NBA Finals

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Logo of the NBA Finals.

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

The series is played between the winners of the Western and Eastern Conference Finals. At the conclusion of the championship round, the winners of four (4) games of the NBA Finals are 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. Most NBA Finals series were played under the 2–2–1–1–1 format prior to 1985; the Finals returned to this format in 2014.

Between Michael Jordan's first Finals win in 1991 to present day there has been a pattern of NBA Finals teams. At least one of the teams were either coached by Phil Jackson or was from State of Texas or Florida. Another pattern points to superstars. Since 1980, there have been only 2 NBA Finals (1990 and 1994) that did not feature at least one of the following players: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan or LeBron James.

History[edit]

1947–56: The early years and Lakers dynasty[edit]

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: The Celtics dynasty, the start of the comeback[edit]

The Boston Celtics went 11–1 in the NBA Finals during 13 seasons (1956–67 to 1968–69). They won eight straight NBA championships from 1959 through 1966.[1] 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 Games 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[edit]

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. Although the Knicks won in overtime and continued their momentum for a 4–3 win, the Lakers were not defeated. Just two seasons later, the team won 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: Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson/Bad Boys[edit]

Between 1980 and 1989, the Celtics and/or the Lakers played in every NBA Finals.[1] The Lakers won five titles from 1980-1990 (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 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[2] 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 NBA Hall of Fame. 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 NBA-MVP Moses Malone.

Philadelphia, led by Moses 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 Laker's defended their title in The 1988 Finals, as they won the series in 7 games against the Pistons; the Laker's became the first team to win back-to-back NBA titles since 1960s.[3] 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: The Bulls Dynasty/The Clutch City[edit]

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 and Dennis Rodman, 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 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). It was the only year that the NBA and NHL finals went 7 games, but also involve teams from one city. The Rockets' win in Game 7 denied New York from having NBA and NHL titles in the same year, as the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup during the series. The Rockets swept the Orlando Magic in the 1995 Finals; Olajuwon was again named Finals MVP. The Rockets became only the fifth franchise to win back-to-back titles. Notably, Portland's Drexler was on the 1995 Rockets team.

After a short stint as a baseball player, 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 Dennis Rodman, leading the Bulls to one of the most memorable seasons ever. The 1996 Bulls finished the regular season 72–10, the 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 cast of characters 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[edit]

The Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.

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 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 2000–2002, 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. Entering the 2002 NBA Playoffs, 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 2004 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 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: The Heat Wave and the Spurs' comeback[edit]

During the 2010 offseason, the Miami Heat added free agents Chris Bosh and LeBron James, who along with team captain Dwyane Wade, formed what many dubbed the "Big 3." 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 and 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. Many people criticized James' first championship, since they defeated a young team in the Thunder, and this series put a lot on the line. 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.[4] 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. In Game 1, James got cramps due to the malfunctioning air conditioning in the AT&T Center. 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 to Duncan and Magic Johnson. After the Finals, Lebron James became a free agent and returned to Cleveland.

Finals appearances[edit]

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

# Team W L % Most recent appearance Most recent title Notes
31 Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers 16 15 .516 2010 2010 The team won 11 in L.A. and 5 in Minneapolis.
21 Boston Celtics 17 4 .810 2010 2008 Won 8 straight titles from 1959–66. 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).
9 Syracuse Nationals/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 Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons 3 4 .429 2005 2004 0–2 as Fort Wayne Pistons.
6 Chicago Bulls 6 0 1.000 1998 1998 All the titles were with head coach Phil Jackson and players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Two three-peats: 199193 and 199698.
6 Philadelphia/San Francisco/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.[5]
6 San Antonio Spurs 5 1 .833 2014 2014 All the titles were with Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. 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.
5 Miami Heat 3 2 .600 2014 2013 All the titles were with Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. They faced Mavericks in 2006 and 2011). Four straight appearances from 2011–14, winning two of them. Both losses to Texas teams; the Mavs and Spurs.
4 Houston Rockets 2 2 .500 1995 1995 Two championships with center Hakeem Olajuwon (named MVP in both championship series) and coach Rudy Tomjanovich, championships were back to back. In 1995, the feat was accomplished starting by a 6th seed in regular season, the lowest ever for a champion team.
4 St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks 1 3 .250 1961 1958 All appearances as St. Louis franchise.
4 Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder 1 3 .250 2012 1979 They were 1–2 as Seattle SuperSonics and 0–1 as Oklahoma City Thunder.
4 Baltimore/Washington Bullets/Washington Wizards 1 3 .250 1979 1978 They were 0–1 as Baltimore Bullets and 1–2 as Washington Bullets.
3 Portland Trail Blazers 1 2 .333 1992 1977 Led by UCLA legend and NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton.
2 Dallas Mavericks 1 1 .500 2011 2011 They lost in the 2006 Finals and won in the 2011 Finals, both times versus the Heat. Both Mavericks teams were lead by Dirk Nowitzki.
2 Milwaukee Bucks 1 1 .500 1974 1971 They won with Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
2 New York/New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets 0 2 .000 2003 Never They appeared twice in the Finals as New Jersey Nets.
2 Orlando Magic 0 2 .000 2009 Never They were swept by the Rockets in 1995 and defeated in 2009 by the Lakers.
2 Phoenix Suns 0 2 .000 1993 Never Lost in both the 1976 and 1993 Finals, to the Celtics and Bulls respectively.
2 New Orleans/Utah Jazz 0 2 .000 1998 Never Both titles were lost with coach Jerry Sloan and players Karl Malone and John Stockton and against the Bulls.
1 Rochester/Cincinnati/Kansas City Royals/Sacramento Kings 1 0 1.000 1951 1951 They won only appearance in NBA Finals as Rochester Royals.
1 Cleveland Cavaliers 0 1 .000 2007 Never
1 Indiana Pacers 0 1 .000 2000 Never

Active franchises with no Finals appearances[edit]

Team #Seasons Founded Other achievements
Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers 44 1970 Reached three conference semifinals as the Braves, and three as Clippers, the first in the 2005–06 season where they lost to the Phoenix Suns, the second in the 2011–12 season where they lost to the San Antonio Spurs, and the third in the 2013–14 season where they lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Denver Nuggets 38 1976 Joined NBA after nine American Basketball Association 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 Timberwolves 25 1989 Played in the 2004 conference finals, but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
New Orleans (/Oklahoma City) Hornets/Pelicans* 12 2002 Reached the conference semifinals in the 2007–08 season, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies 19 1995 Reached the Western Conference finals in the 2012–13 season, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Toronto Raptors 19 1995 Reached the conference semifinals in the 2000–01 season, but lost to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets* 24 1988 Reached 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.

(*) As a result of the original franchise's relocation to New Orleans, the NBA team in Charlotte suspended operations from the 2002–03 to the 2003–04 seasons, before a new franchise formerly called the Bobcats was established in the 2004–05 season.

Appearances by former NBA teams[edit]

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
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 Chicago Stags 0 1 .000 1947 Never Team folded in 1950.
1 Washington Capitols 0 1 .000 1949 Never Team folded in 1951.

Most common matchups[edit]

Most consecutive NBA Finals appearances[edit]

Individual games records[edit]

P Team W L PCT Notes
35 Chicago Bulls 24 11 .686 4–2 in their last finals appearance against the Jazz in 1998.
34 San Antonio Spurs 23 11 .676 4-1 in their last appearance against the Heat in 2014.
6 Baltimore Bullets 4 2 .667 Franchise defunct.
11 Milwaukee Bucks 7 4 .636 3–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Celtics in 1974.
129 Boston Celtics 77 52 .597 Has a 9-3 series record against the Lakers in the finals.
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 Magic in their last finals appearance.
29 Miami Heat 15 14 .517 Won in 2006, 2012 and 2013.
12 Dallas Mavericks 6 6 .500 All games versus the Heat.
179 Los Angeles Lakers 89 90 .497 Includes 20–15 as Minneapolis franchise. 4–3 in their last finals appearance against the Celtics in 2010.
53 Philadelphia 76ers 24 29 .453 Includes 9–11 as Syracuse Nationals.
25 Atlanta Hawks 11 14 .440 All as St. Louis franchise.
23 Oklahoma City Thunder 10 13 .435 Went 3-4 in 1978, 4-1 in 1979, and 2-4 in 1996 as the Seattle SuperSonics, 1-4 in 2012 as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
48 New York Knicks 20 28 .417 1–4 in their last appearance against the Spurs in 1999.
17 Portland Trail Blazers 7 10 .412 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Bulls in 1992.
12 Phoenix Suns 4 8 .333 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Bulls in 1993.
12 Utah Jazz 4 8 .333 2–4 in both their finals appearances, both to the Bulls in 1997-98.
6 Indiana Pacers 2 4 .333 2–4 in their only finals appearance, lost to the Lakers in 2000.
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 Brooklyn Nets 2 8 .200 All as New Jersey Nets. 2–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Spurs in 2003.
5 Chicago Stags 1 4 .200 Franchise defunct.
9 Orlando Magic 1 8 .111 1–4 in their last finals appearance, lost to the Lakers in 2009.
4 Cleveland Cavaliers 0 4 .000 Swept by the Spurs in 2007.

Records[edit]

Individual[edit]

Career[6]


Series[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]