Players work the entire season for a chance to perform on the NBA’s biggest stage, and in these high-stakes situations, some stars propel their teams into legend. Others are remembered for their incredible performances despite having come in a losing effort. Here is the ranking of those players who delivered memorable efforts that in the end were in vain:

Best NBA Playoff Performances Ending In Loss Slideshow

Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics

10. Dominique Wilkins vs. Celtics, 1988

A Hawks team featuring Dominique Wilkins and Doc Rivers take the Celtics to Game 7 in the first round. ‘Nique puts on a show, dropping 47 points against Larry Bird's C’s. But Larry Legend takes over late in the game, scoring 20 points in the fourth and to secure the Celtics' spot in the Conference Semifinals.

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies

9. Kevin Durant vs. Grizzlies, 2013

Since Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus in the first-round series against the Rockets, the burden of the Thunder's offense fell squarely upon KD’s shoulders. This burden is evident in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals when Durant records 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists against Memphis, but the Thunder loses 99-93. The four other Thunder starters scored a combined 32 points.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers

8. Michael Jordan vs. Cavaliers, 1989

Michael Jordan didn’t lose often but in Game 4 of the first round, Larry Nance’s Cleveland Cavaliers get the best of him. Jordan scores 50 while Pippen (the next highest Bulls scorer) has 15. The Cavaliers prevail with a balanced scoring attack: Nance and Mark Price combine for 51 and Brad Daugherty grabs a game-high 17 rebounds. (Jordan gets the last laugh, winning Game 5 and the series in Cleveland with a buzzer beater that is now referred to as simply “The Shot.")

Ray Allen, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls

7. Ray Allen vs. Bulls, 2009

Ray Allen has the purest long-range stroke of his generation, and in Game 6 of this first-round matchup against the Bulls, he hit a playoff-record nine three-pointers before the Celtics lose 128-127 in triple overtime. Allen scores a game-high 51, breaking the 50-point barrier for the Celtics for the first time since John "Hondo" Havlicek did it back in 1973.

Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat

6. Rajon Rondo vs. Heat, 2012

With a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics attempt to close out the Miami Heat at home and feed the media’s image of LeBron James as a playoff choke artist. Rondo does his part, recording 44 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, but this game belonged to LeBron who finishes with a videogame-esque stat line of 45-15-5, joining Wilt as the only other player in history to score 45 points and grab 15 rebounds in a playoff game.

Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks

5. Isiah Thomas vs. Knicks, 1984

In the deciding game of this first-round matchup, Isiah Thomas leads the Pistons on an epic comeback with 1:33 left in regulation, scoring 16 straight points to force an overtime. Thomas finishes with 35 points and 12 assists, but in the end, Bernard King leads the Knicks to victory, dropping 44 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Though later in life, Thomas would get retribution for that loss by becoming the Knicks GM and making a number of questionable acquisitions that debilitated the franchise for years.

Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics

4. Michael Jordan vs. Celtics, 1986

After missing the majority of the 1985-86 season with a broken foot, Michael Jordan scores 63 points in the Bulls' double-overtime loss of Game 2 in the first round. It comes against a legendary Celtics that ranked first in the NBA in defensive efficiency that season. The Celtics team features Hall of Famers Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton, and they proceed to beat Houston in the NBA Finals.

John Stockton, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers

3. John Stockton vs. Lakers, 1988

This Western Conference semifinal between the Jazz and Lakers is a heavyweight battle, featuring five eventual Hall of Famers. In Game 5, Stockton directs the Jazz's offense masterfully, scoring 23 points, snagging five steals and dishing a playoff-record 24 assists. But Lakers backup guard Michael Cooper steals the show, sinking the go-ahead jumper with seven seconds left to lift the Showtime Lakers over the Jazz 111-109.

Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers

2. Isiah Thomas vs. Lakers, 1988

With the Pistons up 3-2 in the NBA Finals, Isiah Thomas almost single-handedly closes out the series when he drops 43 points, eight assists and six steals in a heartbreaking 103-102 loss to the Lakers. The Pistons go on to lose Game 7 in Los Angeles, giving the Lakers their second straight title, but Isiah and company exact their vengeance the very next year, sweeping Magic and Kareem in the 1989 Finals.

Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics

1. Jerry West vs. Celtics, 1969

Mr. Clutch does everything short of calling a hit on Bill Russell in Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Celtics. In arguably the greatest individual Finals performance of all-time, West notched a triple-double, with 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists on a "noticeable limp," after severely injuring his hamstring in Game 5. West’s spectacular Finals performance earned him Finals MVP. His 38-point average in the Finals is the highest ever, and he remains the only player ever to win the award on a losing team. That’s how you become the logo of the NBA, kids.

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