Shaquille O’Neal finally gets served in FTX lawsuit

Gotta keep one eye on the door, Shaq!

One of Shaquille O’Neal’s many commercials has him in some legal trouble. Don’t worry Icy Hot users, the petroleum jelly didn’t burn anyone in a sensitive area. For those who like to indulge in a Papa John’s Pizza, the pepperoncinis didn’t give guests at a kid’s birthday gathering stomach aches for party favors. For the thrill-seekers who put their money into the cryptocurrency service that O’Neal and Stephen Curry advertised, you all might end up getting some money back.

Shaq is part of a bigger lawsuit

Cryptocurrency company FTX filed for bankruptcy in late 2022. Shortly after, the company’s CEO was arrested. Samuel Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to 13 counts of securities fraud, money laundering, and campaign finance violations. Some of the spokespeople for FTX are facing civil litigation through a class action lawsuit, including O’Neal and Curry.

It has been a struggle for the law firm representing the aggrieved parties to properly serve O’Neal. Per the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph De Avila, the Moskowitz group was finally successful at what was formerly known as the FTX Arena — now the Kaseya Center.

Curry and O’Neal interacted prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. On the TNT pregame show, Curry was announced as the winner of the NBA Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. A lovely moment that began with a video message from Abdul-Jabbar lauding Curry for his work off of the court. After two questions from Ernie Johnson, O’Neal chimed in both to complement Curry and remind him that mum’s the word on any mutual “troubles.”

O’Neal was finally tracked down on set in Miami

Lead attorney Adam Moskowitz told De Avila that O’Neal was presented with the papers while on set after the game. The process server bought a ticket to Game 4 and simply approached O’Neal while he was on Inside the NBA set, and served him two in two lawsuits – second suit is in regards to his Astrals NFT Project. Shaq allegedly wasn’t laughing then, and had the process server thrown out of the arena. The Kaseya Center has not issued a statement on the incident.

O’Neal has allegedly been avoiding the processors attempting to serve him the papers for months. Per CNN, the Moskowitz Law Firm Group claimed to be successful on April 16. However, O’Neal’s attorneys sought to have the case dismissed because the papers were thrown at his moving car. O’Neal also denies any wrongdoing regarding FTX and his attorneys are seeking to have the charges dismissed on other accounts. No direct comments have been made about the second suit.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys claim that processors did not have these problems serving Curry, Naomi Osaka, Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen, and Larry David — though this alleged situation does sound like a plot for a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode.

Few people have ever stood out in a room more than O’Neal. Turner’s Techwood campus in Atlanta, where the NBA on TNT is shot, is a highly secure building, but Shaq’s work schedule was still public knowledge. Combine that with knowing what time he needs to leave for work and where he lives, the servers have to do better than allegedly throwing the papers at his vehicle. According to one document, O’Neal claims to have done nothing more than drive past strangers “lurking” outside his home.

O’Neal also told CNBC in December that he was nothing more than a paid spokesperson for FTX.

It’s kinda funny…

As bad as I feel for those who got duped by Bankman-Fried and FTX, the idea of a law firm in hot pursuit of the world’s most famous humongous person and hurling legal documents at his moving vehicle is hysterical. I have heard of far more obscure people getting pinned in drive thru lines to be served papers.

The footage of these unsuccessful attempts must be leaked to the public. Is Shaq indeed evading Moskowitz’s process servers like Avon Barksdale did the detail after the East vs. West Baltimore game in Season 1 of The Wire?

Somehow tracking down a 51-year-old, 7-foot-1, 300-pound man who underwent hip surgery in March and is regularly on live television is like trying to catch a cricket at home at 3:30 a.m. Stories like this remind us that in this hellscape of a society, in which there is always a trap looking to extract us from our money, there is somebody out there still getting caught with the banana in the tailpipe for our amusement.

ESPN spent millions on Pat McAfee in the middle of company-wide layoffs

ESPN’s newest talking head

You have to spend money to make money. But you can’t save money if you keep spending — unless you’re ESPN.

On Tuesday, “the worldwide leader in sports” officially announced that Pat McAfee would “expand his multiplatform ESPN role as ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ moves to ESPN this fall.” McAfee is continuing his role on College GameDay and will host various college football broadcasts. His show will air live on weekdays on ESPN, ESPN’s YouTube Channel, ESPN’s app, and ESPN+.

Pat McAfee walks away from $120 million FanDuel deal

Over the last few years, McAfee has been one of the biggest names in the industry. The former Indianapolis Colts punter is cashing out in his post-playing career, as he’s walking away from a four-year $120 million deal he had with FanDuel. He might be the highest-paid talent at ESPN, given that it wouldn’t make sense to walk away from a gig that was paying him $30 million annually unless he was getting a raise at his new job. And if we assume that McAfee is making more at ESPN than he was at FanDuel — details of the contract haven’t been made public — his potential contract, that’s more than likely worth more than $30 million per year, leads the clubhouse when it comes to household names at ESPN.

Let’s take a look:

This is going to be a PR nightmare for ESPN

It appears that McAfee will sit atop the class when it comes to yearly and total compensation. Congratulations to him, especially since ESPN was willing to throw him the bag. But, here’s the problem — this is going to be another public relations nightmare for the company.

“Pat is a proven talent. He and his team have built The Pat McAfee Show into one of the most engaging programs in sports and all of media,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro about the signing. “It’s a destination for athlete interviews and breaking news, and the centerpiece of a growing community of sports fans. We’re honored to bring Pat and the show to ESPN through a multifaceted, multiplatform approach.”

McAfee’s contract doesn’t line up with what Pitaro has said in the past — a man who has a long history of saying one thing and doing another.

“As we advance as a core segment of Disney, with operational control and financial responsibility, we must further identify ways to be efficient and nimble,” Pitaro wrote in a company memo last month, as ESPN is amid rolling layoffs that will cut 7,000 jobs and $5.5 billion in costs. “We will continue to focus our workforce on initiatives that are most closely aligned with our critical priorities and emphasize decision-making and responsibility deeper into the organization.”

What about layoffs?

“I do not want to minimize the enormous toll of saying goodbye to dedicated colleagues that have worked tirelessly to strengthen ESPN and deliver for sports fans,” added Pitaro.

How do you get rid of that many people and positions in hopes of saving that much money, while acquiring someone who costs as much as McAfee?

Make it make sense (cents)…and dollars.

“People are looking over their shoulders. People are concerned, ‘Will I be next?” former longtime ESPN employee Howie Schwab once warned. “People don’t approach ESPN the same way they used to, from some of the veteran people I’ve spoken to. It’s really disappointing. Because ESPN was a great place to work.”

Again, this isn’t on McAfee, as he didn’t do anything wrong — besides being the biggest amplifier of Aaron Rodgers’ fake news. It’s on Pitaro, ESPN, Disney, and the rest of the industry.

Also on Tuesday, layoffs began within Turner Sports/Warner Bros. Discovery, as some employees in production were laid off without any notice. Back in October, TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, and Charles Barkley all signed long-term contract extensions. And in November, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav publicly said, “We don’t have to have the NBA.”

And earlier this week, Monday Morning Quarterback’s Senior Writer Albert Breer called the NFL out for their layoffs as revenues are going up, on top of the league agreeing to pay NBC $110 million for a one-year deal to broadcast a Wild Card playoff game on Peacock.

The high-priced talent who take these massive contracts don’t deserve to catch flack. Save that for the executives. The issue lies with the companies who lie about what they can and can’t afford, as if layoffs don’t have a trickle-down effect on the quality of production. A writer is nothing without an editor, in the same way, that on-screen talent is useless without a crew and a producer. You can’t have one without the other. Well, so we thought. The way things are going in this industry, one day there might not be anything left but talent who’ll be left useless because all the people they needed got laid off.

Joel Embiid is right

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Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokić are starkly different people. Yes, they are MVP centers who were not raised in America, but the similarities largely stop there. One player is from Africa and the other is from Europe. One player is the most physically dominant in the NBA, the other combines size, court vision, and touch in an awkward ballet that always seems to result in points. Also, one of them plays for the Philadelphia 76ers and the other for the Denver Nuggets. Two organizations that built teams, but only one has a structure that is still standing.

A statement from Embiid’s press conference following the 76ers’ 112-88 Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics went viral. He was asked about James Harden’s future and his response went for nearly two minutes. For those who better spent their Sunday honoring special women rather than paying attention to an NBA press conference, these are the thoughts that pissed off much of America:

“Me and James can’t win alone, Embiid said to the media after stating that he needs to be better. “We just can’t win alone. That’s why basketball is played five-on-five. We just need everybody to just try to keep finding ways to get better and we’ll be fine.”

Jokić is a dazzling offensive player. The magnitude of his talent began to come to light during the 2019-20 season. In the bubble playoffs it was clear that he was a big man the likes of which the NBA had never seen. He went on to win two MVPs, largely because he was playing better basketball than anyone in the NBA. Without talent, improvement, and better fitness, he never would have won those MVPs, but it also would have been much more difficult without the rosters that the Nuggets have assembled.

Nikola Jokić has a lot more help

Even last season when the Nuggets’ roster was decimated by injury, of the four of Jokić’s teammates who totaled the most minutes, two of them shot better than 35 percent from the 3-point line. When the Nuggets shocked the people who decided to watch the NBA playoffs during the 2020 COVID summer, four Nuggets, besides Jokić, shot 40 percent or better from the 3-point line in the first round. Their shooting numbers were not as gaudy in the second round, but still — four rotational players shot better than 35 percent.

During the 76ers’ 2023 loss to the Celtics, the only starter for the 76ers who shot better than 35 percent from three for the series was P.J. Tucker, and he can only make them from the corners in spurts. The other two players to break 35 percent for the 76ers were DeAnthony Melton and Georges Niang.

While the Celtics were pouring threes all over the 76ers during the third quarter of their 112-88 Game 7 victory, they were also able to outscore their opponent 33-10 during that frame, because Philly’s offense had no answers. With that lack of dependable shooting, Joe Mazzulla had decided in Game 6 to put Robert Williams in the starting lineup and clog not only the paint, but cause a backup all throughout the 76ers’ offense.

The Embiid – Harden pick and roll was less successful that game, and during the second half on Sunday it was a non-factor. As much success as Harden had with it throughout the series, in Game 7 he didn’t trust his ability to convert near the rim. Embiid saw a wall of Celtics at every turn and morphed into 2019 Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Trust the process?

With the 76ers focus during this 10-year process of acquiring stars, as the style of NBA play has changed, they have not equipped their MVP with the necessary long-range threats to keep defenders off of him in the playoffs.

He has led the NBA in scoring for two consecutive seasons. No center has been the scoring champ since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. Embiid can both muscle and jump-shoot his way to points during the regular season, but when an opposing team gets to analyze him over the course of a series, it realizes that it can close in on him and not worry about the rest of the team.

Tobias Harris is a starting caliber NBA player, but doesn’t command defense at the 3-point line because he doesn’t shoot from there enough. Tyrese Maxey is a scoring threat who has shot 40-plus percent from behind the arc in consecutive regular seasons. However, the 2022-23 season was only his third in the NBA. Harden generally shoots well by volume from three, but he is no catch and shoot option.

Embiid would not be able to hit shooters with touchdown passes like Jokić even if the 76ers were better as a team behind the 3-point line. Still, if the Celtics felt the need to stick with the 76ers’ shooters, at least Embiid wouldn’t be getting stripped from every angle. He could have room in from the mid-post and lower to make moves if the Celtics were determined to let Tucker fire away as many 3-pointers as he wanted, even after going 3-5 in the first quarter — he attempted only one more three the rest of the game.

In an NBA in which space is paramount, forget Michael Porter Jr., where is Embiid’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope? Where are the players that defenses have to honor so Embiid doesn’t see three bodies while being stuck with the ball, and having no plan with a handful of seconds remaining on the shot clock?

Embiid struggled during key moments of the 76ers’ 2023 second-round loss, and yes he is dealing with a knee sprain. He is not the first MVP to struggle in the playoffs and he won’t be the last. That being said, his worst moments were when he was hesitant. Those moments presented themselves way too often against the Celtics. A 7-foot-2, nearly 300 pound player who averaged 33.1 points per game on 54.8 percent shooting during the regular season shouldn’t be getting stifled on a regular basis late in the most important games.

Like he said, he needs to get better, but so does this team. Maxey will continue to improve while Harden may not be on the team next spring. But for Embiid to have a postseason like Jokić in 2023, the 76ers have to find a way to create some space for their MVP. Those changes won’t result in highlight-reel no-look passes, but could provide reassurance that the 76ers’ offense will never again be as pitiful as it was during the third quarter on Sunday.

Anthony Davis gives Golden State a browbeating

AD was a big reason the Lakers won Game 1

When the Los Angeles Lakers and LeBron James were pushing to acquire Anthony Davis during the 2018-19 season, they had every reason to believe that they were going after the future face of the franchise. In the Lakers’ 117-112 Game 1 victory over the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, Davis showed a national audience that the Lakers gutting their roster and draft capital to acquire him was a no-brainer move.

On Tuesday night in San Francisco, Davis scored 30 points on 57.9 percent shooting from the field. He also grabbed 23 rebounds — making him the only Laker not named Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, or Wilt Chamberlain to put up a 30/20 game in the playoffs — and he also tacked on five assists and four blocks.

As impressive as Davis’ stats were for the entire game he only scored two points in the fourth quarter. The Lakers only made two field goals during the last six minutes of the final period. They held the lead for nearly the entire fourth quarter, and midway through were up by double digits — on the road. However, the Lakers’ cold offense allowed the Warriors to tie the game with just over 1:30 remaining in the game.

A D’Angelo Russell off-balanced jump hook gave the Lakers the lead with 1:24 left on the clock, but it was Davis’ defense from that point on that allowed his team to take a 1-0 series lead on the road. He blocked Stephen Curry’s runner on the following possession. Then after James split two free throws, Davis contested Jordan Poole’s runner so well there was no chance of that ball falling through the net. He then corralled the miss.

Davis dominant on both sides of the floor

Davis was the best Laker on both sides of the floor while playing just under 44 total minutes. The Warriors made several runs to attempt to pull out this Game 1 victory, but it was Davis at every turn who refused their advances. James was excellent, D’Angelo Russell’s shot was on for a second-consecutive game, Jarred Vanderbilt was great on defense, and Austin Reaves made timely baskets, but it was Davis who put the team on his back as he planted a Laker flag straight through the Warriors’ home-court advantage.

That dominant Anthony Davis at Chase Center on Tuesday has largely not been the player wearing No. 3 in the Lakers’ purple and gold for the last four seasons. With the New Orleans Pelicans he was named first-team All NBA for both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. Prior to his trade request in late January 2019, that season he was averaging 29.3 points per game with a 50.8 percent field-goal percentage along with 13.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. The Pelicans were not able to agree to a deal with the Lakers that season, so for much of 2019, they put Davis on the floor for just enough minutes so that he would be able to remember how to play basketball.

During the Summer of 2019, the Lakers sent a future all-star and two other players capable of averaging 30-plus minutes per game on any team in the league, along with three first-round picks and a swap to the Pelicans for Davis. His regular season statistics dipped slightly during that first season, but he still was named first-team All-NBA for a fourth time. During the bubble playoffs, he shot 38.3 percent from the 3-point line, and the Lakers won a championship — the franchise’s 17th.

AD has had to overcome injury

Injuries plagued Davis for the next three seasons. He played more than 50 percent of the Lakers’ regular season games only once during that span. That was the 2022-23 season in which he played in 56 of 82 games. Davis played 75 games in each of the two seasons before his trade request.

Not only was Davis spending too much time in street clothes, but on the floor he did not play as aggressively as the Lakers needed him to after the bubble. The Lakers were a top-three seed for much of 2020-21 until Davis and James both got hurt during the second half of the season. That season Davis recorded his worst scoring average since his second in the NBA — 21.8 points per game. He bumped it up to 23.2 points per game the next season but he only played in 40 of 82 games. In 2021-22 the Lakers didn’t even make the play-in.

This season, Davis played the way that he did in New Orleans, and if not for injury he might have been an MVP candidate. Even though he won’t be taking home any of the new 2023 NBA trophies, the Lakers would not have a 1-0 lead on the Warriors without his dominance or have even qualified for the postseason. In Davis’ 56 regular-season games he averaged 25 points while registering the highest field-goal percentage of his career. He also still found time to put a chain-link fence around the paint with his defense as one of the best players on that end of the floor in the NBA.

He was healthy for all of the Lakers’ first-round victory against the Memphis Grizzlies last month, but his performance on offense was erratic. The Lakers needed big nights from Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and Russell shooting 70.6 percent from the field in Game 6 to get out of that series.

Davis’ Laker career has been littered with shortcomings. The team has won five postseason series since his arrival — four of them in the bubble. For the Lakers to make a second impressive playoff run with Davis, he is going to have to fly the plane from take-off to landing against the defending NBA Champions.

Throughout his professional career, Davis has always been seen as the type of player who has the ability to lead a franchise to postseason glory. The Pelicans never had enough talent alongside him, and with the Lakers, his performance and availability have been inconsistent. If he is as effective on the floor as he was on Tuesday night for the majority of the remaining postseason, the seventh-seed Lakers might be hanging up banner No. 18 come October.

IDIOT OF THE MONTH: April was bad

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Welcome to Deadspin’s IDIOT OF THE MONTH! We’re here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff.

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He stomped a guy. We all saw it. The fuck, man?

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We already know which face Tucker Carlson made when he was getting an unexpected call from The Turk of Fox News. It’s the same confused look he makes while taking a dump on the truth while muddying the political waters by becoming the right wing’s modern-day misinformation courier. Between the $787 million settlement in Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit hinging on the content of his and other colleague’s embarrassing text messages, the impending $2 billion civil suit being pursued by Smartmatic, and the civil suit filed by a former Fox News producer that specifically names Carlson, chairman Rupert Murdoch had enough of Carlson, and unexpectedly canned him on Monday, April 24.

Carlson’s text messages which were made public exposed him as a charlatan who’ll take any disingenuous position that would advance his career. As opposed to being a serious member of an adversarial press, Carlson was publicly a Trump lickspittle while privately texting colleagues, “I hate him passionately,” and that “We are very very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights, I truly can’t wait,” only to do a complete 180 on air. Carlson was one of many Fox News entertainers posing as journalists who privately espoused thoughts that ran counter to their public positions.

The final straw may have been texts from Carlson that described a Fox News exec as the other C-word. Carlson’s reputation still hasn’t recovered from Jon Stewart bodying him for pretending to be CNN Crossfire’s Stephen A. Smith nearly two decades ago. Now, Carlson will be relegated to the graveyard of former Fox News hosts Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck. Like most dark spirits, Carlson will rise again on OAN, Blaze, or whichever stupid outlet emerges as the television version of Truth Social.

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Frontrunners and trash talkers who duck the media — and then run off when the chips are down — get no love around here. This could be aimed at the entire core of the Memphis Grizzlies roster, but we’re going to focus on the loudest mouth, yielding the least return for the team. That distinct honor falls upon one Dillon Brooks. His voice is heard the loudest, yet his talent produces the least amongst Grizzlies starters in the first round of the postseason.

“I don’t care. He’s old. … I poke bears. I don’t respect someone until he gives me 40.”

Brooks had much to say about the Lakers and LeBron James, most notably before falling behind 3-1 in their opening-round playoff series. At the time of this writing, Memphis still trailed 3-2 in the series. Like many people in the age of social media, Brooks feels like he can talk crap, and that validates him because he’s playing on the biggest hoops stage in the world.

No one thinks Brooks or the Grizzlies, in general, should fear any player, or team, but when you fix your lips in preparation to go at a guy like LeBron, you’d better be ready to back it up. Not that James is above reproach, but you can’t talk the way Brooks has and perform in the manner he has on the court in this series. If you’re going to run your mouth non-stop, the least you can do is shoot better than 22 percent from three-point range. If Memphis loses this series, it’s time for Brooks to shut the hell up. Nobody wants to hear him, of all people on that team, talk anymore.

All the beef Brooks has been part of this year, from Undisputed host Shannon Sharpe to James himself, and smacking the King in his “Midsection,” which earned him a flagrant two foul, it’s all become silly. And that’s saying a lot based on Brooks’ fashion decisions this season. If you can back up the trash talk, nobody raises an eyebrow. When that’s the best part of your arsenal, and it’s mediocre at best, go sit on the bench, and have a Gatorade. Because at that point, “we don’t believe you; you need more people.”

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You’d think Rudy Gobert would have learned his lesson about boundaries after triggering an entire league shutdown three years ago. And yet, there he was using that extended wingspan to take a jab at teammate Kyle Anderson during the 82nd game on Minnesota’s schedule His tenure in Utah was buffeted by his fractured working relationship with Donovan Mitchell, and his only year in Minnesota has been an unmitigated disaster.

Gobert is held in lower esteem among players than any Defensive Player of the Year the NBA has ever seen. He’s won the award three times and yet, his value in a seven-game series is perpetually debated. Maybe it’s because he’s French, but players feel comfortable belittling him. Before they became teammates, Anthony Edwards said of Gobert, “He don’t put no fear in my heart, I don’t know why.”

In Utah, his personality rubbed teammates the wrong way. Gobert claimed that the catalyst for his Draymond moment was Anderson calling him a “bitch.” Being called out of his name by a reserve nicknamed Slow-Mo was probably the last straw, but getting his revenge during the regular season finale was emblematic of the poor decision-making that he’s become synonymous with.

Teammates fighting behind closed doors happens occasionally, but Gobert throwing haymakers mid-game, in front of company, earned him a one-game suspension, lowered his trade value another tick, and nearly cost Minnesota in the play-in tournament. Minnesota hamstrung its future and linked it to Gobert’s sinking anchor. Not only has he proven to be an albatross, but he’s a chemistry killer.

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A person does not need to be an expert to speak against an objective wrong. There are too many man-made shades of gray in this world. Right is right, and wrong is wrong.

Keith Olbermann was wrong.

He thought Angel Reese was in the wrong for taunting Caitlin Clark as her LSU Tigers defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes for the National Championship. Reese was actually just giving Clark a taste of her own medicine. And even if Clark hadn’t been hitting previous opponents with the “You can’t see me,” children’s eyes would not begin to bleed because Reese decided to rub in the victory.

Who was out of line, though, was Olbermann — for tweeting out that Reese “is a fucking idiot.” Barstool’s Dave Portnoy called her a “classless piece of shit,” and both deserve those vulgar insults thrown back at them. Olbermann later apologized for being “uninformed” that Clark also engages in trash talk, and said that both were wrong. He also said that he doesn’t follow basketball in any way.

If that’s the case, then bro, why you all up in the Kool-Aid and don’t know the flavor? You mozied into the sporting event of the day and were so offended by a competitor reveling in victory while on the field of play, you felt the need to belch out your disgust at a college student.

If Reese had clocked Clark in the head with a chair Balls Mahoney style, that would have deserved to be called out as wrong by anyone regardless of their basketball expertise. Being a hype after knocking off arguably the best player in her sport though, doesn’t deserve anything close to being called a fucking idiot. Even “too much dip on your chip,” is a bit much.

The person that day who deserved to be cursed out was not anywhere near American Airlines Arena in Dallas with the initials KO.

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Phil Jackson had some things to say, and it put him on this list.

“It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game,” he said about the NBA having Black Lives Matter on the court in the bubble, and how it’s the reason he hasn’t watched the NBA since. “And they didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as non-political. Politics stays out of the game; it doesn’t need to be there,” he whined on the Tetragrammaton podcast.

It feels like Jackson wants Black people to be quiet and Black athletes to shut up and dribble, despite the fact that his entire claim to fame as an NBA player and the greatest coach in league history is all due to the talents, and intellect of Black people.

And then some had the audacity to be “shocked” by his words as if he hadn’t been showing us who he was for decades.

“You can’t make this up … The same Phil Jackson that won championships with some of the greatest Black athletes in the history of the game: Michael Jordan. Scottie Pippen. Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe Bryant,” said Jalen Rose. “Made millions on their backs. And off their sweat equity.”

Google will remind you that Jackson speaks his mind.

There was the time that he said that players had “been dressing in prison garb” when the dress code was mandated. Scottie Pippen called him a racist. Isaiah Rider warned people about him. Lebron did, too.

The evidence was always there. Especially when you remember that Jackson is a hypocrite. Check this out from a 2010 story from when J.A. Adande was at ESPN.

“That was surprising to hear coming from a man who not only supported Bill Bradley for the Democratic presidential nomination, he wore a Bradley campaign pin on his suit during games. Jackson reminded me that the NBA made him stop wearing it. And apparently, that was the end of his political proclamations…although he did take one parting shot.

“I kind of wish [Bradley] would have been the president,” Jackson said. “After all was said and done, that [George W. Bush] situation.”

Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

Jayson Tatum with the rebound before sending the Hawks back from whence they came.

The first round of the NBA playoffs is over, and it was quite the show. From coast to coast, great players across the league made their presence felt in the least important round of the playoffs. Normally, the first round results in chalk, but many of the best teams of the 2022-23 NBA season have been eliminated from the postseason.

Maybe the NBA has finally achieved the parity that it has been seeking for decades, or injuries resulted in certain teams winning series that they wouldn’t have against a healthy opponent.

My thoughts are that some of the best players in the NBA showed their best stuff on national television for two weeks. Those performances resulted in some surprise results, but every team that has advanced to the second round deserves to be there.

With the second round underway, just like last season I am going to give credit to the players who played best in the recently-completed playoff series.

A reminder from last season, I am not beholden to positions or victorious teams.

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A magnificent Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings was simply another bullet point on Curry’s all-time great resume. He scored the most points in a Game 7 in NBA history with 50 against the Kings. Even that historical achievement does not do justice to how great he was.

At 35 years old, Curry might be playing the best basketball of his career. He has put on so much muscle that he is a real obstacle on defense. In his 15th NBA season Curry is not only better on defense, but he is also a force in the paint. His work there was just as important as what he did behind the 3-point line.

Magic, Michael, The Logo, Kobe, that is the club in which Curry belongs.

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He beat the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks. Of course basketball is a team game, but the Miami Heat were down double digits in the fourth quarter of both Game 4 and Game 5. Butler scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4. In Game 6 poured in 14, including a suspended-in-air alley-oop play that sent that game to overtime.

Butler can play down his playoff performances all that he likes, but he rises to the occasion like arguably no other player in NBA history. The people who perform like he does in the playoffs are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, etc. Butler plays at an all-star level when healthy in the regular season, but in no way does he perform like an all-time great. His play in the playoffs is what will get him to the Hall of Fame.

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I thought that the New York Knicks made at best an average move to sign Brunson in the offseason. In the 2021 playoffs the Dallas Mavericks went to Trey Burke before they went to him in a Game 7. He was great in the 2022 playoffs for the Mavericks, but that could easily be written off as one of the many dynamic contract-year performances that litter professional sports. Survival is always the most powerful human instinct.

Then the Knicks signed Brunson to a lucrative contract that made him nowhere within earshot of the highest paid guard in the NBA. In fact, the most money that he will make in a single season on that deal is in the 2022-23 season. With by far the highest usage rate of his career he still shot 49.1 percent from the field and averaged a career-high 24 points per game.

Brunson’s efficiency dropped against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, but he made a plethora of humongous plays to lead the Knicks to a five-game victory without home-court advantage. In Game 4 he recorded eight points and two assists in the final quarter. The Cavs never figured out an answer for Brunson and it left them off balance for much of the series.

I was wrong.

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He took on a herculean task. It was bad enough that the Los Angeles Clippers were without Paul George for their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. Then the Clippers only got two games out of Kawhi Leonard before a knee injury would keep him out of the rest of the series — while his status update was revealed game by game.

The Clippers lacked all of the star power that they spent young talent and draft capital to acquire and possibly make a run at an NBA Championship. Still, Westbrook did not operate with any lack of confidence with the Clippers best players in street clothes.

When Kawhi Leonard was healthy in Game 1, it was Westbrook’s offensive rebounds and heady plays that salted away the Clippers’ only victory in that series. In Games 3 and 4 Westbrook was a force. He scored 30-plus points in both games and a player who shot 43.6 from the field for the season was better than 47 percent twice. In Game 5 he scored 37 points on 58.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line.

With no Leonard or George the Clippers were destined to lose, but Westbrook was spectacular.

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For those curious on how a poor shooting team like the New York Knicks defeated a team with two all-star caliber players like Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, the answer is rebounding.

The Knicks destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers on the glass. In the Pacific Time Zone, the Golden State Warriors did the same to the Sacramento Kings. For the Knicks, rebounding was a team effort led by Mitchell Robinson. The Warriors did rebound as a team, but it was Looney who owned the glass for most of their seven-game victory against the Kings.

The Warriors had a tough go in their first two games against the Kings on the road. They played well, but still came up empty twice in a row. In Game 3 in San Francisco, Looney grabbed 20 rebounds — nine offensive — in a 114-97 victory. From then on the glass belonged to Looney. He hauled in 22 rebounds in Game 5 and 21 in Game 7. The last three games of the series he grabbed no less than six offensive rebounds.

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Last season, I had no idea just how many awards that the NBA was adding. So, at the completion of the first round I had no reason to name the award for best player in the first round. With the NBA now flicking out crystal trophies the way Las Vegas blackjack dealer does cards, the MVP of this round needs a name.

Chris Paul is perfect for this award. He is an NBA legend, whose first-round performances — in best-of-seven series that many of his elders did not have to endure — are some of the best games played in NBA history. Regardless of how his current Phoenix Suns team that has maybe six playoff-level players on the roster will finish this season, Paul can always hold claim to being quite possibly the best first-round performer in league history.

The inaugural winner of this awards is Butler. Of course the Bucks choked, but the Heat were most certainly attacking their throat. Butler scored 56 points in Game 5, 21 of which came in a fourth quarter in which the Bucks were up by 13 points with less than 10 minutes remaining.

In Game 6, the Heat quickly erased a 16-point fourth quarter lead without Butler on the floor, but without his 14 points in that quarter they would not have been able to finish off the 2021 NBA Champions.

These 9 NBA veterans are crucial to their team’s playoff success

Kevin Love is still a contributor

Older generations have always had critiques of where the game is going. Each generation, old heads critique how soft and easy the game has become. You can track this through podcasts, interviews, and any episode of the NBA on TNT with Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. While revisionist history and recency bias can be debated ad nauseam, one of the few points retired players consistently make and agree upon is the necessity of vets.

The essence of this argument has merit, as the NBA is experiencing the highest level of talent than ever before. As a result, players are phasing out of the NBA at an earlier age than ever before. Moreover, as the talent level of the NBA rises, the age of players playing at a star level has gotten younger than ever. But in the year’s playoffs, a group of veterans across both Conferences have been crucial to their team’s success in the first round. We’ve pinpointed these veterans that are helping their teams advance with their leadership and on-court contributions.

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Of those on this list, no player has impacted at as high a level for as long as Horford has with the Celtics. Upon his return to Boston for his second stint, he immediately helped propel them to a Finals run. At 36, the five-time All-Star is still one of the top centers in the league. His averages this season are 9.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 71.4 percent from the charity stripe. He’s maintained this level by evolving along with the game, hitting a late career-high 45 percent from three.

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The Hawks have hunted Horford in their first-round matchup by trying to get Horford switched onto Trey Young. The Celtics countered by playing Horford in drop coverage, trying to cut off the driving lane. Horford’s age is catching up to him, but he’s been critical in the Celts capturing a 3-1 lead on the Hawks. In Game Four, he went scoreless, taking and missing two threes, but stuffed the stat sheet with 11 rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 34 minutes.

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It’s hard to figure out why the hell the Cleveland Cavaliers bought out Kevin Love, the most important holdover from the LeBron James-led championship team. Love was the most dependable shooter off their bench and now brings his championship experience and stretch shooting to the Miami Heat. At 34, he’s been streaky this postseason but was pivotal in the Heat snatching Game One with an 18-point, eight-rebound effort in the Heat’s shocking 130-117 upset victory, snatching home-court advantage from the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

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In addition, he has helped the Heat on the perimeter, where they were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA, as he nailed 4-of-7 from downtown in Game One. For Love’s career, he’s been a reliable marksman in the regular season (37 percent) and playoffs (40.4 percent). He’s only scored a combined 16 points through Games Two through Four, but he can go off from three at any moment, forcing the Bucks to stay on him as a small-ball center.

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Since Gordon was traded from the Orlando Magic, who drafted him fourth in 2014, to the Denver Nuggets, he has been underwhelming in his role as the starting power forward. In the deal, Denver gave up former starting guard Gary Harris, R.J. Hampton, and Denver’s protected 2025 first-round pick. First Round picks, protected or not, are high currency in today’s landscape. Gordon never reached the career highs he set while in Orlando when he was the best player on a young Magic squad. But this postseason, against the length and height of the Minnesota Timberwolves, his athleticism and perimeter shooting have been crucial this series.

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Through four games, he’s been a +6.5 while averaging career post-season highs in FG percentage (.514), three-point percentage (.444), two-point percentage (.536), effective field goal percentage (.568), and free throw percentage (.917). With teammate Nicola Jokic playing at a monster level, the double and triple teams he commands have allowed Gordan to thrive in single coverage. But he’s also developed into a staunch defensive ace. He provided lockdown defense on Karl-Anthony Towns. Through four games, Towns is being held to 16.3 PPG, on a 43 percent from the field, and 28 percent from three. He’s also committing 3.8 turnovers per game. For a three-time All-Star, those are disappointing numbers and a huge reason the TWolves are down big in this series. The Nuggets have Gordon to thank for Towns’ limited impact.

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Schröder went from the butt of the NBA when he turned down an $80M extension with the Lakers back in 2021 to a key member of the Lakers’ retooled roster. Schröder is part of the Lakers point guard duo between him and D’Angelo Russell. Schröder is the better playmaker, penetrator, and defender, with a penchant for making huge shots. This was most apparent in the Lakers’ pivotal overtime win in Game Four, where he poured in 12 points on 60 percent shooting, two steals, and hitting all six of his free throws. He was especially clutch in the Lakers’ second Play-In game to secure the seventh seed.

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He scored 21 points and secured the win with two clutch free throws with 8.4 seconds left. He also hit the tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds to play in regulation. It was the perfect example of what makes the Schröder/Russell duo so dangerous. Russell was awful in that Play-In game, which allowed Schröder his turn at manning the point and coming up clutch. Their complementary skill sets will continue to power the Lakers as they upset the second-seeded Grizzlies and make a deep postseason run.

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Last year at the 2022 trade deadline, the Celtics picked up White. It went under the radar at the time, but he has become the third-best player on the team this postseason. In the first round of this year’s playoffs, White is averaging 19.4 points, 3.8 assists, and four rebounds in four games, outshining his 2022 playoff numbers. Defensively, he has been the Celtics’ best option to guard the Hawks’ point of attack. But it’s that White’s been elite on both sides of the ball that has made him a fan favorite of Boston fans. It’s also why they were furious at rookie head coach Joe Mazzulla for closing with Marcus Smart over White in Game Five.

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His shooting has been outstanding, averaging 52 percent from beyond the 3-point line and an overall 58 field goal percentage. After scoring 22 points in Game 1, he dropped 26 on 11-for-16 shooting in Game Two, along with seven rebounds, two assists, and three blocked shots. White has given the Celtics a third option when Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are having inefficient shooting nights, like when Tatum went 1-10 from three. He provides the team with valuable scoring and defensive capabilities, and could be a key player for the Celtics in their playoff run.

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Hart is the definition of a “dawg.” He was the second-best acquisition of the deadline after Kevin Durant. He has solidified the Knicks’ “Mobb Deep,” adding three-and-d ability to the bench unit of Obi Toppin, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Immanuel Quickley. Hart provides vocal leadership, balancing out Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson’s lead-by-example approach. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Hart has been a knockdown three-point shooter hitting a team-high 56 percent from three and 60 percent from the field. His 13.5 PPG off the bench leads the Knicks reserves, but furthermore, he has been the X-factor the Cavs can’t match.

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He has been reunited with his Villanova teammate, Jalen Brunson, with whom he won an NCAA championship. The duo has elite chemistry on the court, often engaging in a two-man game where the two small guards screen for each other, throwing defenses off kilter and allowing for open threes and driving lanes to the basket. His elite rebounding at the two-guard spot has, at times, outpowered the Cavs’ big men Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

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In Game Four, he outrebounded Allen and tied Mobley with seven. But it’s his penchant for big-time plays, securing loose balls, nabbing key offensive boards, and hitting clutch threes that have secured close wins for the Knicks. Before his arrival, the Knicks were one of the worst teams in the league at closing games. That immediately changed when Hart joined the team, as securing wins is one of the many things a “dawg” brings to a team.

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It feels like Tucker had been a dawg his whole career. Especially the second half where he turned into one of the best three-and-d, small-ball fours in the game with the Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, and now Philadelphia 76ers. At this point as a 38-year-old journeyman, he’s a hired enforcer. This postseason he’s been the vocal leader for the 76ers. It’s been documented how savage he’s gotten during practices, ripping his team when they’re too soft. Even though he’s gone 3-of-15 in his favorite corner spot, his championship resume makes him a threat to erupt if left open. He doesn’t need to just hit shots to be effective.

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In the Sixers’ first-round sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, Tucker tallied a combined 27 rebounds, 10 assists, and seven steals over four games. What doesn’t show up in a box score is the toughness, leadership, and vocal presence Tucker brings to keep his team’s sights on winning their third championship, and first in 40 years. They will need everything Tucker has left to give as they are likely to matchup against the Boston Celtics, where his matchup with Horford, a fellow veteran dawg on this list, will be key.

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Since the playoffs began, there has been a fierce debate among experts and local residents about Coach Monty Williams’ decision to make Torrey Craig a starter, particularly after Josh Okogie held the position for the last 26 games to complete the revamped starting lineup. Craig was the starter before the Suns acquired Kevin Durant at the deadline. Despite this criticism, Craig has been playing exceptionally well. Over the first four postseason games against the Los Angeles Clippers, the six-year NBA veteran has averaged 12.4 points per game.

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This is the highest he has ever achieved in a playoff series while setting a new career high with 22 points in Game One. He followed that up with 17 points in Game Two, while hitting key shots down the stretch to close the game. Then in Game Three, he hit a massive three with less than two minutes left to secure the win. Furthermore, he was the primary defender of Kawhi Leonard. The starting five of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Durant, Craig, and DeAndre Ayton has played together for 94 minutes this postseason, the most of any other lineup. They have an offensive rating of 125.6 and a defensive rating of 104.1, equating to a 21.6 net rating overall, the best of any starting five among playoff teams.

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Barnes has been a key player in the Sacramento Kings’ success this season, with a scoring average of 15 points per game. Barnes’ presence on the team is an argument for the importance of veterans on a roster. Since arriving in Sacramento in 2019, he has been one of the most underrated players in the league and has helped build winning habits that are finally paying off this year. In the early days of Sacramneto’s chaos, Barnes rotated through four coaches in just four seasons, showing how dysfunctional the Kings have been until now.

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However, under a winning GM in Monte McNair, the likely Coach of the Year in Mike Brown, and alongside more talented teammates in De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, Barnes has been a key contributor toward the Kings breaking their 16-year playoff drought. He might have missed a crucial three-pointer in Game Four, but he’s been steady as hell for the first four games. Against his old team, The Golden State Warriors, he’s averaging 13 ppg, 4.3 rpg, and 1.5 steals. Coach of the Year Mike Brown has called Barnes “irreplaceable” twice this season, lamenting the leadership and steadiness he brings to a team trying to reverse their poverty label.

Ranking the top postseason performances in Miami Heat history

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Jimmy Butler had a memorable Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, dropping 56 points in a 119-114 victory over the No. 1 seed.

For a team that’s been around 34 years, the Miami Heat have a rather rich history in the NBA. They’ve won three league titles over the last 17 years, and have a shot at adding to that in this postseason. So, we’ve seen some stellar games out of Heat players over the years even going back to the 1990s before they’d ever even won the Eastern Conference. Now let’s see how Butler’s performance ranks among the top playoff performances in Miami Heat history.

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It was hard not to rank this game higher on the list, but nine-block playoff games aren’t quite as rare as you might think. It’s a hell of an accomplishment by far, but it tied Alonzo Mourning for second all-time in the postseason with 10 other occurrences. Hakeem Olajuwon and Dwight Howard both had two playoff games where they blocked nine or more shots. Still, Alonzo Mourning is one of the top two most beloved players in the Heat’s history, along with Dwyane Wade, who you’ll see plenty on this list.

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The Killer Crossover was in full effect here as Hardaway had himself a career-defining game bouncing the Knicks in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Hardaway scored a postseason career-high 38 points while shooting 60% overall from the field and from 3-point range.

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Jimmy Buckets showed up in a big way in this game against the Hawks and decided to take the game over early on, realizing that it had to be on his shoulders. Only three other Heat players scored double-digits, and no one besides Butler scored more than 15 points in the game.

Butler joined some elite Heat company with his game two performance. He became just the third player in franchise history to post a 45-5-5 game in the playoffs, joining Wade and LeBron James. And Butler is the only one to accomplish this while committing zero turnovers. That sideline blow-up involving Butler, Eric Spoelstra, and Udonis Haslem feels like so long ago.

LeBron and the Heat had some battles with the Pacers during his time in Miami. James was just two rebounds short of a 40-20 double-double in this game. Those are Wilt Chamberlain type numbers from a wing player. Oh, and James was also one assist shy of messing with a triple-double. The Pacers actually came into this game with a 2-1 series lead. While Indiana was scrappy, they had no answers for James in this game and lost this series in six games.

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In this instant classic thriller of an NBA Finals game, Butler played all but one minute, posting his second triple-double of the series with only seven available players on an already overmatched Heat roster. I can remember watching this game and noting how exhausted Miami looked down the stretch of this game and Jimmy making big play after big play squeaking out a three-point victory to stay alive. I know people frown because this happened in the Orlando bubble, but it was still an outstanding display from Butler and the Heat.

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This game in the East semifinals against Brooklyn in 2014 tied James’ second-highest scoring game for his career in the postseason. Dropping 49 on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett was like icing on the cake for LeBron en route to sending two rivals packing again in six games.

Over the first half of James’ career, I’d guess that he enjoyed beating no team more than Boston and Brooklyn when Pierce and Garnett were there. Garnett was such a great trash talker that you almost couldn’t help but take it personally. So instead of trying to match wits, Bron did the next best thing and kicked their asses whenever he got the chance.

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Butler put Miami on his back in game three of the 2020 Finals, as the Heat were in danger of going down 3-0 in the series. Jimmy’s 40-point triple-double was completed on sheer will and refusing to let Miami lose this game. The remarkable thing about Butler’s game that night is that he shot the ball 20 times, and not one was a 3-point attempt. In the age of everybody wanting to be Stephen Curry, Butler dropped 40 and never shot once from that distance.

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In the close-out game of the 2006 Finals against Dallas, Wade did a little bit of everything. He posted a 36-point double-double, dished five assists, came up with four steals, and even blocked three shots. That was it. Wade was a made man in South Beach after bringing a title home for the Heat faithful. It felt like the Mavericks had already been demoralized, having dropped three straight heading into Game 6. It was only a matter of time before Wade put them out of their misery.

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After lighting up the Eastern Conference in 2022, Jimmy Buckets picks back up where he left off in the ECF against Boston last year. He’s scored at least 30 points in three of the first four games in the first round against Milwaukee this year, highlighted by a 56-point classic in game four. Butler was magnificent in this game as he outdueled Giannis Antetokounmpo, who posted a triple-double.

Butler wouldn’t be denied on this night, as he scored 22 in the first quarter of this game. He scored 20 in a row at one point in that opening period. Because of this historical performance, Jimmy joined an exclusive group posting one of the highest-scoring games in NBA playoff history. The 56 points Butler dropped tied him for fourth, with only Michael Jordan (63), Elgin Baylor (61), and Donovan Mitchell (57) outdoing him. Butler says playoff Jimmy isn’t a thing. It’s time for him to admit that it exists, and it’s a damn good thing.

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This series had to be extra sweet for James, sending his nemesis Boston Celtics home in grand fashion. Kevin Garnett took credit for “breaking” James in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals when the Celtics sent the Cavs home in six games.

Game 6 of the ECF in 2012 was an elimination game for the Heat, and LeBron showed out, saving the day, torching Boston’s big three for 45-15-5, keeping the series alive, and setting up a game seven that Miami won convincingly.

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Every Wade game from this Finals could probably be on this list, but Wade had his highest scoring output in Game 5 to give Miami a 3-2 lead after digging themselves an 0-2 hole to start the series. This game is remembered mainly for Wade spending nearly half the game at the free-throw line. He attempted 25 foul shots making 21 of them. That ranks as the second most free throws attempted in a Finals game in NBA history. No. 1 in this category is Wade’s former teammate Shaq, setting the record (39) with the Lakers during the 2000 Finals.

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The Miami Heat were down 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Finals, and this is where the legend of Dwayne Wade began to take shape. In a must-win, Wade took over, out-scoring and outrebounding running mate Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal came through with 16 points as the second-leading scorer to Wade’s 42 that night. This game began the swing of momentum in that Finals series which became the Heat’s first NBA championship.