September 16, 2020

Is Bam Adebayo's Block the Greatest Rejection in NBA History?


That's the only reaction a sane person can have after seeing Bam Adebayo's game-saving block on Jayson Tatum in the final seconds of overtime in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

After the Celtics star dribbled past Jimmy Butler he then cocked his arm back for what was about to be a vicious, game-tying slam, but Bam had other plans.

It was a game-changing moment that is already being celebrated as one of the greatest blocks in NBA history. 

Its greatness is undeniable, but is it the best block in NBA playoff history? 

When assessing how great a block is, multiple factors must be taken into account. How difficult was the denial? How big of an impact did it have on the game? Did it happen in the NBA playoffs, or perhaps even the NBA Finals? Did it break Twitter? 

We factored all of that into our ranking of the five greatest blocks in playoff history.

5. Game 4, EDF 1967: Bill Russell Denies Wilt Chamberlain

We have to pay respect to those that came before us. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain are two of the best big men in league history. Their rivalry was legendary, and since the league had fewer teams back then, the two twin towers got to play each other an exorbitant amount of times.

As seen in the clip, Wilt the Stilt gets the ball deep into the paint, takes a power dribble and turns for the one-handed slam, but Russell was right there to meet him. You can hear Wilt’s hand slam against the rim after the ball was rejected, and that sound alone told you Russell saved a monster slam from happening.

4. Game 2, 2013 Finals: LeBron James Extinguishes Tiago Splitter

With the Spurs up one game in the NBA Finals and attempting to mount an improbable fourth-quarter comeback, Tony Parker slipped a gorgeous pocket pass to center Tiago Splitter on the pick-and-roll, setting him up for a monstrous dunk. 

But LeBron James had something to say about it. Positioning himself directly in front of the rising Splitter, James slapped the ball with so much ferocity that it fell directly into Chris Bosh’s hands, igniting a fast break. James’ block was so clean, there was nothing anyone could do about it. He was a man on a mission.

3. Game 2, 2004 ECF: Tayshaun Prince Swats Reggie Miller

This one is special. You have Reggie Miller, with the Pacers up 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals, racing down for a fast-break layup to tie the game and potentially go up by two games. Then, all of a sudden, Tayshaun Prince appears from seemingly thin air, using his pterodactyl-like wingspan to swat Miller’s layup.

The stakes were so high, considering teams with a two-game lead in a playoff series have won the series about 90% of the time. Not only did Prince have to make an incredible block, but he also had to sprint all the way down the court at full speed.

2. Game 1, 2020 ECF: Bam Meets Jayson Tatum At The Rim, Game 1

In this epic rejection, Tatum had a step on Jimmy Butler as he was going for the tie, which would have sent the first game in the series to double-overtime. But Bam was there, lurking, and simply stuffed Tatum. A normal human being's arm would have been shattered, but Adebayo's left arm is apparently made of steel. 

Watching the replay, it was incredible to see how far Bam’s wrist bent backward. It was simply a ridiculous display of strength from Bam, and the fact that it was a game-saving block makes it that much sweeter.

In the immortal words of chef Emeril Lagasse: "BAM!" 

1. Game 7, 2016 Finals: LeBron James Chases Down Andre Iguodala

With under two minutes left in the deciding game of the 2016 NBA Finals, Andre Iguodala was on a fast break, closing in on a likely layup to give the Warriors the lead. But little did he know that the King was just stalking his prey. 

To paint a picture of how difficult this block was, Iggy had just entered the free throw line area while LeBron was still above the 3-point arc. Using his jaw-dropping athletic ability and an impressive wingspan, James leaped to pin Iggy’s attempt to the backboard.

Bron's block was so game-altering that the high-octane Warriors didn't score another point the rest of the game. It was the kind of legacy-defining moment that LeBron had been striving for his entire career. And, boy, did that block have it all. The best player in the NBA, on the game’s grandest stage in a hostile environment, saving the day for the Cavaliers, who were once down 3-1, to win their first title in franchise history.  

Broadcaster Mike Breen's legendary call — ”Ohhh, BLOCKED BY JAMES!” — made the moment even better. 

Those words are surely seared into the brains of any basketball fan. It was a Hollywood ending for James, and it led to LeBron’s third championship. It toppled a 73-win Warriors team and will be remembered forever as the greatest block in NBA history. 

Photo: Getty Images