Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo thrilled the basketball world with his huge clutch block Wednesday night on Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton during Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
With the Bucks ahead 101-99 and just over a minute left, Suns guard Devin Booker tossed up a lob pass for Ayton near the rim. Ayton looked to have a shot at an easy alley-oop slam, but Antetokounmpo recovered and got his long right arm up in time to deny Ayton on the dunk attempt.
The block helped the Bucks maintain the lead on their way to a 109-103 victory that evened the series at 2-2. Antetokounmpo finished with two blocks on the night to go with 26 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
Antetokounmpo put on a show with back-to-back 40-point outings in Games 2 and 3, but last season’s defensive player of the year has also been a huge presence on defense for the Bucks as they look to win their first NBA championship since 1971.
So how does the Greek Freak’s denial stack up against the best ever? Here are 10 more of the best blocks in NBA playoff history:
LeBron James on Andre Iguodala
Cavaliers vs. Warriors, 2016 NBA Finals, Game 7
It’s one of the most memorable plays in NBA history and perhaps the signature moment of James’ career. With under two minutes left and the score tied at 89, James chased down Iguodala on the fast break from near mid-court and swatted his layup attempt off the glass. The block helped the Cavaliers complete their comeback from a 3-1 series deficit and win Cleveland’s first professional sports championship in 52 years.
Hakeem Olajuwon on John Starks
Rockets vs. Knicks, 1994 NBA Finals, Game 6
The Rockets needed Olajuwon’s block on Starks in the closing seconds to force a decisive Game 7 on the way to their first championship. Houston led 86-84 when Starks got free on the left wing and attempted a potential game-winning 3-pointer. Olajuwon, the league MVP and defensive player of the year that season, recovered at the last moment and deflected Starks’ shot off line. The Rockets won the title in Game 7, and Olajuwon was named Finals MVP.
LeBron James on Tiago Splitter
Heat vs. Spurs, 2013 NBA Finals, Game 2
James’ first indelible Finals block came early in an epic seven-game series that’s also remembered for Ray Allen’s famous 3-pointer late in Game 6. After losing the opener, the Heat evened the series with a 103-84 rout in Game 2 that James put an exclamation point on with a huge block against Splitter in the fourth quarter. Splitter rolled down the lane and cocked the ball back for a dunk, but James met him at the rim for the denial.
Tayshaun Prince on Reggie Miller
Pistons vs. Pacers, 2004 East finals, Game 2
Down 1-0 in the series, Detroit held a 69-67 lead with under 40 seconds left. The Pistons turned the ball over, and Miller got it on a runout with no one between him and the basket. Everyone in the arena thought Miller had a game-tying layup, but Prince chased him down out of nowhere for the block that helped seal the Pistons’ win. Detroit won the series in six games, then upset the Lakers in the Finals for the 2004 title.
Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen on Charles Smith
Bulls vs. Knicks, 1993 East finals, Game 5
The sequence still gives Knicks fans nightmares. The series was tied 2-2, and the Bulls lead 95-94 with under 20 seconds to go in Game 5. Patrick Ewing shuffled a pass inside to Smith, who found himself swarmed by the Bulls. Grant blocked Smith’s first layup attempt. Smith got the ball back, but Michael Jordan knocked it away. Smith got it back again, only for Pippen to block him on two more attempts to seal the win for Chicago. The Bulls then won the series in Game 6 on the way to their third straight NBA title.
Bam Adebayo on Jayson Tatum
Heat vs. Celtics, 2020 East finals, Game 1
Adebayo had a breakout postseason in 2020, and his game-sealing block on Tatum was one of his biggest plays. With the Heat leading 116-114 in the final seconds of overtime, Tatum drove the lane for what looked like a game-tying dunk. But Adebayo rotated over from the weak side and stuffed Tatum at the rim with his left hand. Adebayo collected the rebound as the Heat won the series opener on their way to the NBA Finals.
Manu Ginobili on James Harden
Spurs vs. Rockets, 2017 West semifinals, Game 5
One of Ginobili’s countless clutch plays during his career with the Spurs came on a rejection of Harden that clinched a pivotal win. The Rockets trailed 110-107 with 9.3 seconds left in overtime when Harden got by Ginobili on the left wing and rose up to take a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Ginobili recovered and blocked Harden’s shot from behind as the buzzer sounded on a San Antonio victory.
Kobe Bryant on Bonzi Wells
Lakers vs. Blazers, 2000 West finals, Game 7
Bryant made his name as a scorer, but he was also a 12-time All-Defensive team pick, and he showed why with a big block on Wells. Early in the fourth quarter, Wells drove and put up a shot over Rick Fox. Bryant rotated over from the other side of the lane and volleyball spiked Wells’ shot with his left hand. Bryant’s defense helped the Lakers rally to win Game 7 on their way to the first of three straight NBA titles.
Giannis Antetokounmpo on Mikal Bridges
Bucks vs. Suns, 2021 NBA Finals, Game 1
Antetokounmpo’s block on Ayton wasn’t his first notable defensive play in the series. Late in the first half of Game 1, the Suns got out on a fast break, and Bridges drove in for a layup attempt. Antetokounmpo chased the play down from behind and soared in to pin Bridges’ shot on the glass for an incredible block. The ESPN broadcast noted how reminiscent the play was of James’ famous chase-down block in the 2016 Finals.
Ben Wallace on Shaquille O’Neal
Pistons vs. Heat, 2006 East finals, Game 5
It’s not easy to block a dominant inside presence like O’Neal without fouling, but Wallace managed to do it and send O’Neal sprawling to the floor. After O’Neal shook off one defender, he went up for what looked like an easy dunk, but Wallace sprinted back and pinned the ball in O’Neal’s hands to force a jump-ball. Wallace got the highlight and the Pistons the win, but the Heat took Game 6 to clinch the series.
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