Top 10 NBA Finals of All Time
The NBA Finals are upon us. Finally, after over a month of waiting, we get what we have been wishing for: the third act of the Warriors vs. Cavaliers trilogy. This series may be one of the most anticipated in NBA history because of the sheer dominance these teams have exhibited thus far.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the top 10 Finals in NBA history:
10. 2016 Cleveland cavaliers: 4 - Golden State warriors: 3
Last year’s championship will be remembered for many reasons. Draymond Green’s suspension for hitting LeBron James in the groin and LeBron's superhero block in Game 7 were just a couple highlights in the Warriors' 3-1 collapse that led to the return of championship glory to the city of Cleveland.
Golden State took a commanding 3-1 lead in the series after besting Cleveland the year before, but after Green was suspended for Game 5, the wheels fell off the wagon.
Coming off the only unanimous MVP season ever, Stephen Curry was largely overshadowed and outplayed in this series by James, who proved to the world that he was indeed the most complete player in the league.
The Warriors set the record for wins in a season, going 73-9, but they lost their footing in the Finals and now look to redeem themselves this year.
9. 1978 Washington bullets: 4 - Seattle Supersonics: 3
Both the Bullets and Supersonics were seen as long shots to make it to the NBA Finals in 1978, finishing at No. 3 and No. 4 in their respective conferences. However, when they got there, the Bullets were heavy underdogs because of their history of being swept in the 1971 and 1975 Finals.
Seattle led the series 3-2 before the Bullets unleashed a barrage of buckets in a 117-82 blowout in Game 6. With momentum in hand, PF Elvin Hayes and the Bullets captured their first championship in franchise history.
After the game, Hayes told reporters that this win vindicated his previous mishaps in past playoffs, saying, “Whatever else they can say about me, they also got to say E’s a world champion. E wears the ring.”
8: 2004 Detroit pistons: 4 - Los Angeles Lakers: 1
This series may not have been particularly close, but it has had far-reaching implications on how NBA teams are assembled nowadays. The Pistons used an unselfish, defense-first mentality to unexpectedly snatch a championship; NBA teams have been trying to emulate their success ever since.
Comprised of five solid starters: Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, Detroit concocted a new championship formula – one with no clear star player. They took on a star-studded Lakers team in the Finals, headlined by talents such as Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and dominated them on defense.
The Pistons held Los Angeles to 87 points or less in every game except the Lakers’ double-overtime victory in Game 2. The defensive dominance was underlined in Game 3, when Detroit held Los Angeles to a measly 68 points.
7. 1994 Houston Rockets: 4 - New York Knicks: 3
One of the most underrated NBA Finals in history pitted Hakeem Olajuwon against Patrick Ewing in a battle of the boards. The Rockets and Knicks were a great match; only one of their seven games was decided by double-digits.
Pat Riley captained an all-star Knicks team led by John Starks, Charles Oakley and Ewing. It took a bit of luck for Riley to get them to the championship, as the Chicago Bulls were without the baseball-playing Michael Jordan.
However, their luck ran out when they faced Olajuwon and the Rockets. New York had a 3-2 series lead, but Olajuwon made sure that his MVP season would end with a title and he proceeded to dominate the last two games of the series.
Unfortunately, the '94 Finals is not most often remembered for its high-caliber competition, but rather as the series that was interrupted by live coverage of the infamous O.J. Simpson car chase.
6. 1974 Boston Celtics: 4 - Milwaukee Bucks: 3
Boston’s first championship win after the Bill Russell era was by no means an easy task. The Celtics had to deal with a talented Bucks team headlined by Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who were coming into their own on a team trying to cap off their sixth season in the NBA with a championship.
Boston won the first game of the series and the two teams alternated victories thereafter, with the Celtics capturing Game 7 in Milwaukee, 102-87.
After sweeping the Bulls in the conference finals, Milwaukee was heavily favored in this series, but John Havlicek and Don Nelson had other plans, shooting their way to a stunning victory.
The '74 Milwaukee Bucks are one of the greatest squads ever to not cap off their season with a championship win.
5. 2013 Miami Heat: 4 - San Antonio spurs: 3
Down by three in Game 6 with a 3-2 series deficit and six seconds left in the fourth quarter, Ray Allen drained one of the most dramatic shots in NBA history to send the game into overtime.
The Heat seized the series momentum through Allen’s dagger of a shot to pull out the overtime victory and proceeded to seal the deal with a 95-88 Game 7 win.
This Finals triumph validated LeBron’s free agency decision to go to Miami, as it gave the Heat their second championship in his first three seasons and made them the first team since the 1997-98 Bulls to win back-to-back championships.
It is also the one and only time the San Antonio has ever lost in the NBA Finals.
4: 2010 Los Angeles lakers: 4 - Boston celtics: 3
Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson's last championship was one to remember.
In a battle of two historic basketball empires, the Lakers came back from a 3-2 series deficit to pull out their 16th NBA championship, avenging their Finals loss against Boston two years prior.
On the backs of Kobe, Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher, Los Angeles stormed back in Game 7 after being down 13 points, to steal the title away from the Celtics' Big Three.
Boston finished the season ranked No. 4 in the Eastern Conference, but blitzed LeBron’s Cavs and Dwight Howard’s Magic on their way to the championship. Many credit this Boston team’s demolition of the Cavaliers as the main reason LeBron spurned his hometown team to join Miami the following offseason.
This series gave off a certain historic nostalgia that made it that much more powerful.
3. 1997 Chicago bulls: 4 - Utah Jazz: 2
Chicago vs. Utah is one of the most underrated rivalries in sports history and Game 5 of their 1997 Finals series was one of the most memorable individual performances of all time.
Yes, we’re talking about “The Flu Game.”
Tied 2-2 in the series, Michael Jordan came down with the flu and was told by Chicago’s trainers that there was no way that he could suit up. Utah had just won the previous two and in a pivotal swing-game, no one could tell Jordan he could not play.
He awoke at 3 p.m. to arrive barely on time to the 6 p.m. game and got off to a sluggish start that led Utah to an early 16-point lead. After looking as if he would faint early in the game, Jordan kicked it into gear, summoning every ounce of competitive instinct in his body and finishing the contest with 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in 44 minutes of play.
Jordan’s incredible effort cemented his place in history as the NBA’s greatest competitor and put Chicago in the driver’s seat to win the series in six.
2. 1969 Boston celtics: 4 - Los Angeles Lakers: 3
Head coach/star player Bill Russell’s last season with Boston saw the end of an era and one final championship over a bitter rival.
Russell showed up to the start of the season 15 pounds overweight and the Celtics underachieved in the regular season, placing fourth in the final standings. However, Boston came ready to play in the playoffs, starting 8-3 before facing off against an ultra-talented Los Angeles team in the Finals.
The Lakers had acquired Wilt Chamberlain in the previous offseason to team him up with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, so pulling out the victory was an incredible showcase of how historically dominant Russell was – even in the late stages of his career.
We've all heard the 'ole cliche, "A series does not start until the road team wins," but that was exactly the case in 1969. The home team won every game of this series until the seventh, when Boston thwarted the Lakers, 108-106.
This seven-game series was the culmination of Russell's unparalleled Celtics dynasty when he led Boston to win 11 championships over the course of 13 seasons.
1. 1988 Los Angeles lakers: 4 - Detroit pistons: 3
Who could forget this series? Two of the most entertaining teams in history battling it out in a ferocious seven games? Sign me up.
It is no shock to see the Lakers on this list for the fourth time, holding the top spot for greatest Finals series of all time.
With a 3-2 series deficit, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rallied the troops to make good on head coach Pat Riley’s promise after their 1987 championship when he said, “Next year we’re going to win it again.” Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar dismantled Isaiah Thomas' "Bad Boy Pistons" by stealing away Games 6 and 7 by just four points combined.
On a hobbled ankle – barely able to walk – Thomas put up one of the most inspiring performances ever in game 7. He had an NBA finals record 25 points in the third quarter alone, trying everything to will his team to victory; but Abdul-Jabbar drew a late foul call and sank both free throws to give Los Angeles the one-point win.
The Pistons beat Jordan's Bulls and Larry Bird's Celtics on their way to the NBA finals and used the lessons learned from this loss to win back-to-back championships in the following two seasons.
No series in NBA history has matched the amount of talent that went head-to-head in this contest. Heading into battle for the third year in a row, the Cavs and Warriors will certainly try.