This list is scattered with some of the best NBA players of all time and it proves that even superstars can have days off in the life of professional sports. It is the nature of pro sports and especially basketball, since the superstar is going to have the ball most of the time and thus a lot of the worst performances that I came across were not actually that terrible. At the end of the day their stat line was not that bad and in a couple of cases they were spectacular.
In Game 2 of this year's Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks, Thunder forward and four-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant shot just 7-33. The 26 misses and 21.2 percent shooting percentage were both the worst of Durant's career. It wasn't the type of performance we're accustomed to seeing from Durant, but he still managed 21 points and it was far from the worst playoff performance in NBA history.
One of my main points of emphasis when formulating my list was how many shots the superstars took and how many they missed. That being said the likes of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and even the greatest of all time Michael Jordan have made this list. It was shocking to see how terrible some of the greatest players the game has ever seen can be, but at the end of the day they won multiple championships in most instances and they have a forever lasting legacy in the game.
Here are the 15 worst single game playoff performances by NBA superstars:
15 Kobe Bryant - Game 7, 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals
What makes this game extra terrible is not the stat line that Kobe managed to put up, but how he just seemed to quit on the team during Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Quarterfinals. He took the most shots of his career during the 2005-06 season by averaging 27.2 shots per game, but during this game he took 16 shots including only three in the second half. There are a lot of reasons to love Kobe and what he did for the Lakers during his career, but this game was the first instance when he was accused of quitting on the team and one of his many examples of acting like a big baby. Regardless, he did manage to score 24 points during this game and his field goal percentage was 50% so that is why is I do not view it worthy to be higher on this list.
14 Kobe Bryant - Game 1, 2004 NBA Finals
Number 15 was baby Kobe at his best and number 14 on this list has the ego-maniac and greedy Kobe at his best. Game 1 of the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons was in lieu of the fragmented relationship between Kobe and Shaq and even though Shaq was having a monster game, Kobe continued to take terrible shot after terrible shot. Kobe finished the game 10-of-27 and 24 points which is not that terrible a night, but Shaq was clearly the better option and Kobe just had to be the star of the show and the team suffered and wound up losing the series in five games in one of the biggest upsets in modern NBA history.
13 Shawn Kemp - Game 3, 2006 NBA Finals
The Seattle SuperSonics were heavy underdogs to one of the best teams in NBA history, the Chicago Bulls, in the 1996 NBA Finals but behind superstars Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, they made a series of it eventually losing to the Bulls in six games. They started the series down 2-0 and needed their versatile forward to step up in a big way during Game 3. Unfortunately, Kemp only went 4-of-7 for 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks as the Supersonics were blown out by the Bulls 108-86.
12 Michael Jordan - Game 5, 1989 Eastern Conference Finals
Even the GOAT can have a bad playoff game and Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference Finals against the eventual NBA Champion Detroit Pistons was not terrible, but it was not up to typical Michael Jordan standards. He took only 8 shots for 18 points but did manage 9 assists and 5 rebounds. The Pistons of this era were known for their stifling defense led by the likes of Joe Dumars and the rest of the “bad boys” and they were able to handle Jordan and the rest of the Bulls and pull out this series.
11 Wilt Chamberlain - Game 7, 1969 Eastern Division Final
Wilt Chamberlain was always a man that was known for his big numbers on and off the court, but during Game 7 of the 1968 Eastern Division Final Wilt only took one shot during the second half and due to his passivity the Celtics were able to come back from a 3-1 deficit and defeat the 76ers. I did not put Chamberlain higher on this list because despite his poor offensive numbers he still managed to pull down a very impressive 34 rebounds.
10 Dirk Nowitzki - Game 3, 2006 NBA Finals
Prior to the Dallas Mavericks 2011 NBA Championship, Dirk Nowitzki’s best chance to win a title was in 2006 when his Mavericks were up 2-0 against the Miami Heat and needed him to step up in Game 3 and take a stranglehold on the series. Instead Nowitzki went 2-14 from the field and the Heat won the game by 24 points. The Heat then seized control of the series and won the 2006 NBA Championship in six games. Nowitzki and the Mavericks would win the rematch five years later.
9 LeBron James - Game 1, 2007 NBA Finals
This was LeBron’s first game on the big stage and his debut appearance in the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the veteran San Antonio Spurs dominated the Cavaliers and won the title in four straight games and Game 1 was LeBron's worst. He was only 4-of-16 for 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. As we all know James has won two championships with the Miami Heat, but his career did not start off well when it came to winning rings in Cleveland.
8 Lebron James - Game 5, 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals
Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics was the King's last game for the Cavaliers and he left a very underwhelming impression on his former team. This was partially due to rumors circulating about teammates Delonte West’s relationship with his mother, but for whatever reason James seemed disinterested and bored during the game. His final stat line was 3-of-14 for 15 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists and the Celtics wound up winning the series in six games. The reason I did not rank James higher on this list for his two appearances was because unlike the other superstars on this list, he contributed to his team in ways other than scoring.
7 Dirk Nowitzki - Game 6, 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals
Nowitzki bounced back from facing questions all year about his sub par performance during the 2006 NBA Finals by winning the 2007 NBA MVP Trophy, but then during the playoffs he totally flopped. The Mavericks were the number one seed in the Western Conference but became the first team to lose in the first round since the playoffs switched to the current seven game format. During Game 6 of the 2007 Western Conference Quarterfinals, Dirk managed only 8 points, 10 rebounds and 2 assists as the Mavericks lost to the Golden State Warriors. Nowitzki felt the pressure of the Warriors defense plus the Oracle Arena crowd and simply choked, but he still almost managed a double-double and that is why he is not higher on the list.
6 Karl Malone - Game 6, 1999 Western Conference Semifinals
Malone is one of the best players of all time, but Game 6 of the 1999 Western Conference Semifinals is one of a few instances in his career that he just did not show up when it mattered most. A lot was expected from Malone since during the regular season he won his second NBA MVP award but he was 3-of-16 for 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. The Mailman most definitely did not deliver in this case as the upstart Portland Trail Blazers eliminated the favored Utah Jazz.
5 Kobe Bryant - Game 6, 2008 NBA Finals
As bad as Kobe was during Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics, he is not higher on my list. He was looking to lead the Lakers to victory and was victim once again to his over shooting ways and wound up 7-of-22 for 22 points. The game started out close in the first quarter, but the Celtics led by their suffocating defense won the game by 39 points. Kobe was known for numerous clutch performances during his hall of fame career, but clearly this was not one of them.
4 Larry Johnson - Game 2, 1999 NBA Finals
The New York Knicks led by Larry Johnson were supposed to contend for the 1999 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs but that just did not happen. The Knicks were beaten 4-1 largely due to Grandmama’s poor play during the series. His worst game was in Game 2 when he managed only 5 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist. Johnson may not be one of the bigger names on this list, but he is as high as he is on this list because unlike almost everyone else, he did not record double digits in any statistical category. To make matters worse he also referred to his teammates as “rebellious slaves” which was curious since he earned $10 million in salary during the year.
3 Dennis Johnson - Game 7, 1979 NBA Finals
Johnson guided the Seattle Supersonics to the NBA Title in 1979 and he also won the Finals MVP award but the year before, he was a shadow of himself. He is one of two players on this list to not make a single field goal as he went 0-for-14 during Game 7 of the 1978 Finals. The more upsetting part of Johnson’s terrible stat line is that the SuperSonics only lost the game by a mere four points. So if Johnson had even had a mediocre game and made even a couple of shots, the Sonics would have went on to become two-time NBA Champions.
2 Reggie Miller- Game 1, 2000 NBA Finals
Reggie Miller is known as one of the most accurate shooters in NBA history but during Game 1 of the 2000 NBA Finals he did not show up. The Indiana Pacers were facing a powerhouse Lakers squad and needed their superstar to put up a big performance, but he fell flat on his face. Miller made only 1 of his 16 shots for 7 points. Miller’s play did dramatically improve over the rest of the series, but the Pacers still lost the title to the Lakers in six games.
1 Ray Allen - Game 5, 2010 NBA Finals
Ray Allen is the current NBA record holder for three pointers made and attempted during the regular season and holds various other playoff, all-star and franchise 3-point shooting records in his career. Unfortunately, none of this mattered during Game 3 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. He did not make any of 13 shots and scored only 2 points and this is why he is number one on this list, since he scored the least amount of points of anyone mentioned. The Celtics lost the series in seven games and if they had gotten any offense from their sharpshooter in Game 5, it might have been a different story.