News Column

ESPN Ranks Top 25 Playoff Performances -- in Every Sport

June 21, 2012

Kirkland Crawford has ranked the 25 greatest performances in playoff history.

What's that? What sport, you ask? All four major sports.

With all the rich history among the Tigers, Red Wings, Lions and Pistons, there's not as much Detroit love throughout the 100 listed.

In the NBA, the top performance is by Magic Johnson, who, as a rookie, played center in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals and recorded 42 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Lakers to the title-clinching win in Philadelphia. Not bad for a guy who just led the Spartans to the NCAA title a year earlier.

Michael Jordan is mentioned eight times in the list, including the Flu Game (1997 finals) at No. 2 and the 63 points against the Celtics in '86 at No. 3. Fourth is LeBron James' 48 points -- and 25 straight -- at the Palace in the 2007 East finals (sorry, Pistons fans). At five is James Worthy's 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in Game 7 of the 1988 finals (double sorry, Pistons fans). The lone Detroit representation is all the way down to 15th for Isiah Thomas' 43 points, most on a bum ankle, in Game 6 of that '88 series (triple sorry, Pistons fans).

For baseball, No. 1 is a no-brainer: Don Larsen's perfect game in the '56 World Series. At No. 4 is Bob Gibson, who struck out 17 Tigers in Game 1 of the '68 Series, but the Tigers overcame that one. At No. 23 is Mickey Lolich's performance (nine innings, one earned run, five hits on just two days' rest) in that same series.

Despite all the Hockeytown history, there isn't much Detroit representation on the NHL list. At No. 8 is Wings goalie Normie Smith in the '36 Cup finals against the Toronto Maroons, who had 92 (?!?!?!) saves for the shutout in the six-overtime victory. The Wings were burned a couple of times on the list: fifth is Maple Leafs defenseman Bobby Baun, who scored a goal while playing with a broken ankle in Game 6 of the 1964 finals; ninth is the Leafs' Sid Smith, who had three power play goals in the '49 finals.

The top ranking in the NHL is Rangers captain Mark Messier, who scored three times in Game 6 of the East finals against the Devils, a game he guaranteed New York would win, which they did, 4-2.

As for the NFL, well, the Lions aren't mentioned. But what do you expect when they've won two playoff games in 50-plus years. But a couple of former Wolverines (Desmond Howard, Super Bowl XXXI for Packers, and Tom Brady, second-round game vs. Denver in 2011) in the 20s.

Source: (c) 2012 the Detroit Free Press

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