The NBA Finals are a chance for a player to validate his worth during “crunch” time. The center stage brings out the best and worst. The whole world watches your every move, both hoping for you to fail and to succeed. Many factors play into a player’s effectiveness during the Finals: the pressure, the development of the player, the defensive schemes of the opposition, teammates, and your own offensive game plan. These factors aren’t something new during the Finals, rather, they’re simply amplified.
Karl Malone, notoriously known as a man who choked during the Finals, recently came out on The Dan Patrick Show and intentionally placed Michael Jordan off of his all-time starting five. Malone wanted to get a rise out of Patrick, who was gushing over Jordan. Regardless, it provides an opportunity to formulate an all-time top five of my own. The only difference between the top five Malone chose and the one I will make is that mine will constitute players who choked in the NBA Finals. Here’s a special shout out to Malone himself for helping spur the idea. Since it is common for players to repeat as NBA champions, I will choose specific years that the player played poorly.
You will notice, however, that Malone doesn’t crack this list. I won’t let an unbelievable steal by Jordan taint the Mailman’s overall great numbers during both of those Finals appearances.
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2010 Ray Allen, 2011 Chris Bosh
5. KOBE BRYANT, 2008
I might get some flak for this but Kobe just wasn’t very good during this Finals appearance. He struggled from the field, failing to shoot 39 percent in four of the six games versus the Boston Celtics. During three of Boston’s four wins, excluding Game 2, Bryant shot a combined 22-for-67. That’s less than 33 percent. Many pundits believe he didn’t identify the proper times to lean on other teammates, typically causing him to hoist up shots or put his teammates in poor positions to score. This doesn’t take away from Bryant’s other accomplishments, especially his five NBA Finals trophies, but this particular series just wasn’t his best.
Kobe was also pretty bad in 2004 against Detroit. You could argue that performance was even worse.