Basketball fans are trapped indoors with no NBA season to help them pass the time — but they’re not completely out of luck. Hundreds of classic games are ready to be streamed online for free thanks to YouTube and NBA League Pass, a subscription service that the NBA is offering, partly, at no charge during the coronavirus shutdown. Here are 30 games — one from each team — that are worth running back or catching for the first time, along with some honorable mentions. Check these out on YouTube or NBA League Pass Classic Games by searching the given titles if you want to enjoy a new classic game.
What you should watch: 1988 Atlanta Hawks – Boston Celtics (YouTube)
The Hawks wound up losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 22, 1988, by two points, but those who saw the game remember it as one of the greatest contests in NBA history. Boston’s Larry Bird and Atlanta’s Dominique Wilkins put on highlight-reel shows, scoring 34 and 47 points, respectively. The legendary game culminated in an epic fourth-quarter showdown between the two giants that made viewers forget that they weren’t watching a game of one on one.
Honorable mention: 1987 Houston Rockets @ Atlanta Hawks 2/1/87 Twin Towers Dominique Wilkins (YouTube)
What you should watch: 1986 NBA Playoffs Game 2 (Full game) HD – Chicago Bulls@Boston Celtics (YouTube)
The ’86 Celtics were arguably the greatest basketball team ever assembled, and they would go on to win it all that year. It all started in Round 1 of the playoffs when Larry Bird and the Celtics squared off against the Bulls led by a young Michael Jordan. In one of the most thrilling games ever, the Celtics won in double overtime despite Jordan having a career game with 63 points including 19 of 21 from the free-throw line.
Honorable mention: Celtics Battle Suns Through 3 OTs in Epic Finals Game (NBA.com Classic Games)
What you should watch: Full Game 2006 season Heat @ Nets VC 43 pts 04.02.06 (YouTube)
The Nets were the best team in basketball going into their game against the Heat on April 2, 2006. In one of history’s great duels, the Heat’s Dwayne Wade put up 32 points — not enough to stave off Nets star Vince Carter’s 43.
Honorable mention: 2002 New Jersey Nets vs Indiana Pacers Game 5 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
What you should watch: Alonzo Mourning Lifts Hornets to Franchise’s First Playoff Series Win (NBA.com Classic Games)
On May 5, 1993, the great Alonzo Mourning delivered the Hornets their first taste of life beyond the first round of the playoffs. Charlotte squeaked past Boston with a nail-biting 104-103 finish.
Honorable mention: CP3 & Steve Nash Duel In 2OT (YouTube)
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What you should watch: Michael Jordan and Bulls Win 1st Championship (NBA.com Classic Games)
Before 1991, the Bulls were a franchise without a championship. By decade’s end, they would be known as the greatest dynasty in history. This game signaled the start of that transformation.
Honorable mention: Michael Jordan: The Shot (NBA.com Classic Games)
What you should watch: The LeBron Game. Cavs Win in 2OT After LeBron Goes Off (NBA.com Classic Games)
King James was in no mood for losing on May 31, 2007. LeBron put up 48 — including all 25 of the Cavs’ final points — to bring Cleveland within one game of the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history.
Honorable mention: Cavs Beat Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards in OT to Advance (NBA.com Classic Games)
What you should watch: 2006 San Antonio Spurs vs Dallas Mavericks Game 7 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
ESPN ranked the ’06 Mavs-Spurs showdown as the No. 3 greatest playoff series of all time. Five of the series’ seven games came within two points. All the white-knuckle tension and high drama came to a climax in this epic Game 7.
Honorable mention: OKC Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks Full Game 10 8 2019 (YouTube)
What you should watch: Eighth-Seeded Nuggets Upset Sonics in NBA’s Biggest Upset (NBA.com Classics)
The Sonics were looking for an easy sweep going into the 1994 playoffs as virtually no one gave the underdog Nuggets a sliver of a chance against top-seeded Seattle. On May 7, however, the Sonics got a lesson about underestimating your opponents when Denver completed one of the greatest David vs. Goliath upsets in not just the history of basketball but all of sports.
Honorable mention: (23.03.2011) San Antonio Spurs@Denver Nuggets (Full Game)
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What you should watch: 1988 NBA Playoffs Game 2 (Full Game) – Chicago Bulls@Detroit Pistons (YouTube)
Before Jordan’s dynasty hit its stride in the 1990s, the bad-boy Pistons were known as Bulls killers and the legendary Detroit-Chicago rivalry was at its most intense. In the 1988 Eastern Conference Semifinals, that rivalry was nearing its climax and although this is the only game of the series that Chicago won, it features an amazing performance by Jordan and puts the franchises’ mutual bad blood on full display.
Honorable mention: 1988 Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons Game 7 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
Golden State Warriors
What you should watch: Warriors Championship Run Led by Rick Barry’s 36 Pts (NBA.com Classic Games)
On May 20, 1975, the Warriors squared off with Washington for Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Although the Warriors were behind by 13 at one point, they came roaring back to a 92-91 victory to secure a 2-0 lead thanks largely to a 36-point contribution from Rick Barry.
Honorable mention: Mitch Richmond Scores 40 Points for the Warriors Beating Out the Trailblazers (NBA.com Classic Games)
What you should watch: Harden Notches First Career 60-PT Triple-Double (YouTube)
On Jan. 30, 2018, James Harden put on what might just be the greatest performance in NBA history. That night, the Magic were in the unfortunate position of going up against a very inspired Harden, who would become the first player ever to score a 60-point triple-double that included 10 rebounds, 11 assists and, of course, 60 points.
Honorable mention: James Harden’s Debut For The Rockets (YouTube)
What you should watch: 1994 New York Knicks vs Indiana Pacers Game 5 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
The Pacers would go on to lose the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals to the Knicks, but for Game 5, it was Miller time at the Garden. With the series even at 2-2, Indiana’s Reggie Miller put on a career performance with 39 points that culminated in a late-game flurry of 25 points, including five baskets from behind the three-point line, in the fourth quarter alone.
Honorable mention: George & James Duel (YouTube)
Los Angeles Clippers
What you should watch: NBA OKC Thunder@LA Clippers 2012.01.30 – Full Game (YouTube)
On Jan. 30, 2012, the Clippers beat the Thunder 112-100 in an all-around awesome game. DeAndre Johnson grabbed 11 boards and Blake Griffin put up 22 points. Chris Paul put up 26, Russell Westbrook banked 31 and Kevin Durant scored 36 points.
Honorable mention: CP3 Calls Game (YouTube)
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Los Angeles Lakers
What you should watch: Kobe Bryant Scores Career High of 81 Points Against Toronto Raptors (NBA.com Classic Games)
On. Jan. 22, 2006, 27-year-old Kobe Bryant had the game of his career when he scored an astonishing 81 points as the roaring crowd chanted “MVP! MVP!” The performance by the late Laker great is No. 2 only to Wilt Chamberlain’s famous 100-point game in 1962.
Honorable mention: Lakers Force Game 7 in First Bird-Magic Finals Showdown (NBA.com Classic Games)
What you should watch: NBA Playoffs 2011 R2 G4 Thunder @ Grizzlies 3 OT THRILLER Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Randolph (YouTube)
The Memphis Grizzlies lost Game 4 of the 2011 playoffs, but the game was one for the ages nonetheless. The first triple-overtime playoff matchup since the Bulls met the Celtics in 2009, the marathon game was disguised as a sprint, with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol turning in thrilling performances.
Honorable mention: Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs Full Game 10.18.2019 (YouTube)
What you should watch: Alonzo Mourning Career High 50 Points Lands Miami Heat Victorious (NBA.com Classic Games)
On March 29, 1996, the Heat topped the Washington Bullets 112-93. Nearly half of those points came from one man. Alonzo Mourning put up a career-high 50 points, which ties him for the No. 3 spot for most points from a center in a single game from that day until now.
Honorable mention: LeBron Scores Career-High & Miami Heat Record 61 PTS (YouTube)
What you should watch: Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson Lead Bucs to Title (NBA.com Classic Games)
On April 30, 1971, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was still known as Lew Alcindor. That night, he and Oscar Robertson led the Bucks to become only the second team in NBA history to pull off a four-game sweep in a championship series. That night, they finished off the Baltimore Bullets 118-106.
Honorable mention: Birdless Celtics Unable to Stop the Bucks (NBA.com Classic Games)
What you should watch: Kevin Garnett Dominates WCSF Game 7 (YouTube)
May 19, 2004, was Kevin Garnett’s birthday — and the newly minted 28-year-old celebrated in style. In what NBA.com refers to as “the most iconic win in franchise history,” the Wolves beat the Sacramento Kings 83-80 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Garnett was a beast, putting up 32 points and grabbing 21 rebounds. He also had two assists, four steals and five blocks.
Honorable mention: Derrick Rose Drops Career-High 50 PTS (YouTube)
New Orleans Pelicans
What you should watch: New Orleans Pelicans vs Atlanta Hawks Full Game 10 8 2019 Trim (YouTube)
The Pelicans beat the Hawks at home in exciting fashion on Oct. 8, 2019. Although not quite a route, the 133-109 final score was a moment that Atlanta would probably like to forget, especially considering they endured the trouncing at home.
Honorable mention: New Orleans Pelicans vs Chicago Bulls Full Game 2019.10.09 (YouTube)
New York Knicks
What you should watch: Gutsy Willis Reed Rallies Knicks (NBA.com Classic Games)
Knicks captain Willis Reed started the 1970 Finals series against the Lakers in primo form, putting up 37, 29, 38 and 23 points in the first four games while averaging 15 rebounds. Then he suffered a deep thigh injury that nearly knocked him — and the Knicks — out of the playoffs. He found a way to tough it out, however, and limped onto the court for Game 7 to a wild roar from the Garden crowd. He actually beat Wilt Chamberlain on the tipoff then scored the team’s first basket as well as its second. Although those were his only two buckets, his grit inspired the Knicks to steamroll over the Lakers.
Honorable mention: Alonzo Mourning Takes Patrick Ewing and the Knicks to Double OT (NBA.com Classic Games)
Oklahoma City Thunder
What you should watch: Russell Westbrook Makes Triple-Double History (YouTube)
April was the heart of Russell Westbrook’s push for the title of 2016-17 MVP. On April 9, 2017, Westbrook made history when he broke an NBA record by tallying his record-setting 42nd triple-double in a single season — one that came with 50 points. For good measure, he also sunk a buzzer-beater that won the game.
Honorable mention: OKC Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks Full Game 10 8 2019 (YouTube)
What you should watch: Tracy McGrady Explodes For Career-High 62 PTS (YouTube)
On March 10, 2004, it was clear early on that Tracy McGrady was in the zone and not looking to get out of it. He scored 21 in the second quarter, 24 in the third and by the time the dust settled around the vanquished Washington Wizards, McGrady had a career-high 62 points on the board.
Honorable mention: NBA Playoffs 1995. Indiana Pacers @ Orlando Magic. Game 2. Shaq 39pts vs Miller 37pts. (YouTube)
What you should watch: Dr. J and Andrew Toney Lead Philadelphia (NBA.com Classics)
The city of Philadelphia was on edge on May 3, 1982. The Sixers had allowed a 3-1 lead slip away as the Boston Celtics forced a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. That night, however, the great Julius “Dr. J” Erving was joined by Andrew Toney in leading the Sixers to glory, although they would go on to lose to the Lakers in the Finals.
Honorable mention: Iverson Scores 44 as Sixers Clinch a Wild Series (NBA.com Classics)
What you should watch: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd Duel in 2OT Thriller (YouTube)
The title pretty much sums it up for this one. Back when they were still called the New Jersey Nets, Jason Kidd’s superhuman effort — not to mention his 38 points — were not enough to contain Steve Nash’s 42-point push to make sure the Suns came out on top. This epic shootout finally came to a close after two overtimes with a final score of 161-157.
Honorable mention: 1993 NBA Finals Game 3 (Full game) – Chicago Bulls@Phoenix Suns (YouTube)
Portland Trail Blazers
What you should watch: Karl Malone’s 35/10 Not Enough vs. Trail Blazers (NBA.com Classic Games)
The Trail Blazers took on the Jazz in front of a capacity crowd on April 29, 1996. Karl Malone put on a show — including 35 points — but in the end, it wasn’t enough to get past Portland.
Honorable mention: Dame Hits Game Winner To Advance to 2014 WCSF (YouTube)
What you should watch: 2002 Sacramento Kings vs Los Angeles Lakers Game 5 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
Kobe Bryant put up 30 points in this showdown, which was almost enough to lift the Lakers past the Kings in this close and exciting Game 5 battle — “almost” being the keyword. Mike Bibby dashed the Lakers’ hopes with a dramatic shot that helped Sacramento clinch the win, 92-91.
Honorable mention: 2001 Sacramento Kings vs Indiana Pacers NBA Hardwood Classics Chris Webber Career-High! (YouTube)
San Antonio Spurs
What you should watch: George ‘Iceman’ Gervin Leads the Spurs to a Game 2 Win (NBA.com Classic Games)
The 1985 Western Conference Finals was an exciting affair, with the Nuggets coming close in Game 2 to beating the Spurs. The Spurs found a way to come out on top by a single basket for a final score of 113-111 — and that way was none other than the Iceman George Gervin.
Honorable mention: Duncan Leads Spurs To 3rd Championship In Franchise History (YouTube)
What you should watch: Kawhi Hits Series Ending Buzzer-Beater In Game 7 (YouTube)
Before 2019, no NBA team had ever won a Game 7 on a buzzer-beater. That all changed, however, on May 12 of that year when Kawhi Leonard did just that, propelling the Raptors over the Sixers and on to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Honorable mention: 2001 Philadelphia 76ers vs Toronto Raptors Game 2 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
What you should watch: 1998 NBA Finals Game 6 HD (Full game) (YouTube)
The Jazz gave the mighty Bulls a run for their money in the 1998 Finals. Going into Game 6, the Jazz were down 3-2 and looking for a series tie. They almost got it, but fate had willed Michael Jordan to make a legendary 20-foot jumper to seal the game 87-86. It was, at the time, Jordan’s final shot in the NBA, although he’d later come out of retirement.
Honorable mention: 1993 Seattle Supersonics vs Utah Jazz Game 5 NBA Hardwood Classics (YouTube)
What you should watch: NBA 2016/17 : Detroit Pistons vs Washington Wizards – Dec 16, 2016 (YouTube)
Led by John Wall, who tallied 29 points and 11 assists, the Wizards put on a clinic in this brilliant win over the Pistons. Washington committed a season-low five turnovers on their way to victory.
Honorable mention: Wall Forces Game 7 (YouTube)
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About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.