NBA Finals

NBA Finals
NBA winner
Status Active
Genre Sporting event
Date(s) June
Frequency Annual
Country United States
Inaugurated 1947 (1947)

The NBA Finals is the championship series of the National Basketball Association played between the Western and Eastern champions of the Conference Finals. The first team to win four games in the best-of-seven game series is declared the league champion and is awarded the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. Winners from 1946 to 1983 received the Walter A. Brown Trophy redesigned in 1977 to the current form. The NBA Finals has been played at the end of every NBA and Basketball Association of America season in history, the first being held in 1947.

Between 1985 and 2013, the winner of the NBA Finals was determined through a 2–3–2 format: the first and last two games of the series being played at the arena of the team who earned home court advantage by having the better record during the regular season (the team with home-court went 21–8 between '85 & '13). Most NBA Finals series were played under the 2–2–1–1–1 format (Games 1 and 2 at home for the higher seeded team, Games 3 and 4 at home for the lower seeded team, Game 5 at the higher, Game 6 at the lower, and Game 7 at the higher) prior to 1985; the Finals returned to this format in 2014.[1] The series was named the BAA Finals from 1947 to 1949 and then changed to the NBA World Championship Series from 1950 to 1982. The following two years, the league used Showdown '83 and Showdown '84. It returned to NBA World Championship Series in 1985, before settling on NBA Finals in 1986.[2]


1947–56: Early years and Lakers Success

During the first decade the Minneapolis Lakers had the first NBA dynasty, winning five championships in six years under Hall of Fame head coach John Kundla. The team also featured George Mikan, one of the greatest players in NBA history.

1957–69: Celtics Dynasty

The Boston Celtics went 11–1 in the NBA Finals during 13 seasons (1956–57 to 1968–69). They won eight straight NBA championships from 1959 through 1966.[3] This period includes one season (1958–59) when the Lakers were still 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 (1979–80 to 1988–89) the Celtics and Lakers appeared 13 times.

With the establishment of the Celtics dynasty in 1957, Bill Russell became the star of the league. Game 7 of the NBA Finals was decided on a Celtics basket in the final seconds of the second overtime. For most of the late 1950s and 1960s, the Celtics always seemed to have the upper hand on Wilt Chamberlain's teams.

In 1964, Wilt Chamberlain, who had moved to the state of 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 joined the Philadelphia 76ers, the former Syracuse Nationals team that had moved to cover the vacancy created with the departure of the Warriors.

A clash between the two stars in the playoffs was in 1966 and Boston won it 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. They went on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers for the sixth straight time, 4 games to 2.

In 1969, the Celtics overcame even longer odds. Boston was an aging team and had injuries to a number of players. They 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 L.A. They won the first two games at the Los Angeles Forum. However, when the series shifted to Boston Garden, the Celtics won Game 3 110–105. Game 4 was the turning point, as the Lakers led 87–86 and had the ball with 10 seconds to play. But after a turnover, Sam Jones put up a shot that hit the front of the rim, the back heel, rolled around, and went in, giving the Celtics an 88–87 win and tying the series. Game 5, played at the Forum, returned the advantage to the Lakers, but Game 6 was a 99–90 Celtics win, with Chamberlain scoring just eight points. Game 7 was held on May 5; Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke had balloons hung up in the arena in anticipation of a Lakers victory. When Jerry West saw the balloons he was furious, while Russell immediately used the balloons as an inspiration for his team. With West nursing a sore thigh and hamstring, Russell ordered his team to fast break at every chance and they raced off to an early lead. They held off a furious Lakers comeback to win 108–106 and win the series, their eleventh championship in 13 years. This game represented the final one of the Celtics' dynasty.

1970–79: Decade of Parity

The 1970s saw eight different teams win the title, with the Celtics and Knicks 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 60 feet to tie the game, a shot which became one of the most famous ever. However, the Knicks won in overtime and continued their momentum for a 4–3 win. Just two seasons later, the Lakers got a measure of revenge by winning 33 straight games, the longest such streak in NBA history. By season's end, they broke the record for most wins in a season with 69, one more than the 1966–67 76ers. The Lakers finally, after a tough postseason, 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 1970s 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 the 1975 NBA Finals.

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 went into three overtimes but eventually went to Boston 128–126. Two days later, the Celtics finished Phoenix off 87–80 in Game 6 for their 13th championship.

Other western franchises that won their first titles in the late 1970s 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.

1980–90: Lakers-Celtics Rivalry and The Bad Boys

Between 1980 and 1989, the Celtics, 76ers, Pistons, or the Lakers won every NBA Finals.[3] The Lakers won five titles from 1980 to 1990 (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988); the Celtics won three (1981, 1984, and 1986); the Pistons won twice (1989 and 1990); and the Sixers won once (1983).

The 1979 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Game featured Magic Johnson's Michigan State University team facing off against Larry Bird's Indiana State University team. Michigan State won. 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.

Bird had actually been drafted the year before, but later decided to stay one more year, and the two superstars entered the league in 1979, leading their respective teams to dazzling heights. Johnson's Lakers reached the 1980 NBA Finals against Julius Erving's 76ers, 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, grabbed 15 rebounds and dished out 7 assists[4] to win his first championship while being awarded his first NBA Finals MVP; a remarkable performance in the annals of the sport.

Boston reached the 1981 NBA Finals led by the "Big Three" of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. During the 1980 NBA draft, the Celtics traded two first round picks to the Warriors for Parish and a first round pick later spent on McHale. Considered to be one of the best front courts of all time, all three players would later make the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.[5] They met the Rockets in the 1981 Finals, practically single-handedly carried by Moses Malone who upset Magic's Lakers in the first round. The Rockets were only the second team in NBA history to make the Finals after posting a losing record in the regular season, and the Celtics had an NBA best record of 62–20. After reasserting themselves as a powerhouse in the NBA, the Celtics won the Finals in 6 games.

Led by new coach Pat Riley, the Lakers returned to the 1982 NBA Finals in a rematch against the 76ers. The 76ers defeated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals in a 7-game series. In the NBA Finals, the Lakers were able to dispatch of the 76ers in 6 games, with Magic Johnson being named Finals MVP. Philadelphia, losing their past three NBA Finals appearances, decided that they needed one more piece to become a champion. On September 15, 1982 they traded for reigning MVP Moses Malone.

Philadelphia, led by Malone and Julius Erving, won the 1983 NBA Finals, losing only once in the entire playoffs, and sweeping the Lakers. (Malone had predicted earlier that they would sweep every series in "Fo-Fo-Fo"). 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 the Lakers 4–3. Game 7 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 until 2014.

In the 1985 NBA Finals, the Lakers made amends for their previous eight losses to the Celtics by defeating them in six games. Even though the Lakers lost the first game in a rout, 148–114, dubbed the "Memorial Day Massacre", they won 4 of the next 5 games, including Game 6 in Boston Garden, to finally end the long years of frustration of failing to defeat the Celtics. These finals were the first to be played in the 2–3–2 format, which Red Auerbach suggested to David Stern in order to cut back on the frequent traveling between Boston and Los Angeles.

The 1986 NBA Finals brought the Celtics back against the Rockets. Boston won in six games, taking their 16th title, 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 won the first two games, but Boston won Game 3. In Game 4, Magic Johnson hit an iconic sky-hook with two seconds left to give the Lakers a 107–106 win and a 3–1 series lead. The Lakers lost Game 5, but won Game 6 to clinch the series with Magic receiving his third NBA Finals MVP.

In 1988 and 1989, the aging Celtics failed to reach the Finals, with the Lakers and Pistons being the best of their conferences. The Lakers defended their title in The 1988 Finals, as they won the series in 7 games against the Pistons; the Lakers became the first team to win back-to-back NBA titles since 1960s.[6] Seeking a three-peat in 1989, the Lakers lost to the Pistons in a rematch of the previous year's NBA Finals. In 1990, Detroit beat the Blazers in five games, and the name "Bad Boys" became attached to the team for its rough, physical play. Led by a Hall of Fame back court in Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas and a rough, physical front court with Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer, the Pistons were able to fight past the up-and-coming superstar Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

1991–98: Bulls Dynasty

The majority of the 1990s was marked by the Chicago Bulls' dynasty, which ended in 1998. Coached by Phil Jackson and led by superstar Michael Jordan, the Bulls won 6 titles from 1991 to 1998. Supported by Scottie Pippen, Jordan won the Finals MVP award every time.

The first championship came at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers, the last appearance in the Finals for Magic Johnson. Billed as a showdown between the aging Magic and the upstart Jordan, the Lakers won the first game 93–91. For the rest of the series, Pippen would guard Magic, with Chicago ultimately taking the next four games. The Bulls returned to the Finals in the next year, pit against Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers. Throughout the 1991–1992 season, Jordan and Drexler led their teams to the best record in their respective conference, leading to several comparisons between the two players in anticipation of a postseason match-up. Chicago blew out the Trail Blazers in Game 1, a game most famous for Jordan shrugging after his record breaking sixth three-pointer in the first half. Game 2 went into overtime, with the Trail Blazers outscoring the Bulls 18–7 in the final period to run away with the win. Game 3 and 4 were split between Chicago and Portland, respectively, but the Bulls took the final two games, clinching their second championship.

In 1993, Jordan was matched against his close friend, MVP Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns. The Bulls won the first two games in Phoenix convincingly, with 100–92 and 111–108 as the final scores respectively. The Suns, rallying behind Barkley, won Game 3 129–121 in Chicago in triple overtime. The Bulls took Game 4 111–105, with Jordan scoring 55 points and tying Rick Barry for the second-most amount of points in an NBA Finals game. Before the Bulls could celebrate, however, the Suns won Game 5 108–98, sending the series back to Phoenix. Chicago won the series clincher in Game 6 99–98 on John Paxson's 3 pointer, leading the Bulls to become only the third team in history to three-peat.

Known as Clutch City, the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, won the 1994 NBA title, during Jordan's tenure as a baseball player and 1995 NBA title. Olajuwon dominated 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). That was the only year that both the NBA and NHL finals went to 7 games while involving teams from the same city. The Rockets' win in Game 7 denied New York from winning both the NBA and NHL titles in the same year, as the New York Rangers won the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. The Rockets swept the Orlando Magic of Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway in the 1995 Finals; Olajuwon was again named Finals MVP. The Rockets became only the fifth franchise to win back-to-back titles. Notably, former Portland Trail Blazer Clyde Drexler was on the 1995 Rockets team.

After his short stint in baseball, Jordan returned to basketball late in the 1994–95 season (March 18). Although he did not lead the Bulls to the Finals, he returned to pre-retirement form the next year while the team acquired perennial rebounding champion Dennis Rodman, leading the Bulls to one of the most memorable seasons ever. The 199596 Bulls finished the regular season 72–10, the second best regular season record in NBA history. They dominated in the playoffs, with series records of 3–0, 4–1 and 4–0, before facing off against the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals. Although the Bulls took a 3–0 series lead, Seattle won the next two games after coach George Karl switched point guard Gary Payton onto Jordan, leading to a sixth game before the Bulls could close it out.

In 1997 and 1998, the Bulls met the Utah Jazz in the Finals two times. 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 in 1998. Although Jordan, Pippen and Jackson were the only three involved in all 6 titles, the Bulls dynasty had a strong cast of players that were decisive in obtaining them. 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 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, etc. Before the beginning of the 1999 season, Jackson decided to retire, which set off a chain reaction that resulted in most of the team, including Jordan and Pippen, to leave the Bulls. With no foundation of youth to build upon, the Bulls would be lottery-bound for the next 6 years.

1999–2010: Lakers & Spurs' Dominance

The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs combined to win 11 of the 12 Western Conference titles and nine NBA Championships during this period.

The Spurs won four championships during this period, in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007. In the 1999 NBA Playoffs, the Spurs finished with a 15–2 mark, including sweeps of the Blazers and Lakers. With a defensive squad led by 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. 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 2003 to 2007, San Antonio would win three more championships in five years, but never repeated as champions. During the 2003 NBA Finals, the Spurs defeated the Nets in 6 games. Said Finals also marked the first championship contested between two former ABA teams. In Game 6, Duncan was two blocks short of recording the first quadruple-double in NBA Finals history, finishing with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks. The Spurs went on to defeat the defending champion Detroit Pistons 4–3 in the 2005 NBA Finals, as well as sweeping the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals. Duncan won the Finals MVP in 1999, 2003 and 2005. In 2007, Tony Parker was named MVP, becoming the first European-born player to win the award.

From 2000 to 2002, the Lakers, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, won three straight NBA Championships. O'Neal won the finals MVP all three times. Their 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 an unprecedented 15–1 record. Their opponent in the Finals was the Philadelphia 76ers, led by Allen Iverson. In the 2002 NBA Finals, the Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets, leading 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.

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, and were the favorites to win the championship. However, the Detroit Pistons, under coach Larry Brown, upset the Lakers in 5 games. Chauncey Billups was named the Finals MVP. The Pistons were also the first team to win games 3, 4, and 5 at home in the Finals since the series switched to a 2–3–2 rotation in 1985, a feat that has since been repeated by the 2006 and 2012 Miami Heat. Now established as one of the premier powerhouses of the East, Detroit would return to the NBA Finals in the following year, bowing out to the Spurs in seven games.

The 2006 NBA Finals were the only Finals between 1999 and 2010 not to feature the Spurs or Lakers. Instead, it 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. The Mavericks won the first two games at home, but the turning point of the series was in Game 3, when the Heat overcame a 13-point deficit with less than 6 minutes left 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 Gary Payton, who was appearing in his third NBA finals. Miami swept all three of their home games, two of which were sparked by fourth quarter comebacks led by Wade; the Heat would win their first championship in game six.

The Lakers returned to the finals in 2008, against the Boston Celtics. Renewing the teams' fierce rivalry of the 1980s, this marked the 11th time that these two teams met in the Finals, the last such meeting happening in 1987. The Celtics, who defeated the Lakers 4–2, 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 bounced back from their 2008 loss and returned to the Finals in 2009, where they faced the Orlando Magic, led by Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard in 2009. Los Angeles would defeat Orlando in five games, with Bryant earning the Finals MVP award. The Lakers met the Celtics once again in 2010. The Lakers trailed 3–2 before winning the last two at home, marking the first time in the history of the Celtics franchise that Boston lost a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant was named Finals MVP once again. The 2009 and 2010 titles were Lakers' coach Phil Jackson's 10th and 11th NBA titles, passing Red Auerbach for the most NBA titles all time. Jackson would also pass Auerbach and National Hockey League coach Scotty Bowman for the most titles for a head coach in any major American sport.

2011–present: LeBron James' Dominance of the East

During the 2010 offseason, the Miami Heat added free agents Chris Bosh and LeBron James, and re-signed team captain Dwyane Wade. [7] The Heat were considered the favorites by many to win the title; not just for the following season, but for years to come. The Heat would represent the Eastern Conference in the next four finals, winning two of them (2012 and 2013).

The 2011 NBA Finals put the Heat against the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the finals from five years earlier. The Mavericks, who were led by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd, won the series 4–2, with Nowitzki being named the Finals MVP. The Heat returned to the finals in 2012 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a series that had 3-time NBA MVP James and 3-time NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant, neither of whom had won a championship at the time. After the Thunder took Game 1 at home, the Heat won four straight games to win the series 4–1. The Heat became the first team ever to win a championship after trailing in three different series. James was unanimously named NBA Finals MVP. The Heat won a second title in 2013, this time over the San Antonio Spurs. The 2013 Finals was the first Finals since 1987 to feature four former Finals MVPs: Tim Duncan (1999, 2003, 2005) and Tony Parker (2007) for the Spurs and Dwyane Wade (2006) and LeBron James (2012) for the Heat. The Spurs were up 3–2 in the series going into Game 6 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami. With seconds remaining in regulation, Miami's Ray Allen scored a game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime, and the Heat would prevail 103–100. The game is considered by some to have been one of the greatest playoff games in NBA history.[8] The Heat would win Game 7, 95–88, to clinch the title. James was named the Finals MVP for the second straight year.

Looking for a 3-peat, the Heat dominated the 2014 postseason, going 12–3 in the first three rounds. They reached the 2014 NBA Finals and faced the Spurs in a rematch of the 2013 Finals. After James' early exit, San Antonio went on a 31–9 run to win the game 110–95. Miami would win Game 2, but that would be their only win of the series, as the Spurs would win Games 3, 4, and 5 to win the Championship, their fifth in 16 years, but their first since 2007. Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP, becoming the third youngest Finals MVP after Duncan and Magic Johnson.

After the 2014 Finals, James became a free agent and returned to Cleveland where he played alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2015 NBA Finals. In the 2015 offseason, the Miami Heat did not qualify in the playoffs due to mediocrity stemming from brutal injuries all season, and the former defending champions, San Antonio Spurs, were eliminated in a Game 7 battle against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round. The 2014–15 MVP, Stephen Curry, and the Golden State Warriors achieved a 67–15 record, the best record since the 2007 Dallas Mavericks, entering the finals, while James and current Cavalier and former Heat teammate James Jones made their fifth straight finals appearance – the first two players to do this since the 1960s Celtics. In the 2014–15 season, the Warriors managed to defy conventional wisdom and traditionalist ideas by winning the championship with a small-ball, three-point shooting, fast-paced team. The Warriors won Game 1 in overtime, with the Cavaliers losing All-Star starting point guard Kyrie Irving to injury in the process. The Cavaliers would win Games 2 and 3. However, the Warriors won the next three games after Coach Steve Kerr made the adjustment of inserting sixth man Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in place of center Andrew Bogut. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 4-2 with Iguodala becoming the first player to not start in any regular season game to win the Finals MVP award.

In the next season, Cleveland finished the season as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and defeated the Toronto Raptors 4-2 in the conference finals to advance to the NBA Finals. James, along with James Jones, would be making their sixth straight appearance in the Finals. They met the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of the previous Finals. During the 2015–16 season, the Warriors broke the record for most wins in a season with a record of 73–9 and Stephen Curry would go on to win his second straight MVP Award (first unanimous MVP in history) after shattering the record for three-pointers made in a single season by over one hundred. The Warriors would advance to the NBA Finals with 3 straight wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder after trailing 3-1.

In the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first ever NBA championship in franchise history, recovering from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 (first time ever in the NBA Finals). James scored 27 points in decisive Game 7 and performed one of the greatest blocks in league history, sprinting the full length of the court to perform his signature chase down block in the final minute of the game. Kyrie Irving would later hit a go-ahead 3 point shot to take the lead with less than one minute remaining. LeBron James and the Cavaliers would win the decisive Game 7, 93-89. In return he was named unanimous Finals MVP.[9] James also led both the Warriors and the Cavaliers in all five major statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals) en route to one of the greatest Finals performances in NBA history.

Team records

Finals appearances

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

No.TeamWL%Most recent appearanceMost recent titleNotes
31 Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers1615.51620102010The team won 11 in L.A. and 5 in Minneapolis. 1 three-peat in Minneapolis from 1952 to 1954 and 1 in Los Angeles from 2000 to 2002. Has appeared in an NBA Finals every decade since the 1940s, winning in all but the 1960s and 1990s.
21Boston Celtics174.81020102008Won 8 straight titles from 1959 to 1966. The first 14 titles are Brown Trophies, the rest are Larry O'Brien Championship Trophies. The Celtics are 1–0 versus the Minneapolis Lakers and 8–3 versus the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. The Celtics have closed out two series with Game Seven road wins in 1969 (Los Angeles Lakers) and 1974 (Milwaukee Bucks).
9Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers36.333200119831–2 as Syracuse Nationals.
8New York Knicks26.25019991973 In 1999, became first 8th playoff seed to ever reach Finals.
8Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors44.500201620152–1 as Philadelphia Warriors; 0–2 as San Francisco Warriors; 2–1 as Golden State Warriors.[10]
7Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons34.429200520040–2 as Fort Wayne Pistons.
6Chicago Bulls601.00019981998All the titles were with head coach Phil Jackson and players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Two three-peats: 199193 and 199698. Only active NBA franchise with multiple Finals appearances and no losses.
6San Antonio Spurs51.83320142014 All the titles were with Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. Won their first championship in 1999, then won three championships in five years (2003, 2005, 2007) and one more in 2014. Tony Parker is the first European-born player to win a Finals MVP. Kawhi Leonard is the third-youngest player to win Finals MVP. Only franchise to move from the American Basketball Association to the NBA and subsequently win championships.
5Miami Heat32.60020142013All the titles were with Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. They faced Mavericks in 2006 and 2011. They made four straight appearances from 2011 to 2014 (two titles), the first franchise to accomplish that since the 1984–87 Celtics. Both losses were to Texas teams, the Mavs and Spurs.
4Houston Rockets22.50019951995 Two championships with center Hakeem Olajuwon (named MVP in both championship series) and coach Rudy Tomjanovich, championships were back to back. Title in 1995 was accomplished as the 6th seed, the lowest ever for a champion team.
4St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks13.25019611958All appearances as St. Louis franchise.
4Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder13.25020121979 They were 1–2 as Seattle SuperSonics and 0–1 as Oklahoma City Thunder. Only franchise since the 1976–77 ABA/NBA merger to win a title in one city and later move to a different one.
3Cleveland Cavaliers12.33320162016 Lost in the 2007 and 2015 Finals; won in 2016. LeBron James was the only player on all three squads.
3Portland Trail Blazers12.33319921977Title won led by UCLA legend and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, lost two finals with Clyde Drexler.
2Dallas Mavericks11.50020112011They lost in the 2006 Finals and won in the 2011 Finals, both times versus the Heat. Both Mavericks teams were led by Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.
2Milwaukee Bucks11.50019741971 They won with Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
2New York/New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets02.0002003Never They appeared twice in the Finals as New Jersey Nets.
2Orlando Magic02.0002009Never They were swept by the Rockets in 1995 and defeated in 2009 by the Lakers. Combined 1–8 all-time Finals record.
2Phoenix Suns02.0001993Never Lost in the 1976 and 1993 Finals, to the Celtics and Bulls, respectively. Best historical won-loss record amongst all franchises to have never won a title.
2New Orleans/Utah Jazz02.0001998NeverBoth titles were lost with coach Jerry Sloan and players Karl Malone and John Stockton and against the Bulls.
1Rochester/Cincinnati Royals–Kansas City-Omaha/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings101.00019511951Only appearance and title in NBA Finals as Rochester Royals.
1Indiana Pacers01.0002000Never
1Baltimore Bullets101.00019481948Team folded in 1954 and is not the same franchise as the current Washington Wizards, also only championship winning team to fold.
1Chicago Stags01.0001947NeverTeam folded in 1950.
1 Washington Capitols01.0001949NeverTeam folded in 1951.

Active franchises with no Finals appearances

TeamNo. of seasonsFoundedOther achievements
Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers461970 Reached three conference semifinals as the Braves, and four as the Clippers: in the 2005–06 season where they lost to the Phoenix Suns, in the 2011–12 season where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs, in the 2013–14 season where they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in the 2014–15 season where they lost to the Houston Rockets.
Denver Nuggets401976Joined NBA after nine American Basketball Association (ABA) seasons (1967–1976). Denver played in the 1976 ABA championship, but lost to the New York Nets; played in the 1978 conference finals, but lost to the Seattle SuperSonics; played in the 1985 and 2009 conference finals, but lost both times to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Minnesota Timberwolves271989Reached the Western Conference finals in the 2003–04 season, but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets*281988Reached the conference semifinals four times, first in the 1992–93 season where they lost to the New York Knicks, second in the 1997–98 season where they lost to the Chicago Bulls, third in the 2000–01 season where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, and fourth in the 2001–02 season where they lost to the New Jersey Nets.
Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies211995Reached the Western Conference finals in the 2012–13 season, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Toronto Raptors211995 Reached the Eastern Conference finals in the 2015–16 season, but lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
New Orleans (/Oklahoma City) Hornets/Pelicans*142002 Reached the conference semifinals in the 2007–08 season, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.

(*) As a result of the original franchise's relocation to New Orleans, the NBA team in Charlotte suspended operations for the 2002–03 and the 2003–04 seasons, before a new team formerly called the Bobcats was established for the 2004–05 season. On May 20, 2014, the Bobcats officially became the second incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets. At a press conference heralding the change, team officials also announced that as part of a deal with the NBA and the Pelicans, the renamed Hornets reclaimed the history and records of the 1988–2002 Hornets, while all of the Hornets' records during their time in New Orleans and Oklahoma City from 2002 to 2013 remained with the Pelicans.

Most common matchups

Individual games records

35Chicago Bulls2411.6864–2 in their last finals appearance against the Jazz in 1998.
34San Antonio Spurs2311.6764–1 in their last appearance against the Heat in 2014.
6Baltimore Bullets42.667Franchise defunct.
11Milwaukee Bucks74.6363–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Celtics in 1974.
129Boston Celtics7752.597Has a 9–3 series record against the Lakers in the finals.
7Sacramento Kings43.571All as Rochester Royals. The Cincinnati Royals and Kansas City Kings both made zero Finals appearances.
40Detroit Pistons2218.550Includes 4–8 as Fort Wayne franchise.
44Golden State Warriors2420.545Includes 10–6 as Philadelphia franchise and 3-8 as San Francisco franchise.
23Houston Rockets1211.522Swept the Magic in their last finals appearance.
29Miami Heat1514.517 Won in 2006, 2012 and 2013.
12Dallas Mavericks66.500 All games versus the Heat.
179Los Angeles Lakers8990.497Includes 20–15 as Minneapolis franchise. 4–3 in their last finals appearance against the Celtics in 2010.
53Philadelphia 76ers2429.453Includes 9–11 as Syracuse Nationals.
25Atlanta Hawks1114.440All as St. Louis franchise.
23Oklahoma City Thunder1013.435 Went 9-9 in three Finals appearances as the Seattle SuperSonics (one title), 1–4 in one appearance as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
48New York Knicks2028.4171–4 in their last appearance against the Spurs in 1999.
17Portland Trail Blazers710.4122–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Bulls in 1992.
17Cleveland Cavaliers611.352Swept in first appearance in 2007, won 4-3 in the last in 2016.
12Phoenix Suns48.3332–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Bulls in 1993.
12Utah Jazz48.3332–4 in both their finals appearances, both to the Bulls in 1997–98.
6Indiana Pacers24.3332–4 in their only finals appearance, lost to the Lakers in 2000.
6Washington Capitols24.333Franchise defunct.
20Washington Wizards515.250All as Baltimore Bullets (0–4) and Washington Bullets (5–11).
10Brooklyn Nets28.200All as New Jersey Nets. 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Spurs in 2003.
5Chicago Stags14.200Franchise defunct.
9Orlando Magic18.1111–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Lakers in 2009.

Player Records


Total Points (finals)[11]
  1. Jerry West1,679
  2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar1,317
  3. Michael Jordan1,176
  4. Elgin Baylor1,161
  5. Bill Russell1,151
  6. Sam Jones1,143
  7. LeBron James1,079
  8. Tom Heinsohn1,037
  9. John Havlicek1,018
  10. Magic Johnson971
PPG Avg (Min 10 games) (finals)[11]

See also


  1. "NBA owners change Finals format to 2–2–1–1–1". Associated Press. October 23, 2013.
  2. Ballard, Bill (June 4, 1989). "Here Are Some Final Facts on NBA Playoffs". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 26, 2015.
  3. 1 2 "Boston won the NBA for 8 years in a row".
  4. " Magic Fills in at Center". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  5. Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
  6. "NBA Season Recaps". 1 July 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  7. Team Stream Now. "LeBron James and the Ghost of 23". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  8. Jones, Michael C. (June 19, 2013). "NBA Finals 2013, Spurs vs. Heat Game 6: The greatest game ever played?". Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  9. Johnson, Jared. "NBA Finals Live: Cavs vs. Warriors in Game 7". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 2016-06-20.
  10. "NBA : Golden State Warriors Finals appearances".
  11. 1 2 3 " Líderes en la historia de las Finales (Estadísticas)". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
  12. " All-Time Records Index". Retrieved 29 June 2015.
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