Commentary

Best single-game performances: 3

Updated: June 15, 2012, 12:15 PM ET
By John Hollinger | ESPN.com

James WorthyAP PhotoTriple-double. Game 7. Against the Bad Boys. Big Game James certainly was worthy of his nickname.

3. James Worthy, Lakers: 1988 Finals, Game 7

Worthy's Hall of Fame case would have been much more difficult without this game. "Big Game James," they called him, and this was his biggest.

In one of the most hotly contested Finals in history, Worthy exploded for 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in the rubber match to allow L.A. to escape with a narrow 108-105 victory. For his efforts, Worthy won the Finals MVP and the Lakers became the league's first back-to-back champions in almost two decades.

Less well-known is that this game may be the greatest outlier in Finals history. In the entirety of the 1987-88 season, Worthy didn't have a single game with more than 12 rebounds. He also had only one game with more than 32 points and only one with double-digit assists. The odds of doing any one of these things against a team like the Pistons were small … but the chances of all three? Infinitesimal. In fact, it was the only triple-double of his 1,069-game career (including playoffs).

Yet there's no doubting how important Worthy was in that postseason. He averaged 21.1 points and shot 52.3 percent in the playoffs. Also overlooked is that he had 28 points and nine rebounds as the Lakers won by a whisker in Game 6.

Worthy's Game 7 eruption was the 14th-highest Finals Game Score of the post-merger era and the best by far in a seventh game. And the Lakers needed every one of those points, rebounds and assists to emerge victorious.

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