Best single-game performances: 1
1. Michael Jordan, Bulls: 1997 Finals, Game 5
Game Score: 35.2 Result: Bulls 90, Jazz 88 Series: Bulls win in 6
Based solely on production, this game ranks high, but not at the top -- even after adjusting for pace and opponent, 15 other Finals games outrank it, including six by Jordan.
But in terms of impact and obstacles, "The Flu Game" is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. For starters, this was the deciding game of the series. Tied at two games apiece heading into Game 5, the win in Utah's hostile Delta Center essentially clinched a hard-fought championship for Chicago.
Of course, there were the obstacles Jordan faced thanks to a bout of food poisoning that would have rendered mere mortals unable to play. In total, though, this game represents the pinnacle of Jordan's greatness -- the combination of one-in-a-million talent with one-in-a-million drive.
Looking like he'd pass out at any moment during stoppages of play, Jordan nonetheless rallied the Bulls from an early 16-point deficit and dialed it up late, scoring 15 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter. The last points came on a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left in a tie game when Bryon Russell inexplicably left him to double Scottie Pippen in the post. That bucket would provide the winning points in the 90-88 victory, after which Jordan slumped toward the bench in total exhaustion.
Despite how ill he was, Jordan sat out only four minutes and held Jeff Hornacek to just seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. Between the incredibly high stakes and the singular determination he showed, this has to rank as the greatest Finals performance of the post-merger era.
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