The difference between "moment" and "momentum" is just two letters, and in the NBA playoffs, that pretty much makes sense. Why? Because a single play can have so much impact, changing a game or even altering a series. Many of these moments can morph into iconic pictures that identify a memorable event with a single image.
There's no telling how this year's playoffs will turn out, of course. But remember when Derrick Rose drove the lane against the 76ers and crumpled to the floor, clutching his knee in pain? That encapsulated the demise of the top-seeded Bulls, who were eliminated in the first round.
Who can forget Amare Stoudemire's close encounter with the fire extinguisher case? The picture of the Knicks star skulking out of the arena with his hand heavily bandaged could stand as a metaphor for his underdog team's showing against the Heat.
|Slideshow: Top 10 iconic playoff moments|
And speaking of the Heat, shouldn't someone have instructed Dwyane Wade and coach Erik Spoelstra to go to their rooms after their unwise verbal dust-up on national TV? If the heavily favored Heat fail to go all the way, that public spat could become the emblem of what ultimately made the team dysfunctional.
The history of the NBA playoffs is dotted with similar moments. The passage of time has seared them into fans' memories, and most can be identified with just a few words.
"Havlicek stole the ball!" immediately conjures up the night of April 15, 1965, when broadcaster Johnny Most delivered his famous line after the Celtics star intercepted Hal Greer's pass to sew up the Eastern Conference title over Philadelphia.
Some argue that the seeds of the Bulls dynasty of the 1990s were planted when they ousted the favored Cavaliers in the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference playoffs, advancing when Michael Jordan drilled his historic shot over Craig Ehlo for the last two of his 44 points in a 101-100 upset.
Before Jordan came along, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird dominated the NBA in the 1980s, and each had his own indelible playoff moment. For Magic it was his “junior, junior sky hook” that sunk the Celtics in the 1987 NBA Finals. But Bird was able to meet him there only because he stole a pass from Isiah Thomas in the Eastern Conference finals that saved the Celtics from near-certain elimination.
And it's not limited to players. Few fans will ever forget diminutive Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy trying to break up a fight in the 1998 playoffs between his player, Larry Johnson, and the Heat's Alonzo Mourning by attaching himself to Mourning's leg, later admitting, "I looked like a fool out there."
When will the next classic moment take place? No one knows. But as we look back, there's not much dispute that the Top 10 Iconic NBA Playoff Moments would include the ones that follow.
10. Van Gundy holds on (Knicks-Heat, 1998)
9. Big Shot Rob (Kings-Lakers, 2002)
8. Mutombo's tears of joy (Nuggets-Sonics, 1994)
7. Reggie's furious finish (Pacers-Knicks, 1995)
6. MJ's legend is born (Bulls-Cavaliers, 1989)
5. Reed's inspirational limp (Knicks-Lakers, 1970)
4. Larry's legendary steal (Celtics-Pistons, 1987)
3. Magic's junior skyhook (Lakers-Celtics, 1987)
2. Havlicek steals the ball (Celtics-76ers, 1965)
1. Jordan's last shot of glory (Bulls-Jazz, 1998)