The Best Top Shot Moments from the 2021 NBA Playoffs: Rankings
by Brandon Sowle
It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day minutia of Top Shot that we often forget what makes the product truly great: the Moments themselves. Exquisitely designed, Top Shot Moments serve as our own little futuristic cubes of nostalgia, capturing pieces of NBA history on the blockchain.
Video clips that live in our memory and remind us of great times as we collect them. Outsiders call us strange, and they’re not wrong — it’s an mp4 for God’s sake. But it’s still stupidly awesome and ridiculously fun to be a part of the experience.
Moments come in classes, or tiers, as Top Shot classifies them: Common, Rare, and Legendary. The general idea is that a Moment’s quality is directly tied to its respective tier, but it doesn’t always work out that way — and that’s okay!
Today, we’re ranking Top Shot Playoff Moments; not all Playoff Moments, because there’s approximately a gazillion of them, so we’ll narrow it down to Moments from the Conference Finals and The 2021 Finals only. That’s 42 Moments (18 Common, 12 Rare and 12 Legendary), ranked last-to-first, in an exercise to not only focus on the very best Moments from the most important games of the 2021 NBA season, but to also shine a light on the Moment quality distribution across the three tiers.
There was no hypothesis entering these rankings. There was no real angle. Just a fun dig to learn more about the product while reliving our final memories of basketball from the 2020-21 season.
A few notes and nuggets before we get started:
- Challenge Rewards are included in these rankings.
- The Top Shot team, for whatever reason, minted many of the Legendary Finals Moments to lengths we’ve never seen previously on Top Shot, even in prior Legendary Moments such as Holo Icon. Some even top 40 seconds. I’m really curious if this is something we’ll see more of going forward with legendaries, or if it’s unique to the 2021 NBA Finals set and possibly future Finals sets. Slo-mo is used in every one of these moments, which adds a lot of time, and it looks absolutely stunning. Devin Booker’s Moment is the longest, clocking in at 42 seconds long!
- My criteria for ranking these moments was pretty simple and straightforward: Highlight quality, magnitude of the situation, editing decisions, and thumbnail are things that were all taken into consideration.
- Lastly, if you disagree with anything in this list, you’re totally entitled to your opinion, but you’re probably wrong. Keep that in mind as we proceed.
Let’s get into it!
The Best Top Shot Moments from the 2021 NBA Playoffs
Low ask: $5
- Not much to say about this one. It’s Marcus Morris. It’s not even a contest shot. It’s boring. Let’s carry on.
Low ask: $6
Cam Reddish had himself a nice performance in Game 6 with 21 points, but the truth is he’s not really a memorable part of Atlanta’s playoff run. There’s nothing about this moment that really sticks out.
Low ask: $6
An undoubtedly cool shot, Cousins hits a tough buzzer-beater over two Suns just before halftime. The issue is, the Clippers went on to get obliterated by 27 points, and Cousins will ultimately be an afterthought when remembering these Playoffs.
Low ask: $5
OK, this is actually a cool Moment — an alley-oop from Crowder to Deandre Ayton — but it should’ve been an Ayton dunk. It’s a nice pass from Crowder, but the play is Ayton’s. The Moment even ends with a shot of Ayton celebrating the play.
Low ask: $48
Patrick Beverley hits somewhat of a big shot here, as it’s in the fourth quarter, but the game is basically over at this point. That’s evidenced by the defense, or lack thereof, that Phoenix is playing in the clip. Pulling this in your And Then There Were Four pack would’ve been a bit of a bummer if you aren’t a Clippers fan. On the flip side, Beverley was an important piece for the Clippers in the series, so I can understand him getting a Moment in the set.
Low ask: $10
Booker’s got the kind of game that can be difficult to ‘wow’ you at first glance, at least in Moment form. He’s so solid at everything that he does; he doesn’t try to do too much. In this Moment, he takes what the defense gives him and finishes the tough lefty layup with a little English off the glass.
Low ask: $6
We’ve got ourselves a double highlight. End-to-end, a Bridges steal leads to a Bridges dunk, including a quick touch pass from Devin Booker.
Low ask: $7
In this Moment, Middleton operates where he works best — in the mid-range. First, a little baseline spin drops former teammate Torrey Craig, then a sweet little kiss off the glass around Devin Booker. And don’t forget the Championship Year badge to put a bow on everything.
Low ask: $6
This is the only Rookie Moment on the list, and it’s a really great highlight. Okongwu is a nice young player, and this will be a great Moment to collect and look back on for Okongwu and Hawks fans, as Okongwu was an important piece of this Eastern Conference Finals team.
Low ask: $7
There’s a lot going on here. The play begins with a game of hot potato between Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez. Portis then leaks out, Jrue finds him, Portis then gathers, almost loses the ball, then hammers the dunk. A nice Portis scream at the end takes us home.
When Giannis sat out at the end of this series, Portis made himself known to every NBA fan — and this Moment will be etched in history as a piece of that.
Low ask: $64
If there’s one thing I know about Top Shot, it’s that John Collins has some fantastic Dunk Moments. Seriously, 12 of his 13 Moments in existence are dunks, but I suppose that makes sense given that he’s one of the best dunkers in the league today, and his game outside of that has some developing to do. However, this Moment specifically is a nice dunk off the Kevin Huerter miss, but it loses points due to the fact that it’s one of Collins’ least exciting dunks on Top Shot.
Low ask: $24
Paul George is a notorious maker of halfcourt shots, so it’s cool to have one in Moment form. Maybe the best part of this Moment is that it goes long enough to see Paul George do the most Paul George thing ever and over-celebrate the shot by blowing kisses to the crowd.
Low ask: $10
Double-highlight Moment! Holiday with the sneaky left-hand poke-away, then confidently pulls up in transition and knocks down the 3-pointer. What a beast of a two-way player, and after winning the Finals, the whole world knows.
Low ask: $7
Brook Lopez owes Jrue Holiday some credit for throwing an off-target pass that really takes this alley-oop dunk to the next level. Lopez has to crank his arm back and slam it down one-handed.
Low ask: $68
Who doesn’t love a meme Moment? Capela takes this jumper from behind the backboard and splashes it. The only reason it’s not ranked higher is, to me, meme Moments have a shelf life; they can grow a little stale over time. Still, one of the more memorable plays from the Eastern Conference Finals and it deserved a Moment.
Low ask: $28
The series-clinching bucket, and an unbelievably tough finish at that, as Jrue stays elevated to put it up and under. One of Top Shot’s biggest challenges is capturing the sheer magnitude of a clutch shot that occurred in a road game, and this one’s a perfect example of that. Nonetheless, it’s a huge shot in a huge game in a career-defining Playoff run for Jrue Holiday.
Low ask: $288
This is another example of the difficulty of capturing the “moment” in a road game setting. This was typical Middleton in these Playoffs, but with no game audio, it’s difficult to feel just how big that shot was along with the deflation of the Hawks and their fans. Plus, he scored 20-points in this fourth quarter, including this three-pointer, to finish with a career-high 38 points.
Low ask: $700
This is a beautiful Moment, but it feels like it belongs to Chris Paul. The Moment begins with a nifty, patented Chris Paul handle, then he proceeds to drive across the lane and throws a perfect lob over two lengthy defenders, and Ayton just kind of does his job and sticks it home. It loses some points for that misclassification.
Low ask: $110
At first glance, this Moment looks like nothing more than a typical split-the-defense dribble leading to a dunk highlight. Then you watch it again. Notice that right-handed Jrue Holiday executes the entire Moment with only his left hand. The hesi, the split, then a couple dribbles culminating in an easy dunk.
Low ask: $144
This is a Moment of perfectly executed basketball, and that’s good enough for me. Chris Paul throws the half-court pass to Denadre Ayton, who dumps it off to masked Booker for the buzzer-beating three-pointer.
Low ask: $34
A filthy snatchback always makes for a great Moment. A big part of this Moment’s prestige for me is that it came in the series-clinching game, where CP3 went off for 41 points, tying a playoff career-high. He got four of those points in this one play.
Low ask: $71
First we had a filthy snatchback from Chris Paul, now we have a filthy snatchback from Paul George, who drops Chris Paul. What goes around comes around. Like Paul, George finished with 41 points in this win.
Low ask: $9
This is just insane wizardry from CP3. A double crossover gets the Finals MVP off balance, then a cloud-scraper of a fadeaway catches nothin’ but net. The degree of difficulty off the charts in this Moment. It comes from the Finals, and it’s only $9.
Low ask: $555
This is an absolutely chaotic Moment. So much going on from the jump. The play starts on the defensive end, where Devin Booker gets his hands on an errant pass, then Booker loses the ball, passes ahead to Crowder, and then Crowder…travels and dunks over Khris Middleton? Also, superb thumbnail with Crowder mid-air.
Low ask: $120
Quintessential Chris Paul here. So smooth losing the defense, getting to his spot and hits his patented mid-range jumper over a literal giant. Interesting to me that this is a ‘Handles’ Moment, though. Feels like it should’ve been a Jump Shot. Weird complaint but I’m weird. Also, solid thumbnail.
Low ask: $36
This is a difficult one to rank because it’s so unique. There’s exactly 10 passes and one near-turnover in this Moment before Ayton puts it in. This Moment feels like it lasts a minute-and-a-half. Try to actively breathe while you watch this Moment. It’s impossible.
Low ask: $610
This is a Moment of perseverance. A Moment of sheer will. The Top Shot team (and Finals camera crew) did a fantastic job emphasizing and capturing the importance of every single possession in the NBA Finals in just this single Moment.
Low ask: $2,874
Chris Paul doing Chris Paul things. Beats his man, draws the foul and finishes the play despite contact from Giannis Antetokounmpo. A memorable sequence from CP3’s Finals debut.
Low ask: $590
I know we’re all sad that they couldn’t include Cameron Johnson’s absolute annihilation of P.J. Tucker in the Legendary set, but they did a damn good job with this one. The details in the first slo-mo shot capture Johnson’s face literally jiggling with each step; it’s unreal. Great finish and a really good thumbnail to go with it.
Low ask: $29
This is an elite Common Moment. Trae Young gets past Jrue Holiday then puts it off the glass for Collins to slam home. It’s hard to say which is better, the pass or the dunk?
Low ask: $1,370
So much to unpack in this Moment from Booker’s first Finals appearance. Firstly, I’m pretty sure it’s the longest Moment on Top Shot at 42 seconds. I love that we get to experience Booker’s struggle of beating his man and getting to spot on the floor in order to finally rise up and knock down the shot in his sweet spot. I do have one minor complaint — I don’t understand why this is a Handles Moment. He never really beats his man with dribble moves. It’s more a battle of attrition.
Low ask: $585
Some might say “meh, it’s Pat Connaughton,” but this corner three was a monumental shot in the 4th quarter of a must-win game. This shot gave the Bucks the 4th quarter lead in a game they’d go on to win. Connaughton’s post-shot celebration, the slo-mo shots of the bench, and the slick Giannis assist all make this a great Moment.
The Best Top 10 Top Shot Moments from the 2021 NBA Playoffs
Low ask: $50
A powerful defense-to-offense Moment that Reggie Jackson had the pleasure of polishing off with an absolute sledgehammer of a dunk. Reggie had such a huge Playoffs for the Clippers, it was only right he be rewarded with an And Then There Were Four Moment.
Low ask: $584
When a Moment successfully captures both the crowd and the bench’s energy, it becomes elite. After finishing the dunk, Bridges dangles from the rim by one hand, swivels towards the bench, and the entire arena erupts. Bridges had a monster game in this one too, which always adds to the Moment’s quality for me.
Low ask: $168
Surrounded by three Suns, Giannis throws down a nasty left-handed jam in his legendary 50-point performance to close out the Finals. What really catapults this Moment up the list is that thumbnail; it really might be the very best on Top Shot, with Giannis showing off his Finals MVP trophy.
Low ask: $389
What a poetic Moment. There’s just nothing the defense can do when Giannis nails a combo like this. The crossover, the spin, the mid-air adjustment to the finger roll, this Moment is buttery smooth.
Low ask: $595
An absolute monstrous dunk and roar from one of the largest men on planet earth. One of those Moments where you can just feel the energy of the play.
Low ask: $275
The balls on Trae Young are something else. It’s Game 1, on the road, and he busts out a shimmy and then knocks down the three — what’s not to love? To add to it, Trae put up 48 and 11 in the game. Great highlight + great statistical game + win = Great Moment.
Low ask: $436
This is a true piece of NBA history: the Valley Oop. And only 388 will ever exist. This Moment is a real roller coaster, just as it was in real life. Most of the Moment is just confusion from all of the players, but it ends with a heartwarming clip of Ayton smiling and celebrating with teammates. And an elite thumbnail to boot.
Low ask: $436
I must admit, I’m biased towards this one. I was lucky enough to score a Legendary Finals pack, and this was the Moment I pulled. That being said, this Moment is basketball porn. The only thing that could make it better is if a deep, extremely theatrical voice narrated it. Think NFL Films style. The final slo-mo shot captures a locked-in Middleton turning the corner, rising up over Booker, the ball gently rolling off his fingers only to tap around the rim ever so softly and drop in, effectively sealing the game and championship for the Milwaukee Bucks. This Moment will hold a special place in Bucks fans’ hearts for as long as Top Shot exists.
Low ask: $6,999
Sometimes I think about the pressure that went into editing this play on Top Shot’s part. It’s already an iconic play in not only NBA Finals history, but NBA history at large. Top Shot knocked it out of the park. The ground that Giannis covers to make the block is just absurd. The fact that Giannis’ Legendary Finals Moment is a Block Moment really speaks to who he is as a player and what makes him great, too.
Low ask: $7,499
It always had to be this one to take the cake. It just can’t not, you know. It was the biggest play of the game, series, playoffs, and season. And with that slomo edit, it’s absolutely everything we could have dreamed of.
I was a big proponent of this being minted as a Holiday Steal Moment — and I want to be clear, I still think that was the right decision. However, Giannis’ flex and stare-down into the camera at the end of the clip kinda full-on steals the Moment. It’s art. In truth, this should be the Moment that Series 2 is remembered by. This is the Grand Prize of Series 2.
Thanks for reading. I was kidding earlier about you being wrong if you have any disagreements. Please feel free to berate me on Twitter. Or just approach me kindly. Whichever fits you best.