So many iconic NBA moments have been immortalized through the power of a lens. Here’s the list of the most iconic NBA photos, one from each decade.
1940s – the first NBA game ever
The promo ad for the first NBA (at the time the BAA) game which took place on November 1, 1946, in Toronto, Canada, between the Toronto Huskies and the New York Knicks. The Knicks won the game 68-66.
1950s – Bob Pettit drops 50 in the Finals
After the Boston Celtics beat the St. Louis Hawks in the epic seven-game Finals series in ’57, Bob Pettit and the Hawks got their revenge the very next year. The 6-9 Hall of Famer led his team to a championship after dropping 50 points in a series-decisive Game 6, setting an NBA record for most points scored in an NBA Finals Game. The record is now 61 points, set by the Lakers’ forward Elgin Baylor in ’62, and Petit’s 50-point outing against Boston is No.5 on the list.
1960s – Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game
On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain set the NBA single-game scoring after dropping 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks. The moment was immortalized in the Warriors’ locker room after the team’s PR man Harvey Pollack scrawled “100” on a piece of paper and had Wilt hold it up for photographers.
1970s – the longest Finals game ever
The triple-overtime battle between the Celtics and the Suns in Game 5 of the ’76 NBA Finals was the longest Finals game ever. Rick Barry, the Hall of Famer who broadcasted the game, even described it as the “most exciting game ever.” Anyone fortunate enough to be in Boston Garden on Friday night would probably agree, especially since Boston won 128-126.
1980s – Dr. J’s iconic baseline scoop
In Game 4 of the 1980 NBA Finals against the LA Lakers, Julius “Dr. J” Erving stunned everyone with an amazing reverse layup — to this day, one of the greatest moves in NBA history. “Here I was, trying to win a championship, and my mouth just dropped open,” said rookie Magic Johnson of the iconic layup. “He actually did that! I thought, ‘What should we do? Should we take the ball out, or should we ask him to do it again?’ It’s still the greatest move I’ve ever seen in a basketball game, the all-time greatest.”
1990s – The Last Shot
On June 14th, 1998, Michael Jordan hit The Last Shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. The shot was a mid-range pull-up with 5.2 seconds left on the clock to give the Bulls an 87-86 lead and seal their 6th NBA championship in 8 years. It doesn’t get more iconic than that.
2000s – The Stepover
This one doesn’t have a historical significance, but it might be the most iconic photo on the list. And despite the fact the Hall of Famer doesn’t like the move, Allen Iverson stepping over Tyronn Lue in Game 1 of the ’01 NBA Finals is undoubtedly one of the most memorable sequences from the ’00s.
2010s – The Block
This one, however, does have a huge historical significance. It’s the block by LeBron James on Andre Iguodala, which led to the Cavaliers winning the organization’s first-ever NBA championship after a historic 3-1 comeback against the 73-win Golden State Warriors.