Basketball is a team sport, sure. But in the game's critical moments, fans and players alike understand that it's often individuals who decide championships.
That has proven true in Game 7s over the years. In the NBA Finals, there's nothing more tense than a winner-take-all matchup of the game's best players.
Winners are usually carried by dominant performances from the game's best players. Check out these great Game 7 performances through history:
1957: Tom Heinsohn, Boston Celtics
A Boston Celtics rookie in 1957, Heinsohn (left) doesn't play like one in Game 7 against the St. Louis Hawks. He leads the Celtics with 37 points and 27 rebounds in a 125-123 overtime victory for the franchise's first championship.
1960: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Russell chipped in 22 points for the Celtics, but the real eye-popping numbers is his rebounding total: A whopping 35. That incredible performance on the boards was crucial to Boston's Game 7 performance, cementing the championship and continuing its progress toward a historic run of dominance.
1962: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Russell does it again: He has 30 points and an NBA Finals-record 40 rebounds, leading the Celtics to a 110-107 overtime win against the Los Angeles Lakers. Sam Jones chips in 27 points, including five of Boston's 10 in the extra period.
1966: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics
Russell has yet another epic Game 7 performance in 1966, with 25 points and 32 rebounds on an injured foot. The Lakers storm back from a large deficit, but Russell and the Celtics held on for a 95-93 victory.
1969: Jerry West, Los Angeles Lakers
The only player in NBA history to win Finals MVP as a member of the losing team, Jerry West's spectacular Game 7 effort can't get his Lakers past the Celtics. He has 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, but the Lakers' 28-for-47 shooting at the free throw line doomed them in a 108-106 loss. Bill Russell wins his 11th title, while West loses an unthinkable sixth championship to Boston.
1970: Walt Frazier, New York Knicks
The enduring Game 7 image is that of an injured Willis Reed emerging from the New York Knicks' tunnel, but his teammate Frazier leads the Knicks on the court. He scores 36 points, dishes 19 assists and sends Jerry West's Lakers home for yet another summer of misery in a 113-99 win at a raucous Madison Square Garden.
1974: Dave Cowens, Boston Celtics
In a matchup of young centers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is certainly the larger figure in the series, both in physical stature and reputation. The Milwaukee Buck stood 7-2 and has already won a championship and three MVP awards in his young career. But the Celtics' Cowens is a star in his own right, and the 6-9 grinder stood neck-and-neck with Abdul-Jabbar in Game 7. Cowens' 28 points and 14 rebounds edges Abdul-Jabbar's 26 and 13, and the Celtics win, 102-87.
1984: Cedric Maxwell, Boston Celtics
Maxwell excels in pressure situations. He is MVP of the 1981 Finals, and he stepped up big again in Game 7 of the 1984 title, a 111-102 win over the Lakers. He has 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to help Larry Bird defeat rival Magic Johnson in their first championship matchup.
1988: James Worthy, Los Angeles Lakers
"Big Game James" lifts the Lakers to their only set of consecutive championships during the Magic Johnson era with a Game 7 performance for the ages. Worthy's triple-double of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10-assists helps the Lakers beat the Pistons 108-105 and earns him series MVP honors.
1994: Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets
In a duel of elite centers, Hakeem the Dream gets the upper hand on Patrick Ewing. He caps off an MVP series with 25 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks in a 90-84 victory over Ewing's Knicks. Olajuwon reaffirms his supremacy at the center position the following year, when his Houston Rockets sweep Shaquille O'Neal's Orlando Magic.
2005: Tim Duncan/Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Duncan struggles with his shot for most of the series, converting only 42 percent of his attempts. It is more of the same early in Game 7, as "The Big Fundamental" endures a string of eight straight misses. But Duncan turns it around late in the second half, rallying the Spurs from a nine-point deficit and an 81-74 victory over the Pistons. His 25 points and 11 rebounds are supplemented by the steady play of Ginobili, who has 23 points on only 13 shots to go with five rebounds, four assists and a full head of hair.
2010: Paul Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
Kobe Bryant wins Finals MVP and Ron Artest had the most memorable shot (and post-game interview), but Gasol was the biggest difference-maker for the Lakers. His nine offensive rebounds carried L.A. to a 23-8 edge on the offensive glass over Boston, which played without injured center Kendrick Perkins. Gasol was the only Laker starter with a positive plus/minus in the 83-79 win. He finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
2013: LeBron James, Miami Heat
After Ray Allen brought Miami back from the brink in Game 6, the Heat found themselves in a winner-take-all battle with San Antonio. James brought his best when the moment of truth arrived, pouring in 37 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, and leading Miami to its second straight title.
2016: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
James managed to top his past Finals Game 7 performance, conducting what teammate Kyrie Irving compared to a Beethoven symphony. LeBron poured in 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and three blocks, making him just the third player in NBA history to record a triple-double in Game 7 of the Finals.
Cleveland's first NBA championship proved a signature moment in James' career. After a season in which all the conversation was about how Stephen Curry had claimed the throne as the NBA's best player, James finished the playoffs strong and served notice that the King still wears the crown.
Alex Leichenger contributed to this report.