As the NBA and its broadcast partners go back into the archives for historic games to air during the current sports-less time, there are certain favorites they keep coming back to. It’s satisfying to watch the Lakers beat the Celtics — at any point in history — but it certainly feels like Game 7 of the 2010 Finals has been on every other day over the last two weeks.
The Lakers have won 16 championships and have an extensive catalog of great moments throughout their history. If the NBA is keen on keeping the Lakers on television, which is probably smart marketing strategy, there are plenty of other games to choose from. With that in mind, here are 10 great Lakers games that I’d like to see re-air until NBA basketball returns. We’ll keep these limited to the playoffs so that the stakes are sufficiently high for non-Lakers fans to be invested.
1. 2010 Finals Game 3
Closeout games are a naturally tense affair, and they don’t always bring out the best in both teams. There is entertainment value in seeing players navigate through the nerves of the situation, but from a pure basketball perspective, Game 7s are generally not the best a series has to offer. If we’re sticking with the 2010 Finals, a preferable option would be Game 3, when the Lakers regained homecourt advantage by winning in Boston, and Derek Fisher added to his clutch resume.
2. 2010 Conference Finals Game 6
The Ron Artest game-winner in Game 5 against Phoenix is a flashbulb moment, and arguably more important to the overall outcome of the series, but the Kobe Bryant shot-making at the end of this game, along with the Alvin Gentry love tap, is unparalleled. This game is also worth watching for the Slovenian feud that let the Suns back into the game in the fourth quarter, setting up Bryant’s heroics at the end.
3. 2010 Conference Semifinals Game 3
The Lakers got Artest in the 2009 offseason because they needed a premier wing defender, someone who could contend with the likes of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in the playoffs. The Jazz didn’t really have a small forward of note for him to guard, but that let Artest show off on offense more than anyone really expected. The Lakers and the Jazz knew each other so well at this point after three straight years of meeting in the postseasons, and it led to a really fun game.
4. 2010 First Round Game 6
Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and James Harden’s first playoff series really lives up to the hype. They gave the defending champs everything they could handle. Fortunately for the Lakers, as Kobe would say, the Spaniard really showed out in this one.
5. 2009 Finals Game 4
Another series where the closeout game doesn’t do justice to the series as a whole, and another Derek Fisher special. The Lakers were in danger of losing their second straight contest to Orlando and letting the Magic tie the series when they completed a frantic comeback to end regulation. I was studying abroad in Beijing at the time, desperately trying to delay our tour bus to the Great Wall so I could finish watching this game.
6. 2009 Conference Finals Game 5
Even though the round before this went seven games, the conference finals were the most stressful because this Denver team was damn good. Games 1 and 3 also demand a rewatch, but I’m partial to this one because of the Shannon Brown factor.
7. 2006 First Round Game 4
This is the lone game on the list from a series that the Lakers didn’t win, but it’s also the best highlight between the title years. Some may pick the 0.4 shot; personally, games against the Suns are far more aesthetically pleasing than ones against the Spurs. The Suns outclassed the Lakers pretty thoroughly in terms of total talent, but the Lakers had Kobe. And that made this game an instant classic. Just watching the players Bryant celebrates with after the game makes you appreciate just how faithful he was to this franchise.
8. 2002 Conference Finals Game 4
There was heightened drama later in the series, but this game is the most watchable of the Lakers/Kings battles. It features the most iconic shot of this championship run, and arguably of the entire three-peat, and its magnitude cannot be overstated. Had the Lakers lost, they would be going into Sacramento down three games to one, their repeat hopes in real jeopardy.
9. 2000 NBA Finals game 4
Arguably the origin of the Kobe Bryant mythology. Down one star, the Lakers needed their other one to step up, and he came through. The clincher of this series is also outstanding, but what this game meant for Bryant historically gives it the edge.
10. 2000 Conference Finals Game 7
The fourth-quarter comeback of this game is the moment that made me a diehard Lakers fan, and I can’t imagine that I’m alone. The Lakers were dominant during the regular season but they kept testing their invincibility during the playoffs, dropping closeout games left and right before ending up at this point. Down 15 points in the fourth, they were close to being another flameout instead of becoming one of the greatest teams in league history. It’s not often you get to witness the birth of a dynasty.