Game Seven: Where Legends Are Born And Others Are Solidified

I hate Game Seven. Anyone who has ever talked sports with me knows this. The Godfather of the TSFJ, Dr. Jeffery Allen Glenn, does not agree with my take on Game Seven and neither does the Reverend Paul Revere. Let them tell it, Game Seven is the most action-packed, suspense-filled and greatest scenario in sports: two teams meeting at the end of the summit, deadlocked at three wins and three losses apiece with the winner of the final game standing at the end as victor.

Sometimes, Game Seven is being played for the chance to make it to the next round, while there are other times when it determines the championship. Regardless of the scenario, Game Seven is something I rarely partake in with a strong stomach. However, I realize the importance that Game Seven can have on a player's or a team’s legacy. For some, it solidifies what we already knew about a player whereas, for others, it shows the public a side of a player or a team that the public may not have known existed. It’s rare to see that after the first, second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth game of a battle.

No, in order to see what certain players are truly made of, it takes being at the end of the road and seeing who is willing to go that extra mile and do whatever it takes to win. However, I’m of the belief that just because you prevail in Game Seven, it doesn’t mean one “wants it more” than the other. Instead, that’s just how things play out.

Legend Solidified: Charles Barkley in Game Seven of the 1993 Western Conference Finals

Sir Charles always likes to make it a point to say that this is the best game he ever played in the NBA. The Round Mound of Rebound was attempting to make the NBA Finals in his first season as the leader of the Phoenix Suns, and standing in his way was the dynamic duo of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, the up-and-coming members of the Seattle Supersonics.

The Bulls beat the New York Knicks in six games, and who knows what they were doing while they awaited the winner of the Western Conference Finals. In Game Five, when the Suns went up three games to two, Sir Charles had 43 points, 15 boards and 10 assists. In Game Six, Seattle blew out the Suns by 16, with Barkley playing 38 minutes and finishing with 13 points and 11 rebounds on 4-of-14 shooting from the field. With Sir Charles coming off a gold medal in Barcelona, along with it being his first season in Phoenix, having a repeat performance in Game Seven, with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line, was not an option.

The man finished with a game-high 44 points and a game-high 24 rebounds on 12-for-20 shooting from the field and 20-22 from the free throw line. It was a game that was fitting of a man bearing a nickname deemed as royalty. He thoroughly outplayed Shawn Kemp, Sam Perkins and the rest of Seattle’s front line. Eddie Johnson’s 34 points off the bench was a tremendous performance as well, but there was no denying Sir Charles that day. He went on to lead his team to the NBA Finals where Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls patiently waited.

Legend Born: Dirk Nowitzki in Game Seven of the 2006 Western Conference Semifinals

In Texas, there are some who like to think of the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs as a rivalry, but it isn’t a rivalry when one team beats up on the other regularly. Up until 2006, the Spurs owned the Mavericks. The Spurs were coming off of their third NBA championship in seven years and were attempting to repeat. The problem was the Dallas Mavericks were tired of being their whipping boys. The Mavs were walloped by the Spurs in five games in the second round of the 2001 playoffs and extinguished in six games during the 2003 Western Conference Finals in six games when Steve Kerr lost his mind and made threes from all over the American Airlines Center. I remember being furious and thinking that the Mavs were about to be eliminated not because of the clutch play of Tim Duncan, but because of the tremendous shooting display of Steve Kerr. He hadn't played the entire damn series, and he goes in and gets the Spurs to the Finals. It was disgusting.

Anyway, 2006 rolled along and the Mavs and Spurs were tied at three games each with Game Seven being played in the Alamo Dome. Dallas actually led 3-1 in the series before the Spurs rallied to take it to seven, and with the last game being in San Antonio, it’s safe to say that the Spurs had everything they needed to win the series.

Except Dirk Nowitzki refused to let it happen.

He was already on his way to becoming one of the best players at his position and in all of basketball, and this platform was perfect for him to take this Mavericks team, a team known as Michael Finley’s team in recent years, and make it his own for the foreseeable future, and that’s exactly what he did. Despite Tim Duncan scoring 41 points and grabbing 15 boards, Dirk had 37 and 15 of his own, including the three-point play that tied the game up and sent it to overtime. In OT, the Mavs outscored the Spurs by eight to hold on and win 119-111. The Mavs went on to defeat the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals and make their first-ever NBA Finals in franchise history.

Legend Born: Kevin Garnett in the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals

In the previous game of the ’04 Western Semis, KG and Anthony Peeler got into a skirmish that pretty much summed up what happened to the Minnesota Timberwolves as a team: They got stole in the jaw by a battle-tested and championship-starved Sacramento Kings basketball team. See, two years ago, the Kings were the recipients of one of the most despicable outcomes in this history of life in the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, especially in Game Six of that series, which I vowed long ago to never, ever watch again. The following year, Chris Webber blew his knee out, which pretty much blew out any chance the Kings had of getting close to the championship, and they were put out of the postseason by the Dallas Mavericks.

Fast-forward to 2004 and Sam Cassell, Kevin Garnett and Latrell Sprewell were leading the Minnesota Timberwolves into uncharted territory as a basketball franchise. With the Kings standing in their way and the series tied up at three, Kevin Garnett had no choice but to respond to the blow that he and his team took in Arco Arena in Game Six and put his team on his back for Game Seven … and my Lord, that’s exactly what he did.

See, this Game Seven had me completely conflicted. Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett were, and still are, basketball royalty in my eyes. They were two of the best power forwards in basketball in the 2000s and seemed to respect each other immensely. If the Kings won, they would get one last chance at the revamped Monstars in Los Angeles, but if the Wolves won, then Cassell/KG/Sprewell would get the opportunity to knock the Monstars off their perch.

Kevin Garnett went on to have 32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks, four steals and two assists, and on top of that, it was on his 28th birthday. He scored every basket in the fourth quarter of the game and blocked his fifth shot on a Brad Miller attempt with a couple of seconds remaining. With the Kings having one last chance to take the game into overtime, Chris Webber’s last-second three rimmed in and out, signaling the end of the Kings and another chapter in the budding career of terror that Kevin Garnett would wreak havoc on the game of basketball.

When Webber and KG embraced, I won't lie: I shed a tear. It was the end of the Kings being a viable contender, which meant that Chris Webber would have some serious soul-searching to do to get back to an opportunity to play for a championship. But it also meant that in a season where Kevin Garnett won the MVP, he also established himself as a Game Seven God.

Legend Solidified: Allen Iverson in Game Seven of the 2001 NBA Eastern Conference Finals

This selection can be argued for a number of reasons. Allen Iverson did so many amazing things in 2001. He won the All-Star Game MVP that year, leading the Eastern Conference to a win over a Western Conference squad comprised of Chris Webber, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd. Shoot, that’s about as scary a lineup as it gets for All-Star games, and people can claim his legend was born there. Others may say it was when he led his team to the Eastern Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors in seven games. He was awarded the NBA MVP in that series, and in two of the seven games, he scored over 50 points and in Game Seven of that series, he had 21 points and 16 assists.

Looking back on this series, the Bucks big three of Ray Allen, Sam Cassell and Glenn Robinson was as potent as any in basketball. At that time, Cassell was still a very good point guard and Ray Allen was arguably a top-five shooting guard in the League. Big Dog could bang inside but also stretch the defense with his outside shooting. However, they didn’t have the MVP on their team. Even when the Bucks won Game Six in Milwaukee, I knew their asses were grass anyway, because Iverson led his team back with a vicious effort, scoring 46 points while being knocked around like a piñata in the paint all night long.

Once it got back to Philly, it would be on, and on it certainly was. Allen Iverson helped the Sixers seal a trip to the NBA Finals with a 44-point, six-rebound, seven-assist effort, thoroughly outplaying his Big East counterpart, Ray Allen, and getting revenge for Ray Allen’s traveling, fuck-boy, bullshit last-second shot in the 1996 Big East Championship. The Sixers went on to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Other legendary performances: Pau Gasol – 2010 NBA Finals, Toni Kukoc – 1998 Eastern Conference Finals, Manu Ginobili – 2005 NBA Finals

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