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Famous Photos from NBA Basketball History

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has given us some of the most memorable moments in sports history. From breathtaking dunks to clutch shots and legendary players, the NBA is a treasure trove of iconic moments that have been beautifully preserved by talented photographers.

In this blog, I’m going to take you on a photographic journey through the history of the NBA with a collection of iconic photos that embody the passion, skill, and drama of basketball.

Michael Jordan's "The Shot" (1989)

Witness the photograph of Michael Jordan soaring through the air for his famous buzzer-beater against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1989 NBA Playoffs, cementing his status as one of the greatest players ever.

Image: Michael Jordan The Shot Copyright Ed Wagner Jr
Image: Michael Jordan The Shot Copyright Ed Wagner Jr

"The Dunk" - Julius Erving (1983)

Relive the iconic photograph of Julius Erving, known as Dr. J, soaring through the air for his gravity-defying baseline dunk during the 1983 NBA Finals.

Image: The Dunk Julius Erving 1983 Copyright Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Vince Carter's "Dunk of Death" (2000)

Explore the electrifying image of Vince Carter dunking over Frederic Weis during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a dunk so powerful it earned the nickname “Dunk of Death.”

Image: Vince Carter's Dunk of Death (2000) Copyright AP

Michael Jordan's "The Flu Game" (1997)

During Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls battled not just the Utah Jazz but also a severe case of the ‘flu’ (which actually turned out to be food poisoning). Despite his weakened condition, Jordan scored 38 points, including a critical three-pointer in the closing minutes, leading the Bulls to victory. This iconic performance exemplified Jordan’s legendary competitiveness and will to win.

Image: Michael Jordan's The Flu Game (1997) Copyright Tom Cruze, AP

Magic Johnson's "Baby Hook" (1987)

In Game 4 of the 1987 NBA Finals, with the Los Angeles Lakers trailing the Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson, primarily known for his passing, took matters into his own hands. He drove to the basket and, in a clutch moment, unleashed his signature “baby hook” shot, sealing a dramatic victory and demonstrating his versatility as a player.

Image: Magic Johnson Baby Hook (1987) Copyright Manny Millan / Getty Images

Larry Bird's Steal (1987)

During the same 1987 NBA Finals, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics made a pivotal defensive play in Game 5. With seconds remaining and the Celtics trailing by one point, Bird stole an inbounds pass from Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons and fed Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup. Bird’s basketball IQ and clutch play remain legendary.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Skyhook (1980)

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s signature skyhook shot was virtually impossible to defend. In Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals, he scored 40 points for the Los Angeles Lakers, including a crucial skyhook in overtime, to seal the championship against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Reggie Miller's Eight Points in Nine Seconds (1995)

In a memorable playoff game against the New York Knicks, Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers scored eight points in the final nine seconds, including two three-pointers, to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This incredible feat solidified Miller’s reputation as one of the greatest clutch shooters in NBA history.

Image: Reggie Miller's Eight Points in Nine Seconds (1995) Copyright Sports Illustrated
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LeBron James' "The Block" (2016)

In Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers made a game-changing defensive play known simply as “The Block.” With the game tied and less than two minutes remaining, James chased down a fast-break layup attempt by Andre Iguodala of the Golden State Warriors, pinning the ball against the backboard. This pivotal play helped the Cavaliers secure their first NBA championship.

Image: LeBron James' The Block (2016) Copyright Thearon W Henderson / Getty Images
Image: LeBron James' The Block (2016) Copyright Thearon W Henderson / Getty Images

Dirk Nowitzki's Fadeaway (2011)

In the 2011 NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki led the Dallas Mavericks to a championship victory over the Miami Heat. His unstoppable fadeaway jump shot, which he employed with incredible accuracy, became the defining image of the series and his career.

Image: Dirk Nowitzki's Fadeaway (2011) Copyright Jesse D Garrabrant / Getty Images
Image: Dirk Nowitzki's Fadeaway (2011) Copyright Jesse D Garrabrant / Getty Images

The "Malice at the Palace" (2004)

In a dark moment in NBA history, a brawl erupted between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers during a game in 2004. The incident, known as the “Malice at the Palace,” involved players and fans and resulted in significant suspensions and fines.

It serves as a reminder of the importance of sportsmanship and maintaining professionalism on and off the court.

These famous moments in NBA history reflect the drama, passion, and sheer athleticism that have made the league a global phenomenon. They continue to be celebrated, analysed, and cherished by basketball fans worldwide, highlighting the enduring impact of the NBA on the world of sports.

Image: The Malice at the Palace (2004) Copyright Allen Einstein / Getty Images
Image: The Malice at the Palace (2004) Copyright Allen Einstein / Getty Images

Conclusion

NBA photography is more than just a documentation of basketball games; it’s a form of art that captures the heart and soul of the sport.

These iconic images not only celebrate the achievements of legendary players but also convey the emotions, rivalries, and friendships that define the NBA. As we continue to witness the evolution of the game and the art of photography, these iconic NBA photos will remain timeless, allowing us to relive the magic of basketball’s greatest moments for generations to come.

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