The Miami Heat took Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night, defeating the Boston Celtics 117-114 in overtime. The headline-making play came from Heat center Bam Adebayo, a first-time All-Star this season and member of the 2019-2020 NBA All-Defense Second Team. Adebayo met Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum at the summit in the closing moments of overtime and blocked the would-be game-tying dunk attempt. It was one of the best blocks in Heat history.
Reactions spanned the gamut on social media. NBA players and celebrates alike fawned in awe. Heat legend Dwyane Wade posted a Dikembe Mutombo gif, his wife, Gabrielle Union, screamed “BAMMMMMMM!!! MONSTER BLOCK!!” Even pop-star Halsey called the Heat “spicyyyyy.”
The NBA legend Magic Johnson came thundering in with his opinion:
Bam Adebayo’s block on Jayson Tatum’s dunk attempt was the best defensive play I’ve seen ever in the playoffs!!!!
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) September 16, 2020
Magic’s hot take sparked plenty of debate across sports networks and social media. But the question is: Was Bam Adebayo’s Block the Greatest Block in Heat History?
No. 5: DWade Blocks Amar’e Stoudemire
Dwyane Wade is largely considered the greatest shot-blocking guard in NBA history. He’s certainly that for the Miami Heat. And while Wade sports so many highlight reel rejections on his resume, perhaps the greatest of those came 2005.
During a late March contest between the Heat and Phoenix Suns, Wade authored one of his signature plays. In the closing moments of the third quarter, Leandro Barbosa ran a pick-and-roll with Amar’e Stoudemire. Barbosa hit the rolling Amar’e with a pocket pass to the middle of the key and Stoudemire rose up for his two-point attempt.
From the weakside, though, Wade flew in and didn’t so much block Amar’e’s shot but spiked it to the court. He gathered the loose ball, took one dribble, then heaved a 60-foot shot from the opposite three-point line as the quarter buzzer sounded. He drilled the shot and the American Airlines Arena exploded.
Wade comes in at No. 5 here because, despite the spectacular nature of the play, the stakes of the game and moment were not at the level of the next four.
No. 4: LeBron Blocks Tiago Splitter
LeBron James holds arguably the greatest block in NBA history: his chase down of Andre Iguodala during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. But he was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers then, so that play doesn’t count.
For the Heat, James’ most impactful block came during Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals. In the fourth quarter, coming off a Game 1 loss, the Heat held a tenuous lead. Off an inbounds play, the Spurs ran a pick-and-roll with Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter. Miami’s aggressive defense backfired when Splitter slipped the screen and Parker found him with a perfect bounce pass.
Splitter thought he had an easy dunk, but James had other ideas. James erased the dunk attempt at its peak. Splitter tried the spike the ball one-handed, but James swallowed the attempt right at the front of the rim. The ensuing fast break led to a corner three from Ray Allen (on a James assist) to give Miami a 89-67 lead en route to the Game 2 victory.
James holds No. 4 here because, while the block itself was spectacular, that game was largely in hand at that point.
No. 3: Zo Blocks Jason Terry
Alonzo Mourning remains the Miami Heat’s all-time leader in blocks. He tallied 1,625 of them in 593 games over 11 seasons. In 82 career playoff games with the Heat, Zo rejected 171 shots.
Perhaps the biggest and most important of those came in Game 6 of the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. While Zo never led Miami to the championship as a centerpiece of the team, his pivotal defensive stop late in Game 6 helped the Heat hoist the franchise’s first trophy.
The Heat clung to a five-point lead in the fourth quarter in Dallas when the Mavs had a fast break. Jason Terry attacked from the wing and hoisted a runner. Zo came flying down the lane to swat Terry’s attempt into the seats. He tumbled to the court and seemed to be excited about the block. It was later revealed Zo was angry with Gary Payton.
Remember Zo's block in the 2006 Finals vs Jason Terry? He wasn't celebrating the block; he was mad at Gary Payton for turning the ball over.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) August 6, 2014
Mourning’s effort on the play and in that game (eight points, six rebounds and a game-high five blocks) helped the Miami Heat win their first ever NBA Championship. He gets No. 3 on this list because, even though that was a play Heat fans saw Zo accomplish nearly 2,000 times in his career, the stakes were never higher.
No. 2: Bam Blocks Jayson Tatum
The Heat’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals remains on of the most impressive and unlikely stories in the NBA this season. One of the main reasons for Miami’s ascension up the East ladder has been the play of Bam Adebayo.
Overlooked during the draft, the Heat have modeled Bam into one of the league’s most impactful young players. He’s a prototypical neo-big, with an ability to score, handle and defend across multiple positions. Nowhere was Bam’s defensive acumen on display more than the closing moments of last night’s Game 1.
Down two, the Boston Celtics turned to their 22-year-old All-Star Jayson Tatum in hopes of tying the game. Bam had other plans. Tatum worked past Jimmy Butler and launched himself toward the rim. He cocked back the ball with one-hand as Bam rotated over and elevated to meet him.
Bam erased Tatum’s dunk attempt with his offhand, avoiding any physical contact and potential whistle. The ball remained in play, Bam secured it and was fouled. The Heat secured the Game 1 win on the back of Bam’s defensive brilliance.
No. 1: Bosh Blocks Danny Green
The Big 3 Experiment was on the line in the 2013 NBA Finals. Sure, the Heat had won in 2012, but two Finals losses in three years could have spelled the end for the Wade, James and Chris Bosh triumvirate.
Bosh played a pivotal role down the stretch of Game 6 in 2013. The famous play will always remain Bosh’s rebound and assist to Allen to tie the game near the end of regulation. But in overtime, after the Heat had taken a 3-point lead, the Spurs had a final chance to tie the contest.
With less than two seconds remaining, Tim Duncan found Danny Green racing to the opposite corner. Green had come free after a Splitter screen. Bosh sprinted to the corner and timed his block perfectly. With Green fading off the floor, Bosh met him and spiked the ball down. Spurs cried foul then, and it would most certainly be a foul now, but it wasn’t one in 2013.
It’s the greatest of all Miami Heat blocks because it capped the most unlikely comeback and saved the Big 3 Era in the process.