As the basketball season is on pause indefinitely, there is a hole in every fan’s heart, approximately 29.5-inches in circumference. Even though nothing competes with live NBA action that captivates the attention of fans on a daily basis, the second-best option is to rewatch the best games the NBA has to offer in your spare time.
I’ve compiled a list of five of the most memorable matchups the NBA has had to offer. As a passionate and dedicated basketball fan, this was an extremely challenging list to make because there are so many amazing games that are more than worthy to be on this list. Before you move forward and dive headfirst into the beautiful rabbit hole of NBA greatness, keep these things in mind. One, These are only regular-season games. The NBA Playoffs warrants its own list that should be written. The second thing is that these games aren’t considered by most media to be the games chosen to replay. My criteria for greatness varies slightly from the other lists I’ve seen. The best games are games where the stars shine brightest and the game comes down to the last seconds.
That is the common thread you’ll find throughout this list which separates my list from many other credible analysts. In each of these five games, the best players on each team have incredible performances dueling against their superstar counterpart and the game is extremely competitive and goes down to the wire. And because of that, I’ve titled each game, pitting the stars against each other like it were an actual one on one game. using the star players to represent their respective teams.
Stephen Curry vs Kevin Durant | February 27, 2016
This was the defining moment of Stephen Curry’s historic and eventually unanimous MVP season. This game had everything: superstars doing superstar things, a raucous crowd, Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson on hand doing the game. Kevin Durant scored 37 points and 12 rebounds. Stephen Curry, not to be outdone, made 12 threes which were a tie for the NBA record for most threes in a game at the time. His 12th three-pointer was the jaw-dropping, game-winning shot from about 35 feet from the basket. He ended up scoring 46 points.
LeBron James vs Carmelo Anthony | February 18, 2010
Whenever Lebron James goes up against another superstar, especially one of his peers, he usually comes out as the victor. Yet, this particular game in Cleveland did not end with the outcome he was accustomed to. The box score would argue differently as Lebron had a monstrous triple-double. He scored 43 points, had 15 assists, and grabbed 13 rebounds. Even with all that, he was outdueled by Carmelo Anthony who scored 40 points and handed out seven assists with six rebounds. Lebron and Carmelo were regarded as the best small forwards in the league at the time and they proved it in this overtime classic. They guarded each other when it mattered most and provided the world with a duel worth remembering.
Stephen Curry vs Kyrie Irving | January 27, 2018
These two legendary point guards will forever be linked after their classic battles against each other in the 2016 and 2017 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. In this matchup in 2018, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving picked up where they left off. Kyrie started out white-hot hitting his first seven shots and ended up scoring 37 points. Yet, it was Curry who got the best of Irving this time, scoring 49 points with plenty of clutch buckets sprinkled in this back and forth between superstar point guards.
LeBron James vs Dwyane Wade | April 1, 2006
Before they were a dynamic duo that went to the NBA finals four straight years and won back to back titles, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade were intense friendly rivals. This game on April fools day was no joke but put the league on notice. The two budding superstars put on a show that foreshadowed their future dominance in the league. Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t playing this game, so Dwyane Wade had the green light all night. This did not bode well for Eric Snow who had to guard Wade. Wade attacked the entire Cavs defense relentlessly, scoring at will in the paint and from midrange. He finished the game with 44 points, nine assists, and eight rebounds. Lebron James kept pace with Wade the entire night, specifically early in the 4th quarter when the two stars traded baskets on consecutive possessions bringing the crowd to its feet. James gave 10-year vet Shandon Anderson fits all night the way he was able to control the game. He had a near triple-double scoring 47 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists.
Kobe Bryant vs Shaquille O’Neal | December 25, 2004
First, it was Kobe and Shaq, winners of three consecutive championships from 2000-2002 and one of the greatest dynamic duos to ever play together. Then, it was Kobe vs Shaq, the intense rivalry that begun once the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat. The Christmas Day game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat was one of the most anticipated games ever. The game lived up to the hype with Shaq and Kobe eager to outdo the other and lead their team to victory. Kobe came out swinging, hitting early and often in the first quarter on his way to a game-high 42 points. O’Neal paced himself throughout the game but still made his presence felt through 24 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks before fouling out in regulation.