Legendary NBA playoff runs are the things that Hall of Fame contracts are built on. Right now fans are watching Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard jockey for the title of best player in the world today on the backs of dynamic playoff runs. Luka Doncic was doing much the same before he was dismissed from the postseason. Historically speaking, the tale of the league are told through these uns.
Given how impactful postseason runs are, we are going to look back at 30 of the most unforgettable playoff runs in history. The parameters to make this list are pretty simple. First, the cutoff for the runs is the merger of the NBA and ABA in 1976. Furthermore, the minimum number of games in a run for this list is 12. The rationale behind this cut-off is this is the lowest number of games needed to make sure that at least a deep push into the second round is the result. As good as having a dominant first-round series is (the Tracy McGrady special) the truly special runs involve knocking at least one opponent out of the playoffs.
Among all of the most memorable playoff runs in history, who ranks at the top of the most unforgettable individual playoff run in the modern era?
Almost every player on this list has either already made the Hall of Fame or is waiting for the appropriate amount of time to elapse to get their own call.
27. Alex English (1985)
The Denver Nuggets of the 1980s were never all that real of a title contender but they were one of the most dynamic offensive units of their time. Alex English was exemplary in the 1985 playoffs, averaging 30.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He shot 53.6 percent from the floor and helped push the Nuggets to the brink of the NBA Finals.
The Nuggets got past fellow ABA holdover, the San Antonio Spurs, in six games in the first round before sending the Utah Jazz home in five games. Over those first two rounds, English never scored less than 26 points in a game and dropped 40 against the Jazz in a seven-point Game 4 win.
In the Conference Finals, the Lakers were just too much for the Nuggets to handle. He dropped 40 on them in Game 2 to beat the Lakers but would break his thumb in Game 4, depriving the Nuggets of any true chance of battling back in the series.
Despite the bitter end that does not change how explosive English was along the way and for a generation of Nuggets fans, this would be the precursor to the teams of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson to Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson and to the current era of the MVP of the league.
26. Michael Jordan (1992)
For the first (but not the last) Michael Jordan makes an appearance on this list. In 1992, the Chicago Bulls were planning to defend their first title in franchise history. For them to do so, the face of the league would have to be at his best. Jordan did not disappoint.
Over 22 games, Jordan averaged 34.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He had long been considered the best player in the world but coming out and defending his first title on the biggest stage hammered that home. The Miami Heat presented little challenge to the Bulls in the first round, as they dropped all three games in the series by a combined 54 points.In the second round came the New York Knicks and Patrick Ewing. All four of the first games in the series were within single digits before the Bulls ultimately moved on with a 29-point victory in Game 6. Then came a series against the Cleveland Cavaliers This was another six-game grind that saw Jordan eclipse 30 in four out of six games.
The Finals saw Jordan take on Clyde Drexler, who many at the time tried to compare to Jordan. This led to Jordan going on a crusade to put everyone, Drexler included, in their place. Over the series, Jordan dropped 39 points twice, 46 points once and even had the iconic shrug moment.
25. Dwyane Wade (2006)
Dwyane Wade would go on to win more championships but the first was absolutely the sweetest based on the meteoric run he went on to carry the Miami Heat past the Dallas Mavericks. At just 24 years of age, Wade put the team on his back.
Over 23 games, Wade averaged 28.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He started off slowly by comparison, shooting 38.1 percent from the field in the first game. The Heat got past the Chicago Bulls in six before getting a chance to eliminate the New Jersey Nets.
After dropping the first game to the Nets, the Heat won four games in a row. Then came a faceoff with the Detroit Pistons, the team who eliminated them in the Conference Finals a year before. Wade had three games over 30 points against the Pistons and pushed them over the top in a seven-game series. In the Finals, the Mavericks won the first two games and then Wade exploded. In Game 3, Wade went off for 42 points and 13 rebounds to get the Heat on the board. He followed that up with 36 points, 43 points and 36 points to earn the team its first title.