For die-hard basketball fanatics, there are few thrills as exhilarating as seeing an underdog team rise to the occasion and pull out an unexpected victory, especially when the competition is fierce and both teams are delivering their highest level of performance. These moments are rare and magnificent. They become forever stamped in the minds of fans, their significance amplified by the countless replays, city-wide celebrations and national news headlines that follow them.
They are one of the greatest sources of adrenaline for basketball enthusiasts, causing onlookers to leap from their seats, or sometimes, simply stare in awe. It’s the essence of what makes competition so enticing— that narrow window of opportunity, the tantalizing thought that with enough dedication, training, and teamwork, a team can turn a faint glimmer of hope into a blaze of glory. Yet, many fans disagree on which game should lay claim to the biggest comeback in NBA history. So, in today’s post, we’ll be taking a closer look at a few of the most unforgettable redemption moments to ever occur on the court.
The 3 Greatest NBA Comebacks of All Time
1. Utah Jazz vs Denver Nuggets – November 26, 1996
Utah Jazz fans were disheartened to see their team losing on their home turf. The team was trailing the Nuggets at the halftime mark with the score sitting at 70-36. Those who were in attendance remember the crowd booing, a testament to the fact that devoted Jazz fans were unable to contain their disappointment.
But the team wasn’t done. An impressive 19-6 run in the last quarter, accompanied by a 3-pointer from Chris Morris, tied the game with just 4:38 remaining on the board. It was a twist of fate unlike any other. In the end, Jazz point guard John Stockton secured the game with two free throws with a mere 5.7 seconds left on the clock, securing his team the title of “Biggest Comeback in NBA History”.
FINAL SCORE: 107-103 in favor of Utah
2. Sacramento Kings vs Chicago Bulls – December 21, 2009
A list of the biggest NBA comebacks wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of this chart-busting game, which was the greatest upset in 13 years at the time it occurred.
The Chicago Bulls were in a comfy position heading into the last half of the third quarter with a lead of 79-44 at the 8:50 mark. It looked like it would be a hometown victory for the Bulls and the nearly 20,000 fans in attendance at the United Centre in Chicago, Illinois were energized with excitement.
Unfortunately for Chicago, the Kings embarked on a 19-5 run before the end of the third, closing the gap to 88-69. Then, Tyreke Evans, the renowned rookie point guard, sealed the deal. He scored all 9 shots for the Kings in the final two minutes of the game and the Bulls just couldn’t keep up. It was a career-defining performance that led to Evans becoming the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in his rookie year.
FINAL SCORE: 102-98 in favor of Sacramento
3. Chicago Bulls vs Denver Nuggets – February 4, 1996
When the Chicago Bulls stepped onto the court on February 4, 1996, they were riding the wave of an 18-game winning streak— a record-setting run for the team. The game wasn’t much of a nail-biter, with the Nuggets leading 66-35 by the end of the first quarter, and again 66-43 at halftime. But it’s what happened in the last two quarters that qualifies this game to be considered for the largest comeback in NBA history.
Despite being led by Michael Jordan, who scored an impressive 39 points during the game and managed to push the Bulls ahead in the last quarter, the Nuggets persevered. Dale Ellis landed a jump shot that finalized the game, putting his opponent’s hot streak on ice.
It was a historic triumph for the Denver Nuggets. And even though the defeat was especially disappointing, Jordan kept a positive attitude about his team’s performance in the aftermath of what many referred to as the greatest comeback in NBA history.
“Anyone in this league can be beaten on a given night. They outplayed us in the first half, and Mahmoud hit some big baskets. It was one of those bumps. It’s important not to turn it into a hill,” he told the Chicago Tribune.
FINAL SCORE: 105-99 in favor of Denver
Whether you agree with the games we’ve chosen, or think another showdown is worthy of being named the best comeback in NBA history, there’s one thing we can all agree on— the fast-paced, back-and-forth nature of basketball and the extraordinary moments of redemption it provides make it one of the most electrifying sports the world has to offer.
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