NBA Finals

NBA Finals
Logo of the NBA Finals.

The NBA Finals is the championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The series was named the NBA World Championship Series until 1986.

The series is played between the winners of Western Conference Finals and Eastern Conference Finals. At the conclusion of the championship round, the winners of the NBA Finals are awarded the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy and are World Champions. (Winners from 1946 to 1977 received the Walter A. Brown Trophy) The NBA Finals has been played at the conclusion of every NBA and BAA season in history, the first being held in 1947.

Since 1985, the winner of the NBA Finals has been determined through a 2–3–2 format. The first two and the last two games of the series are played at the arena of the team who earned home court advantage by having the better record during the regular season.




  • 1955: The Syracuse Nationals faced the Fort Wayne Pistons. Although both markets were small, the series was spectacular in part due to the addition of the 24-second shot clock.[1] The home team won every game, the Nats taking the series with a free throw by George King at the end of Game 7.
  • 1957: The first championship in what was to become the Celtics dynasty. A hard-fought series against the Hawks. Jim Loscutoff won the game for the Celtics in double overtime in Game 7 with two free throws.
  • 1962: The second NBA Finals with the Lakers against the Celtics (after 1959). Elgin Baylor scored a Finals record 61 points in a game 5 Laker victory. In Game 7, the clock was winding down with the score tied at 100, when Frank Selvy (who once scored 100 points in a college game) missed an eight-foot game and series winning basket for the Lakers. The Celtics won in overtime, with Bill Russell tying his own Finals record with 40 rebounds.
  • 1966: Another Celtics-Lakers classic. In Game 7, Red Auerbach, Boston's coach, lit up his traditional "victory cigar" midway through the 4th quarter, only to see his team's big lead melt away. They held on, however, and won 95–93 to preserve the Celtics' eighth straight championship and ninth in ten seasons.
  • 1969: For the third time in the decade, a Lakers-Celtics final went to seven games. Chamberlain, Baylor, and West, three of the game's best players, were now all playing for the Lakers. Nevertheless, the aging Celtics (who had finished fourth in the Eastern Division), led by player-coach Bill Russell, put on an effective counter-attack. In Game 4, with the Celtics trailing 2–1 in the series and 88–87 in the game, Sam Jones hit an incredible buzzer-beater with three seconds left to even the series and preserve the Celtics' championship winning streak. In game 7, Boston built a big lead and Wilt Chamberlain picked up his 5th foul. The Lakers rallied behind their subs, and cut the deficit to 2 points in the final minutes. Laker guard Keith Erickson knocked the ball away from John Havlicek, but it bounced to Don Nelson with only 2 seconds left on the 24 second shot clock. Nelson's shot hit the heel of the rim, bounced high in the air and came down through the hoop to restore the lead to 4 with a minute remaining. Boston ended up winning 108–106.
  • 1970: New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers: With the series tied 1–1, Game 3 produced an instant classic (see game 3 of 1970 finals). The Knicks' Dave DeBusschere made a basket with 3 seconds left to give the Knicks a 102–100 lead. Jerry West then made a 63 foot shot to force overtime. However, the Knicks recovered to win the game and eventually the series in 7. Game 7 is best remembered when the injured Willis Reed, who was reportedly out for Game 7, started the game and scored the first two baskets to inspire the Knicks just when they needed it. New York claimed its first title. Walt "Clyde" Frazier also scored 36 points and had 19 assists.
  • 1976: Chiefly remembered for the fifth game, a classic that was often labeled afterwards as the "greatest NBA game ever." With the series tied 2–2 against the Phoenix Suns, the Boston Celtics took a huge lead at Boston Garden but could not hold it. Eventually, after numerous last second heroics by both teams, Boston won in three overtimes, 128–126. Boston then won Game 6 and took their 13th championship.
  • 1977: After an 11 day rest, the Portland Trail Blazers lost the first two games of the Finals but come back to win the next four to become first team in Finals history to make such a comeback.
  • 1978 and 1979: The Washington Bullets and the Seattle SuperSonics swap championships, each team winning on the other's home court. The Bullets won game 7 in Seattle in 1978; and the Sonics return the favor in 1979, beating the Bullets 4–1, taking game 5 on the Bullets' home court. It's still the last time that a team west of Texas other than the Lakers has won an NBA title.
  • 1980: The Lakers took a 3–2 lead against the Sixers, led chiefly by Abdul-Jabbar, who came off the bench with a sprained ankle in Game 5. But the ankle worsened, and Kareem didn't even make the trip to Philadelphia for game 6. Magic Johnson, just a rookie, shifted to center and played out a huge game in Game 6, scoring 42 points and netting 15 rebounds as the Lakers clinched the title, 123–107. This was the series that Julius Erving executed the behind-the-backboard "Baseline Move".
  • 1984: The long-awaited rematch of the Lakers and Celtics after their rivalry was revived in 1980 with the Johnson-Bird pair entering the league. The Lakers won Game 1, and almost Game 2, but a crucial steal in Game 2 by Gerald Henderson led to a tie game and the Celtics were able to win in overtime to tie the series. The Lakers won Game 3. The Celtics won Game 4. Now tied 2–2, the Lakers and Celtics each held serve at their home court to send the series to Boston for Game 7. Game 5 was a classic, with Bird coming up with a huge game in one of the (literally) hottest games ever in non-air conditioned Boston Garden. Game 7 was a close game but eventually the Celtics won. The 1984 championship series was one of the most watched in history, with soaring TV ratings.
  • 1985: The Lakers and Celtics met again, and the Celtics opened the series with a crushing 148–112 win over Los Angeles. Known as the "Memorial Day Massacre", Boston's 148 points still stands as the highest total by a team in the Finals. However, the Lakers came back to win the series in six games, finally beating Boston in the NBA Finals. L.A.'s Finals victory marked the only time Boston lost a championship on their home floor.
  • 1987: The Lakers and Celtics clashed again. Johnson beat the Celtics on a buzzer-beater in Game 4 to take a 3–1 lead and swing the momentum towards the Lakers. Los Angeles won in six.
  • 1989: The Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, effectively ending the Laker dynasty of the 80s.
  • 1990: The Portland Trail Blazers win the Western Conference and go on to be defeated by the Detroit Pistons in the Finals.
  • 1993: The Phoenix Suns and the Chicago Bulls squared off in a thrilling series in which the visiting team prevailed in all but one (Game 4 at Chicago). Phoenix fell behind 2–0 in the series, but a triple overtime victory in Game 3, allowed the Suns back into contention. Still, it would be John Paxson's clutch three pointer in Game 6 that would seal the game, the series and the Bulls' first three-peat.
  • 1994: The Knicks took a 3–2 lead on the Houston Rockets and had a chance to clinch it in Game 6 but John Starks' final shot was blocked by Hakeem Olajuwon. The Rockets would win game 7 and win their first NBA Championship. During Game 5 (June 17, 1994), most NBC affiliates (with the noted exception being the network's own flagship station, WNBC-TV out of New York) split the coverage of the game between NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson's low speed freeway chase with the LAPD. A visibly confused and distraught Bob Costas (NBC's anchor for their NBA Finals coverage) said during the telecast from the Garden that the Simpson situation was "not just tragic but now surreal." Pat Riley became the first coach in NBA history to coach in Game 7 NBA Finals with two different teams, having been coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1984 and 1988.
  • 1997: In Game 5, Michael Jordan, the star player on the Chicago Bulls, had a stomach virus but still managed to score 38 points. Soon, Jordan would capture his fifth NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award, bringing the Bulls to their fifth title in seven years. Not to be forgotten is Jordan's buzzer beater in Game 1, and his pass to Steve Kerr for the latter's crucial series-clinching jumper in Game 6.
  • 1998: The Chicago Bulls held a 3–2 lead over the Utah Jazz but nearly lost Game 6. Michael Jordan made two key baskets in the final minute for a one-point win and the championship. It would be Jordan's last game for the Bulls.
  • 1999: The New York Knicks, who fell to the San Antonio Spurs in 5 games, made NBA history by becoming the first (and as of 2011, the only) 8th seed ever to make the NBA Finals. The San Antonio Spurs became the first former ABA team to win an NBA Championship.
  • 2000: The Los Angeles Lakers, under new head coach Phil Jackson, are led to a 67–15 regular season record, and to a Finals appearance against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Glen Rice led the Lakers to the franchise's 12th championship, with Shaquille O'Neal winning the Finals MVP trophy, averaging 38 points and 16.6 rebounds. The Lakers could have easily have gone to a Game 7, but Shaq along with teammates Kobe Bryant and Glen Rice scored a combined 83 points to win Game 6 in Los Angeles, 116 to 111.
  • 2001: The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in 5 games. After Allen Iverson lead the 76ers to an overtime game 1 win in Los Angeles. The Lakers went on to win the next 4 games, completing their first repeat since their back to back titles in '87 and '88.
  • 2002: The Los Angeles Lakers defeat the New Jersey Nets to complete a Three Peat, becoming only the 5th team to accomplish this feat.
  • 2003: The San Antonio Spurs defeat the New Jersey Nets 4–2, clinching their 2nd NBA title.
  • 2004: Detroit Pistons defeat the favored Los Angeles Lakers 4–1. The Pistons won Game 1, 3, 4 and 5. This was the first time a team without home court advantage had won all 3 of their home games in the 2–3–2 format. Chauncey Billups was the Finals MVP.
  • 2005: San Antonio Spurs 4–3 over the Detroit Pistons. The first four games were blowouts for the home team, but Game 5 was a very tight game in a scene reminiscent of the 1976 Finals. Robert Horry of the Spurs hit a three-pointer at the end of the overtime period for a 96–95 win and a 3–2 lead in the series.
  • 2006: The Dallas Mavericks took a 2-0 lead early in the series and in Game 3, with 6 minutes left and trailing by 13 points, the Miami Heat came back to win the game and defeat the Dallas Mavericks in six games, with Dwyane Wade garnering MVP honors after averaging 34.7 points per game. The title marked the first championship for aging legends Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning. It also marked the fourth for Shaquille O'Neal and the fifth for coach Pat Riley, both of whom had not previously won a title outside of Los Angeles.
  • 2007: The San Antonio Spurs defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers with a sweep. This was their 4th NBA title in 9 years. This NBA Finals was also the lowest viewed NBA Finals ever.
  • 2008: The Boston Celtics ended their 22-year title drought with a six-game victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • 2009: Phil Jackson won his 10th championship as a head coach and his 4th with the Los Angeles Lakers, surpassing Red Auerbach for the all time NBA record.
  • 2010: Los Angeles Lakers defeat the Boston Celtics 83–79 in Game 7 to once again win back to back championships. The Lakers came back from multiple deficits, including a long span in which they were down by 13 points in the 3rd quarter, to win. Kobe Bryant earned the Finals MVP.
  • 2011: In a rematch of the 2006 Finals, the Dallas Mavericks found themselves playing the role of underdog to the Miami Heat. The Mavericks won the series in game 6 in Miami, 105-95, giving veterans Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Shawn Marion their first championship, while Nowitzki earned the Finals MVP. Dallas won their first NBA championship in one of the closest Finals series ever, with the Mavericks coming back in the final minutes of two games to erase 15 and 14 point deficits and ultimately taking a 3-2 series lead. Dallas won the last three games of the series.

1947–1956: The Early Years and Lakers Dynasty

During the first decade the Minneapolis Lakers had the first NBA dynasty, winning 5 championships in 6 years under Hall of Fame head coach John Kundla. The team also featured George Mikan, one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. Franchises which had previously been in the National Basketball League tended to dominate, especially the Minneapolis Lakers.

1957–1969: The Celtics Dynasty

The Boston Celtics went 11–1 in the NBA Finals during thirteen seasons (1956–1957 to 1968–1969). The Boston Celtics won the NBA Finals 8 years in a row during the 1958–59 to 1965–66 NBA seasons.[2]

The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers made up 19 of 26 possible NBA appearances during thirteen seasons (1956–1957 to 1968–1969). The two teams met 6 times during the 8 years Boston won the NBA in a row.[2] This period includes one season (1958–1959) when the Lakers were still based in Minneapolis, and it marks the largest stretch of seasons (14) that two teams made up over 65% of NBA appearances, second being the 10 seasons (1979–1980 to 1988–1989) the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers appeared 13 times.

For most of the late 1950s and the 1960s, the Celtics seemed always to have the upper hand on Wilt Chamberlain's teams. With the establishment of the Celtics dynasty in 1957, Bill Russell became the star of the league. The seventh game of that year's championship was decided on a Celtics basket in the final seconds of the second overtime.

In 1964, Wilt Chamberlain, who had moved to California with his team, the former Philadelphia Warriors, led the San Francisco Warriors to a Western Conference championship, but again failed to conquer the Celtics. The following season, he was traded back to Philadelphia, to join the 76ers, the former Syracuse Nationals team that had moved to cover the vacancy created with the departure of the Warriors.

1966 produced a clash between the two stars in the playoffs, and Boston won 4–1. Chamberlain's coach told him to play a team game, not an individual game, and thus avoid drawing double-teams. His new-found team spirit brought them to a new record of 68 wins the following season, and they defeated the Celtics and then advanced to, and won, the Finals.

In 1968, Boston overcame a 3–1 deficit against Philadelphia to once again arrive in the Finals. Playing against Jerry West's Lakers, they seemed doomed to defeat. Nevertheless, for the sixth consecutive time, they defeated L.A., winning by a four games to two margin.

The following year, 1969, found the Celtics overcoming even longer odds. Boston barely qualified for the playoffs, finishing fourth in the East. The Lakers, who in the offseason added Chamberlain to join West and Elgin Baylor, won the West and were prohibitive favorites to finally win it all for the first time since relocating to LA. They easily won the first two games at the Los Angeles Forum. However, when the series shifted to the Boston Garden, the Celtics won two close games, by margins of 110–105 and 88–87, respectively, in Games 3 and 4. The fifth game, played at the Forum, returned the advantage to the Lakers, but the sixth game was a massive Celtics win, with Chamberlain scoring just two points. Game 7 was held on May 5, with balloons hung up in the arena in anticipation of a Lakers victory. Russell immediately used the balloons as an inspiration for his team[citation needed], and they raced off to an early start and held off a furious Lakers comeback to win 108–106 and take the series, their eleventh championship in thirteen years. This game represented the final one in this first incarnation of the Celtics' dynasty.

1970–1979: Decade of Parity

The 1970s saw eight different teams win the title, with the Celtics and Knicks both winning twice.

In 1970, a classic final featured the New York Knicks against the Lakers. In the waning moments of Game 3, with the series tied, Jerry West hit a basket from sixty feet away to tie the game, a shot which would become one of the most famous ever. Although the Knicks went on to win the game in overtime and continued their momentum for a 4–3 win, the Lakers were not defeated. Just two seasons later, the team won thirty-three games consecutively, the longest such streak in NBA history. By the 1971–72 season's end, they had broken the record for most wins in a season, tallying up 69 wins, one more than the 76ers of 1966–67. The Lakers finally, after a tough playoff-season, took home the championship for the first time since the Minneapolis days. The Knicks won the championship again in 1973, using much the same formula, for their second franchise victorious season.

The 1974 championship went back to the Celtics as the remaining players demonstrated excellent teamwork and resilience in the Finals.

The late seventies were characterized by a major breakthrough of the league's western franchises. In 1975, after compiling a 48–34 regular-season record, the Golden State Warriors swept the heavily-favored Washington Bullets 4–0 in an upset.

The next year, 1976, saw the rise of the Phoenix Suns. Only eight years in existence, they overcame a losing record early in the season to build remarkable win streaks to finish 42–40. The events culminated in upset victories over Seattle and Golden State. In the final against Boston, the teams split the first four games. Game 5 became one of the most memorable games of all. It went into three overtimes but eventually went to Boston 128–126. Two days later the Celtics finished it off for their 13th championship.

Other western franchises that won their first titles in the late 70's included the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977 and the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979. Portland's victory was against the heavily favored Philadelphia 76ers led by Julius Erving. Although the Washington Bullets were able to defeat Seattle in the 1978 NBA Finals, Seattle was able to prevail the following year against the Bullets to win its first NBA title.

1980–1990: Celtics-Lakers Rivalry

Between 1980 and 1989, the Celtics and/or the Lakers played in every NBA Finals.[2] The Lakers won five titles during this span (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988); the Celtics won three (1981, 1984 and 1986), the Pistons won twice (1989, 1990), and the Sixers won once (1983).

The 1979 NCAA Championship Game featured Earvin "Magic" Johnson's Michigan State University team facing off against Larry Bird's Indiana State team. Michigan State won the game. This meeting has been immortalized, in fact, it attracted the largest ever TV rating for an NCAA Championship game, with 38 percent of all television viewers that night tuned to the game.[citation needed]

Bird had actually been drafted the year before, but later decided to stay in college for one more year, and the two superstars both entered the league that same year, 1979, leading their respective teams to dazzling heights. Johnson's Lakers reached the finals in 1980, and took a 3–2 lead, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could not play in Game 6 due to injury. Johnson shifted to center, ended up playing every position on the court and scored 42 points to win his first championship, a remarkable performance in the annals of the sport.

Boston won the 1981 championship against Houston thanks to Bird, and the team continued dominating the league afterwards, taking many Atlantic Division titles.

Philadelphia, led by Moses Malone and Julius Erving, took the 1983 prize, losing only once in the entire playoffs, and sweeping the Lakers. (Malone had predicted earlier that they would sweep every series.) However, in the 1984 NBA Finals, the Celtics and Lakers met for the first time since 1969, and again, from Bird's performance, the Celtics toppled Johnson's Lakers 4–3. The seventh game of that series attracted the largest TV audience ever for an NBA game, and the second-largest ever for a basketball game, with only the game between the two stars played five years earlier having a larger audience. It was the last NBA Finals played in the 2–2–1–1–1 format.

In the 1985 championship, the Lakers made amends for their previous eight losses to the Celtics by defeating them in six games. After losing the first game in a rout, 148–114, dubbed the "Memorial Day massacre", they won four out of five, including the clincher in Boston Garden, to finally end the long years of frustration of failing to defeat the Boston Celtics. This finals was the first to be played in the current 2–3–2 NBA Finals format, which Red Auerbach suggested to David Stern in order to cut back on the frequent traveling between Boston and Los Angeles. Auerbach said years later, it was terrible that they went to this format because it takes away the home court advantage from the team with the first two games at home and they don't get to host the all but crucial Game 5, which is the swing game in a 7 game series.

The 1986 NBA Finals brought the Celtics back against the Houston Rockets. Boston won in six games, taking their sixteenth championship, with the MVP award going to Larry Bird, his second Finals MVP trophy.

In 1987, the Lakers and Celtics met again for a rubber match. Both sides had won one series, and now a third was being played. The Lakers pounded out two victories, but Boston took the third. Game 4 would be one of the most memorable games ever played. In the waning moments, Magic Johnson scored a skyhook to give the Lakers a 107–106 win, and a 3–1 series lead. They dropped one more, but won Game 6 to take the series. This championship team was recently voted the best in history by the NBA's officials and experts.

In 1988 and 1989, the aging Celtics failed to reach the Finals, with the Lakers and Pistons becoming the best of their conferences. The 1988 finals went to Los Angeles in seven games, but the Pistons swept the Lakers in 1989. In 1990, Detroit beat the Portland Trail Blazers in five games, and the name "Bad Boys" became attached to the team for its rough, physical play.

1991–1998: The Bulls Dynasty

During the 1990s the Bulls completed two three-peats. The decade also had the Rockets winning back-to-back championships and the Jazz falling short twice. It started with the Pistons winning their second championship in as many seasons.

The majority of the 1990s was marked by the rise of the Chicago Bulls dynasty (otherwise known as the "Michael Jordan era"), which ended in 1998. Coached by head coach Phil Jackson and led by superstar Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships from 1991 to 1998. Supported by such remarkable players as Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Jordan led the Bulls to victory in all NBA Finals series they competed in, and won the Finals MVP award each time. Particularly memorable were the 1993 Finals, which became an offensive showdown between Jordan and regular-season MVP (and close friend) Charles Barkley.

Game 3 of the 1993 Finals is widely considered one of the greatest basketball games ever played. The Bulls attempted to go up 3–0 in the series, but the Suns were not willing to seal their own doom. With neither side quitting, the game took three overtimes to decide, with the Suns finally prevailing 129–121. However, the Bulls would clinch the series in Game 6 at Phoenix on John Paxson's clutch three pointer to become only the third team in history to three-peat.

The Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, won the 1994 and 1995 NBA championships. Olajuwon dominated the game during those two seasons, becoming the only player in history to win the National Basketball Association Most Valuable Player Award, NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in the same season (1993–94). The seven-game NBA Finals between the Rockets and Knicks in 1994 would be the last to reach a game seven until the 2005 series between San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons. It was also the only year that both NBA and NHL finals would go a full seven games, but also involve teams from one city. The Rockets' win in Game 7 denied New York from having both NBA and NHL titles in the same year, as the Rangers won the Stanley Cup during the series.

The Rockets swept the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Finals, Olajuwon again claiming honors as Finals MVP. The Rockets thus became only the fifth franchise to win back-to-back titles.

After a short stint as a baseball player, Jordan decided to return to basketball in late of the 1994–95 season (March 19). Although he failed to lead the Bulls to the Finals in that year, he returned to pre-retirement form the next year while the team acquired power forward Dennis Rodman, leading the Bulls to one of the most memorable seasons ever. The 1995–96 Chicago Bulls finished the regular season with a record of 72–10, the best regular season record of any team in the history of the NBA. They proceeded to dominate in the playoffs, with series records of 3–0, 4–1 and 4–0, and then went on to defeat Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and the Seattle SuperSonics in 6 games in the NBA Finals.

In 1997 and 1998, the Bulls met the Utah Jazz. Led by Olympians John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz were defeated in both Finals by the Bulls in six games. In both series, Chicago won by hitting winning shots in the sixth and deciding game-the first by Steve Kerr in 1997 in Chicago and the second by Jordan in Utah the following year. Although Jordan, Pippen and coach Phil Jackson were the only three members involved in all six championships, the Bulls dynasty had a cast of characters that proved to be decisive in obtaining the ultimate prize. Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, B.J. Armstrong and other supporting cast members were pieces added to the puzzle to create the first three-peat of the dynasty. Of the second, little-known players such as Jud Buechler, Randy Brown, Bill Wennington, Ron Harper and Luc Longley were key factors who rarely produced an astounding amount of points, but proved crucial via setting picks, rebounding, creating turnovers, et cetera. Before the beginning of the 1999 season, Phil Jackson decided to retire, setting off a chain reaction that resulted in most of the team, including Jordan and Pippen, leaving the Bulls. With no foundation of youth to build upon, the Bulls would be lottery-bound for the next six seasons.

1999–2010: Lakers/Spurs era

The Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

The San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers have combined to win 11 of the last 13 Western Conference titles and nine NBA Championships during this period.

In the 1999 NBA Finals Championship the San Antonio Spurs dominated the playoffs and finished with a 15–2 post-season mark, including sweeps of the Portland Trail Blazers and Lakers. With a defensive squad led by big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan, San Antonio's 84.7 points allowed per game was the fewest average points allowed in the post-season in the last 30 years.[citation needed] In the Finals that year, the Spurs held the New York Knicks, the first #8 seed team to reach the finals in NBA History, to an average of 79.8 points per game.

From 2000–2002, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, won the NBA Finals in dominating performances. O'Neal won the finals MVP all three times. The first championship came at the expense of the Indiana Pacers, whom the Lakers defeated in 6 games. During their 2001 postseason run, the Lakers swept their first 3 series and won the Finals in 5 games, finishing with a unprecedented 15–1 record. They were particularly dominating in the 2002 Finals, as they kept the lead almost the entire time in each game; only for a short while after the beginning of Game 4 did the New Jersey Nets gain any significant lead in a game. The Lakers sweep of the Nets was the first sweep in the Finals since Houston swept Orlando in the 1995 Finals. However, the Lakers' streak of championships ended with a loss to the Spurs 2003 conference semifinals.

The 2003 NBA Finals marked the first championship contested between two former ABA teams, the San Antonio Spurs and the New Jersey Nets. The Spurs defeated the Nets and in 6 games. In the series clinching game, Tim Duncan was two blocks short of recording the first quadruple-double in NBA Finals history, finishing with 22 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks.

In the 2003 offseason, veteran stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone signed with the Lakers. Along with Bryant and O'Neal, they formed what many expected to be one of the best teams in NBA history. The Lakers were the clear favorites to win the NBA championship. However, the Detroit Pistons, under coach Larry Brown and led by defensive star Ben Wallace and offensive floor general Chauncey Billups, upset the Lakers in five games to become the first Eastern Conference team since the Bulls of the Michael Jordan era to win the NBA championship.

The Spurs would go on to win two more titles in 2005 and 2007. In the 2005 series, the Spurs defeated the Pistons, in a battle of the previous two NBA champions, in seven games. Tim Duncan won his third Finals MVP award that year. The Spurs dominated the 2007 Finals, sweeping the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers. Tony Parker was named MVP of this series, becoming the first European-born player to win NBA Finals MVP.

In between these two Spurs' titles, 2006 NBA Finals featured the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. It was the first NBA Finals since 1971 that had both Western and Eastern Conference champions making their first Finals appearance in franchise history. Led by upcoming star and Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, legendary coach Pat Riley and veteran superstar Shaquille O'Neal, Most agree that the turning point of the series was in Game 3, when the Heat overcame a 13-point deficit with less than 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to win 98–96. The comeback was led by Dwyane Wade's 12 points in the final six minutes and a clutch outside jumpshot by once-perennial all-star Gary Payton, who was appearing in his third NBA finals.

In 2008, the Eastern Conference was represented by the revamped Boston Celtics, and the Western Conference by the Los Angeles Lakers. Renewing the teams' fierce rivalry during the 1980s, this marks the 11th time that these two teams have met in the Finals, the last such meeting happening in 1987. The Celtics were led by their "Big Three" superstars: Long-time Celtic and Finals MVP Paul Pierce, and first year Celtics Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

The Lakers would bounce back from their 2008 loss to win the title the in 2009 and 2010. The 2010 series was a re-match against the Celtics. The Lakers trailed this series 3-2 before winning the final two games at home. This marked the first time in the history of the Celtics franchise that they lost a game seven in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant was named Finals MVP for both series, and this marked head coach Phil Jackson's unprecedented 10th and 11th NBA title, passing Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles all time, and passing Auerbach and NHL coach Scotty Bowman for the most championships for a head coach in any major American sport.

The 2011 NBA Finals were a rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, pitting the Miami Heat against the Dallas Mavericks. Dwyane Wade was previously Finals MVP for 2006 as of his third year in the NBA. The Mavericks defeated the Heat in six games, winning the title for the first time in franchise history. Dirk Nowitzki was named the Finals MVP. Nowitzki had finally achieved Finals Championship/ MVP in his thirteenth year in the NBA. This foreign Germany player proudly won the title not only for his American fans but for his hometown, Würzburg, West Germany.

Finals appearances

The statistics below refer to series wins and losses, not individual games won and lost.

Num Team W L PCT Most recent appearance Most recent title Notes
31 Los Angeles Lakers 16 15 .516 2010 2010 5 titles as Minneapolis Lakers; 2 three-peats: one as Minneapolis from 195254 and one as Los Angeles from 200002. The Lakers have won 11 and lost 14 NBA Championships in Los Angeles.
21 Boston Celtics 17 4 .809 2010 2008 Won 8 straight titles from 1959–1966. The first 13 of their 17 championships were Brown Trophies the rest being Larry O'Brien Championship Trophies.
9 Philadelphia 76ers 3 6 .333 2001 1983 1–2 as Syracuse Nationals.
8 New York Knicks 2 6 .250 1999 1973 In 1999, became first 8th playoff seed to ever reach Finals.
7 Detroit Pistons 3 4 .428 2005 2004 0–2 as Ft. Wayne Pistons.
6 Chicago Bulls 6 0 1.000 1998 1998 All with head coach Phil Jackson and players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Two three-peats: 199193 and 199698. All championships won without losing the Finals.
6 Golden State Warriors 3 3 .500 1975 1975 2–1 as Philadelphia Warriors; 0–2 as San Francisco Warriors; 1–0 as Golden State Warriors.[3]
4 San Antonio Spurs 4 0 1.000 2007 2007 All with head coach Gregg Popovich and Power Forward/Center Tim Duncan.
4 Houston Rockets 2 2 .500 1995 1995 2 championships with center Hakeem Olajuwon (named MVP in both championship series) and coach Rudy Tomjanovich, championships were back to back.
4 Atlanta Hawks 1 3 .250 1961 1958 All appearances as St. Louis franchise.
4 Washington Wizards 1 3 .250 1979 1978 0–1 as Baltimore Bullets (see note below), 1–2 as Washington Bullets.
3 Portland Trail Blazers 1 2 .333 1992 1977 Lost games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia, won four straight, three of those coming in Portland, led by UCLA legend and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton.
3 Oklahoma City Thunder 1 2 .333 1996 1979 All appearances as the Seattle SuperSonics.
2 Dallas Mavericks 1 1 .500 2011 2011 Lost in the 2006 Finals and won in the 2011 Finals versus the Heat.
2 Miami Heat 1 1 .500 2011 2006 Won in the 2006 Finals and lost the 2011 Finals versus the Mavericks.
2 Milwaukee Bucks 1 1 .500 1974 1971
2 Phoenix Suns 0 2 .000 1993 Never
2 Utah Jazz 0 2 .000 1998 Never Both with coach Jerry Sloan and players Karl Malone and John Stockton and against the Bulls.
2 New Jersey Nets 0 2 .000 2003 Never Won 2 ABA titles in 1974 and 1976. Also appeared in 1972 ABA Finals.
2 Orlando Magic 0 2 .000 2009 Never Lost both NBA Finals appearances. Swept by the Rockets in 1995 and defeated in 2009 by the Lakers in a 4–1 series.
1 Baltimore Bullets 1 0 1.000 1948 1948 Team folded in 1954 and is not the same franchise as the current Washington Wizards.
1 Sacramento Kings 1 0 1.000 1951 1951 Won first appearance in NBA Finals as Rochester Royals.
1 Indiana Pacers 0 1 .000 2000 Never Team won three ABA championships (1970, 1972, 1973) and made two other ABA Finals appearances (1969, 1975).
1 Cleveland Cavaliers 0 1 .000 2007 Never Were swept in their first and only appearance in the NBA Finals.
1 Chicago Stags 0 1 .000 1947 Never Team folded in 1950.
1 Washington Capitols 0 1 .000 1949 Never Team folded in 1951.

Active franchises with no Finals appearances

Team #Seasons Founded Notes
Buffalo Braves / San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers 41 1970 Founded as Buffalo Braves, moved to San Diego in 1978 and became Clippers before moving to Los Angeles in 1984. Reached three conference semifinals as the Braves, and one in Los Angeles, in the 2005–06 season, where they lost to the Phoenix Suns 4–3.
Denver Nuggets 35 1976 Joined NBA after 9 ABA seasons (1967–76). Denver played in the 1976 ABA Championship, losing to the New York Nets. Played in the 1977–1978 Conference Finals, losing to the Seattle SuperSonics. Played in the 1984–1985 and 2008–2009 Conference Finals, losing both times to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Charlotte / New Orleans Hornets 23 1988 Founded as the Charlotte Hornets, moved to New Orleans in 2002, split home schedule with Oklahoma City from 2005–07 (due to effects of Hurricane Katrina), during which time they were the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, before returning to New Orleans full time in 2007. Reached the conference semi-finals twice in Charlotte and once in New Orleans.
Minnesota Timberwolves 22 1989 Played in the 2003–2004 Conference Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Vancouver / Memphis Grizzlies 16 1995 Founded as the Vancouver Grizzlies, moved to Memphis in 2001. Swept out of its first three NBA Playoffs appearances, before reaching the second round in 2011.
Toronto Raptors 16 1995 Reached the conference semi-finals in the 2000–01 season. In the 2006–07 season, ranked 3rd in the Eastern Conference, won the division for the first time, and won 47 games, tying the franchise record for wins set in 2000-01. In the playoffs, the Raptors lost to the New Jersey Nets four games to two.
Charlotte Bobcats 7 2004 Qualified for their first playoff berth during the 2009–10 season in the 2010 NBA Playoffs but were swept by the Orlando Magic in a 4–0 series.

Most common matchups

Individual games records

Num Team W L PCT Notes
22 San Antonio Spurs 16 6 .727 Swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in their last appearance.
35 Chicago Bulls 24 11 .686 4–2 in their last finals appearance against the Utah Jazz.
6 Baltimore Bullets 4 2 .667 Franchise defunct.
11 Milwaukee Bucks 7 4 .636 3–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Boston Celtics.
122 Boston Celtics 74 48 .607 3–4 in their last finals appearance against the Los Angeles Lakers.
7 Sacramento Kings 4 3 .571 All as Rochester Royals. The Cincinnati Royals and Kansas City Kings both made zero Finals appearances.
40 Detroit Pistons 22 18 .550 Includes 4–8 as Fort Wayne franchise.
31 Golden State Warriors 17 14 .548 Includes 10–6 as Philadelphia franchise and 3–8 as San Francisco franchise.
23 Houston Rockets 12 11 .522 Swept the Orlando Magic in their last finals appearance.
167 Los Angeles Lakers 85 83 .503 Includes 20–15 as Minneapolis franchise. 4–3 in their last finals appearance against the Boston Celtics.
18 Seattle SuperSonics 9 9 .500 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Chicago Bulls. Moved and became the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have zero Finals appearances at this time.
12 Dallas Mavericks 6 6 .500 All versus Miami in both appearances.
12 Miami Heat 6 6 .500 All versus Dallas in both appearances.
53 Philadelphia 76ers 24 29 .453 Includes 9–11 as Syracuse Nationals.
25 Atlanta Hawks** 11 14 .440 All as St. Louis franchise.
48 New York Knicks 20 28 .417 1–4 in their last appearance against the San Antonio Spurs.
17 Portland Trail Blazers 7 10 .412 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Chicago Bulls.
12 Phoenix Suns 4 8 .333 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Chicago Bulls.
12 Utah Jazz 4 8 .333 2–4 in both their finals appearances, both to the Chicago Bulls.
6 Indiana Pacers 2 4 .333 2–4 in their only finals appearance, lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
6 Washington Capitols 2 4 .333 Franchise defunct.
20 Washington Wizards 5 15 .250 All as Baltimore Bullets (0–4) and Washington Bullets (5–11).
10 New Jersey Nets 2 8 .200 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
5 Chicago Stags 1 4 .200 Franchise defunct.
9 Orlando Magic 1 8 .111 1–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
4 Cleveland Cavaliers 0 4 .000 Swept by the San Antonio Spurs in their only appearance.

See also


External links

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