided the foundation for scorers to leap ever-higher. “I never stepped in and thought about what I’m going to do, how I’m going to play or anything else,” says Baylor, 83, who retired in 1971 with the Los Angeles Lakers. “I just go out there and play. The defense really determines what you’re going to do, how they’re going to guard you.” Good luck getting Baylor to unleash the superlatives. For a man who introduced the aerial offensive game to the NBA, who averaged more than 27 points and nearly 14 rebounds a game on his way to the Hall of Fame and a 16-foot, 9-inch, 1,500-pound statue outside the Staples Center, he sounds like a hobbled journeyman grateful for the 10-day contract and a warm bed. On how he wants to be remembered: “I always gave my best effort, and hopefully, they were pleased with my performance.” On his place in NBA history: “When I went out there and played, I just did the best that I could.” Thankfully, the fans of Giannis and Kyrie and KD can learn more about one of the NBA’s first-name stars beyond YouTube footage and folk tales from their elders. Co-written with Alan Eisenstock, Baylor’s recently released memoir, Hang Time: My Life in Basketball, is a thoughtful, expansive road map of Baylor’s path to greatness. In his basketball life, Baylor battled a despotic father, endured racism in Washington, D.C., survived a plane crash, battled through crippling knee pain, and had stints as an NBA head coach (New Orleans Jazz) and general manager (Los Angeles Clippers). In today’s socially conscious NBA, Baylor was also a trailblazer. When he and his fellow African American teammates were denied a hotel room in Charleston, West Virginia, before a game there in January 1959, Baylor refused to play in the game. The move made national headlines and prompted a personal apology from the town’s mayor. Five years later, Baylor agreed to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game if NBA players didn’t get better conditions from the League. The move worked. The game went on and the players received a raft of new benefits, including a pension plan.

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Baylor (top row, second from left) started the season on the roster of the 1971-72 Lakers, but knee injuries forced him to retire before the team would eventually go on to win the NBA Championship.

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Do you take pride in the Finals scoring record? You know, really, I don’t think about it. I have a mindset: I look at every game as the same. I go out there to give my best and to win every game, so I don’t think of anything different than that. When playing the Celtics, did they bring more out of your game than other teams? To be honest, it doesn’t matter [who you’re playing]. You want to win. You have to have that winning thing in your system, your mind. When you go out there, every game you feel the goal [is] to give your best, 100 percent. I don’t care who it is. It could be my brother: I want to win. During that 61-point game, you write in Hang Time that you felt you were just scoring more than usual, but it didn’t feel like anything special. I never used the term “in the zone” or anything, and I’m never aware of it when I go out there and play—whether it’s points I got or rebounds I got. I never even thought about that until later on when a writer or somebody might write about it or bring it up. Some things I’ve done out there on the floor, I don’t even remember. I don’t even think about it. The only thing I think about is, feel good about, is the fact that we won the game. How did you get that focus? Ever since I was a teenager going out there playing with marbles, I wanted to win. For some reason, the good Lord made me that way. That’s the way I am…. You have to have the feeling that anything I wanted to do that I can do it. If I wanted to go to my left, I could go to my left. I want to go to my right, I could go to my right. If I want to take the jump shot to try and get in and get a layup, I just feel anything I wanted to do that I could do it regardless of the defense or how they played me. Is that confidence what differentiates the good players from the great players? I think so, because you have to have confidence that you could do something that maybe is beyond your limits. But the point is you think about it, and you think: “Hey, whatever it is, you challenge it and you’re going to conquer it.”

NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

No matter how hard Baylor shuns the mythology, the record book has the final word. Nearly 50 years later, Baylor still holds the single-game scoring record in the Finals, pouring in 61 points against the Boston Celtics in 1962’s Game 5 victory. To put the feat in perspective, consider this: The Celtics’ roster that season featured seven Hall of Fame players, including arguably the greatest defensive force the game has ever seen in Bill Russell. Yes, Jordan scored 63 points 24 years later, also against the Celtics, in the First Round of the 1986 playoffs. But he faced five Hall of Famers on that legendary team. It wasn’t on the NBA’s grandest stage. He needed overtime to break Baylor’s mark. And, most importantly, the Bulls lost. Baylor’s career in the Finals lacked the ultimate triumph. Eight times his teams made the Finals. Each time, his team lost—seven times to the vaunted Celtics and once to the storied, teamwork-friendly 1970 Knicks. It’s all irrelevant. Baylor is part of the gilded history of the NBA, which led us to today’s international success. He showed that basketball could be ballet, and that you could succeed grandly with that approach. Without Baylor, Erving might have actually operated in a room and not the hardwood; Jordan might have retired from baseball to try his hand at basketball. It is impossible to cover a basketball legend’s life in a single conversation, so we stuck to mostly Finals related questions, including the scoring record, why the Celtics were so hard to beat, and why Baylor was happy for Jerry West to win the championship that eluded him.


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Who do you think has the best shot of breaking your Finals scoring record? It would be LeBron James. What is it about his game that makes him the best candidate to break that record? Because he’s really a competitor. The guy can play absolutely every position on that team. He could even play center in a lot of teams because of his size, his strength, his quickness. And think about when LeBron goes out there, he gives 100 percent, he plays hard every game. I just admire the way he plays and he’s an unselfish player. And the stuff he can do for a guy his size is amazing.

Is he the best shooter you’ve ever seen? No doubt. [laughs] Not even close. He’s the greatest shooter I’ve ever seen. I don’t think you’ll ever see another guy shoot like Curry.

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Was Bill Russell ultimately the difference between the Celtics and the Lakers in all those Finals? Oh, absolutely. You could have put Russell with any team in the League and they’re going to win. [The Celtics] had the thing that they really needed most: a dominant center. He would have been great to play with if I had the chance. We never really just kept a team, a solid roster, [together], and that was a problem. Because, think about it: You have a relationship with your teammates. You play well together, the next thing you know, one or two of them are gone. You really miss them. In order to be successful, I think you need to have a good relationship—not only with your coach, but with your teammates so you could play together as a team. Do you think that revolving door prevented you from maybe winning a championship? Probably so. What was it about Russell that made him great? You see a lot of people, they would probably look at statistics and see Russell didn’t score a lot of points, but they don’t look at the intangible things that Russell does. Russell saved them so

NBA PHOTOS; WEN ROBERTS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Is there any other player today that you admire aside from LeBron James? Another player who I like is [Stephen] Curry. I mean, he’s the most amazing shooter I’ve ever seen. He can get, I don’t know, it looks like 10 feet behind the three-point line. He can shoot from every angle. And the distance: I mean sometimes it looks like he’s 15 feet behind the halfcourt line and he flicks it up there with no effort. He’s not a big guy. He’s so proficient at that. I’ve never seen anyone shoot like that, and it’s really exciting to watch him play. He’s an unselfish player. He does a good job getting the ball to the open man. He’s a pleasure to watch.

To score 61 points even in peak condition is hard to do. Was it more of a challenge to play that well considering you had all that time off with the military obligation? Yeah, it definitely was. I couldn’t get a pass to get off the base to go play. Sometimes I would get there just probably half an hour or an hour before the game. It wasn’t easy. The thing that bothered me the most is I couldn’t practice. For a while, I could not practice with the team.


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Boston’s Bill Russell (#6) stood in the way of Baylor winning an NBA Championship, as the Lakers lost to the Celtics seven times during Baylor’s career.

many points on the team by blocking shots. And Russell would get his points. But the thing about Russell, he’d hit the open man to get them shots. He would get offensive rebounds. He was a phenomenal player. He didn’t need to score a lot of points; he just needed to do the things that he wanted to do. Russ and I were very good friends. After the game, we’d always go out to eat. Once in a while, I’d kid about him trying to block my shot: “Why are you even trying? You know you’re not gonna block my shot.” And a couple of times, I dunked the ball on him. He thought I was going to lay it up. It’s something I could kid him about, and Russell hates for anyone to score in any kind of way. He wanted to block every shot. He got over it. I would hope so. Do you remember him ever blocking your shot? You know what, he might have. I don’t remember. When I first came in the League, he probably—probably—did block a shot of mine or two.

When he retired, did that take something away from you, because that’s who you wanted to beat? No, it didn’t affect me because I wanted to beat everybody that I play against. It wouldn’t affect me at all whether Russell was there or not.

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You left the Lakers nine games into the 1971-72 season, and they eventually went on to win the NBA Championship. If you had stayed on as a reserve, which is what you were delegated to by coach Bill Sharman, do you think you could have helped the team? Yes. If I had stayed on, I would have. I just wasn’t the same player [who could] do all the same things, because I started getting injuries and the worst thing in the world is to get injuries, which sets you back more than anything.

NBA PHOTOS; DICK RAPHAEL (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Russell’s last game was Game 7 of the 1969 Finals. You wrote in Hang Time that you knew that was the end of the line. So why didn’t you retire then? You figure maybe Russell will be hurt next time we played them and I wasn’t ready. Basketball was my whole life. I wanted to get another shot at him.


The League honored Baylor at the 1972 All-Star Game after he had just retired.

In April, a statue of Baylor was unveiled at Staples Center.

Baylor was the vice president of basketball operations for 22 years with the Clippers and was named Executive of the Year in 2006.

Was it hard to step away from that team and then see them win the Finals? No. I was happy for these guys to win because I always wanted to beat the Celtics. It was hard to just retire and not be playing. I wanted to beat the Celtics so bad, and New York.

What’s it like watching a game now, just to watch a game now that you’re no longer playing or working for a team? I still enjoy watching the game of basketball—particularly the big guys. You know, when I played, a lot of those guys couldn’t even make a free throw. When you see those 7-footers [now]— 80

2018 | THE FINALS

Baylor was the predecessor to future high-flying Lakers stars like Kobe Bryant.

man, out there shooting [from the] three-point line and handling the basketball, dribbling it—it’s fun to watch. Is there a big man who stands out now? There are, but I’m never going to mention them, because everyone else will get mad. And I don’t want them mad with me. If we could somehow fast forward and put 1960 Elgin Baylor in today’s game, how do you think you’d fare? Oh, if I had the same physical abilities and everything? Yes, sir. Oh, I would do great.

WEN ROBERTS; JENNIFER POTTHEISER; /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

You must have been thrilled for Jerry West, because he had waited so long to win a championship. Oh yeah. Jerry will take a loss harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. He’s such a competitor, he loves to win and when you lose, man, he takes it seriously. Jerry would take a loss like he lost a member of the family. He would get over it, but afterwards he wouldn’t talk or do much of anything. A lot of the times it wasn’t his fault. He would just say, “Well, I should have done this or I should have done that.” He did the right thing, but Jerry is such a perfectionist, that everything happens, he wants to be part of it.


BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE It took a few years, but Washington persevered through Finals heartache to win it all in 1978.

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By Darryl Howerton

WALTER IOOSS JR./NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

T

he story of the 1978 Washington Bullets is not a legend of superheroes assembling to form a super team, though there are giants, heroic efforts and championship results. Rather, this is a tale of resilience of a 1970s franchise continually pushing its team toward greater heights, ultimately taking Washington to a League-best 55 playoff victories during the decade, four Finals appearances and one very special NBA championship. Led by longtime staples Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes and Phil Chenier—teammates whose time together dated back to the 1972-73 season when they were the Baltimore Bullets— these 1970s Washington Bullets squads came to symbolize strength and toughness in a decade taken over by flash and flamboyance. Remember, this was a time following the ABA’s red-whiteand-blue basketball and the NBA’s absorption of four ABA teams thereafter; the time of Dr. J and Iceman joining Kareem and Walton; a time when basketball coaches dressed like they were John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever in styles later emulated by the late, great Craig Sager. From this setting came forth a cast of DC superheroes cut from blue-collar cloth: Unseld was the anchor—a future Hall of Famer who stood tall among centers, despite his 6-7, 245-pound undersized-for-a-center frame. Ever since Unseld was selected as the No. 2 pick in the 1968 NBA Draft, he was the defensive and rebounding force who eventually led the Baltimore Bullets to the 1971 Finals, where they ultimately were swept by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Bobby Dandridge and the Milwaukee Bucks. Hayes and Chenier were the 20-plus points-per-game scoring engines—one, a future Hall-of-Fame power forward acquired via trade in 1972; the other, a homegrown All-Star scoring guard drafted by this organization in 1971. Together as a trio, Unseld, Hayes and Chenier would take these Washington Bullets to the 1975 Finals, where they were swept again, this time by Rick Barry and the Golden State Warriors. Try as they might, the 1970s Bullets still were missing something to get over that championship hump. And in summer 1977, executive Bob Ferry reached out to Bucks veteran Dandridge to secure the missing cornerstone piece to their puzzle. Today, we would call this merger a super team. But back then, the defending NBA Champion Portland Trail Blazers, led by the flamboyant Bill Walton, and defending East champion Philadelphia 76ers, led by the flashy Julius Erving, were the consensus favorites to win multiple championship trophies for the foreseeable future. Washington was perceived to be on the next tier. “The Bullets were a good team before I got there,” says Dandridge, who ranks second in playoff scoring during the ’70s with 1,967 points in 98 games, trailing only former teammate Abdul-Jabbar. “Washington just needed another go-to scorer and that’s what I gave them.” As for the notion that Dandridge, Unseld, Hayes and Chenier strategically formed a super team alliance along the likes of today’s standards, the 6-7 small forward simply replied, “Not really.” Remember, it was a different time then.

“I mainly chose Washington because it was close to home, close to Virginia for me,” says Dandridge, a key figure on four different Finals teams in Milwaukee and Washington. “Wherever I went, I would have been a complementary scorer competing for a championship, whether it was Washington, New York, Philadelphia or Boston.” But as a Bullet, Dandridge now gave Washington the League’s best frontline, while he played alongside 12-time All-Star Hayes and five-time All-Star Unseld. As for Chenier, his 1977-78 campaign was cut short, when the three-time NBA All-Star suffered a career-altering back injury requiring surgery halfway through the season. In his stead, third-year Bullets backup guard Kevin Grevey stepped up and filled the void as well as possible, elevating his own scoring from 12 points per game before the All-Star break to 20 points per game after it. Keeping his high-profile teammates happy was 6-3 point guard Tom Henderson, a member of the USA Basketball squad at the 1972 Olympics. Henderson, his Bullets bench backcourt mates (Charles Johnson, Larry Wright and Phil Walker) and bigs (Mitch Kupchak, Greg Ballard and Joe Pace) came to symbolize the complementary selfless spirit set forth by their team leader Unseld. They all did whatever it took to win. Hayes, Dandridge and Grevey handled most of the scoring, consistently posting 60-65 points between them, while the Washington role players—all acquired in either the 1976-77 or 1977-78 seasons—did the dirty work. “We had veteran starters blended with youth,” says Dandridge. With this squadron of selfless players, head coach Dick Motta maximized his Bullets’ defensive and rebounding abilities, taking a team that finished 44-38 in the regular season to even greater postseason heights. That was best evidenced in the 1978 East Finals when the Bullets started peaking defensively, holding the 76ers well under their customary 115-point average in Games 2 through 6, to 110, 108, 105, 107 and 99 points, respectively. Meanwhile, the SuperSonics, coming off a 47-35 season themselves, likewise threw a surprising knockout punch at defending champion Portland in the Semifinals when Seattle defeated the Trail Blazers on their own floor in Game 1, 104-95, and then saw the Trail Blazers’ giant, Walton, felled by injury in Game 2. In retrospect, we should have seen the Portland upset coming, perhaps even without Walton. After all, these SuperSonics, who were coming off a horrible 5-17 start under head coach Bob Hopkins, had a massive turnaround once they replaced Hopkins with Lenny Wilkens, the club’s director of player personnel, at the end of November 1977. Wilkens, in his second stint leading the Sonics (he had been player-coach from 1969 to 1972), was guiding a young roster that he had helped construct. He immediately gave Dennis Johnson more playing time, and then turned attention back to the big men once the organization traded guard Slick Watts to New Orleans in January 1978. When all was said and done, one could make an argument that Wilkens still had the best backcourt in basketball—led by THE FINALS | 2018

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Dick Motta was in his second year as Washington’s head coach.

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I told people, whoever would listen, there was nobody I would rather see with the ball in a crucial situation than Bobby D. —Wes Unseld

1977-78 NBA Champion Washington Bullets

In their Capital Centre arena, Washington’s Unseld, Dandridge and Company stormed to a 29-16 first-quarter front, as Unseld put the defensive clamps on Webster this time. On offense, Big Wes set the bone-crushing perimeter picks that freed up Dandridge, Hayes and Henderson to score at will, with the trio respectively finishing with 34, 25 and 20 points apiece. As Motta himself described to NBA.com years later: “That was our game—Hayes and Dandridge going off tackle.” But Seattle did not quit, eventually cutting the Bullets’ lead to four points at halftime. Unseld later would take even greater leadership charge once Hayes picked up his fifth foul in the second half, inspiring the Bullets’ backup bigs on both ends of the court, enabling Washington to hold big-man counterparts Webster and Jack Sikma to a combined 22 points on 8-of-23 shooting in 77 minutes. Indeed, Washington controlled the paint in Game 2, eventually winning the game 106-98, and tying the series at 1-1. Unseld finished with 2 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals in probably the most dominating one-bucket performance in Finals history. With Hayes out, Unseld made for damn sure they were not

WALTER IOOSS JR (2); NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

D.J., Gus Williams and Fred Brown—along with one of the best frontlines—led by Marvin Webster, Jack Sikma, John Johnson and Paul Silas. It was part of the reason why Seattle won 70 percent of its games from that point on, going 42-18. This backdrop sets up one of the most competitive Finals in playoffs history, with Game 1 at the Seattle Center Coliseum being a prelude of things to come. It was also an opportunity Hayes vowed to himself that he would not let slip away, not after suffering loss in the 1975 Finals. “There hadn’t been a lot of teams that had won an NBA Championship at that time,” recalled Hayes at a 35th anniversary press conference with Unseld, celebrating the 1978 championship five years ago. In actuality, only 9 of the League’s 22 organizations at the time had won an NBA Championship. “You’re talking about the Celtics, the Lakers, the 76ers … I could tell you almost every team,” says Hayes. “So now when you have a chance to be part of a championship team, you have to realize that’s something that sets you apart from every other team. That‘s something no one can ever take away from you.” In the opener, the Bullets came out swinging like a team playing with a sense of urgency, establishing a 31-25 edge after one quarter, a 58-49 margin at halftime and an 84-65 lead with 2:12 left in the third quarter. But “Downtown” Freddie Brown had something else in mind, scoring 16 points in the game’s final 9 minutes, keeping every Bullets defender on his heels. Meanwhile, with Seattle defensive stalwart Silas containing Bullets leading scorer Hayes, who finished with 21 points on 18 shots, the rest of Washington’s frontliners were unable to fill their customary scoring output, with Dandridge posting a playoff-low 6 points on 3-of-12 shooting, and Unseld tallying 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Only Grevey played free throughout Game 1 for Washington, ultimately finishing with 27 points, with many of his buckets coming on an assortment of jumpers and drives in that fourth period. Still, that was not enough for Washington, as Seattle scored 33 final-period points—to the Bullets’ 18—ultimately taking a 106-102 victory and 1-0 series lead. Game 2 took on a different setting, mainly because of building scheduling conflicts. The home-away-home schedule setup was changed to a 1-2-2-1-1 format to accommodate the Seattle and Washington home arenas (Game 4 was played at the Kingdome in Seattle due to scheduling conflicts at their primary arena, the Seattle Center Coliseum), which meant Game 1 was in Seattle, as were Games 4 and 5, and when necessary, Game 7. Consequently, the Bullets’ home cooking in Game 2 at Landover, Maryland, could not have come at a better time.

This was Lenny Wilkens’ second stint as the Sonics’ coach.


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Elvin Hayes (#11) led the team in scoring (20.7 PPG) and Kevin Grevey (#35) averaged 13.5 PPG.

Washington and Seattle would have a Finals rematch the following year.

There is just nothing like it. All those years, where everything inside of you was compressed down, now all of a sudden, it was let loose and gone. —Elvin Hayes

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left to be played. In Game 4, however, Motta got an impeccable performance from Henderson, who had an immaculate 11-assist, 1-turnover stat line while Washington committed only 12 turnovers as a team in this raucous environment. Better still, all Bullets were equally involved in the offense, with Dandridge and Hayes leading the way at 23 and 20 points, respectively, while their team scoring was further fortified by Grevey’s 17 points, Unseld’s 15, Henderson’s 12, not to mention Charles Johnson’s 14 and Kupchak’s 12 off the bench. Even when the starters or subs were playing subpar, they never dug themselves too big a hole, which theoretically kept the Bullets in contention in every game. Likewise, the quarterly-distribution of scoring was somewhat even-keeled as well (23, 25 and 30 points), but low in comparison to Seattle in this particular Game 4, who led by as much as 15 points, 85-70, with 2 minutes to go in the third quarter. That was precisely when Washington’s Henderson plowed into Seattle’s Johnson on a baseline drive, sending the hot SuperSonics guard to the sidelines for 6 minutes to tend to his sore ribs. With D.J. not returning until the 7:45 mark in the fourth quarter, Washington began a 25-12 run during his absence, as they were led repeatedly by hustle plays and clutch baskets from Hayes, Kupchak, Dandridge and Johnson and Henderson, among others. From there, upon Dennis Johnson’s return, the game’s high scorers—D.J. (33 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks) and Dandridge (23 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists) were among the Sonics and Bullets exchanging buckets in regulation that ultimately sent the game into overtime, with the game tied, 106-106. Then in overtime, it was a different Johnson taking over, as Bullets midseason acquisition Charles Johnson scored three quick buckets in the team’s biggest game yet, sparking the eventual 120-116 Washington victory to tie the series at 2-2. “We had a team,” says Dandridge. “Elvin could score with anyone and Wes was a great defender and rebounder, but we wouldn’t have won the championship without the

NBA PHOTOS; WALTER IOOSS JR./NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

about to go through another sweep. “We had been to the Finals before—Wes had been there twice and I had been there once,” recalled Hayes at the press conference. “We got beat in four in a row both times. We experienced that before. “ It wasn’t happening again. The follow-up Game 3 was a classic Sonics-Bullets tug of war with Silas and Dennis Johnson supplying their SuperSonics brand of All-Defense basketball, with Silas already a five-time honoree and D.J. later becoming a nine-time All-D award-winner. Washington’s Game 1 high-scorer Grevey was held in check this time on 1-of-14 shooting, with D.J. racking 7 blocked shots in the process. Meanwhile, Silas came off the bench to tally 10 points on 4 shots and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes, outperforming Washington’s bench (14 points on 23 shots and 6 rebounds in 48 minutes) by himself. For every jab Washington landed, Seattle countered with a counterpunch of its own, with neither team leading by more than 2 points after any of the quarters. That theme rang true until the end, when Henderson hit Hayes for a transition layup off a made free throw with 12 seconds to go, narrowing the SuperSonics’ lead to 93-90. There, after a couple of Seattle errant inbounds passes that led nowhere, Washington’s Henderson this time came up with the inbounds steal and transition bucket with 5 seconds remaining, slicing Seattle’s lead to 1 point, 93-92. Then, Silas mistakenly stepped on the line on the ensuing inbounds toss to Brown, giving the ball back to Washington, down by 1 point, with 2 seconds left on the clock. However, on Washington’s inbound play underneath its own basket, Henderson passed to Dandridge, who shot a 20-footer from the baseline that rimmed out as the clock struck zero, giving Seattle the win and 2-1 series lead. The Bullets’ last-second loss set up a pivotal Game 4 for them at Seattle’s Kingdome in front of a record-setting crowd of 39,457. Indeed, the series was now in danger of slipping away from Washington, with another loss potentially putting the Bullets down, 3-1, with still two more road contests at Seattle


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Dennis Johnson averaged 16.6 PPG and 5 APG.

Hayes (#11) and Paul Silas (#35)

Wes Unseld was named the Finals MVP.

At no time did I know for sure that we were the better team until I dunked that ball at the very end of Game 7. It was only then that I knew we were NBA champions. —Bobby Dandridge

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Then, when Ballard played, Motta moved small forward Dandridge to Grevey’s shooting guard spot, and inserted Ballard into Dandridge’s small forward slot. The move worked wonders as these new-look Bullets proceeded to blow out the SuperSonics like never before, which started with them taking a 47-35 halftime lead in Game 6. It was as if Seattle was facing a new-look Bullets squad now, with Dandridge successfully defending the Seattle guards, just as he had done against top-notch scorers Julius Erving of Philadelphia and George Gervin of San Antonio in earlier playoff rounds. On top of being the Bullets’ defensive stopper all season long, Dandridge was also delivering as his team’s offensive go-to guy. “He was just great,” says Unseld at the aforementioned press conference. “I told people, whoever would listen, there was nobody I would rather see with the ball in a crucial situation than Bobby D.” As the second half began, that Bullet train quickly got loose on the Seattle D, and it was soon all downhill from there with Washington eventually scoring 70 second-half points. Dandridge, Hayes, you name it … The scoring was coming from everywhere, with Washington extending its lead, 84-61, after three quarters, ultimately taking Game 6 by an NBA-record 35 points. Not only did six different Bullets score in double figures, led by starters Hayes (21 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 5 blocks) and Dandridge (19 points), but four did so off the bench: Kupchak, 19 points; Johnson, 17 points and 9 rebounds; Ballard, 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists; Larry Wright, 10 points. This was all the momentum Washington needed to set up a winner-take-all Game 7 in Seattle, in this back-and-forth series that now appeared to be swinging Washington’s way.

NBA PHOTOS (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

bench that we had. “Every game we’d have three or four players off the bench who made big contributions. It was just a unique combination of players.” In Game 5, the SuperSonics again played host, but now they were back in their usual 14,098-seat Seattle Coliseum. Downtown Brown, who remained hot no matter the venue, scored a game-high 26 points, while D.J. complemented with another 24, as the SuperSonics did a much better job of not letting the Bullets steal another one. Armed with a 52-41 lead, Seattle was better equipped to hold off these Bullets, who once again made their customary second-half run, winning the third-quarter, 26-24, and fourth-quarter, 27-22. This time, however, Seattle closed the game out when Washington cut the SuperSonics’ lead to 4 points with less than 2 minutes remaining. Sikma made three crucial free throws down the stretch, keeping the Bullets at bay, thus ensuring a 98-94 Seattle win as the SuperSonics went up 3-2. The Game 6 contest back in Landover was the aberration of the series, with the Bullets winning convincingly, 117-82, which in part was sparked when Washington’s Grevey collided with teammates Hayes and opponent D.J. on a screen attempt halfway through the first quarter, aggravating a sprainedwrist injury he was playing through. The injured Grevey would not play again in Game 6, and would be limited to playing only 10 minutes in Game 7. Consequently, Motta made two crucial in-game adjustments that paid dividends in both Games 6 and 7. Motta increased combo guard Charles Johnson’s playing time from 20 to 29 minutes per game in the last two contests, while also raising forward Ballard from 5 to 22 minutes per game to fill the Grevey void.


TM & ©2018 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. ©2018 NBA Entertainment. All Rights Reserved. Play Fiercely. Drink Responsibly. JACK DANIEL’S and TENNESSEE HONEY are registered trademarks. ©2018 Jack Daniel’s. All rights reserved. Whiskey Specialty, 35% Alc. by Vol., (70 proof.) Jack Daniel Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee. This material is intended for those of legal drinking age.

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Gus Williams

Jack Sikma and Unseld (#41)

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two shots (an NBA rule at the time). Unseld, missed the first attempt, made the second, and following a timeout, connected on the third to extend Washington’s lead, 103-99, with 12 seconds remaining in the game. This time, Seattle came up empty on its possession, with Brown missing an 18-foot baseline jumper. Unseld grabbed the ensuing rebound, and outlet passed to a fast-breaking Dandridge who two-hand jammed the game away with 3 seconds on the clock, posting the final score, 105-99. Washington wins—Game 7 and the series. “Seeing Bobby make that last dunk shot, it seemed like that clock would never run out,” says Hayes. Six Bullets finished with double-figure scoring in that memorable Game 7, led by Dandridge and Johnson (19 points apiece), Unseld (15 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists), Henderson (15 points), Kupchak (13 points) and Hayes (12 points before he fouled out). “There is just nothing like it,” Hayes said at the 35th anniversary press conference. “All those years, where everything inside of you was compressed down, now all of a sudden, it was let loose and gone.” Unseld remembers little afterward, other than just being totally exhausted from the marathon-like season, when the Bullets played 103 regular-season and postseason games, while he played 98 of those 103. “I remember all I was thinking was, ‘I want to go back to the hotel and go to bed,’” says Unseld at the press conference. “We played close to 100 games that year, and I never realized how physically tired I was. “My wife told me I went back to the hotel, and that was it. I don’t remember anything until the next day.” Forty years later, however, the memories come back with the highlight reels, the anniversary tributes and the love from D.C. fans. “That series was as competitive and intense as it gets,” says Dandridge. “Washington and Seattle were two teams that were evenly matched. The following year, Seattle beat us in the 1979 Finals, which tells you how even this series truly was. “They were the dynamic, young, up-and-coming team, while we may have had extra incentive to win it all since we had the aging veterans who had come close on different occasions. “At no time did I know for sure that we were the better team until I dunked that ball at the very end of Game 7. It was only then that I knew we were NBA champions.”

NBA PHOTOS (2); WALTER IOOSS JR./NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Combine that with playoff experience, and it would give Washington the added confidence it needed to take on this younger Seattle team on their home floor in front of their home crowd. Washington’s longtime playoff veterans—Hayes, Unseld, Dandridge, Charles Johnson, even the injured Phil Chenier— all had been through thousands of postseason minutes, some together in Washington and some elsewhere. Some knew how much it hurt to be eliminated in a Finals, and some also knew what it took to win the big playoff games. Conversely, the only SuperSonic whose playoffs résumé even compared was Silas, who was the only Seattle player entering the Finals with 1,000-plus playoff minutes, compared to five Bullets (Unseld, Hayes, Dandridge, Charles Johnson and the injured Chenier). So it was no surprise when Washington again took the early lead in Game 7 and maintained it throughout, pushing a 25-22 first-quarter advantage to a 53-45 halftime edge and a 79-66 third-quarter margin. Surprisingly, the usually stellar SuperSonics guards—D.J. and Gus Williams—could not buy a basket in this series clincher. D.J. would finish with 4 points, uncharacteristically missing all 14 of his field goal attempts, while Williams was not much better, going 4-for-12 from the field to finish with 12 points. Centers Webster and Sikma and backup guard Brown kept Seattle alive as long as they could, ultimately finishing with 27, 21 and 21 points, respectively, while Webster and Sikma also combined on 18 offensive boards to give the SuperSonics more second chances than a cat with nine lives. And as those boards added up, that was just the opportunity Seattle needed to cut an 11-point deficit to a 6-point margin, 101-95, in the closing minute. On Seattle’s next possessions, Brown split a double-team and hit a 12-foot bank shot off the glass with 42 seconds left, cutting the Bullets’ lead to 4. After Unseld was intentionally fouled and missed his two free throw attempts with 26 seconds left, Brown took the pass following a halfcourt inbounds play and rimmed out a 20-foot jumper, only to see SuperSonics teammate Silas follow up with a putback with 18 seconds remaining, narrowing Washington’s lead, 101-99. Again, the SuperSonics intentionally fouled Unseld, a 54-percent free throw shooter, but by fouling the Bullets center in the backcourt, Unseld was allowed three free throws to make

Hayes (left) and Bobby Dandridge celebrate the franchise’s first championship.


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BACKING UP THE

BACK-TO-BACK The Lakers’ fifth title cemented them as the greatest team of the ’80s and came with a bold guarantee, but nothing was easy.

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By John Fawaz

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

P

at Riley knew the question was coming. It was an NBA rite of spring. “Every year, after every championship, a coach will be asked, ‘Can you do this again next year?’” says Riley, now the president of the Miami Heat. “Most of the time we rationalize it, say ‘First, we’re going to enjoy this one,’ and of course you don’t win, and you wonder what you could have done differently. “I thought we were the best we were ever gonna be. Why not put a challenge on them?” The Lakers hadn’t even popped all the champagne for 1987 when Riley pledged they would win again in 1988. A reporter asked the coach if he had actually used the g-word. “That’s right. I guarantee it,” Riley affirmed. No team had won back-to-back NBA titles since the Celtics in 1968 and 1969. For nearly two decades, the League had seen nothing but one-and-dones. The Lakers’ veterans hoped it was just the bubbly talking, but Riley reiterated his promise two days later at the championship parade. “It unnerved the players,” remembers Riley, who had just completed his sixth season as the Lakers’ coach. “I don’t think they really liked it. Their attitude was ‘Let’s enjoy the summer. Let’s put our goals in a little drawer where nobody will ever see it.’ “If you think it’s important, let’s go out there and put our greatness on the line.” For Riley, this wasn’t just about winning back-to-back titles. This was about making history. This was about cementing the Lakers’ status, not only as the team of the 1980s but as one of the best ever. Riley’s pledge would define the 1987-88 season, and though it would have a happy ending for his squad, the script had a lot of rewrites. For Lakers’ fans, the biggest revision involved recasting the villain: Exit Boston, enter Detroit, which had nearly toppled the Celtics in 1987 and was clearly a team on the rise. The game was changing as well, becoming more physical. No team embodied that philosophy more than the Pistons. They were not yet the “Bad Boys”—that moniker would be pinned on them in the summer of 1988—but they were known around the League for hard fouls and a chip on their shoulder that was only matched by the heart they played with. Not coincidentally, NBA owners voted in April 1988 to add a third referee, starting in 1988-89. No changes were planned in L.A., where the roster returned intact. Magic Johnson, the reigning MVP, ran Showtime at optimum efficiency. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was not as productive, but still raining skyhooks in his 19th season. Small forward James Worthy could be found finishing on the break or delivering a variety of moves in the post. Swingman and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Michael Cooper was back to play the avant-garde 3-and-D role. Guard Byron Scott was in the midst of his best three-year run in the NBA. Power forward A.C. Green was just 75 games into his NBA-record streak of 1,192 games played when the season tipped off. When Mychal Thompson spelled Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers running game went into overdrive. Their defense, always underrated during the Showtime era, was near its peak. As much as the contemporary Golden State Warriors have been lauded for their dominance on both ends of the floor and a roster full of players who share the ball, they were not the first to do so—they were not even the first in the state of California. For much of the regular season, the Lakers played like a team on a mission. A 115-114 win at Boston (the two annual meetings between the two teams during the ‘80s were easily the most watched regular-season games in the NBA schedule) in December turned out to be the first of 15 consecutive victories and the start of a half-season stretch that saw Showtime reach its zenith. From December 11, 1987, to March 9, 1988, the Lakers won 38 of 42 games to push their record to 49-10. There was talk, not unwarranted, of going for the all-time mark of 69-13, set by the 1971-72 Lakers.

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But a groin injury sidelined Magic for 10 games, and it nagged him even after he returned. An ankle injury sidelined Cooper, a balky knee limited Worthy, and the Lakers stumbled to a 13-10 finish. Their 62-20 record, though not historic, still led the NBA. Scott averaged a careerhigh 21.7 points per game to lead the team, shooting 52.7 percent from the field, but the Lakers’ other stars all experienced a drop-off in production. Meanwhile, in the East, the expected dethronement did not take place, at least not during the regular season, as Detroit (54-28) failed to overtake the Celtics (57-25). The Pistons were still somewhat of an enigma. Chuck Daly, in his fifth season as the team’s head coach, had transformed the Pistons from a highscoring but undisciplined bunch into a rugged defensive squad. Often too rugged, Adrian Dantley according to their opponents. They were so talented that Daly’s rotation went nine deep, with egos to match. Grumbling about playing time and salaries was common. “Let’s just say we’re more mercurial than most teams,” Pistons assistant coach Dick Versace told Sports Illustrated. The Pistons seemed to play their best when faced with an external challenge, such as when an opposing player didn’t take kindly to their love taps. Such confrontations rekindled their intensity and only served to forge and temper. Hence why Daly didn’t mind the constant scuffles and the occasional melee. “When we’re cornered, we play our best basketball,” Daly said. The Pistons’ offense centered around Isiah Thomas, the lightning-quick point guard who could take over a game with his shooting and dribble penetration. Joining Thomas in the backcourt was Joe Dumars, a defensive specialist whose offensive game was beginning to blossom. Isiah Thomas Vinnie Johnson, aka “The Microwave,” came off the bench to heat things up. Up front, small forward Adrian Dantley provided Detroit with its only post option. The 12-year veteran and future Hall of Famer had more moves than a dance instructor, and if he didn’t get to the hoop he at least got to the line, as his 23,177 career points can attest. With their propensity for physical play and intimidation, big men Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn would have likely tied for “least popular” in a poll of their NBA peers. Veteran James Edwards, acquired from Phoenix in February, provided Detroit with a center in the more traditional mold. Rounding out the Pistons’ frontcourt were John Salley and Dennis Rodman, who helped ignite the Pistons’ fastbreak, and provide—you guessed it—defense. Salley was a pogo stick of a center who was coming off a rookie season where he blocked 125 shots. Rodman, also a second-year man, had yet to take on the colorful personality that would define his career, but his defensive reputation was

Bill Laimbeer

Magic Johnson

It was a transcendent team. To be part of that kind of team for so long made me and my career. —Pat Riley

2018 | THE FINALS

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (4)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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already taking shape. Nevertheless, Detroit seemed indifferent at times, even in the postseason. Tied 1-1 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, a fracas with the Bulls (the Pistons would serve as playoff foil to Michael Jordan’s Bulls until Chicago finally broke through in 1991) helped the Pistons regain their focus. The Pistons went on to win three straight against Chicago, then defeated the Celtics 4-2 in the Conference Finals, winning twice in the Boston Garden to exorcise their 21-game losing streak at Boston. On to Los Angeles, right? Well, not just yet. The Lakers were playing their second of three seven-game series. They had lost what Riley called their “aura of invincibility” and suddenly


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Chuck Daly

Magic averaged 21.1 points, 13 assists and 5.7 rebounds per game in the Finals.

Let’s go out there and put our greatness on the line. —Riley

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Thomas led the Pistons in assists with 9 per game and was second with 19.7 points per game.

Thomas

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (5)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

teams thought they had a chance against L.A. After a First Round sweep of San Antonio, the Lakers advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals to play Utah, the one team Riley had said he didn’t want to face. It soon became apparent why. After the Lakers won Game 1 in a rout, Utah slowed the pace and funneled the Lakers’ offense into the middle, where 7-4 Mark Eaton waited. The Lakers struggled from the field as they lost Game 2 at home and Game 3 in Utah. In Game 4, L.A. found itself trailing 65-56 in the third quarter. Just as the lights were dimming on Showtime, the Lakers flipped a switch. They finished the game by outscoring Utah 57-35 to tie the series. “Magic was a little bit sideways, mentally and physically,” Riley says. “Coop and Byron got into him, Magic woke up, and it became a best two of three.” The Lakers got those two, but it wasn’t easy. Cooper’s 17-foot jumper with seven seconds left— the first game-winner of his 10-year career—lifted L.A. in Game 5. After Utah evened the series with a 108-80 rout, the Lakers finally put the Jazz away with a 109-98 victory in Game 7. Scott scored 29 points, and Magic had 23 points and 16 assists. They had survived. “I don’t think we’re going to play a better basketball team in the playoffs,” Riley said of the Jazz, whose dynamic duo of Karl Malone (28.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in the series) and John Stockton (19.3 points and 16.4 assists) nearly ended the Lakers’ repeat hopes. The Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Mavericks would also be a seven-game series, but not nearly as tense. Only one game was close, and L.A. handily won every contest at the Forum, including a 117-102 victory in Game 7 in which Worthy scored 28 points and Magic tallied 24 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds. On to the Finals. The Pistons were making their


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Thomas

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James Worthy

Detroit 31-18 in the third quarter and coasted to a 99-86 victory. L.A.’s frontcourt dominated, led by Worthy (24 points) and Green (21 points on 9-of-11 shooting). Magic had 18 points and 14 assists. The Pistons were led by Thomas, who scored 28 points, including 20 of the team’s 40 second-half points. The Pistons, faced with the prospect of going down 3-1, changed their defensive approach. Daly assigned the similarlysized Rodman (6-8) to guard Magic for much of Game 4, and pushed his team to play more aggressively. In other words, be themselves. On offense, their jump shots weren’t falling, so the Pistons took the ball to the rim. Penetrate, dish, and draw fouls—a strategy that netted 46 free throw attempts. Thomas, slowed by a back injury suffered in Game 3, became a distributor (he finished with 12 assists). Detroit, which led by 7 at halftime, outscored L.A. 25-14 in the third quarter to turn the game into a blowout. Dantley scored 27 to lead the Pistons, who won 111-86 to even the series 2-2. Now it was the Lakers’ turn to answer. They opened Game 5 with a 15-2 run, but again became mired in foul trouble while trying to match the Pistons’ physicality. Dantley scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half to propel the Pistons to a 59-50 halftime lead. The Lakers closed to within four points in the second half, but got no closer as Detroit took a 3-2 series lead with a 104-94 victory. Dumars added 19 for the Pistons. Magic had 17 points and Kareem (26 points) finally found his skyhook. At that point, the 1988 Finals had not been the most exciting series. Each of the first five games had been decided by 10 or more points. Each team had played well in spurts, but rarely at the same time, other than the first half of Game 3. All that would change in the series’ final two games. Initially, Game 6 looked a lot like the previous two—Thomas penetrating, Dantley at the line, the Pistons crashing the offensive glass, forcing turnovers and manhandling the Lakers. In the second quarter, the Lakers got going thanks to their bench, led by Cooper, Thompson, and Kurt Rambis. Worthy and Magic took over as the Lakers outscored Detroit 33-20 to take a 53-46 halftime lead, setting the stage for a thrilling second half. The third quarter belonged to Thomas, who set a Finals record by scoring 25 points in that period—11 after suffering a severely sprained ankle. The baskets came in all varieties, with increasing degrees of difficulty. Despite the injury, he finished with 43 points on 18-of-32 shooting, 8 assists and 6 steals. It was a performance for the ages. Thomas’ heroics gave Detroit an 81-79 lead heading into the final period. A 9-0 run put the Lakers up by five. Back came the Pistons to go up one. Magic went coast to coast to give L.A.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (3)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

third appearance in the championship round and their first since 1956, when they represented Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Lakers were making their seventh Finals appearance in the decade alone. Most assumed that the Lakers would fulfill Riley’s pledge. But the series defied predictions. “I guess I’m a lot like a whole lot of folks out there,” CBS announcer Brent Musburger said as he introduced Game 1. “I’m not sure what to expect in this one.” The teams provided stark contrasts, save for the head coaches, the two best-dressed members of their profession. Unlike Riley, however, Daly was an at-will employee. In a quirk, his contract had expired May 31. A New York Times headline called Daly the “Per Diem Coach.” Nobody expected the Pistons to win, so in Game 1 anyway, they played like a team with nothing to lose. They shot 61 percent from the field while building a 57-40 halftime lead that left the Forum crowd in stunned silence. The Lakers had a brief spurt in the third quarter, but the Pistons were never threatened en route to a comfortable 105-93 victory. Dantley scored 34 points on 14-of-16 shooting, while the Lakers managed only 4 fastbreak points and shot 39.8 percent from the floor. Kareem even missed his first seven skyhooks. Detroit played solid defense, but mostly the Lakers just missed. A lot. Which had been a problem for much of the season, especially for Cooper and Abdul-Jabbar. Game 2 became a must-win contest for L.A., complicated by Magic suffering from the flu. The Lakers still couldn’t get their shots to fall, save for Scott who made three early treys. But their defense saved them. The Lakers threw some unexpected looks at Detroit. They doubled Dantley in the post, switched on screens and surprised the Pistons with halfcourt traps. As much as the Showtime era was defined by the glitzy fastbreak baskets, it was the Lakers’ defense that would set up those glamour opportunities. In the second half, the Lakers’ D generated fastbreaks and finally pulled away for a 108-96 victory to even the series. Magic had 23 points and 11 assists, despite being obviously winded at times. Worthy led the Lakers with 26 points and 10 rebounds, and Scott added 24 points. The series shifted to Michigan, where a home-cooked feast (courtesy of Magic’s mother) awaited the Lakers, punctuated by her sweet potato pie. Magic’s father, Earvin Sr., would get to see his son play in the Finals in person for the first time (the elder Earvin was afraid to fly, so the Finals had to come to him). A crowd of nearly 40,000 witnessed a back-and-forth first half in the hot and humid Silverdome. Though the conditions seemed to favor the deeper Pistons, it was the Lakers who outscored

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Johnson led the Lakers to five NBA Championships in the decade.

Worthy led all players with 22 PPG in the series and was named Finals MVP.

I guarantee it. —Riley, when asked if the Lakers could become the first team since the Celtics to repeat as NBA champs and garner Finals MVP honors. Magic averaged 21.7 points and 13.0 assists per game. Dantley (21.0 ppg on 57.3 shooting) led the Pistons. For the Lakers, it was their fifth NBA title of the decade, and the last one of the Showtime era. Three players—AbdulJabbar, Cooper and Magic—played on all five title teams, and in three years time, the trio would be gone. As for Riley, it was his fourth title as the Lakers’ coach—and his last guarantee. When Musburger asked Riley after the game, Kareem shoved a towel in his mouth. “I’m going to guarantee this one thing: We’re going to enjoy this all summer long,” Riley said. He’s still enjoying it today. “It was a transcendent team,” Riley says. “To be part of that kind of team for so long made me and my career.”

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (2); ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

a 99-98 lead with 1:44 left. Thomas answered with a baseline jumper over his good buddy Magic. Rodman blocked Worthy’s layup at the other end, and Dumars’ two free throws gave Detroit a 102-99 lead with one minute left. Scott, who had missed much of the game with a bruised knee, hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to cut the Lakers’ deficit to 102-101. Thomas’ fadeaway baseline jumper didn’t fall, the Lakers got the Pat Riley made good on his guarantee. rebound and called timeout with 27 seconds left. The Lakers ran a pick-and-roll with Magic and Worthy but the Pistons thwarted it. The ball ended up in Kareem’s hands, and naturally he went up for a skyhook. Laimbeer hit him on the left shoulder. Referee Hugh Evans whistled Laimbeer for a foul, just as he had done on an identical play in the first half. Kareem went to the line and calmly knocked down both free throws. Detroit, trailing by one, still had 14 seconds left. Dumars got into the lane but his six-footer bounced hard off the glass. Scott came up with the loose ball, was fouled—and then missed both free throws. The Pistons had five seconds left but no timeouts, and couldn’t get a shot off. Los Angeles 103, Detroit 102. Worthy, who had scored just 21 points total in Games 4 and 5 because of foul trouble, led the Lakers with 28 in Game 6. Magic had 22 points and 19 assists. Two days later, on June 21, the teams met in Game 7, the Lakers’ third Game 7 in the 1988 playoffs (their total of 24 games would set a record for a single postseason). Befitting a series that had no defining character, this Game 7 proved to be full of surprises. Surprises such as another strong performance from the Lakers’ bench. Surprises such as offensive outbursts from Rodman (15 points) and Salley (17 points). Maybe the biggest surprise: A hobbling Isiah Thomas managed to score 10 points in the first half, including a last-second basket that gave Detroit a 52-47 halftime advantage. The Lakers, who committed 11 turnovers in the first half, remained close only because of their bench and “Big Game James,” who scored 20 points. On the Lakers’ first possession of the third quarter, Scott dunked over Laimbeer. After Detroit answered with a bucket, Worthy scored 7 straight points to give the Lakers a 56-54 lead. L.A. made its first 10 shots in the quarter, and led by Scott’s 15 points, outscored the Pistons 36-21 in the quarter to take an 83-73 lead. They extended their advantage to 94-79 with 7:20 left. The Pistons were done. Well, not quite. Nothing came easy for the 1987-88 Lakers, so why should this Game 7 be any different? Daly countered with a small, quick lineup. The Lakers, trying to burn clock, stopped running, and Detroit took advantage, cutting the deficit to 98-96 with 2:47 left. The Pistons would get no closer, though they had their chances. Vinnie Johnson, pushing the ball up the court, inexplicably passed to Rodman, who even more explicably put up a wild 12-footer with 39 seconds left. The Lakers’ inability to hit free throws made the last 30 seconds more interesting than they should have been. But L.A. hung on for a 108-105 victory. Worthy finished with the game of his life: 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists—the only triple-double of his career. For the series, he averaged 22 points per game to lead the Lakers


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PICTURE

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PERFECT By Jeramie McPeek

Sequels rarely top the original, but the Bulls and Jazz took the same storyline from 1997 and turned it into a memorable Finals.

FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

J

ordan. Pippen. Stockton. Malone. Two Most Valuable Players. Arguably the best to play the point guard position and the most versatile player to ever lace up basketball shoes. Four Hall of Famers and members of the greatest basketball team ever assembled. The 1998 Finals featured some of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball, not to mention talented supporting casts on both sides of the court, and a couple Hall-of-Fame coaches pacing the sidelines. The championship series between Phil Jackson’s Chicago Bulls and Jerry Sloan’s Utah Jazz was a rematch of the year prior, yet was the rare sequel as good as, if not better than, the original. But the one play, one moment, one shot that comes to mind first and foremost if you watched those Finals 20 years ago, and the one that you’ve probably seen dozens of times since, is the game-winning, series-clinching jumper by the game’s most clutch performer of all time. Unless, of course, you are Karl Malone. “Everybody asked me, ‘How long was it before you watched it?’” the 14-time NBA All-Star forward says today of Michael Jordan’s dagger in Game 6. “I tell them, ‘I never watched it. I’m never gonna watch it.’” While driving his new Dodge Demon with the Supercharged V8 engine through Salt Lake City, Malone admits that he hasn’t watched many of his old games in the years since he retired in 2004. But that shot, in particular? He doesn’t need to see it ever again. “No disrespect to anybody, I’ll give credit where credit is due,” he says. “But when somebody walks up to me and asks, ‘How was it playing against Michael Jordan?’ I’ll say, ‘Ask him [Jordan], how was it playing against Karl Malone?’” The fierce competitiveness that made Malone and his tag-team partner, John Stockton, two of the best ever at their respective positions still burns inside. But it is accompanied by an appreciation and genuine pride that they twice had the chance to perform on the NBA’s grandest stage. “I’ve told people many times, I’d rather go to that thing and lose it 500 times than not go to it,” says Stockton after watching the modern-day Jazz defeat the Thunder in the opening round of this year’s playoffs. “Obviously, we didn’t come out on top, so that was disappointing, but in terms of the opportunity, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

THE FINALS | 2018

103


John Stockton and Karl Malone running their signature pick and roll.

Stockton

I’ve told people many times, I’d rather go to [the Finals] and lose it 500 times than not go to it. Obviously, we didn’t come out on top, so that was disappointing, but in terms of the opportunity, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. —John Stockton

Malone (left) and Dennis Rodman

Scottie Pippen

That was a very special team. We had won the championship several years in a row. We felt like we were dynamic, dominant, the best team ever. And we sort of finished it off like that. —Scottie Pippen 104

2018 | THE FINALS

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; FERNANDO MEDINA; ANDY HAYT (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The Jazz earned their second opportunity to represent the West in the Finals by going 62-20 during the 1997-98 regular season, and knocking out the Rockets, Spurs and Lakers in the playoffs. In fact, the Jazz had nine long days of rest before the Finals, having swept a young Shaq and Kobe-led Lakers team to advance. The defending NBA Champion Chicago Bulls also won 62 games, but lost both regular season meetings to the Jazz, meaning they would start the Finals on the road. They would also enter their sixth Finals in eight years on two days of rest, as they had been pushed to a full seven games by Reggie Miller and the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tired or not, the Bulls were ready. “Both teams were really familiar with each other, of course, but it helped that we’d beaten them the previous year,” recalls Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who’d hit the game-winning shot for the Bulls that eliminated the Jazz in their first Finals go-around. “That gave us confidence that we could do it again.” The ’98 Finals officially tipped off on a beautiful 70-degree night in Salt Lake City, at the then-known-as Delta Center. While the home crowd was electric in the opening minutes, the home team was a bit rusty after its long layoff. Four of Utah’s starters—Malone, forward Bryon Russell, center Greg Foster and typically sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek— missed 14 of their combined 19 shots to start the game. But their All-Star floor general went 6-of-7 in the first quarter to keep things interesting. As the game continued, the Jazz began to shake off any rust and took a 67-59 lead into the fourth quarter. But the Bulls were not about to tap out. Realizing time was running low, the visitors tightened up their defense, limiting the Jazz to a thenrecord-low 12 points in the fourth quarter, sparking their own offensive game. With just minutes left to play, Jordan pump-faked Jazz center Greg Ostertag into the air, and drove around him for the score,


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Michael Jordan’s “Last Shot” in the Finals.

Both teams were really familiar with each other, of course, but it helped that we’d beaten them the previous year. That gave us confidence that we could do it again. —Steve Kerr

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as the series turned to Chicago and the United Center, where the Bulls had a chance to win it all if they could take all three home games in the old 2-3-2 Finals format. With his chiseled biceps bursting out of the Jazz’ purple road jerseys with the white, snowcapped mountains, Malone made Steve Kerr a turnaround jumper over Longley for the first bucket of the game and the first of six straight made shots, ending his shooting drought. But the Bulls were prepared to defend their home floor. Chicago shut out the Jazz for six minutes to turn a 14-9 deficit into a 21-14 lead early in the second quarter. Malone (12 points) and Stockton (2 points) were the only Jazz players to score. The momentum had shifted and was only gaining steam, as the Bulls took away the pick-and-roll and the Jazz offense floundered. Chicago ran away with this one late in the first half, going on a 12-2 run to take a commanding 18-point lead into halftime, and never looked back. When the final buzzer sounded, the Jazz walked off the court with an embarrassing 42-point loss, the worst in any Finals game since the introduction of the 24-second shot clock. Malone scored 22 points on 8 of 11 field goal attempts, while his teammates went 13 for 59 (22 percent) from the field and Utah committed 26 turnovers. “This is actually the score?” an incredulous Sloan asked reporters as he looked over the printed box score, documenting the 96-54 win for the Bulls. “This is the final? I thought they scored 196.” As Malone stepped off the Jazz’ charter bus prior to Game 4, he held a copy of Wild Sheep magazine up to shield his face from

NBA PHOTOS (5); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

and then popped a 20-footer over Russell’s outstretched arm, foreshadowing what was to come later in the series. Chicago’s seven-time All-Star forward, Scottie Pippen, then drained a three from up top to tie the game late. Malone answered with two jumpers to give Utah a four-point lead, but Pippen hit two free throws and then Jordan, his drive cut off, found Luc Longley, who hit a tough shot in the lane to force overtime. In OT, the Jazz took an early lead then had to withstand another Bulls charge. Stockton, who scored 7 of his 24 points in the extra period, made a one-handed runner in the lane with 8.3 seconds left to clinch Utah’s 88-85 victory. Utah fans were thrilled, but Jordan warned the Jazz not to get overconfident during a sit-down interview between Games 1 and 2. “I don’t care how good you are. You still have to come and take this away from us,” he said with a spark in his eye that shined as bright as his large, gold hoop earring. “And it’s not that easy.” The five-time and reigning NBA Most Valuable Player put on a show in Game 2, scoring a game-high 37 points to lead the way for the visitors in red. Pippen added 21 for Chicago and Toni Kukoc, a 6-11 forward from Croatia, contributed 13 points and 9 boards. The Jazz, on the other hand, got a pedestrian 16 points from Malone, whose shooting woes carried over from Game 1. But Hornacek, who only had four points in the opener, recovered with 20 in Game 2, including a “leaping leaner” off the baseline late in the third quarter, a spinning layup and a big threepointer to put the Jazz up, 86-85, with 1:48 to play. But in the end, the story of the second game was the Bulls’ defense, as they swiped 10 steals and forced 19 Jazz turnovers, en route to a 93-88 road win. “A lot of people have said things about our physical tiredness, but our mental toughness is there,” Jordan said in the postgame presser. “You don’t become champions five times without having some type of mental advantage.” The test of mental toughness would soon come for the Jazz,


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Malone

Everybody asked me, ‘How long was it before you watched it?’ I tell them, ‘I never watched it. I’m never gonna watch it.’ —Karl Malone, on Jordan’s final shot

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and do your job.” “We’re in control,” Jordan said after the game. “Tonight was like an appetizer. Friday will be the entrée.” Although Jordan did not suffer from food poisoning like he had in Game 5 of the 1997 Finals, he would be disappointed with the meal that was served in the fifth game of the series this year. Things looked good for the Chicago faithful in the first half, as the Bulls forced nine turnovers in the second quarter alone and were up, 36-30, at intermission. But the “Mailman” had a lot of deliveries to make on this particular night. After scoring 14 points in the first half, Malone poured in 17 more in the third quarter alone, breathing life into Utah’s postseason. Kukoc scored a personal playoff-best 30 points for the Bulls, but no one was going to outdo the Jazz’ forward, who finished with 39 points on 17-of-27 from the field, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and a must-have 83-81 win for the Jazz. “You’ve got to give everything you’ve got in the moment, because it’s not promised that you’re going to get back there,” Malone says philosophically. “Now I got grandkids. How would I like for them to say, ‘Papa, they said you didn’t play hard, Papa.’ No! They know I battled. They might say I missed a shot, or missed a free throw, but they’re not going to say, ‘Papa was a lazy ass.’” For Bulls fans, the Game 5 loss was particularly disappointing because they didn’t get to see their team celebrate a championship on their homecourt. But for the players in white with red trim, the loss was only a setback. “That would have been a great scenario, but it didn’t happen,” said Jordan, who missed a desperation three at the buzzer that would have won the game. “Everyone thought that I could make a [game-winning] shot, and that’s the beauty of the game. That’s a part of the unexpected finish of an NBA basketball game. I thought that was cute, just thinking about it.”

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

the photographers who were waiting in the loading dock of the Bulls’ arena. Like the two bighorns ramming each other on the publication’s cover, the Jazz were not about to back down, despite the ugly Game 3 loss. “They just got themselves ready to go again,” recalls Sloan, who at 76 years old is battling Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia, but still loves cheering on the Jazz today. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You could cry like you have an ingrown toe nail, but they didn’t quit. They left it all on the court.” The 6-5 coach, who played 10 years of his own NBA career with the Bulls (1966-1976) and was known for his fiery demeanor, decided to shake things up for Game 4, inserting Adam Keefe into the starting lineup at center. He was also quick to make substitutions, playing 11 of his 12-man roster in the first half. The changes didn’t faze the Bulls, however. Pippen knocked down 3-of-3 from deep, while Jordan scored 10 points in the opening quarter. Together, the dynamic duo combined for 32 of Chicago’s 39 first-half points. The Bulls maintained a lead throughout most of the second half, as well, but missed free throws opened the door for the Jazz, who tied the game at 72 with 3:15 remaining. The two teams continued to compete down the stretch, and the Bulls continued to struggle at the free throw line until an unlikely hero stepped up. Rodman, the last person the Bulls wanted at the line in crunch time, made all four of his free throw attempts in the game’s final three minutes. Chicago hung on to win 86-82 and go up 3-1 in the series. “You can’t be afraid to face the reality of not winning,” said Rodman, who had 14 rebounds two days after skipping practice to perform in a wrestling event. “So it didn’t faze me at all. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t jittery. You just have to go out there


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ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

quarter, including Chicago’s last eight points. “It felt like everything was so fragile,” Kerr remembers. “We lost Game 5 at home. Scottie’s back was so sore, which was alarming. We were vulnerable, but Michael just took over. He never allowed our confidence to be shaken.” Jordan’s confidence was on full display in the closing minute, which saw Utah up three and seemingly headed Malone (#32) and Jordan (#23) to a Game 7. But the Bulls’ leader blew by Russell for a layup to cut the lead to one, and then snuck in behind Malone, who was posting up, for a critical steal with 20 seconds to play. Calmly dribbling down court, Jordan dribbled to the left side of the floor. With just 12…11…10 seconds to go, MJ drove hard to his right and then stopped on a dime, shaking off with a move—depending on the eye of the beholder, could be judged as a push-off or a Malone and Rodman It would be Jordan’s sixth title and as many Finals MVPs. gentle nudge—on Russell to create just enough room to While the dramatic Jazz comeback in Game 5 may have rise and shoot the most iconic of many memorable jump shots of been unexpected, it wasn’t as surprising as the news that came his storied NBA career. next. On the day between games, the Salt Lake Tribune reported With his right arm fully extended and his shooting hand that Malone and Rodman would face off in a tag-team match pointed down, Air Jordan appeared to float as the ball dropped for a World Championship Wrestling pay-per-view event through the net, giving the Bulls an 87-86 win and their sixth after the Finals. NBA Championship. The “Bash at the Beach” appeared to begin early, however, “When everything is on the line, he is the most productive as the two forwards fought each other harder than ever in guy to ever play in that position,” says Sloan today. “It was not Game 6 back in Salt Lake City, shoving, pulling, tripping and a great feeling by any stretch of the imagination. We played elbowing each other throughout the game. Even though it as hard as they did, but they were just a little better because was an elimination game with the NBA Championship on the Michael made them that way.” line, many at the time considered it might be theatrics to sell As Jordan held up six fingers, the Bulls celebrated on the Jazz more pay-per-views. court, and Pippen breathed a big sigh of relief. “It wasn’t fake. It was physical,” says Malone, a lifelong “They pushed us to the limit, even though we never pro wrestling fan, on his basketball battles with the Worm. played them in a Game 7, thank God,” says Pippen, who had “There were some underhanded dealings going on, but it surgery to repair a pair of herniated disks days after the wasn’t malicious. I gave it, he took it. He gave it, I took it…it Bulls’ championship parade. “They were professionals. They was fun, because you had to be ready to play Dennis. You had came ready. They competed and they gave their all to the last to block out all of his antics and say to yourself, ‘This freaking second on the clock.” guy can play.’” And the Bulls, Scottie? One guy who had trouble playing in Game 6, though, was “That was a very special team. We had won the championship Pippen. The lanky, 6-8 forward had injured his back earlier in several years in a row. We felt like we were dynamic, dominant, the series and received a cortisone shot for the pain, but he the best team ever. And we sort of finished it off like that.” reinjured it on a dunk early in this one and had to leave for the Then-NBA Commissioner David Stern presented the 1998 locker room with back spasms. Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy and declared the Chicago Thankfully for Bulls fans, they still had Mike. Matching his Bulls were “a team for the ages.” jersey number, Jordan scored 23 in the first half, before he was “It was amazing just to be a part of history,” says Kerr, who rejoined by Pippen in the second half, the last half of the series. would go on to win two more titles as a player and has won two Although the Jazz continued to compete, the fourth quarter so far as an NBA coach. “We even knew it at the time, this was a belonged to the Bulls and the soon-to-be-named Finals MVP for team that would be remembered forever. Sure enough, here we the sixth time. Jordan poured in 16 of his 45 points in the final are talking about it 20 years later.”


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As you age, your immune system may weaken. Traditional flu shots may not work as well for older adults compared to younger adults.2,3 FLUAD is a flu shot for adults 65 and older that contains an immune-enhancing ingredient and is proven to provide a strong immune response to help protect against the flu.1

Learn more at FLUAD.com

It’s time to ask your doctor or pharmacist about FLUAD Important Safety Information What is FLUAD? FLUAD is a vaccine that helps protect against the flu. FLUAD is for people aged 65 years and older. Vaccination with FLUAD may not protect all people who receive the vaccine. Who should not get FLUAD? You should not get FLUAD if you have had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the vaccine in the past, including egg protein, or a severe reaction to a previous influenza vaccine. Who may not be able to get FLUAD? Tell your health care provider if you: • Have ever had Guillain-Barré syndrome (severe muscle weakness) after getting a flu shot. The decision to give FLUAD should be made by your health care provider, based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks. • Have an allergy to rubber latex. FLUAD does not contain latex, but the tip caps of the prefilled syringes contain natural rubber latex, which may cause an allergic reaction in persons sensitive to latex. What if I have a weakened immune system? Tell your health care provider if you have problems with your immune system, as your immune response to the vaccine may be reduced.

Seqirus Inc.

Holly Springs, North Carolina 27540

© 2017 Seqirus Inc.

Designed for adults 65 and older

What are the most common side effects of FLUAD? • Pain or tenderness where you got the shot • Muscle aches • Headache • Fatigue These are not all of the possible side effects of FLUAD. You can ask your health care provider for a complete list of possible side effects. Ask your health care provider for advice about any side effects that concern you. You may report side effects to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) by calling 1-800-822-7967 or by going to http://vaers.hhs.gov. To report SUSPECTED ADVERSE REACTIONS, contact Seqirus Inc. at 1-855-358-8966 or VAERS at 1-800-822-7967 and http://vaers.hhs.gov. For more information, please see Brief Summary of Prescribing Information for FLUAD on the following pages. References: 1. FLUAD [package insert]. Holly Springs, NC: Seqirus Vaccines Limited; 2017. 2. Reber AJ, Chirkova T, Kim JH, et al. Immunosenescence and challenges of vaccination against influenza in the aging population. Aging Dis. 2012;3(1):68-90. 3. Goodwin K, Viboud C, Simonsen L. Antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly: a quantitative review. Vaccine. 2006;24(8):1159-1169.

June 2017

US/FLUD/0617/0038


FLUAD (Influenza Vaccine, Adjuvanted) Suspension for Intramuscular Injection 2017-2018 Formula Initial U.S. Approval: 2015

Table 1. Percentages of Subjects ≥ 65 Years of Age With Solicited Local and Systemic Adverse Reactions in Days 1-7 After Administration of FLUAD or AGRIFLU (a U.S. Licensed Comparator) NCT01162122 Study 1

BRIEF SUMMARY:

FLUAD (Na=3418-3496) Percentage

AGRIFLU (Na=3420-3488) Percentage

Any

25.0

12.2

Moderateb

3.9

1.9

Severec

0.3

0.2

Any

21.1

11.2

Moderate

3.0

1.0

Severe

0.1

0.2

Any

1.2

0.5

25 to ≤ 50 mm

1.1

0.5

51 to ≤ 100 mm

0.2

<0.1

See package insert for full prescribing information. 1 INDICATIONS AND USAGE

FLUAD is an inactivated influenza vaccine indicated for active immunization against influenza disease caused by influenza virus subtypes A and type B contained in the vaccine. FLUAD is approved for use in persons 65 years of age and older. Approval is based on the immune response elicited by FLUAD. Data demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with FLUAD are not available. [see Clinical Studies (14)]

Local Injection site Pain

Tenderness

4 CONTRAINDICATIONS

Do not administer FLUAD to anyone with a history of severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis) to any component of the vaccine, including egg protein [see Description (11)], or to a previous influenza vaccine.

5 WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS

5.1 Guillain-Barré Syndrome If Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) has occurred within 6 weeks of receipt of prior influenza vaccine, the decision to give FLUAD should be based on careful consideration of the potential benefits and risks. The 1976 swine influenza vaccine was associated with an elevated risk of GBS. Evidence for a causal relationship of GBS with other influenza vaccines is inconclusive; if an excess risk exists, it is probably slightly more than 1 additional case per 1 million persons vaccinated. [see References (1)] 5.2 Preventing and Managing Allergic Reactions Appropriate medical treatment and supervision must be available to manage possible anaphylactic reactions following administration of the vaccine. 5.3 Latex The tip caps of the prefilled syringes contain natural rubber latex which may cause allergic reactions in latex sensitive individuals. [see Description (11)] 5.4 Altered Immunocompetence The immune response to FLUAD in immunocompromised persons, including individuals receiving immunosuppressive therapy, may be lower than in immunocompetent individuals. [see Concurrent Use With Immunosuppressive Therapies (7.2)] 5.5 Syncope Syncope (fainting) may occur in association with administration of injectable vaccines including FLUAD. Ensure procedures are in place to avoid injury from falling associated with syncope. 5.6 Limitations of Vaccine Effectiveness Vaccination with FLUAD may not protect all vaccine recipients against influenza disease.

6 ADVERSE REACTIONS

6.1 Clinical Trials Experience Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, the adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a vaccine cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another vaccine and may not reflect rates observed in clinical practice. Solicited adverse reactions were assessed in a multicenter, observerblind, randomized controlled study (Study 1) conducted in the United States, Colombia, Panama and the Philippines. The safety analysis set included 3545 FLUAD recipients and 3537 AGRIFLU (Influenza Vaccine) recipients. The enrolled subject population in Study 1 was 65 to 97 years of age (mean 72 years) and 64% were female. Within each treatment group, 53% were Asian, 28% were Caucasian, 18% were Hispanic, 1% were Black, and fewer than 1% each were Native American/Alaskan, Pacific Islander/Hawaiian, or Other. Solicited local (injection site) and systemic adverse reactions were collected from subjects in Study 1 who completed a symptom diary card for seven days following vaccination. The reported frequencies of solicited local and systemic adverse events from Study 1 are presented in Table 1.

Erythema

Induration

Swelling

> 100 mm

0.0

0.0

Any

1.3

0.5

25 to ≤ 50 mm

1.0

0.5

51 to ≤ 100 mm

0.3

0.0

> 100 mm

0.0

0.0

Any

1.2

0.4

25 to ≤ 50 mm

1.0

0.4

51 to ≤ 100 mm

0.2

<0.1

> 100 mm

<0.1

0.0

Systemic Myalgia

Fatigue

Headache

Arthralgia

Chills

Diarrhea

Fever

Any

14.7

9.7

Moderate

2.6

1.8

Severe

0.3

0.7

Any

13.3

10.4

Moderate

3.1

2.4

Severe

0.4

0.6

PLTd

0.0

<0.1

Any

13.2

11.2

Moderate

3.0

2.6

Severe

0.4

0.6

PLT

0.0

<0.1

Any

8.5

7.8

Moderate

1.6

1.6

Severe

0.2

0.6

Any

6.7

4.7

Moderate

1.5

1.2

Severe

0.3

0.3

PLT

<0.1

0.0

Any

4.8

4.5

Moderate

1.3

0.9

Severe

0.3

0.2

PLT

<0.1

<0.1

Any

3.6

3.4

1.8

1.7

1.3

1.3

0.4

0.4

0.1

0.0

≥ 38.0°C to ≤ 38.4°C ≥ 38.5°C to ≤ 38.9°C 39.0°C to ≤ 40.0°C ≥ 40.0°C

(cont)


Systemic (cont from previous page)

Nausea

Vomiting

a

Any

2.9

2.8

Moderate

0.4

0.6

Severe

0.1

0.1

PLT

<0.1

0.0

Any

1.4

1.7

Moderate

0.4

0.5

Severe

<0.1

0.1

PLT

<0.1

0.0

N = number of subjects with safety data.

Moderate: pain, tenderness, myalgia, fatigue, headache, arthralgia, chills, nausea, vomiting defined as “some limitation in normal daily activity”, diarrhea defined as “4 to 5 stools a day”.

b

Severe: pain, tenderness, myalgia, fatigue, headache, arthralgia, chills, nausea, vomiting defined as “unable to perform normal daily activity”, diarrhea defined as “6 or more watery stools a day”.

c

Potentially life threatening (PLT) reaction defined as requiring emergency room visit or hospitalization.

d

Unsolicited Adverse Events (AEs): The clinical safety of FLUAD was assessed in fifteen (15) randomized, controlled studies. The total safety population in these trials included 10,952 adults 65 years of age and older, comprising 5,754 who received FLUAD and 5,198 who received other US licensed influenza vaccines. The percentage of subjects with an unsolicited AE within 30 days following vaccination was similar between vaccine groups (16.9% FLUAD vs. 18.0% active comparator). Serious Adverse Events (SAEs) and Deaths: In Study 1, in which subjects were followed for SAEs and deaths for one year following vaccination (N=3,545 FLUAD, N=3,537 AGRIFLU), the percentages of subjects with an SAE were similar between vaccine groups (7% FLUAD vs. 7% AGRIFLU). Four SAEs (1 FLUAD and 3 AGRIFLU) were assessed as related to study vaccination over one year of observation and 2 of these occurred (1 FLUAD and 1 AGRIFLU) within 21 days following study vaccination. There were 98 deaths (n=52 FLUAD, n=46 AGRIFLU) over one year of which none occurred within the first 21 days following vaccination. In 14 additional randomized, controlled studies, SAEs were collected over a 3 to 4-week period in 4 studies, over a 8-week period in 1 study, and over a 6-month period in 9 studies (N= 2,209 FLUAD, N=1,661 US licensed influenza vaccines). The percentages of subjects with an SAE within 30 days (1.1% FLUAD vs. 1.8% AGRIFLU) or within 6 months (4.3% FLUAD vs. 5.9% AGRIFLU) were similar between vaccine groups. The percentages of deaths within 30 days (0.3% FLUAD vs. 0.6% active comparator) or within 6 months (1.0% FLUAD vs. 1.5% active comparator) were also similar. Adverse Events of Special Interest (AESIs): Rates of new onset neuroinflammatory and immune mediated diseases were assessed in a post hoc analysis of the 15 randomized controlled studies over the time periods specified above for SAEs. The percentage of subjects with an AESI at any time after vaccination was similar between vaccine groups (0.9% FLUAD vs. 0.9% active comparator). There were no notable imbalances for specific AESIs. Safety of Annual Revaccination: In 5 of the randomized, controlled trials, subjects were followed for SAEs and deaths for 6 months following revaccination (N=492 FLUAD, N=330 US licensed and non-US licensed influenza vaccines). After the second annual vaccination, the percentages of subjects with an SAE were similar between vaccine groups (6.1% FLUAD vs. 5.5% comparator influenza vaccines); 23 deaths (n=17 FLUAD, n=6 comparator influenza vaccines) were reported. Causes of death included cardiovascular events, malignancy, trauma, gastrointestinal disorders, and respiratory failure. Clinical characteristics of the deaths, including the variable causes, timing since vaccination, and underlying medical conditions, do not provide evidence for a causal relationship with FLUAD. 6.2 Postmarketing Experience The following adverse events have been spontaneously reported during post-approval use of FLUAD in Europe and other regions since 1997.

Because these events are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to the vaccine. Blood and lymphatic system disorders: Thrombocytopenia (some cases were severe with platelet counts less than 5,000 per mm3), lymphadenopathy General disorders and administration site conditions: Extensive swelling of injected limb lasting more than one week, injection site cellulitis-like reactions (some cases of swelling, pain, and redness extending more than 10 cm and lasting more than 1 week) Immune system disorders: Allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock, anaphylaxis and angioedema Musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders: Muscular weakness Nervous system disorders: Encephalomyelitis, Guillain-Barré Syndrome, convulsions, neuritis, neuralgia, paraesthesia, syncope, presyncope Skin and subcutaneous tissue disorders: Generalized skin reactions including erythema multiforme, urticaria pruritus or non-specific rash Vascular disorders: Vasculitis with transient renal involvement

7 DRUG INTERACTIONS 7.1 Concomitant Use With Other Vaccines There are no data to assess the concomitant administration of FLUAD with other vaccines. If FLUAD is to be given at the same time as other injectable vaccine(s), the vaccine(s) should be administered at different injection sites. Do not mix FLUAD with any other vaccine in the same syringe. 7.2 Concurrent Use With Immunosuppressive Therapies Immunosuppressive or corticosteroid therapies may reduce the immune response to FLUAD.

8 USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS 8.1 Pregnancy Pregnancy Category B: A reproductive and developmental toxicity study has been performed in rabbits with a dose level that was approximately 15 times the human dose based on body weight. The study revealed no evidence of impaired female fertility or harm to the fetus due to FLUAD. There are, however, no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Because animal reproduction studies are not always predictive of human response, this vaccine should be used during pregnancy only if clearly needed. In a reproductive and developmental toxicity study, the effect of FLUAD on embryo-fetal and post-natal development was evaluated in pregnant rabbits. Animals were administered FLUAD by intramuscular injection twice prior to gestation, during the period of organogenesis (gestation day 7) and later in pregnancy (gestation day 20), 0.5 mL (45 mcg)/rabbit/occasion (approximately 15-fold excess relative to the adult human dose based on body weight). No adverse effects on mating, female fertility, pregnancy, embryo-fetal development, or post-natal development were observed. There were no vaccine-related fetal malformations or other evidence of teratogenesis. 8.4 Pediatric Use The safety and effectiveness of FLUAD in the pediatric population has not been established. 8.5 Geriatric Use Safety and immunogenicity of FLUAD have been evaluated in adults 65 years of age and older. [See Adverse Reactions (6.1) and Clinical Studies (14)] FLUAD is a registered trademark of Seqirus Inc. Manufactured by: Seqirus Vaccines Limited, An affiliate of: Seqirus Inc., Holly Springs, NC 27540, USA 1-855-358-8966


REWIND 2017-18 James Harden was driven all year. The combo guard led the Houston Rockets to an NBA-best 65 wins while leading the League with 30.4 points per game to go with 8.8 assists and 5.4 rebounds. Harden was runner-up to the MVP hardware twice, but he might be shedding the bridesmaid tag this season.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTTY IMAGES

THE FINALS | 2018

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1

1

Through the first half of the season, Kristaps Porzingis proved he could be the No. 1 option in New York, averaging 22.7 points and copping his first All-Star appearance. A torn ACL in February was a monkey in the wrench, but KP should be back to his flashy ways before long. NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

A good rookie knows that it’s always a good idea to keep the veterans happy. Donovan Mitchell knows that all too well, keeping his big man Rudy Gobert well fed.

DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

True to his name, Will Barton is undeterred by the obstructions in his mission to get the ball to teammate Nikola Jokic.

GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

4

John Wall is righthanded, but if you pay attention, when it comes to dunking—especially the ones in traffic—he prefers his left hand.

GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2018 | THE FINALS

4


2

1

The duo spent three seasons together competing for titles, winning one, so the bond of brotherhood between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James will always be there.

2017-18 REWIND

1

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no easy task scoring against Draymond Green. Perhaps that is why DeMar DeRozan chooses to sneak this pass by the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year and three-time AllDefensive member.

NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball learns an early lesson in the NBA: Anthony Davis will block your shot. After all, Davis did lead the League in that category three times, including this season with 2.6 a game.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

THE FINALS | 2018 117


2017-18 REWIND

A trio of thrilling finishes, two from Boston. October 25 (top): Down by two, Eric Gordon pump fakes once then launches over the outstretched arms of two Sixers for the three, and the Rockets win, as time expires. March 20 (middle): Marcus Morris sidesteps the OKC defense and drills a three to put Boston up by one, and for good, with 1.2 seconds remaining. March 28 (bottom): In a tie game, Jaylen Brown catches a pass at the top of the arc and nets the three-ball with 0.1 seconds on the clock as the Celtics beat Utah.

DAVID DOW; BRIAN BABINEAU; MELISSA MAJCHRZAK/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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1

1

Dragons are mythical creatures. Dragics are not. They are human, like you and me. Although, Goran did make a pair of Bulls fly and spit out a fire season, earning his first All-Star selection.

ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Andrew Wiggins brought the sizzle to South Beach with this fire dunk.

2017-18 REWIND

2

3

ISSAC BALDIZON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Pregame pyrotechnics might be the only way to keep DeAndre Jordan off the boards. The Clippersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; longtime pivot reeled in a career-high 15.2 boards per game.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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1

1

The Oct. 26 game between the Celtics and Bucks drew 11,046 fans, a pittance relative to average NBA crowds, but it was at capacity since it was played at the former MECCA Arena (now called the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena). Celebrating its 50th season, the Bucks played in their old homeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and site of their inaugural season in 1968-69 and a championship season in 1971â&#x20AC;&#x201D;one last time with a replica of the signature floor design from 1977 to 1988.

NBA PHOTOS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Victor Oladipo demonstrates a full 360-degree dunk while his career took a 180 when he returned to the state where he played his college ball. The former Hoosier will garner some Most Improved Player votes with his career year of 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and League-leading 2.4 steals.

DAVID DOW/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

120

2

2018 | THE FINALS


2017-18 REWIND

1

1

Part of a very talented draft class, Dennis Smith Jr. started every game he played this season. The Dallas Mavericks’ point guard of the future, Smith showed that he can reach some lofty heights in the present.

NED DISHMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

2

A second-round pick last June, Warriors newbie Jordan Bell averaged a block per game in only 14.2 minutes. Here he gets Rudy Gay’s offering with both mitts, but it still only counts as one rejection.

MARK SOBHANI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Kristaps Porzingis averaged 2.4 blocks per game this season, and here Zinger rejects a Lance Stephenson high-flying throwdown attempt. Jarrett Jack’s facial expression suggests he’s witnessed something inhuman.

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

4

34

Usually it’s the opponents that are brought to tears when Steph Curry drains a back-breaking three from logos on the floor, but before a game in Philadelphia, this young fan was raining tears of joy at meeting the two-time MVP sharpshooter.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

THE FINALS | 2018 121


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1

As dunking artistry goes, KarlAnthony Towns is lacking, but where he falls short on style, he more than makes up for with ferocity.

2 1

DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Listed at 6-11, the Netsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Jarrett Allen might have another couple inches when you factor in the hairdo, and that length proved more than sufficient to contest the 6-8 Kyle Singler.

JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Brothers Pau and Marc Gasol have shared an NBA hardwood since 2008, and 2017-18 was another year of success for the Spaniards. Pau averaged 10.1 points and 8.0 rebounds in 23.5 minutes helping San Antonio to a playoff berth, while Marc continued to grind in Memphis with averages of 17.2 points and 8.1 boards.

MARK SOBHANI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2018 | THE FINALS

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2017-18 REWIND

1

It’s unclear if Kyrie Irving wanted to be an Avenger with this crystalline mask. However, he donned it due to a minor facial fracture suffered early in the season, so it served a functional purpose aside from concealing his true identity. Technically, Kyrie already has an alter ego in Uncle Drew. And some would say he balls like a superhero on the court. Maybe we’re on to something here.

BRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

This season was a smashing success for Minnesota, which made the playoffs for the first time since 2004. First-year T-Wolf Jimmy Butler and third-year stud Karl-Anthony Towns provided the impetus for the winning season.

LAYNE MURDOCH JR./NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

1

2

THE FINALS | 2018 123


2017-18 REWIND

1

Whether you go with Kobe Bryant or Jerry West as the greatest Lakers shooting guard of all time (Kobe would say he cribbed parts of his game after West; West would humbly defer to Kobe), thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no denying the mutual respect the two legends have for one another (also: there is no wrong answer).

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

1

2

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The jersey number retirement is one of the highest honors that a franchise can bestow upon you. When youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve helped bring five titles to the organization while scoring 33,643 points (81 of those in a single game and 60 in his final game) over 20 seasons like Kobe Bryant has for the Los Angeles Lakers, you get two numbers raised up. No. 8, which Kobe wore from 1996-97 through 2005-06, and No. 24 (2006-07 through 2015-16), became the 17th and 18th jerseys to hang atop the rafters of Staples Center.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES


1

An excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s famous speech sat on the back of Kawhi Leonard and other NBA players during Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

MARK SOBHANI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Frenchman Tony Parker contorts under the makeshift, Memphis-built Eiffel Tower for the lay-in attempt.

JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

1

2017-18 REWIND

2

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2017-18 REWIND

NBA players have plenty of celebratory devices at their disposal— the aerial body bump, jubilant lie-down, donning “three googles,” the raising of the roof, the “airplane,” and a flex are all solid options— but the classic double high-five never goes out of style.

GLENN JAMES; JESSE D. GARRABRANT; KENT SMITH; BRIAN BABINEAU (2); BROCK WILLIAMS-SMITH; GARRETT ELLWOOD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2017-18 REWIND

1

This year was a renaissance for Grizzlies swingman Tyreke Evans, who averaged 19.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists, his strongest statistical output since 2009-10, when he copped Rookie of the Year honors with 20.1 points, 5.3 boards and 5.8 assists.

2

1

JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Two of the Leagueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s premier point gods, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul, played their parts in leading their teams this season. The two deities orchestrated their respective squads to the top two seeds in the West.

BILL BAPTIST/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2017-18 REWIND

1

1

Kevin Durant might be one of the game’s preeminent scorers but Wilson Chandler put the kibosh on this deuce with a seismic stuff. What? A little jersey tug? Where?

BART YOUNG/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

128

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2018 | THE FINALS

Goro is a Mortal Kombat character with four arms, two of which protrude out of his abdominal area. Joel Embiid is a basketball player with two arms, both of which protrude out of his shoulders. This picture can be confusing, but it’s Embiid. The Philly big man made his first All-Star appearance in 2017-18. Not sure what’s up with Goro these days.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/ GETTY IMAGES


2017-18 REWIND

1

Portland’s Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum comprised the League’s most explosive backcourt. The Pacific Northwest duo rained a nightly average of 48.3 points, with Lillard leading the way at 26.9 and McCollum not far behind at 21.4.

SAM FORENCICH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

A 60-point game is rare enough, but pairing the scoring outburst with a triple-double is unheard of— that is, until James Harden pulled off the feat on Jan. 30. He dropped 11 dimes and grabbed 10 boards to go with the highest scoring game in the NBA this season.

BILL BAPTIST/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Known for his one-legged jumpshot, Dirk Nowitzki proved he can do the same when it comes to rebounds. The future Hall of Famer wrapped up his 20th season as a Dallas Maverick and in the process crossed the 50,000-minute and 31,000-point thresholds. ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

1

2

3

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The postgame shower has become a common way to bathe the night’s hero with recognition. It’s a joyous occasion for everyone involved, save for the guy who has to mop up the aftermath.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT; CHRIS SCHWEGLER; BRIAN SEVALD; MELISSA MAJCHRZAK/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2017-18 REWIND Even playing a game as creative as basketball, NBA players need to express themselves off the court, as evidenced by their many â&#x20AC;&#x2122;fits.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT; STEPHEN GOSLING; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; GARRETT ELLWOOD (2); LAYNE MURDOCH; BILL BAPTIST/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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1

1

For the first time in All-Star Game history, the lines were drawn not geographically, but with the two leading vote-getters in the East and West, LeBron James and Stephen Curry, drafting their teams in schoolyard fashion.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; JESSE D. GARRABRANT (2)/NBAE/ GETTY IMAGES

2

Spencer Dinwiddie has always had a curious name, but at All-Star, the Brooklyn Nets guard made an even bigger name for himself by flashing his basketball fundamentals to take home the Taco Bell Skills Competition title.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2017-18 REWIND

1

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3

1

Utah rookie sensation Donovan Mitchell’s nickname might be “Spida,” which explains the abundance of legs in this 180-degree pirouette dunk at the Verizon Slam Dunk, a contest he won hands (and legs) down.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

On a court filled with talented first- and second-year players from all over the planet, it was Serbian rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings and the World Team who outshined his peers at the MTN Dew Kickstart Rising Stars Game.

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Not only did LeBron James pick a winning squad in the first-ever All-Star draft, he took home the All-Star MVP with a 29-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist picturesque performance.

5

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

4

He didn’t quite need 70 points like he once scored in a game, but Devin Booker shot the lights out nevertheless at the JBL Three-Point Contest to take home the long-distance crown.

NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

5

Atlanta rookie John Collins was feeling on top of the world for a second with this high-elevation dunk for the USA Team at the MTN Dew Kickstart Rising Challenge, but came back down to Earth as the World Team won, 155-124.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

6

It was a weird sight to see Steph Curry getting double-teamed by LeBron James and his teammate-for-a-day Kevin Durant at the All-Star Game. LeBron had made Durant a traitor for one game by picking Durant as part of Team LeBron and the duo smothered any chance of a Team Stephen comeback in the closing seconds of the 148-145 win at the All-Star Game.

JOE MURPHY/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

6

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2017-18 REWIND

Vince Carter might be defying Father Time on the basketball court at 41 years old, but if you ask us, his continued mockery against gravity is equally as impressive.

CHRIS ELISE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2

2017-18 REWIND

1

1

As evidenced by their pregame introductions, when the Detroit Pistons traded for Blake Griffin midseason to team with Andre Drummond, they would create a highflying frontcourt.

BRIAN SEVALD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Giannis Antetokounmpo does not choose the path of least resistance. Instead, he goes the (Tim) Hardaway to the basket.

NED DISHMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Orlando is known for its magic and awe, making Aaron Gordonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ability to soar in the air and creatively dunk the ball a perfect fit for the city.

FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

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2017-18 REWIND

1

2

1

Basketball can be a cruel game of inches. You can give it your all and be a hair short. Just ask Minnesota’s Jeff Teague when he went for this steal attempt against Detroit’s Stanley Johnson.

B. SEVALD/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

The 76ers reached the postseason for the first time since 2012, led by budding superstar Joel Embiid and rookie sensation Ben Simmons. The future of Philadelphia hasn’t looked this bright since 1776.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

The ability to stop on a dime and change directions is paramount to be a successful NBA point guard. Kemba Walker put the brakes and shifts gears as good as any in the League. This season saw the Charlotte point guard make his second appearance as an All-Star.

4

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3

4

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

At age 40, Jason “Jet” Terry finished his 19th NBA season as a part-time player with Milwaukee. The flight may be fastening its seatbelts and returning the trays to an upright position in preparation for landing, but it’s still airborne.

GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES


12

1

The Golden State Warriors’ quartet of All-Stars cop most of the headlines, but sitting—although not in this instance—at the end of the bench is Damian Jones, who can manufacture a highlight.

NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Derek Harper was a mainstay of the Dallas Mavericks throughout the ’80s and a master ball thief (he is 14th all-time in steals with 1,957 and was named to the All-Defensive Team twice) over his 16-year NBA career. On Jan. 7, the franchise floated his No. 12 to the rafters, joining his old backcourt mate, Rolando Blackman.

2017-18 REWIND

3

DANNY BOLLINGER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Seventh overall pick Lauri Markkanen, the second Finnishborn player to reach the NBA, had an impressive rookie campaign for Chicago with averages of 15.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. The 7-footer also has some athletic chops, as evidenced by this soaring dunk and Memphis’ JaMychal Green’s expression.

JEFF HAYNES/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2017-18 REWIND

1

Los Angeles Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball became the youngest player to record a triple-double when he collected 19 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds at just 20 years and 15 days old. Ball would hold the record for five months before the guy Philadelphia drafted before him in the 2017 NBA Draft and No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, bested him with a 13/10/10 night as a 19-year-old (and 317 days).

GARY DINEEN; JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

If—IF—the NBA were to nominate candidates for the next Presidential run, it would undoubtedly be San Antonio and Golden State’s Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. The two head coaches have proven to be successful leaders with seven NBA coaching titles between them, and more pointedly, demonstrated an understanding and awareness of today’s social issues.

DARREN CARROLL/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

1

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2


2017-18 REWIND

1

1

One of the more fantastic surprises of the season was Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell. Averaging 20.5 points as a starter on a playoff-bound Utah squad, Mitchell also displayed his aerial prowess all year long.

ADAM PANTOZZI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Thirty points is a good night and 30 rebounds is phenomenal. Accomplishing both in the same game is downright filthy, so much so that when Dwight Howard did it (32 points and 30 boards, to be exact) on March 21, he became just the second player in the last 36 years to cop the elusive 30/30.

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Andre Ingram is perseverance personified. After 10 years playing in the G League trying to make an impression on NBA teams, Ingram finally got the call. The part-time math tutor and all-time G League leader in three-pointers was not content with just getting to put on a Los Angeles Lakers jersey. Ingram dropped in 19 pointsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;making 4 of 5 triplesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;in earning the game ball and checking off a life goal.

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

3

THE FINALS | 2018 139


2017-18 REWIND

1 2

Russell Westbrook peers into the soul in the hole.

MARK BLINCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

With their two stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid healthy and perfect complementary pieces to one another, the 76ers ascent was well worth the wait.

JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

1

140

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2


2

2017-18 REWIND

1 1

Forty-somethings Vince Carter (41) and Manu Ginobili (40) might be closer to AARP membership than most in the NBA (where the average age is 25), but don’t let the advanced age fool you. The two have plenty of ball left before they enter the HOF and play at the local YMCA. When the two met on Jan. 28, Carter poured in 21 points and Ginobili scored 15, marking the first time in NBA history where two 40-year-olds scored at least 15 points.

MARK SOBHANI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

It didn’t quite get the hype that it did last year when he became the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-double for a season, but Russell Westbrook now becomes the only player to accomplish the feat twice with his 25.4 points, 10.3 assists and 10.1 rebounds per-game averages in 2017-18.

LAYNE MURDOCH/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

Fifty years marks a golden anniversary, making this season’s Denver Nuggets campaign a very fitting one.

BART YOUNG/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

3

THE FINALS | 2018 141


2017-18 REWIND

Heavy is the head that wears the crown, especially when the crown adds a few more jewels. This season LeBron James passed the 30K mark in career points, scoring his 30,000th point on Jan. 23 with an elbow jumper against the Spurs. On Feb. 27, LeBron would become the first player to notch 30,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 8,000 assists. On April 6, he passed the 31,000 career points threshold, becoming just the seventh, and youngest ever, player to achieve that mark.

DARREN CARROLL (2)/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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2017-18 REWIND

1

1

Watching Giannis Antetokounmpo stretch out might be an exercise in redundancy. The naturally protracted Greek Freak can hardly fit within the frame of this photo as he battles Raymond Felton for a loose ball.

GARY DINEEN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2

Even during a quiet moment in the bowels of the arena before a game, Russell Westbrook is a picture of simmering intensity.

BART YOUNG/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

2 THE FINALS | 2018 143


Who Will Win KIA MVP?

MONDAY, JUNE 25 • 9 PM ET NBA, the NBA logo and team identifications are trademarks of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective member teams. © 2018 NBA Properties, Inc.


TKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTKKTKTKTK/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

AWARD WINNERS

2017-18 NBA MONTHLY AND WEEKLY AWARD WINNERS

THE FINALS | 2018 145


AWARD WINNERS OCTOBER/NOVEMBER

KIA NBA PLAYERS OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference James Harden Houston Rockets KIA NBA ROOKIES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Kyle Kuzma L.A. Lakers

Kristaps Porzingis

DECEMBER

NBA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK Oct. 17—Oct. 22 Eastern Conference Giannis Antetokounmpo Milwaukee Bucks Western Conference James Harden Houston Rockets Oct. 23—Oct. 29 Eastern Conference Victor Oladipo Indiana Pacers Western Conference DeMarcus Cousins New Orleans Pelicans

Oct. 30—Nov. 5 Eastern Conference Kristaps Porzingis New York Knicks Western Conference James Harden Houston Rockets

Nov. 13—Nov. 19 Eastern Conference DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Western Conference Karl-Anthony Towns Minnesota Timberwolves

Nov. 6—Nov. 12 Eastern Conference Tobias Harris Detroit Pistons Western Conference Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets

Nov. 20—Nov. 26 Eastern Conference Goran Dragic Miami Heat Western Conference Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans

Dec. 4—Dec. 10 Eastern Conference Victor Oladipo Indiana Pacers Western Conference Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors

Dec. 18—Dec. 24 Eastern Conference DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Western Conference Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder

Dec. 11—Dec. 17 Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference Chris Paul Houston Rockets

Dec. 25—Dec. 31 Eastern Conference Bradley Beal Washington Wizards Western Conference Lou Williams Los Angeles Clippers

Jan. 8—Jan. 14 Eastern Conference Goran Dragic Miami Heat Western Conference Lou Williams Los Angeles Clippers

Jan. 22—Jan. 28 Eastern Conference Khris Middleton Milwaukee Bucks Western Conference Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors

COACHES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Brad Stevens Boston Celtics Western Conference Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets

KIA NBA PLAYERS OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder

COACHES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Dwane Casey Toronto Raptors Western Conference Steve Kerr Golden State Warriors

KIA NBA ROOKIES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics Western Conference Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz

NBA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK Nov. 27—Dec. 3 Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference James Harden Houston Rockets

KIA NBA PLAYERS OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Western Conference Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors

COACHES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Erik Spoelstra Miami Heat Western Conference Terry Stotts Portland Trail Blazers

KIA NBA ROOKIES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz

NBA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK Jan. 1—Jan. 7 Eastern Conference DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Western Conference Stephen Curry Golden State Warriors

Donovan Mitchell

JANUARY

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NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ROCKY WIDNER; NOAH GRAHAM/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Stephen Curry

Jan. 15—Jan. 21 Eastern Conference Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers


AWARD WINNERS FEBRUARY

KIA NBA PLAYERS OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans

KIA NBA ROOKIES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz

COACHES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Scott Brooks Washington Wizards Western Conference Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets

NBA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK Jan. 29—Feb. 4 Eastern Conference Andre Drummond Detroit Pistons Western Conference James Harden Houston Rockets Feb. 5—Feb. 11 Eastern Conference Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference James Harden Houston Rockets

Ben Simmons

MARCH/APRIL

KIA NBA PLAYERS OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans

COACHES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Brett Brown Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Quin Snyder Utah Jazz

KIA NBA ROOKIES OF THE MONTH Eastern Conference Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Donovan Mitchell Utah Jazz

NBA PLAYERS OF THE WEEK Feb. 26—Mar. 4 Eastern Conference DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Western Conference Anthony Davis New Orleans Pelicans

Mar. 5—Mar. 11 Eastern Conference DeMar DeRozan Toronto Raptors Western Conference Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers

Mar. 19—Mar. 25 Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference LaMarcus Aldridge San Antonio Spurs

Mar. 12—Mar. 18 Eastern Conference LeBron James Cleveland Cavaliers Western Conference Russell Westbrook Oklahoma City Thunder

Mar. 26—Apr. 1 Eastern Conference Victor Oladipo Indiana Pacers Western Conference Damian Lillard Portland Trail Blazers Apr. 2—Apr. 8 Eastern Conference Ben Simmons Philadelphia 76ers Western Conference Nikola Jokic Denver Nuggets

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; DAVID LIAM KYLE; SAM FORENCICH; DAVID SHERMAN; RON TURENNE/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Victor Oladipo

Damian Lillard

Brad Stevens

DeMar DeRozan THE FINALS | 2018

147


NBA MIND HEALTH

NBA ENCOURAGES MENTAL WELLNESS The NBA supports fans, youth, and communities by encouraging both mental and physical health and increasing awareness around emotional well-being.

T

his season, DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love helped spark a national conversation about mental health as the two All-Stars shared their personal struggles with depression and anxiety. This May, as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, the NBA shared their stories in a new public service announcement to help people lead healthy and more resilient lives.

“This depression get the best of me…” – DeMar DeRozan This simple seven-word tweet from DeRozan was step one in sparking the mental health dialogue. Inspired by DeRozan’s revelation, Love took step two by penning a lengthy article for the Players’ Tribune detailing his recent bout with panic attacks.

“Everyone is going through something that we can’t see.” – Kevin Love DeRozan and Love coming forward to share their stories helps break the stigma that surrounds discussions of mental wellness. In addition to raising awareness, the PSA offers a simple message: It’s always OK to ask for help. The PSA, along with mind health programming incorporated into NBA FIT and Jr. NBA initiatives, will help create an open dialogue around mental wellness between adults and youth alike.

To learn more and access a variety of mental wellness resources, visit nba.com/mindhealth. 148

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JR. NBA

GOING GLOBAL The Jr. NBA has had a busy year promoting the fundamentals of basketball in the U.S. and beyond.

150

JR. NBA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

JR. NBA 3V3 NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

The Jr. NBA World Championship is a first-of-its-kind global youth basketball tournament for the top 14 and under (14U) teams from around the world. The tournament will feature boys and girls divisions, each comprised of 16 regional teams (eight U.S. and eight international) that will receive an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the inaugural championship in August 2018 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World® Resort. FOX Sports will broadcast 16 tournament games. Visit http://www.jrnba.com/worldchampionship

The Jr. NBA hosted a 3v3 National Championship in Atlanta, GA on March 31, 2018 to conclude the second year of its 3v3 Leagues in partnership with Shock Doctor. This year’s 3v3 leagues were hosted in nine markets across the country reaching more than 1,500 boys and girls ages 10-13. Each of the boys and girls division champions from the nine leagues were invited to compete against each other in the National Championship. Visit http://jrnba3v3.com.

JR. NBA YOUTH BASKETBALL LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE

NBA-USA BASKETBALL STANDARDS AND RULES

The Jr. NBA Youth Basketball Leadership Conference presented by Under Armour, is a two-day, invitation-only forum for youth basketball coaches, administrators, and other industry stakeholders to discuss topics shaping youth basketball at the grassroots level. The second annual conference was held in May 2018 in Chicago during the NBA Draft Combine and featured speakers such as Grant Hill, Debbie Antonelli, Jerry Colangelo, Nell Fortner, Arne Duncan and others. Visit http://jr.nba.com/ youthbasketballleadershipconference

The NBA and USA Basketball recently announced a second set of rules and standards for youth basketball competitions to enhance the development and playing experience for young athletes. Helping them learn the fundamentals of the game and achieve greater on-court success, the new rules and standards detail age- and stage-appropriate recommendations across four key areas—equipment and court specifications, game structure, playing tactics and rules. Visit http://youthguidelines.nba.com

2018 | THE FINALS


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NBA G LEAGUE

By Jon Cooper

G HAB Rehab stints in the NBA G League are perfect for injured players looking to get back to NBA form.

S

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Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker (left) and New York’s Joakim Noah (right) worked back from injury with their respective G League teams, the Wisconsin Herd and the Westchester Knicks.

nail down the seventh spot in the West. NBA G League rehab stints aren’t new. There have been success stories dating back to 2009, when then-free agent and current Golden State guard Shaun Livingston and then-Trail Blazer and current Spurs guard Patty Mills found their games after injury. Since then, such notables as Kawhi Leonard (2012), Eric Bledsoe (2012), Amar’e Stoudemire (2012), C.J. McCollum (2014), Marcus Smart (2014), Brandon Jennings (2015), and Nerlens Noel (2016) springboarded from the NBA G League. Getting back to the NBA is the inspirational side of NBA G League rehab stays. But there’s another side: the aspirational side, which benefits NBA G Leaguers. They learn and improve by being around these NBA players, observing their habits and how they handle adversity. The Windy City Bulls, Chicago’s G League affiliate, got to study LaVine during his rehab, which consisted of six stops over six days—all practices—while while rehabbing a torn ACL. “He’s really been good for our young guys, to see his approach and how hard he works and the seriousness he brings to his job,” said Windy City head coach Charlie Henry. “It’s a great experience for our guys. They love getting a chance to measure themselves against a really good, young NBA player every day. It’s all

positive on their end.” The Herd similarly learned from being around Jabari Parker. “He came here with a lot of energy to get better. We played a scrimmage and I think it went well for him and everybody,” Herd guard/forward James Young told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “He (raises the level of play) with everybody around him. He was talking on his own, being a leader and helping guys out.” For NBA G League coaches, the challenge is to continue coaching up his players while working up the rehabbing NBA player. The two ideals aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. “The mindset doesn’t really change a whole lot,” said Henry. “I’m focused on our Windy City Bulls and trying to get us better every day. Zach’s been a part of that. So now you’re focused on trying to coach him and trying to get him better just like you would any of your guys. The approach hasn’t really changed with Zach at practice. He’s been a great guy to have around.” “It’s exciting for our team to be able to play with him and it’s exciting for him to be back in the flow,” Herd coach Jordan Brady told the Journal-Sentinel. “Primarily for him it’s to get that 5-on-5 so that he can get that conditioning level back up before he’s cleared to play, then also to get back into the rhythm and flow of playing 5-on-5 basketball.”

MICHELLE FARSI/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

peed of the game is one element that separates the NBA from every other league in the world. Playing at NBA speed is hard enough when at 100 percent. It’s exponentially harder for players trying to do so when they are slowed by injury. The NBA G League has become the perfect place for players to take the final step in transitioning back up to NBA speed and endurance. It’s worked this year alone for such notable NBA players as San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker, Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (then of the L.A. Clippers), Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari and guard Milos Teodosic, Los Angeles Lakers (then-Cleveland Cavaliers) guard Isaiah Thomas, Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker, Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell and New York Knicks center Joakim Noah. “It felt good. It felt normal. It felt really nice to go down and do certain movements,” said Jabari Parker, the 23-year-old, fourth-year guard, who sizzled down the stretch in helping the Bucks finish seventh in the Eastern Conference after spending five days in four stints with the NBA G League’s Wisconsin Herd while coming back from his second ACL injury. “There’s so much in a season. To get an opportunity to go up and down like that, the games are more important.” NBA G League rehab stints are comparable to the trips Major League Baseball players take to the minors, practicing with and sometimes playing against guys that were first-round draft picks and NBA-level talent. In other words, it’s tough. “I’m just happy I’m surviving,” Jabari Parker said, with a laugh. “My lungs are burning a lot but I’m running.” Rehab was no laughing matter for Tony Parker, who spent 10 days in two stays with the Austin Spurs in late October and early November as he recovered from offseason quad surgery. He played in 55 games in 2017-18, making 21 starts (San Antonio was 15-6) in helping the Spurs


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NBA DIGITAL

By Jeramie McPeek

FINAL THOUGHTS Some of the on-air talent of NBA TV share their memories of playing—and more importantly, winning—in the Finals.

T

he 2018 Finals have arrived and NBA TV is ready for them. Now in its 19th year of covering the championship series, the League’s 24/7 network, which is co-managed by the NBA and Turner Sports, will provide an all-you-can-eat buffet of analysis throughout the best-of-seven, including the Live At The Finals pre- and postgame shows on gamedays. The network’s signature studio show, NBA GameTime, will also offer exclusive programming between games originating from the two host cities, with an All-Star lineup of broadcasters, including Charles Barkley, Chris Webber and Grant Hill sharing their expert insights. But the NBA TV roster also boasts enough former NBA Champions to form an entirely new team. Or at least a starting five, plus a sixth man. All together, NBA TV’s broadcast crew has earned more than a dozen NBA Championships, four of those won by Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal, and three claimed by Celtics great Kevin McHale. In anticipation of this year’s NBA Finals, we sat down with three of NBA TV’s champions to get some of their memories of competing for the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.

like seeing your first child born. Once it comes out, your wife is safe, your child is safe and it’s like a relief. That’s exactly how it feels.” On his NBA Championship rings “I gave my first ring to my dad and my second ring to my brother. Those are the two guys who helped me get there, so I don’t have a ring. Everyone knows I won them, but those are the guys that really made me. If I ever got a third one, I was going to give it to my high school coach.”

ISIAH THOMAS

• Spent 14 seasons in the NBA • Won NBA Championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003

• Spent his entire career with the Detroit Pistons (1981-94) • Made three trips to the Finals and won two NBA Championships (1989, ‘90) • Named Finals MVP in 1990

the locker room is the place where you celebrate and you cry, and you let out all of your emotions. Fortunately for us, we were able to do that, not only us as teammates, but our families were there and then we went back home and shared it with our fans.”

STEVE SMITH

KENNY SMITH

• Spent 6 of his 10 NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets (1990-96) • Won back-to-back NBA Championships (1994, ’95) • Started at guard in all 11 of the Rockets’ Finals games

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2018 | THE FINALS

On the feelings of winning it all “It’s like a release of hydrogen or helium, it just leaves your body. It’s an unexplainable relief. It’s kind of

On the difference between the playoffs and the Finals “Obviously, the games mean more, because you’re playing for the championship, but it’s still the game of basketball. I think everything around you, that’s what you have to really manage… family and ticket requests, the media kind of triples as far as the questioning and intensity. But experience is your best teacher. If you’ve been in a lot of games and have an older team, I think you always have a better chance, unless the other team is just much more talented.”

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (2); NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

On losing Game 7 of the 1988 Finals to the Lakers: “That was probably one of the most painful things that I had been through at that point in time in my life. It was devastating, not only for myself, but for our team also. We were all committed to getting back. Every game for us was about redemption and trying to get back to the Finals to win.” On the emotion after the Pistons won their first championship the following year “It was a great relief that quickly turned into excitement and exhilaration…


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LEADERS AND RESULTS

INDIVIDUAL, SERIES 4-game series

5-game series

6-game series

7-game series

145 131

178 169

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 2001 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1965 + Kevin Durant, Golden State 2017

246 245

Michael Jordan, Chicago 1993 Rick Barry, San Francisco 1967

284 265

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers 1962 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1969

240 237

Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers 1973 Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 2001

292 291

Bill Russell, Boston 1968 John Havlicek, Boston 1968

345 338

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee 1974 Bill Russell, Boston 1962

Most points

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002 Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1995

Most minutes played 187 186

Robert Horry, Houston 1995 Bob Cousy, Boston, 1959 + Bill Russell, Boston 1959

Highest field-goal percentage (minimum 4 made per game) .739 .649

Derrek Dickey, Golden State 1975 Mario Elie, Houston 1995

.702 .653

Bill Russell, Boston 1965 John Paxson, Chicago 1991

.667 .611

Bob Gross, Portland 1977 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2000

.638 .636

James Worthy, L.A. Lakers 1984 Tristan Thompson, Cleveland 2016

Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 2001 + LeBron James, Cleveland 2017 Michael Jordan, Chicago 1991 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2001

101

Michael Jordan, Chicago 1993

101

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers 1962

96

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2000

97

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee 1974

25 22

Stephen Curry, Golden State 2015 Ray Allen, Boston 2008

32 27

Stephen Curry, Golden State 2016 Danny Green, San Antonio 2013

1.000 .978

James Posey, Boston 2008 Reggie Miller, Indiana 2000 + Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas 2011

.960 .959

Ray Allen, Boston 2010 Bill Sharman, Boston 1957

.957

Bill Laimbeer, Detroit 1990 + Vlade Divac, L.A. Lakers 1991 Jim McMillian, L.A. Lakers 1972

51 48

Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1965 Bob Pettit, St. Louis 1961

75 67

Dwyane Wade, Miami 2006 George Mikan, Minneapolis 1950

82 75

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers 1962 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers 1970

144 138

Bill Russell, Boston 1961 Wilt Chamberlain, San Francisco 1964

171 160

Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia 1967 Nate Thurmond, San Francisco 1967

189 175

Bill Russell, Boston 1962 Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers 1969

31 21

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2001 Elvin Hayes, Washington 1979

46 41

Moses Malone, Houston 1981 Dennis Rodman, Chicago 1996

35 33

Pau Gasol, L.A. Lakers 2010 Elvin Hayes, Washington 1978 + Marvin Webster, Seattle 1978 + Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2005

62 58

Jack Sikma, Seattle 1979 Dwight Howard, Orlando 2009

91 79

Bill Walton, Portland 1977 Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2003

72 66

Larry Bird, Boston 1984 Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2005

62 57

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1991 Michael Jordan, Chicago 1991

84 78

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1985 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1987

95 91

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1984 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1988

14 13

Michael Jordan, Chicago 1991 Charlie Ward, New York 1999

16

Julius Erving, Philadelphia 1977 + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1980 + Larry Bird, Boston 1986 + Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers 2008 Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia 1980 + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1982 + Byron Scott, L.A. Lakers 1985 + Danny Ainge, Boston 1986

20 17

Isiah Thomas, Detroit 1988 Derek Harper, New York 1994

Tim Duncan, San Antonio 2003 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers 1980

30 27

Patrick Ewing, New York 1994 Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1994

Most field goals 56

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston 1995

66

50

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002

63

Most three-point field goals made 11

Anfernee Hardaway, Orlando 1995 + Robert Horry, Houston 1995

10

Nick Anderson, Orlando 1995 + Brian Shaw, Orlando 1995 + Manu Ginobili, San Antonio 2007

19 18

Stephen Curry, Golden State 2017 Kevin Durant, Golden State 2017 + J.R. Smith, Cleveland 2017

Highest free-throw percentage (minimum 2 made per game) 1.000 .944

Dennis Scott, Orlando 1995 Phil Chenier, Washington 1975

1.000

Most free throws made 45 34

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002 Phil Chenier, Washington 1975

Most rebounds 118 76

Bill Russell, Boston 1959 Wes Unseld, Baltimore 1971

Most offensive rebounds 27 19

Moses Malone, Philadelphia 1983 Horace Grant, Orlando 1995

Most defensive rebounds 53 45

Wes Unseld, Washington 1975 Moses Malone, Philadelphia 1983

Most assists 51 50

Bob Cousy, Boston 1959 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers 1983

Most steals 14 12

Rick Barry, Golden State 1975 Robert Horry, Houston 1995

15

Most blocked shots 11

156

Elvin Hayes, Washington 1975 + George Johnson, Golden State 1975 + Julius Erving, Philadelphia 1983 + John Salley, Detroit 1989 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2002

2018 | THE FINALS

17 16

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers 2001 Jack Sikma, Seattle 1979

32 23


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LEADERS AND RESULTS

TEAM, SERIES 4-GAME SERIES

5-GAME SERIES

6-GAME SERIES

7-GAME SERIES

617 608

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1965 Golden State vs. Cleveland 2017

747 707

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco 1967 San Francisco vs. Philadelphia 1967

827 824

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1966 Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1962

399 409

New York vs. San Antonio 1999 L.A. Lakers vs. Detroit 2004

481 492

Utah vs. Chicago 1998 New Jersey vs. San Antonio 2003

594 603

San Antonio vs. Detroit 2005 Houston vs. New York 1994

243 238

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1965 Boston vs. St. Louis 1961

287

332 327

New York vs. L.A. Lakers 1970 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1984

280

Philadelphia vs. San Francisco 1967 + San Francisco vs. Philadelphia 1967 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1987

Most points 487 456

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Houston vs. Orlando 1995

Fewest points 322 346

Cleveland vs. San Antonio 2007 San Antonio vs. Cleveland 2007

Most field goals 188 180

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Minneapolis vs. Boston 1959

Most three-point field goals made 41 37

Orlando vs. Houston 1995 Houston vs. Orlando 1995

71 66

Golden State vs. Cleveland 2017 Cleveland vs. Golden State 2017

67 52

Golden State vs. Cleveland 2015 Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 2008

94 64

Golden State vs. Cleveland 2016 Miami vs. San Antonio 2013

.826 .824

Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers 1991 Miami vs. Oklahoma City 2012

.852 .851

Indiana vs. L.A. Lakers 2000 Seattle vs. Chicago 1996

.827 .805

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1966 L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1962

369 316

Boston vs. St. Louis 1961 Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1965

435 425

San Francisco vs. Philadelphia 1967 Philadelphia vs. San Francisco 1967

487 448

Boston vs. St. Louis 1957 Boston vs. St. Louis 1960

82 72

Washington vs. Seattle 1979 Detroit vs. Portland 1990 + Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers 2004

112 111

Houston vs. Boston 1981 Houston vs. Boston 1986

131 127

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1984 Seattle vs. Washington 1978

162 161

Seattle vs. Washington 1979 San Antonio vs. New York 1999

240 228

Boston vs. Phoenix 1976 Portland vs. Philadelphia 1977

225 223

Cleveland vs. Golden State 2016 Seattle vs. Washington 1978

147 139

Golden State vs. Cleveland 2017 Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers 1991

192 188

L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1985 L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1982

198 192

L.A. Lakers vs. Boston 1984 New York vs. L.A. Lakers 1970

Highest free-throw percentage .785 .776

L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1983 Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers 1989

Most rebounds 295 268

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Minneapolis vs. Boston 1959

Most offensive rebounds 72

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 + Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers 1983

Most defensive rebounds 143 136

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 Orlando vs. Houston 1995

Most assists 114 110

Boston vs. Minneapolis 1959 Orlando vs. Houston 1995

Most steals 55

Golden State vs. Washington 1975

49

Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers 1991

71

Philadelphia vs. Portland 1977

65

45

Washington vs. Golden State 1975

41

L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 2001

64

Portland vs. Philadelphia 1977 + L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1982

63

Boston vs. L.A. Lakers 1984 + Cleveland vs. Golden State 2016 Detroit vs. San Antonio 2005

44 39

L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 2001 Seattle vs. Washington 1979

60 59

Philadelphia vs. L..A. Lakers 1980 San Antonio vs. New Jersey 2003

53 49

Detroit vs. San Antonio 2005 Seattle vs. Washington 1978

Most blocked shots 32 29

158

Golden State vs. Washington 1975 + Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers 1983 L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia 1983

2018 | THE FINALS


LEADERS AND RESULTS

INDIVIDUAL, GAME Minutes

Most free throws made, one half

Most minutes

13

62 61 60

Most free throws made, one quarter

Kevin Johnson, Phoenix vs. Chicago, June 13, 1993 (3 OT) Garfield Heard, Phoenix vs. Boston, June 4, 1976 (3 OT) Jo Jo White, Boston vs. Phoenix, June 4, 1976 (3 OT)

Paul Pierce, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 15, 2008 + Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 4, 2017 Frank Ramsey, Boston vs. Minneapolis, April 4, 1959 + Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Utah, June 11, 1997 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000 + Austin Croshere, Indiana vs. L.A. Lakers, June 16, 2000 + Allen Iverson, Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers, June 10, 2001

Most minutes per game, one championship series

9

49.3 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee vs. Boston, 1974 (345/7) 48.7 Bill Russell, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, 1968 (292/6) 48.5 John Havlicek, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, 1968 (291/6) Scoring

Most free-throw attempts

Most points 61 55 53

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 14, 1962 Rick Barry, San Francisco vs. Philadelphia, April 18, 1967 + Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Phoenix, June 16, 1993 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 23, 1969

Highest scoring average, one championship series 41.0 40.8 40.6

Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Phoenix, 1993 (246/6) Rick Barry, San Francisco vs. Philadelphia, 1967 (245/6) Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1962 (284/7)

Most points, rookie 42 37

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 16, 1980 Joe Fulks, Philadelphia vs. Chicago, April 16, 1947 + Tom Heinsohn, Boston vs. St. Louis, April 13, 1957 (2 OT) 34 Joe Fulks, Philadelphia vs. Chicago, April 22, 1947 + Elgin Baylor, Minneapolis vs. Boston, April 4, 1959 Field goals

Highest field-goal percentage, game (minimum 8 made) 1.000 .917

Scott Wedman, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, May 27, 1985 (11/11) + John Paxson, Chicago vs. L.A. Lakers, June 5, 1991 (8/8) Bill Bradley, New York vs. L.A. Lakers, April 26, 1972 (11/12) + James Worthy, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, May 31, 1984 (11/12) (OT)

Most field goals, game 22

Elgin Baylor, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 14, 1962 + Rick Barry, San Francisco vs. Philadelphia, April 18, 1967 21 Jerry West, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, April 23, 1969 + Michael Jordan, Chicago vs. Phoenix, June 16, 1993 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 7, 2000 Three-point field goals

Most three-point field goals 8 7

Ray Allen, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 6, 2010 Kenny Smith, Houston vs. Orlando, June 7, 1995 (OT) + Scottie Pippen, Chicago vs. Utah, June 6, 1997; Ray Allen, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 17, 2008; Mike Miller, Miami vs. Oklahoma City, June 21, 2012; Danny Green, San Antonio vs. Miami, June 11, 2013; Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 9, 2015; Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 14, 2015; Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 10, 2016 ; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 9, 2017; J.R. Smith, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 12, 2017

Most three-point field-goal attempts, 15 14

Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 7, 2015 (OT) + Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 10, 2016 J.R. Smith, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 14, 2015 + Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 19, 2016

Most three-point field-goal attempts, one half 10

John Starks, New York vs. Houston, June 22, 1994 + J.R. Smith, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 16, 2015 Free throws

Most free throws made, none missed 15 14

Terry Porter, Portland vs. Detroit, June 7, 1990 (OT) Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 16, 1980 + Stephen Curry, Golden State vs. Cleveland, June 4, 2017

Most free throws made 21 19

10

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000

Dwyane Wade, Miami vs. Dallas, June 18, 2006 (OT) Bob Pettit, St. Louis vs. Boston, April 9, 1958

39 25

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000 Dwyane Wade, Miami vs. Dallas, June 16, 2006 (OT)

Most free-throw attempts, one half 22

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000

Most free-throw attempts, one quarter 16 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. New Jersey, June 5, 2002 16 Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Indiana, June 9, 2000 Rebounds

Most rebounds 40

Bill Russell, Boston vs. St. Louis, March 29, 1960 + Bill Russell, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, April 18, 1962 (OT) 38 Bill Russell, Boston vs. St. Louis, April 11, 1961 + Bill Russell, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, April 16, 1963 + Wilt Chamberlain, San Francisco vs. Boston, April 24, 1964 + Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia vs. San Francisco, April 16, 1967 Assists

Most assists 21 20

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, June 3, 1984 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, June 4, 1987 + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Chicago, June 12, 1991

Highest average, assists per game, one championship series 14.0 13.6 13.0 Steals

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1985 (84/6) Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1984 (95/7) Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Boston, 1987 (78/6) + Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Detroit, 1988 (91/7)

Most steals, game 7 6

Robert Horry, Houston vs. Orlando, June 9, 1995 John Havlicek, Boston vs. Milwaukee, May 3, 1974 + Steve Mix, Philadelphia vs. Portland, May 22, 1977 + Maurice Cheeks, Philadelphia vs. L.A. Lakers, May 7, 1980 + Isiah Thomas, Detroit vs. L.A. Lakers, June 19, 1988 + Rajon Rondo, Boston vs. L.A. Lakers, June 17, 2008 +Dwyane Wade, Miami vs. San Antonio, June 13, 2013 + Kevin Love, Cleveland vs. Golden State, June 12, 2017 Blocked shots

Most blocked shots 9 8

Dwight Howard, Orlando vs. L.A. Lakers, June 11, 2009 (OT) Bill Walton, Portland vs. Philadelphia, June 5, 1977 + Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston vs. Boston, June 5, 1986 + Patrick Ewing, New York vs. Houston, June 17, 1994 + Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, June 8, 2001 + Tim Duncan, San Antonio vs. New Jersey, June 15, 2003 Turnovers

Most turnovers 10 9

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 14, 1980 Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers vs. Philadelphia, May 31, 1983

Most minutes played, no turnovers 59 50 48

Dan Majerle, Phoenix vs. Chicago, June 13, 1993 (3 OT) Wes Unseld, Washington vs. Seattle, May 29, 1979 (OT) Rodney McCray, Houston vs. Boston, June 5, 1986

THE FINALS | 2018 159


LEADERS AND RESULTS

THE FINALS RESULTS Year Dates

Winning Team Losing Team (Coach) (Coach)

Games MVP

Year Dates

Winning Team Losing Team (Coach) (Coach)

Games MVP

1981

May 5 - May 14

Boston (Fitch)

Houston (Harris)

4-2

2017

June 1 - June 12 Golden State (Kerr)

Cleveland (Lue)

4-1

Kevin Durant, Golden State

2016

June 2 - June 19 Cleveland (Lue)

Golden State (Kerr)

4-3

LeBron James, Cleveland

1980

May 4 - May 16

L.A. Lakers (Westhead)

Philadelphia (Cunningham) 4-2

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

2015

June 4 - June 16 Golden State (Kerr) Cleveland (Blatt)

4-2

Andre Iguodala, Golden State

1979

May 20 - June 1

Seattle (Wilkens)

Washington (Motta)

4-1

Dennis Johnson, Seattle

2014

June 5 - June 15 San Antonio (Popovich) Miami (Spoelstra)

4-1

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio

1978

May 21 - June 7

Washington (Motta)

Seattle (Wilkens)

4-3

Wes Unseld, Washington

2013

June 6 - June 20 Miami (Spoelstra)

San Antonio (Popovich)

4-3

LeBron James, Miami

1977

May 22 - June 5

Portland (Ramsay)

Philadelphia (Shue)

4-2

Bill Walton, Portland

2012

June 12 - June 21 Miami (Spoelstra)

Oklahoma City (Brooks)

4-1

LeBron James, Miami

1976

May 23 - June 6

Boston (Heinsohn)

Phoenix (MacLeod)

4-2

Jo Jo White, Boston

2011

May 31 - June 12 Dallas (Carlisle)

Miami (Spoelstra)

4-2

Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas

1975

May 18 - May 25 Golden State (Attles)

Washington (Jones)

4-0

Rick Barry, Golden State

2010

June 3 - June 17 L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Boston (Rivers)

4-3

Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

1974

April 28 - May 12 Boston (Heinsohn)

Milwaukee (Costello)

4-3

John Havlicek, Boston

2009

June 4 - June 14 L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Orlando (S. Van Gundy)

4-1

Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers

1973

May 1 - May 10

New York (Holzman)

L.A. Lakers (Sharman)

4-1

Willis Reed, New York

2008

June 5 - June 17 Boston (Rivers)

Los Angeles (Jackson)

4-2

Paul Pierce, Boston

1972

April 26 - May 7

L.A. Lakers (Sharman) New York (Holzman)

4-1

Wilt Chamberlain, L.A. Lakers

2007

June 7 - June 14 San Antonio (Popovich)

Cleveland (M. Brown)

4-0

Tony Parker, San Antonio

1971

April 21 - April 30 Milwaukee (Costello)

Baltimore (Shue)

4-0

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee

2006

June 8 - June 20 Miami (Riley)

Dallas (Johnson)

4-2

Dwyane Wade, Miami

1970

April 24 - May 8

New York (Holzman)

L.A. Lakers (Mullaney)

4-3

Willis Reed, New York

2005

June 9 - June 23 San Antonio (Popovich)

Detroit (L. Brown)

4-3

Tim Duncan, San Antonio

1969

April 23 - May 5

Boston (Russell)

L.A. Lakers (van Breda Kolff) 4-3

Jerry West, L.A. Lakers

2004

June 6 - June 15 Detroit (L. Brown)

L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

4-1

Chauncey Billups, Detroit

1968

April 21 - May 2

Boston (Russell)

L.A. Lakers (van Breda Kolff) 4-2

*

2003

June 4 - June 15 San Antonio (Popovich) New Jersey (Scott)

4-2

Tim Duncan, San Antonio

1967

April 14 - April 24 Philadelphia (Hannum) San Francisco (Sharman)

4-2

*

2002

June 6 - June 12 L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

New Jersey (Scott)

4-0

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

1966

April 17 - April 28 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-3

*

2001

June 6 - June 15 L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Philadelphia (L. Brown)

4-1

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

1965

April 18 - April 25 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-1

*

2000

June 7 - June 19 L.A. Lakers (Jackson)

Indiana (Bird)

4-2

Shaquille O’Neal, L.A. Lakers

1964

April 18 - April 26 Boston (Auerbach)

San Francisco (Hannum)

4-1

*

1999

June 16 - June 25 San Antonio (Popovich) New York (J. Van Gundy)

4-1

Tim Duncan, San Antonio

1963

April 14 - April 24 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-2

*

1998

June 3 - June 14 Chicago (Jackson)

Utah (Sloan)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1962

April 7 - April 18 Boston (Auerbach)

L.A. Lakers (Schaus)

4-3

*

1997

June 1 - June 13 Chicago (Jackson)

Utah (Sloan)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1961

April 2 - April 11 Boston (Auerbach)

St. Louis (Seymour)

4-1

*

1996

June 5 - June 16 Chicago (Jackson)

Seattle (Karl)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1960

March 27 - April 9 Boston (Auerbach)

St. Louis (Macauley)

4-3

*

1995

June 7 - June 14 Houston (Tomjanovich)

Orlando (Hill)

4-0

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

1959

April 4 - April 9

Boston (Auerbach)

Minneapolis (Kundla)

4-0

*

1994

June 8 - June 22 Houston (Tomjanovich)

New York (Riley)

4-3

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston

1958

Boston (Auerbach)

4-2

*

June 9 - June 20 Chicago (Jackson)

Phoenix (Westphal)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

March 29 April 12

St. Louis (Hannum)

1993 1992

June 3 - June 14 Chicago (Jackson)

Portland (Adelman)

4-2

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1957

March 30 April 13

Boston (Auerbach)

St. Louis (Hannum)

4-3

*

1991

June 2 - June 12 Chicago (Jackson)

L.A. Lakers (Dunleavy)

4-1

Michael Jordan, Chicago

1956

March 31 - April 7 Philadelphia (Senesky) Ft. Wayne (Eckman)

4-1

*

1990

June 5 - June 14 Detroit (Daly)

Portland (Adelman)

4-1

Isiah Thomas, Detroit

1955

4-3

*

June 6 - June 13 Detroit (Daly)

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

4-0

Joe Dumars, Detroit

March 31 April 10

Syracuse (Cervi)

1989 1988

June 7 - June 21 L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Detroit (Daly)

4-3

James Worthy, L.A. Lakers

1954

Minneapolis (Kundla) Syracuse (Cervi)

4-3

*

1987

June 2 - June 14 L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Boston (Jones)

4-2

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

March 31 April 12

1986

May 26 - June 8

Boston (Jones)

Houston (Fitch)

4-2

Larry Bird, Boston

1953

April 4 - April 10 Minneapolis (Kundla) New York (Lapchick)

4-1

*

1985

May 27 - June 9

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Boston (Jones)

4-2

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, L.A. Lakers

1952

April 12 - April 25 Minneapolis (Kundla)

New York (Lapchick)

4-3

*

1984

May 27 - June 12 Boston (Jones)

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

4-3

Larry Bird, Boston

1951

April 7 - April 21 Rochester (Harrison)

New York (Lapchick)

4-3

*

1983

May 22 - May 31 Philadelphia (Cunningham)

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

4-0

Moses Malone, Philadelphia

1950

April 8 - April 23 Minneapolis (Kundla)

Syracuse (Cervi)

4-2

*

1949

April 4 - April 13 Minneapolis (Kundla)

Washington (Auerbach)

4-2

*

1982

May 27 - June 8

Philadelphia (Cunningham) 4-2

Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers

1948

April 10 - April 21 Baltimore (Jeannette)

Philadelphia (Gottlieb)

4-2

*

1947

April 16 - April 22 Philadelphia (Gottlieb)

Chicago (Olsen)

4-1

*

L.A. Lakers (Riley)

Teams with best record (or tied for best record) during regular season in italics. * Finals MVP not named before 1969.

160

Cedric Maxwell, Boston

2018 | THE FINALS

Ft. Wayne (Eckman)


Profile for HOOP

NBA Finals 2018  

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