Basketball Wiki
NBA Finals
NBA Finals logo (2022)
Logo of the NBA Finals since 2022.
League information
Status Active
Genre Sporting event
Date(s) Late May–June
Frequency Annual
Country United States
Inaugurated 1947
Sponsor YouTube TV
Most titles: Boston Celtics (18)

The NBA Finals is the championship series of the National Basketball Association, played under a best-of-seven playoff format. The team winning the Eastern Conference Finals earns one of the two berths in the championship round, with the other going to the team that wins the Western Conference Finals. This event has been played at the conclusion of every NBA and BAA season in history, the first being held in 1947.

The series was initially known as the BAA Finals prior to the 1949–50 season when the Basketball Association of America (BAA) merged with the National Basketball League (NBL) to form the NBA. The competition oversaw further name changes to NBA World Championship Series from 1950 to 1985, as well as a brief stint as the Showdown, before settling on NBA Finals in 1986. Since 2018, it has been officially known as the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV for sponsorship reasons.

The NBA Finals was initially structured in a 2–2–1–1–1 format. In 1985, to ease the amount of cross-country travel, it was changed to a 2–3–2 format, where the first two and last two games of the series were played at the arena of the team who earned home-court advantage by having the better record during the regular season. In 2014, the 2–2–1–1–1 format was restored. The first two games are played the higher-seeded team's home, the following two at the home of the lower-seeded team, and the remaining three are played at each team's home arena alternately.

A total of 21 franchises have won the NBA Finals, with the Boston Celtics winning in 2024. The Celtics also hold the record for the most victories, having won the competition 18 times and the most consecutive titles, winning eight in a row from 1959 to 1966. The Los Angeles Lakers have contested the NBA Finals the most times, with 32 appearances. The Eastern Division/Conference has provided the most champions, with 40 wins from eleven franchises; the Western Division/Conference has 37, from nine franchises.


As basketball is a major sport in the United States, the Final round has become a large-scale event on the sports calendar, with higher popularity than the concurrent Stanley Cup final in the National Hockey League.

Memorable Finals series include:

  • 1947: The Philadelphia Warriors defeat the Chicago Stags to win the first ever BAA Finals.
  • 1955: The Syracuse Nationals faced the Fort Wayne Pistons. Although both markets were small (so little coverage was offered) the series was spectacular. The home team won every game, as the Nationals won the series with a free throw by George King at the end of Game 7, breaking the 91–91 tie as the Nationals came away with a 92–91 victory in Game 7, winning their first championship.
  • 1957: The first championship in the Celtics dynasty. A hard-fought series against the St. Louis Hawks. Jim Loscutoff won the game for the Celtics in triple overtime in Game 7 with two free throws that sealed a 125–123 victory for the Celtics.
  • 1962: The series to which many ascribe the beginnings of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry. In Game 7, the clock was winding down with the score tied at 100, when Lakers shooting guard Frank Selvy missed an open 12-footer from the baseline that would have won the championship for the Lakers. Instead, the game went into OT in which the Celtics then won the game 110–107 and thus the title. For the Celtics, it was their fifth title in six seasons. For the Lakers, it was the first of many heartbreaks for their inability to defeat the Celtics in the Finals in the 1960s.
  • 1966: Another Celtics–Lakers classic. In Game 7, Red Auerbach, the Celtics' head coach who had challenged the entire league to topple the Celtics from their reign by announcing he would retire after the 1965–66 season before the season had started (thus giving his detractors "one last shot" at him), had prematurely lit up his traditional "victory cigar" after the Celtics had built up a huge lead, but the Lakers mounted a fierce rally. The Celtics would manage to hold off the Lakers' late rally, however, and won 95–93, sending Red Auerbach out as a champion.
  • 1969: For the third time in the decade, a Lakers–Celtics final went to seven games. Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, and Jerry West, three of the game's best players, were now all playing for the Lakers and entered the Finals as the favorites. In addition, the Celtics were an aging team; they made the playoffs as the fourth place team in the Eastern Division, and were not favored to make it to the finals. Nevertheless, Celtics player-coach Bill Russell's experience led to 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. In Game 7 at the Forum, the Celtics would put the cherry on top of their dynasty, as they would go on defeat and upset the Lakers 108–106. It was the Celtics' dynasty's last hurrah, as Bill Russell would win his record 11th and final NBA championship and would retire as a champion after the season. Jerry West, who averaged 38 points a game in the series, was named the first Finals MVP, making him the first (and only) player to win the award despite being from the losing team. After the loss, West was seen as the ultimate tragic hero: despite his efforts, he and the Lakers had fell yet again to the Celtics in the Finals, which marked their seventh consecutive defeat in the Finals to them. After the game, Bill Russell held his hand, and John Havlicek said: "I love you, Jerry".
  • 1970: Game 3 produced an instant classic. The Lakers trailed the New York Knicks 100–102 with three seconds left, but Jerry West scored a basket from 60 feet away to even the game. Although the Knicks eventually won in overtime, the Lakers produced momentum. Unfortunately for them, the injured Willis Reed, who supposedly was out of Game 7, came back in to inspire the Knicks just when they needed it. The Knicks defeated the Lakers to claim their first title.
  • 1976: Chiefly remembered for Game 5, a classic that was often labelled afterwards as the "greatest NBA game ever". With the series tied 2–2 against the Phoenix Suns, the Celtics took a huge lead at Boston Garden, but could not hold it. The game was marred by several controversies but eventually went to Boston in three overtimes, 128–126. Boston then won Game 6 and took home their 13th championship.
  • 1977: The Portland Trail Blazers, led by Finals MVP Bill Walton, were making their first ever NBA Finals appearance, as they faced Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers. Bill Walton’s crowning achievement as a player was all about how dynamic he was through adversity. Walton averaged nearly 20 points and 20 rebounds a game against the 76ers and chipped in over five assists per outing thanks to his sublime playmaking chops. Erving never stood a chance as the Trail Blazers became the second NBA team ever to overcome a 2–0 series deficit and win the Finals in six games to win their first and only NBA championship.
  • 1980: In Game 5, the Lakers took a 3–2 lead against the Sixers, led chiefly by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. After Abdul-Jabbar sprained his ankle in Game 5, however, Magic Johnson, in his rookie season, 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. Magic was named NBA Finals MVP, becoming the only player in NBA history to win the award in their rookie season. 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 Magic Johnson-Larry Bird pair entering the league. The Lakers almost swept the Celtics, but a crucial steal in Game 2 led to a tie game and the Celtics were able to win in overtime to tie the series. The Lakers won Game 3 easily and almost won Game 4, but were again thwarted. 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 went to the Celtics, breaking the Lakers' hearts once again. It marked the Celtics' eighth consecutive NBA Finals victory over the Lakers. The 1984 championship series was one of the most watched in history, with soaring TV ratings.
  • 1985: A rematch of the previous season's Finals and the second meeting between the Celtics and Lakers in the Finals in the 1980s. The defending champion Celtics dominated the Lakers in Game 1, winning 148–114 in what was dubbed "The Memorial Day Massacre". Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a rather poor outing in Game 1, which led to many media members declaring his demise. However, the 38-year-old Abdul-Jabbar played with rage in Game 2, scoring 30 points and pulling down 17 boards in a 109–102 win. The Lakers would go on to finally get their longtime revenge on the Celtics, where they won Game 6 111–100, becoming the first visiting team to win the NBA title in Boston Garden. Having previously suffered eight straight Finals losses to the Celtics, the Lakers had finally got the better of their longtime rival. Lakers owner Jerry Buss famously remarked that "this has removed the most odious sentence in the English language. It can never again be said that 'the Lakers have never beaten the Celtics'".
  • 1987: The Lakers and Celtics clashed for the third and final time in the 1980s. 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 the Finals in six.
  • 1988: The Lakers were seeking to become the first repeat champion in 19 years since the Boston Celtics won back-to-back titles in 1968 and 1969. Lakers head coach Pat Riley promised the Los Angeles crowd a repeat championship during the Lakers' 1987 championship parade in downtown Los Angeles. In the Finals, the Lakers faced the "Bad Boys" Detroit Pistons. The Pistons entered Game 6 leading the series 3–2. With their title defense hanging in the balance, the Lakers narrowly won 103–102 to force a Game 7. However, Game 6 became notable for Pistons guard Isiah Thomas in one of his career-defining performances, where despite badly twisting his ankle midway through the 3rd quarter, Thomas scored an NBA Finals record 25 third-quarter points. In Game 7, Detroit built a 5-point lead at halftime. In the 3rd quarter, the Lakers, inspired by Finals MVP James Worthy and Byron Scott (14 3rd-quarter points), exploded as they built a 10-point lead entering the final period. The lead swelled to 15 before Detroit mounted a furious 4th-quarter rally, trimming the lead to two points on several occasions. The Lakers ultimately prevailed, winning 108–105 and captured their 5th championship in the last 9 seasons and becoming the first repeat champion in 19 years. It also marked the 5th and final championship of the Showtime-era Lakers.
  • 1993: The defending two-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, faced off against league MVP Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns and were seeking to complete their first three-peat of the 1990s. After close friend Charles Barkley won the league MVP with Phoenix, Jordan took it upon himself to show up the player he thought unnecessarily captured the award over him. What ensued was a classic shootout between two generational stars. Jordan was ultimately that much better than Barkley, averaging over 41 points per game in a Bulls’ series victory that felt it like teetered in the balance every night against a formidable Suns squad. Punctuated by John Paxson's series-winning three-point shot in Game 6, the Bulls would go on to win their third consecutive NBA championship.
  • 1994: In Game 5, the Knicks took a 3–2 lead on the Houston Rockets and had a chance to clinch their first NBA championship since 1973 in Game 6, but despite a heroic performance, John Starks' final potential series-winning shot was blocked by Hakeem Olajuwon. The Rockets would win game 7 and win their first NBA championship. During Game 5 on June 17, 1994, most NBC affiliates (with the noted exception being WNBC-TV out of New York) split the coverage of the game between the late 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 Madison Square Garden that the Simpson situation was "not just tragic but now surreal."
  • 1997: In Game 5, aka "The Flu Game", Michael Jordan, the star player on the Chicago Bulls, was sick and weakened due to a stomach virus. But that didn't matter to Jordan as he still managed to score 38 and lead the Bulls to victory and a 3–2 series lead. Soon, Jordan would capture his fifth NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award, bringing the Bulls to their fifth title in seven years.
  • 1998: Game 6 is widely cited as one of the most intense and iconic games in NBA history. With the defending two-time NBA champion Chicago Bulls leading the series 3–2, the Utah Jazz led 86–85 late in the 4th quarter, hoping to force a Game 7. With 18.9 seconds remaining in the game, Bulls superstar Michael Jordan stole the ball from Jazz power forward Karl Malone, executed a quick cross-over on Jazz forward Bryon Russell, and then hitting a jumpshot from behind the free throw line with 5.2 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter to put the Bulls up 87–86. The Bulls then held on to win after Jazz point guard John Stockton missed the potential game-winning 3-point field goal, winning their sixth NBA championship in eight years and completing their second three-peat of the 1990s. Game 6 was the final game with the Bulls for Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson (both would retire from the National Basketball Association (NBA), then eventually return). It was also the 6th and final NBA championship of the Bulls dynasty, as the team would go on to be dismantled in the offseason amidst the 1998–99 NBA lockout. This game earned, and still holds, the highest TV ratings of an NBA game of all time.
  • 2000: The Los Angeles Lakers new coach Phil Jackson, in his first season as the Lakers head coach, led the team to a 67–15 regular season and then led them to the Finals to play against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers to their 12th NBA championship while winning the Finals MVP, averaging 38 points and 16.6 rebounds.
  • 2005: The defending NBA champion Detroit Pistons faced off against the San Antonio Spurs. The first four games were blowouts for the home team, but Game 5 was a very tight game (a scene reminiscent of 1976). Robert Horry shot a three-pointer at the end of the first overtime for a 96–95 win. The Spurs thus took a 3–2 lead going home and although losing Game 6 narrowly, could not be kept from clinching the championship in Game 7.
  • 2006: The Miami Heat, fresh off their four games to two victory over the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, lost the first two games to the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas only to come back and sweep the middle three games in Miami and win the series 4–2 in game six in Dallas. The Heat thus became only the third team in NBA history to win the finals after being down 2–0, following the 1969 Boston Celtics and the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers. This series was also notable for being the first championship won by veterans Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, and Antoine Walker, as well as Finals MVP Dwyane Wade.
  • 2010: After the Lakers won Game 6 after being down 3–2 in the series, in Game 7, Kobe Bryant, despite having a poor shooting performance where he shot 6 of 24, he managed to get 15 rebounds as the Lakers won Game 7 83–79 to repeat as champions and avenge their loss against the Celtics in 2008. Bryant would be named NBA Finals MVP for the second straight season.
  • 2011: A rematch of the 2006 NBA Finals, the Miami Heat, led by their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, faced off against the Dallas Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki. Nowitzki avenged his and the Mavericks' heartbreaking loss to the Heat half a decade earlier by taking down the NBA’s first true “superteam" and pulled off the shocking upset to win the first title in Mavericks franchise history.
  • 2013: With the defending NBA champion Miami Heat trailing 3–2 in the series against the San Antonio Spurs, late in Game 6, with the Spurs leading 95–92, Chris Bosh grabbed a rebound from a LeBron James missed three and passed it to Ray Allen who backpedaled and hit a corner three with 5.2 seconds remaining. The Heat won in overtime as well as Game 7 to repeat as champions. The Heat's late rallies in Games 6 and 7 has made it one of the greatest Finals of all time.
  • 2016: The Cleveland Cavaliers faced the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors in a rematch of the previous season's NBA Finals. The Warriors came off of a historic season, winning 73 games in the regular season, breaking the 1995–96 Chicago Bulls' previous record of 72 wins. In Game 7, with the game tied at 89 in the fourth quarter and with 4:39 left to play, there were several notable plays that occurred in the final minutes of the game, such as LeBron James' clutch block on Andre Iguodala's layup attempt (which became known as "The Block") to keep the game tied at 89 with 1:39 left in the game, Kyrie Irving hitting a clutch three over league MVP Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in the game, and Kevin Love's defense on Curry in the final seconds to clinch not only the Cavaliers' first NBA championship, but the city of Cleveland's first major sports championship in 52 years, ending their long and infamous sports curse. The Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3–1 deficit in the Finals and the fourth team to win the series after losing the first two games. Because of the Cavaliers' historic comeback, the 2016 NBA Finals is widely regarded as among one of the greatest Finals ever contested in NBA history.

1947–1956: Beginnings and Lakers dynasty[]


Mikan led the then-Minneapolis Lakers to five championships in the 1950s to create the NBA's first dynasty.

Year Western Champion1 Margin Eastern Champion
1947 Chicago Stags 1–4 Philadelphia Warriors
1948 Baltimore Bullets 4–2 Philadelphia Warriors
1949 Minneapolis Lakers 4–2 Washington Capitols
1950 Minneapolis Lakers 4–2 Syracuse Nationals
1951 Rochester Royals 4–3 New York Knicks
1952 Minneapolis Lakers 4–3 New York Knicks
1953 Minneapolis Lakers 4–1 New York Knicks
1954 Minneapolis Lakers 4–3 Syracuse Nationals
1955 Fort Wayne Pistons 3–4 Syracuse Nationals
1956 Fort Wayne Pistons 1–4 Philadelphia Warriors
The beginning era of modern professional basketball was dominated by the Minneapolis Lakers, who won half of the first ten titles. The Philadelphia Warriors also won multiple championships, including the inaugural title in 1947 and another in 1956 to bookend the NBA's first decade. After being founded in 1946, the Basketball Association of America completed its inaugural season in April 1947 with the Philadelphia Warriors defeating the Chicago Stags in five games. The following season the Warriors would again reach the Finals, however they would fall short to the now defunct Baltimore Bullets. To date the Baltimore Bullets are the only defunct team to win a championship.

In 1948, the Minneapolis Lakers would win the championship of the rival National Basketball League before joining the BAA. Led by future Hall of Famer George Mikan, the Lakers would win the third and final BAA championship in 1949 over the Red Auerbach-coached Washington Capitals. The BAA would merge with the NBL to become the National Basketball Association before the 1949–50 season. The Lakers would win the inaugural NBA championship in 1950 to become the first team to repeat as champions.

In 1951 the Rochester Royals defeated the New York Knicks in the only Finals contested between two teams from the same state. This would be the first of three consecutive losses in the Finals for the Knicks, as they would lose the 1952 and 1953 Finals to the Lakers. The Lakers would win again in 1954 to become the first team to three-peat. This would be the fifth championship in six years for the Lakers and their last title won in Minneapolis. In 1955, the Syracuse Nationals would win their only title before becoming the Philadelphia 76ers, and in 1956 the Warriors won their second and last title in Philadelphia before eventually moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in California in 1962.

Of the five franchises to win a championship from 1947 to 1956, one would fold and the other four would all relocate by 1964.

1957–1969: Celtics dynasty[]

Bill Russell

Bill Russell led the Celtics to eleven championships (including eight straight) in the 1960s.

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
1957 St. Louis Hawks 3–4 Boston Celtics
1958 St. Louis Hawks 4–2 Boston Celtics
1959 Minneapolis Lakers 0–4 Boston Celtics
1960 St. Louis Hawks 3–4 Boston Celtics
1961 St. Louis Hawks 1–4 Boston Celtics
1962 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1963 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 Boston Celtics
1964 San Francisco Warriors 1–4 Boston Celtics
1965 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 Boston Celtics
1966 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1967 San Francisco Warriors 2–4 Philadelphia 76ers
1968 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 Boston Celtics
1969 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics

For most of the late 1950s and the 1960s, the Celtics always seemed to have the upper hand on Wilt Chamberlain's teams. With the establishment of the Celtics dynasty in 1957, Bill Russell instantly 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, Chamberlain, who had moved to California with his team, 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 that had moved to cover the vacancy created with the departure of the Warriors.

The year 1966 produced a clash between the two stars in the playoffs, and Boston won 4-1. However, Chamberlain's desire to score was so great that the coach made a famous statement to him to seek to play a team game, not an individual game, to avoid drawing double-teams. His newfound spirit brought his team 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 was similarly frustrating, again with the Celtics winning the East and the Lakers winning the West. However, now that Chamberlain had been traded to the Lakers, early estimates had the probabilities going largely in favor of the Lakers. They easily won the first two games at the L.A. Forum. However, when the series shifted to 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 into the Forum, returned the advantage to the Lakers, but the sixth game was a massive Celtics win, Chamberlain scoring just two points in the entire duration. Game 7 was held on May 5, balloons being hung up in the arena in anticipation of a Lakers victory. Russell immediately used the balloons as an inspiration for his team, 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 dynasty.

1970–1979: Decade of parity[]

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
1970 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 New York Knicks
1971 Milwaukee Bucks 4–0 Baltimore Bullets
1972 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 New York Knicks
1973 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 New York Knicks
1974 Milwaukee Bucks 3–4 Boston Celtics
1975 Golden State Warriors 4–0 Washington Bullets
1976 Phoenix Suns 2–4 Boston Celtics
1977 Portland Trail Blazers 4–2 Philadelphia 76ers
1978 Seattle SuperSonics 3–4 Washington Bullets
1979 Seattle SuperSonics 4–1 Washington Bullets

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 carried on their momentum for a 4-3 win, the Lakers were still far from defeated. Just two seasons later, the coach introduced a new plan, and it proved effective, as, after losing several games at the beginning, the team won thirty-three games consecutively, the longest such streak in NBA history. By the 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. After compiling a 48-34 regular-season record, the Golden State Warriors swept the heavily-favored Washington Bullets 4-0 in a Finals series where the odds heavily favored the eastern representative. This accomplishment has largely been overlooked, but the history books nevertheless betray this remarkable season, comparable to that of the New York Yankees in 1978.

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 an upset victory in seven games over Golden State in the Western Conference championship. In the finals 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.

The Decline of the NBA[]

The late seventies were seen by many to be a low point in the history of the NBA. Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the only remaining major stars, and college basketball took over the fans' support, as players who would later become NBA stars were playing. The West continued to dominate in these years, with the Portland Trail Blazers winning the 1977 trophy and the Seattle SuperSonics winning in 1979.

1980–1990: Celtics–Lakers rivalry and the "Bad Boys" Pistons[]

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson

The 1980s saw a renewal in the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. Larry Bird (left) and Magic Johnson (right) led their respective teams to a combined eight championships.

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
1980 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Philadelphia 76ers
1981 Houston Rockets 2–4 Boston Celtics
1982 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Philadelphia 76ers
1983 Los Angeles Lakers 0–4 Philadelphia 76ers
1984 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1985 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Boston Celtics
1986 Houston Rockets 2–4 Boston Celtics
1987 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Boston Celtics
1988 Los Angeles Lakers 4–3 Detroit Pistons
1989 Los Angeles Lakers 0–4 Detroit Pistons
1990 Portland Trail Blazers 1–4 Detroit Pistons

The 1980s saw either the Lakers and the Celtics in the Finals every year, with the Lakers winning 5 times, the Celtics 3, the Sixers and Detroit once.

The 1979 NCAA finals featured Earvin "Magic" Johnson's Michigan State 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 audience for an NCAA 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 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 final 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. (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.

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 a clincher in Boston Garden, to finally end the long years of failing to defeat the Boston franchise in the Finals.

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 first contest between the two teams went to Los Angeles in seven games, but the second was a Detroit sweep. The next year, Detroit won it all again, and the name "Bad Boys" became attached to the team for their rough, physical play.

1991–1998: Bulls dynasty[]

Jordan Lipofsky

Jordan (pictured in 1997), Pippen, and coach Jackson led the Bulls to six championships via two three-peats in 1991–1993 and 1996–1998.

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
1991 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 Chicago Bulls
1992 Portland Trail Blazers 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1993 Phoenix Suns 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1994 Houston Rockets 4–3 New York Knicks
1995 Houston Rockets 4–0 Orlando Magic
1996 Seattle SuperSonics 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1997 Utah Jazz 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1998 Utah Jazz 2–4 Chicago Bulls

The majority of the 1990s was marked by the rise of the Chicago Bulls dynasty (otherwise known as the "Michael Jordan era"). Coached by legendary head coach Phil Jackson and led by superstar Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships from 1991 to 1998 with two three-peats. Supported by such remarkable players as Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Jordan led the Bulls to victory in all NBA Finals series that they competed in, and won the Finals MVP award each time. He cemented his position as the best player in the league with dominating performances over the aging superstar Magic Johnson in 1991 and MVP candidate Clyde Drexler in 1992. The Bulls became the second team to sweep Games 3 through 5 on the road in Finals history when they did so in the 1991 series against the Lakers (the first being Detroit in 1990). Particularly memorable were the 1993 Finals, which became an offensive showdown between Jordan and regular-season MVP (and close friend) Charles Barkley.

Jordan decided to retire after the 1993 championship season, in part because of the death of his father. The Bulls soon faltered. Without the Bulls to compete against, the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, won the 1994 and 1995 NBA championships. The Game 7 between the Rockets and Knicks in 1994, would be the last Game 7 of the NBA Finals until the 2005 series between San Antonio and Detroit.

Jordan decided to return to basketball in 1995, after a short stint as a baseball player. Although he failed to lead the Bulls to the Finals in that year, he returned to pre-retirement form the next year and led 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, which was at the time, the best regular-season record of any team in the history of the NBA. They proceeded to dominate in the conference playoffs, and then went on to defeat Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, and the Seattle SuperSonics in 6 games in the Finals to win the franchise's 4th NBA championship.

In 1997 and 1998, the Bulls met with perhaps their most formidable foe, the Utah Jazz. Led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz were defeated in both Finals by Jordan's unstoppable play. The Bulls had a cast of characters that proved to be the final pieces to help Michael obtain the ultimate prize. No-names such as Jud Buechler, Randy Brown, Bill Wennington, and Luc Longley were key players that rarely produced an astounding amount of points, but proved vital in the use of intangibles (setting picks, rebounding, creating turnovers, etc.). Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, and Dennis Rodman were all pieces that were added to the puzzle to create the dynasty known as the "Untoucha-Bulls." 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, ending the dynasty. With no foundation of youth to build upon, the Bulls were a shell of their former selves, becoming a lottery-bound team for the next six seasons, and did not make the playoffs again until 2005.

1999–2010: Lakers and Spurs dynasties[]

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
1999* San Antonio Spurs 4–1 New York Knicks
2000 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Indiana Pacers
2001 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 Philadelphia 76ers
2002 Los Angeles Lakers 4–0 New Jersey Nets
2003 San Antonio Spurs 4–2 New Jersey Nets
2004 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 Detroit Pistons
2005 San Antonio Spurs 4–3 Detroit Pistons
2006 Dallas Mavericks 2–4 Miami Heat
2007 San Antonio Spurs 4–0 Cleveland Cavaliers
2008 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 Boston Celtics
2009 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 Orlando Magic
2010 Los Angeles Lakers 4–3 Boston Celtics
  • *Lockout-shortened 50-game season
Kobe Bryant 2014

Kobe Bryant was a key member of the Los Angeles Lakers that won five NBA championships from 2000 to 2010.

In the late 1990s and throughout most of the 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, both of the Western Conference, dominated the NBA. In the 1998–99 off-season, veteran stars Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley signed with the Houston Rockets, joining Hakeem Olajuwon in an attempt to win the championship, particularly Barkley. Although they were the favorites, the Los Angeles Lakers beat them in the playoffs, and San Antonio Spurs, led by the "Twin Towers" Tim Duncan and David Robinson, won the West and proceeded to end the injury-plagued New York Knicks magical run (they had been the #8 seed) in the NBA Finals.

For the next three years, from 2000–2002, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, won the NBA Finals in dominating performances, each year completing the task in one fewer game than the previous Finals. They were particularly dominating in the 2002 Finals, as they kept the lead virtually all the time in every game; only for a short while near 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 when they were defeated by the Spurs in the semifinals of the 2003 Playoffs, who proceeded to defeat the New Jersey Nets in the Finals.

In 2004, veteran stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone signed with the Lakers, hoping to win a championship that had long alluded them in their careers. 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, defeated the injury-and dissension-ridden Lakers in five games to become the first Eastern Conference team since the Bulls in 1998 to win the NBA championship. The Pistons became the first home team to sweep Games 3 through 5 in a Finals series (particularly notable because the home team in those games does not have home-court advantage in the series and is usually considered the underdog in the series). Previously three road teams did it (Detroit in 1990, Chicago in 1991 and the Lakers in 2001). Point Guard Billups won the Finals MVP award, becoming the first Point Guard to win the award since Isiah Thomas.

Tim Duncan

Tim Duncan won five championships with the San Antonio Spurs from 1999 to 2014.

In 2005, for the first time since 1987, the previous two champions met to decide it all, despite neither having played the other in their championship season. The Pistons and Spurs were both considered defensive specialists, having both knocked off offensive-minded No. 1 seeds to reach the Finals. The first four games were blowouts for the home team, but Game 5 produced an instant classic. The game was close throughout: even as the Spurs pulled away in the third quarter the Pistons came back, and the game was tied 89-89 and went into overtime after Tim Duncan missed a potential winning shot for San Antonio. In overtime, the Pistons jumped to a quick 95-91 lead, but Robert Horry scored the game-winning 3-point basket with 6 seconds left. This capped an explosive 21-point performance by Horry off the bench, even though Horry had not scored at all until 1 second remained in the third quarter. Horry scored more than a point a minute the rest of the game. This was a capstone to Horry's long career of similarly dramatic game-winning heroics. In Game 6 the defending champion Pistons were given little chance to recover from such a heartbreaking loss, but continued a trend of excelling with their 'backs against the wall.' The game was tight throughout until, with a one-point lead and two minutes to play, the Pistons scored the final 8 points of the game to win 95-86. Key to the Detroit win was Rasheed Wallace, who returned to the game to score 7 points and garner a game-clinching steal and rebound, all in the final four minutes. The flamboyant Wallace thus earned some redemption for his gaffe at the end of Game 5 when he left the red-hot Horry unguarded on the game-winning shot. A decisive Game 7 was now set up to conclude this suddenly gripping series, the first Finals Game 7 in 11 years (when Houston defeated New York). The Pistons became the first road team to force a game 7 down 3-2 in the series since the NBA switched to the 2-3-2 format in 1985. The home team was 7-0 previously in Game 6 with the 3-2 lead ('86 Celtics, '87 Lakers, '96 Bulls, '97 Bulls, '00 Lakers, and '03 Spurs) and home-court for game 7. The 2005 Finals was won by the Spurs 81-74, giving them their third NBA Finals championship in seven years. Tim Duncan won his third and last Finals MVP award, joining Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Shaquille O'Neal as the fourth player to win three Finals MVP awards. Robert Horry won his sixth NBA title, and became the second player in NBA history to win a title with three different teams (Rockets, Lakers, Spurs).

The 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, the Miami Heat won the championship 4 games to 2 on Dallas' homecourt. The Heat's clinching victory in Game 6 was their first win at Dallas in four years, and they became only the third team to ever win the finals after going down 0-2, the first since the 2-3-2 setup after 1985. 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 Dwayne 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. Wade constantly earned high accolades in the form of comparisons to Michael Jordan throughout the series. His points-per-game average was better than what Jordan had in his first championship (34.7 vs. 31.2). And in four games (43, 42, 36 twice), he scored as many as or more than Jordan did in his best game in the '91 Finals (36). One difference that impacted Wade's scoring was the number of times he attempted free throws, which exceeded Jordan's average by nearly five attempts per game. Heat coach Pat Riley became the third coach to win Championships with two different teams (Alex Hannum and Phil Jackson were the first two), and the first to ever do it with two different teams as an interim head coach.

The 2007 NBA Finals featured the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs. It was the Cavaliers' first Finals appearance. The Spurs swept the Cavaliers to win their fourth championship. Tony Parker was named the Finals MVP and became the first European to win the award.

The combination GAP

Garnett, Allen, and Pierce led the Celtics to the Finals in 2008 and 2010, both times against the Lakers, winning in the former and losing in the latter.

The Lakers returned to the Finals in 2008, against the Boston Celtics. Renewing the teams' rivalry, this marked the 11th time that these two teams met in the Finals, the last meeting happened in 1987. The Celtics, who defeated the Lakers 4–2, were led by their "Big Three" superstars of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce, who was named Finals MVP.

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. The Lakers defeated the Magic in five games, with Bryant earning his fourth championship and first Finals MVP Award. The Lakers met the Celtics once again in 2010 in a rematch from 2008, where they trailed 3–2 before winning the last two at home, marking the first time in the history of the Celtics that they lost a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Bryant won his fifth and final championship and was named the Finals MVP for the second and final time in his career, with the triumphs in 2009 and 2010 becoming Phil Jackson's 10th and 11th NBA titles. With these championship victories, Jackson surpassed Red Auerbach's record for most NBA titles of all time. He also passed Auerbach's and National Hockey League coach Scotty Bowman's record for most titles as head coach in any major American professional sport.

2011–2022: LeBron James dominance and the Warriors dynasty[]

Miami Heat Big 3

James, Wade, and Bosh (pictured left to right) led the Miami Heat to four straight Finals appearances from 2011–2014, winning back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
2011 Dallas Mavericks 4–2 Miami Heat
2012* Oklahoma City Thunder 1–4 Miami Heat
2013 San Antonio Spurs 3–4 Miami Heat
2014 San Antonio Spurs 4–1 Miami Heat
2015 Golden State Warriors 4–2 Cleveland Cavaliers
2016 Golden State Warriors 3–4 Cleveland Cavaliers
2017 Golden State Warriors 4–1 Cleveland Cavaliers
2018 Golden State Warriors 4–0 Cleveland Cavaliers
2019 Golden State Warriors 2–4 Toronto Raptors
2020** Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Miami Heat
2021 Phoenix Suns 2–4 Milwaukee Bucks
2022 Golden State Warriors 4–2 Boston Celtics
  • *Lockout-shortened 66-game season
  • **Played in the NBA Bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic
LeBron Wizards 2017

LeBron James (pictured in 2017) appeared in ten NBA Finals and won 4 titles with three different franchises.

The 2010s were known for the continued excellence of LeBron James, who appeared in eight consecutive NBA Finals with two different teams, as well as the rise of the Golden State Warriors, known for their revolutionary small-ball, three-point shooting offense implemented by coach Steve Kerr and spearheaded by Point Guard Stephen Curry. The Miami Heat and Warriors were the only teams of the decade to repeat as champions.

During the 2010 off-season, the Heat re-signed team captain Dwyane Wade and added free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh to form their "Big Three" also known as "The Heatles". The Heat were then considered the favorites by many to win multiple championships and create a dynasty. They appeared in the next four Finals, winning two in 2012 and 2013.

Both the Heat's and Mavericks' second appearance in the Finals came in 2011, where the Heat were pitted against the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch of the Finals from five years earlier 4-2. The Mavericks, led by Dirk NowitzkiJason TerryJason Kidd, Brendan Haywood, Tyson Chandler, and Shawn Marion, won the series 4–2, with Nowitzki being named the Finals MVP becoming the first German and the second European after Tony Parker to do so. The Heat returned to the Finals in the following year against an Oklahoma City Thunder team featuring future MVPs: then 3-time NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden as well as Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. After the Thunder won Game 1 at home, the Heat won four straight games to win the series 4–1, becoming the first team to win a championship after trailing in three playoff series. James won his first championship and was unanimously named the NBA Finals MVP.

The Heat repeated as champions in 2013, this time over the San Antonio Spurs, with the Finals being the first since 1987 to feature four former Finals MVPs in the Finals; with Tim Duncan (1999, 2003, 2005) and Tony Parker (2007) for the Spurs, and Wade (2006) and James (2012) for the Heat. The Spurs went up 3–2 in the series, but the Heat bounced back with a Game 6 victory, notable for a game-tying three-pointer by Ray Allen in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime. The game is considered one of the greatest playoff games in NBA history. The Heat won Game 7, 95–88, to clinch their second straight title (and third overall), giving the Spurs their first–ever Finals loss. James was named the Finals MVP for the second straight year.

Looking for a three-peat, the Heat reached the 2014 NBA Finals and faced the Spurs in a rematch of the 2013 Finals. With James limited in Game 1 due to leg cramps, the Spurs ended the game on a 31–9 run, winning 110–95. The Heat bounced back with a two–point win in Game 2, but that was their only win of the series, as the Spurs won Games 3 and 4 in Miami and Game 5 at home by 19, 21, and 17 points, respectively to win the championship, their first since 2007 and the fifth and final title of Duncan's career. Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP for the first time, becoming the third-youngest Finals MVP after teammate Duncan and Magic Johnson.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors met in every NBA Finals between 2015 and 2018, making it the first time in professional Major American Sports history that a pair of two teams met in four consecutive Finals. Previously, no two teams in any sport have appeared in more than two consecutive Finals.

Stephen Curry 2

Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to 4 championships between 2015 and 2022.

After the 2014 Finals, LeBron James became a free agent and returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he teamed up with Kyrie Irving. The Cavs also traded for Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves to form a new "Big Three" in Cleveland. In the postseason, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs were eliminated in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers in seven games while the other 2014 finalist, the Miami Heat, failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Golden State, spearheaded by 2014–15 MVP Stephen Curry, achieved a 67–15 record and managed to take the West, while the Cavs won the East as James, along with James Jones who played for both the Heat and Cavaliers, made their fifth straight Finals appearance – the first two players to do so since the 1960s Celtics. The Warriors defied conventional wisdom and traditionalist ideas with a small-ball, three-point shooting, fast-paced team. The Cavs were without star Love due to a dislocated shoulder that he suffered in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs against the Boston Celtics, and also lost Irving to a knee injury in a Game 1 overtime loss in the 2015 NBA Finals. James rallied the Cavaliers to win Games 2 and 3, but the Warriors won the next three games after coach Steve Kerr made the adjustment of inserting the sixth man Andre Iguodala into the starting lineup in place of Center Andrew Bogut, thus achieving the desired small-ball offense. The Warriors won the title for the first time after 40 years, with Iguodala winning Finals MVP for his efforts in containing LeBron on defense and becoming the first player to win the Finals MVP award without starting a regular season game that season.

Cavaliers Big 3 James Irving Love

James, Irving, and Love (pictured left to right) led the Cavaliers to three straight Finals appearances from 2015–2017, winning in 2016.

During the 2015–16 season, the Warriors broke the record for most wins in a season with a record of 73–9 and Curry won his second straight MVP award, as well as becoming the first unanimous MVP in history and shattering his own record for three-pointers made in a single season by over one hundred in the process. The Warriors fell to a 3–1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals against a Kevin Durant-led Oklahoma City Thunder team, but won three straight elimination games to take the series and advance to a second straight Finals. The Cavaliers finished the season as the top seed in the Eastern Conference and won their first 10 straight playoff games, ultimately defeating the Toronto Raptors 4–2 in the Eastern Conference Finals to ensure the rematch of last year's Finals. In the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors got out to a 3–1 lead, but James and Irving led the Cavs to two straight victories to force a deciding Game 7. In a key sequence with two minutes remaining in Game 7, James made a memorable chase-down block on Iguodala to keep the game tied, while Irving hit a 3-point shot over Curry a minute later to take the lead. Cleveland managed to hold on to the lead to win the title and end the city's 52-year championship drought, with James earning his third Finals MVP honor.


The Warriors created a new dynasty, going to five straight Finals from 2015–2019, winning three championships in 2015, 2017, and 2018.

In the 2016 off-season, the Warriors acquired Durant through free agency. After finishing 67–15, they became the first team in history to win 67+ games in three straight seasons, they went to the Finals with a 12–0 sweep of the West, the first team to do so since the first round changed to best-of-seven in 2003, and the first team to sweep their way to the Finals since the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. Meanwhile, though the Cavaliers slipped to the second seed going into the playoffs, they only lost one game en route to defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, setting up another rematch against the Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. The Warriors started strong with a 3–0 lead over the Cavs, eventually winning the series in five games with Durant being named Finals MVP. The Warriors set a playoffs record of 15 consecutive wins and a 16–1 final record, as well as a 13.5-point differential in the Finals. The Cavaliers traded away Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in the 2017 off-season and continued to change their roster throughout the season, while the Warriors largely remained intact. Neither Cleveland nor Golden State earned the top playoff seed in the 2017–18 season. Both teams fell to 3–2 deficits in their respective Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets, respectively, before both winning Game 7s to ensure the rematch for a fourth consecutive Finals in 2018. LeBron James appeared in his eighth consecutive NBA Finals since 2011, four each with the Heat and Cavaliers. The Warriors went on to sweep the Cavaliers, and Durant was again named Finals MVP.

In 2018, James left the Cavaliers again and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Without James, the Cavaliers struggled and did not return to the playoffs. Additionally, the Lakers missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year, making it the first time since 2005 that LeBron missed the playoffs and first since 2010 that he's missed the Finals. The Warriors continued their success and reached their fifth straight Finals in 2019, becoming the first team since the 1960s Celtics to reach five straight Finals, and the first Western Conference team to ever do so. However, the Warriors lost several key players due to injuries throughout the playoffs, and were defeated by the Toronto Raptors 4–2, ending their bid for a three-peat, and the Raptors won their first championship, ending the city's 26 year drought, and it was the first NBA title for a team based in Canada. The Raptors' Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP, becoming the first player to win the award while representing teams from both conferences, having previously won it with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and both times ending chances for a team looking to three-peat.

During the 2019 offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers obtained All-Star forward Anthony Davis via trade from the New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers went on to claim the first seed in the Western Conference, while the Warriors failed to make the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. The 2019–20 NBA season was suspended on March 11, 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed on a shortened schedule in July 2020 inside the NBA's isolated "bubble" set-up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat met in the 2020 NBA Finals, marking the first time in NBA history that the two teams that missed the playoffs the year before met in the Finals, and the first time that the NBA Finals were played at a neutral site with no spectators. The Lakers won the series 4–2, claiming their seventeenth title to tie the Boston Celtics' franchise record; LeBron James was named Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career and is the only player to be the Finals MVP for three different teams. The Lakers hoped to create the next dynasty after their 2020 title run, but injuries and bad trade deals prevented the team from doing so.

The 2021 NBA Finals saw the Phoenix Suns first appearance in 28 years thanks to the leadership of Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton. Also, the Milwaukee Bucks made their third ever Finals appearance, their first in 47 years, thanks to a great season from Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday. It was the first since 1971 to not include any players who had previously won an NBA championship, and the first since 2015 that no players on the winning team had prior NBA Finals experience. Milwaukee lost the first two games, but won the next four to win the series 4-2 to win their first championship in 50 years. Giannis was unanimously named the Finals MVP.

The 2022 NBA Finals saw the Golden State Warriors face the Boston Celtics. After missing the playoffs two years in a row, the Warriors made their 12th Finals appearance, their first in 3 years, while the Celtics made their 22nd Finals appearance, their first in 12 years. The two teams met 58 years prior in the 1964 NBA Finals, with the Celtics winning in five games. The Warriors won the series 4-2 to win their first NBA championship since 2018, their 7th NBA championship in franchise history. Stephen Curry was named Finals MVP for the first time in his career.

2023–present: Return to parity[]

Year Western Champion Result Eastern Champion
2023 Denver Nuggets 4–1 Miami Heat
2024 Dallas Mavericks 1–4 Boston Celtics

The Denver Nuggets reached their first Finals in franchise history in 2023, facing the Miami Heat, who became only the second 8th-seeded team to reach the Finals. The Nuggets won the series 4-1 to win their first NBA championship in franchise history making it the first time since between 1973 and 1977 that saw five different teams in five consecutive years win the title. Nikola Jokić was named Finals MVP for the first time in his career, becoming the lowest drafted player in NBA history to win the award.

The 2024 NBA Finals saw the Boston Celtics making their 23rd NBA Finals appearance and the Dallas Mavericks, who made their 3rd NBA Finals appearance. It marked the sixth straight year with a different championship team, the longest parity streak since the 1970s. The Celtics won the series 4-1 to win their 18th NBA championship to break their tie with their archrival, the Los Angeles Lakers for the most championships in NBA history.


As part of a multiyear partnership that began in 2018, the internet television service YouTube TV became the presenting sponsor of the NBA Finals.

Finals Appearances[]

No. Team W L Pct Notes
32 Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers 17 15 .531 5–1 in Minneapolis and 12–14 in Los Angeles. Currently holds the record for the most appearances in the NBA Finals, and has appeared in the Finals in every decade since the 1940s. With 17 championships, they have won the second most championships behind the Celtics. They also attained a three-peat in Minneapolis from 1952 to 1954, and another in Los Angeles from 2000 to 2002. The Lakers have defeated nine different NBA franchises in the NBA Finals and lost to five, both records. One of five franchises to reach four consecutive NBA Finals.
23 Boston Celtics 18 5 .783 Won eight straight titles from 1959 to 1966, and is the most successful team in the NBA Finals, winning 18 championships. Three of their four Finals losses occurred against the rival Los Angeles Lakers. Appeared in a record 10 consecutive NBA Finals.
12 Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors 7 5 .714 2–1 in Philadelphia and 5–4 in California. Won the first championship and another title in Philadelphia, before eventually winning five more as the Golden State Warriors, including four in eight years between 2015 and 2022. Second franchise and first Western Conference team to appear in five consecutive NBA Finals.
9 Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers 3 6 .333 1–2 in Syracuse and 2–4 in Philadelphia. Won one title in Syracuse, before winning another two following the move to Philadelphia. Five of their six losses occurred against the Lakers.
8 New York Knicks 2 6 .250 In their most recent appearance, they became the first eighth seed to ever reach the Finals. Five of their appearances and both titles occurred against the Lakers.
7 Fort Wayne Zollner/Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons 3 4 .429 0–2 in Fort Wayne and 3–2 in Detroit. Appeared in three straight NBA Finals, winning back-to-back in 1989 and 1990. Both losses in Detroit came in Game 7s.
7 Miami Heat 3 4 .429 Udonis Haslem, Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley, and owner Micky Arison were featured in all seven Finals appearances. Dwyane Wade featured in 5 of the 7 Finals appearances. All three championships were with Riley, Spoelstra, Arison, Haslem, and Wade. Riley was the head coach for the first appearance and the president for the next six while Spoelstra featured as an assistant in the first one and the next six as a head coach. Became the second eighth seed to ever reach the Finals in 2023.
6 Chicago Bulls 6 0 1.000 All six titles were with players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and head coach Phil Jackson. The titles were won via two three-peats, in 19911993 and 19961998. They are the only active NBA franchise with multiple Finals appearances, and no losses.
6 Dallas/Texas Chaparrals/San Antonio Spurs 5 1 .833 All appearances in San Antonio. All six appearances and five titles were lead by Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich. They are the first franchise to move from the ABA to the NBA, and subsequently win a championship.
5 Cleveland Cavaliers 1 4 .200 LeBron James is the only player featured in all the five Finals appearances. The Cavaliers made their first Finals appearance in 2007 against the Spurs and then appeared in four straight Finals from 2015 to 2018 after James returned to the team, all against the Golden State Warriors, winning in 2016. One of five franchises to reach four consecutive Finals.
4 San Diego/Houston Rockets 2 2 .500 All appearances in Houston. Won back-to-back championships with Hakeem Olajuwon and coach Rudy Tomjanovich. Their 1995 triumph was done as the 6-seed, the lowest-seeded team in NBA history to win a championship. Both losses were against the Boston Celtics.
4 Buffalo Bisons/Tri-Cities Blackhawks/Milwaukee/St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks 1 3 .250 All appearances when the team was in St. Louis. Reached four NBA Finals in five years, all against the Boston Celtics, winning in 1958.
4 Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder 1 3 .250 1–2 as Seattle SuperSonics and 0–1 as Oklahoma City Thunder. They remain the only franchise since 1977 to win a title in one city and later relocate.
4 Baltimore/Washington Bullets/Washington Wizards 1 3 .250 0–1 as the Baltimore Bullets, and 1–2 as the Washington Bullets. All appearances in the Finals was in 1971, 1978, and 1979, with all appearances featuring Wes Unseld. Won in 1978.
3 Milwaukee Bucks 2 1 .667 Won in the 1971 and 2021 Finals. The first two appearances were by teams that featured Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The third featured a "Big Three" of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday.
3 Portland Trail Blazers 1 2 .333 Their only title was won with Bill Walton in 1977, who was also named NBA Finals MVP. The team lost two Finals with Clyde Drexler in 1990 and 1992 to the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls, respectively.
3 Dallas Mavericks 1 2 .333 They made three Finals appearances, with the first two coming against the Miami Heat losing in 2006 and winning in 2011 both in six games and their third was against the Boston Celtics, losing in 2024. Both 2006 and 2011 Mavericks teams were led by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, owner Mark Cuban, and Donnie Nelson. Nelson was the general manger in the former and executive for the latter. The 2024 Mavericks team was led by Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving.
3 Phoenix Suns 0 3 .000 Lost in 1976, 1993, and 2021 to the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and Milwaukee Bucks, respectively. Best historical win-loss record among all franchises to have not won a title.
2 New Jersey Americans/New York/New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets 0 2 .000 Two appearances in 2002 and 2003 led by Jason Kidd, when the team was in New Jersey, and both losses were to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
2 Orlando Magic 0 2 .000 They lost both of their Finals appearances in 1995 and 2009 to the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers respectively, winning just one game in the latter between the two series.
2 Utah Jazz 0 2 .000 Both appearances in 1997 and 1998 were with coach Jerry Sloan and players Karl Malone and John Stockton, and were both losses against the Chicago Bulls in six games.
1 Rochester/Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City-Omaha/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings 1 0 1.000 Only appearance in the NBA Finals and only championship as the Rochester Royals, back in 1951. Currently owns the longest NBA title drought, longest Finals appearance drought in NBA history and actively in all of the American major four pro sports leagues.
1 Toronto Raptors 1 0 1.000 Only appearance in NBA Finals in 2019. The first and only team based outside the United States to win an NBA title or reach the NBA Finals.
1 Denver Rockets/Denver Nuggets 1 0 1.000 Only appearance as the Nuggets. First appearance in 2023. Won first NBA title after 47 years since their inception, the longest time a team had to wait to win their first NBA title. They are the second franchise to move from the ABA to the NBA, and subsequently win a championship.
1 Indiana Pacers 0 1 .000 Only appearance was in 2000, led by Reggie Miller and former Celtics player/coach Larry Bird, where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
1 Baltimore Bullets 1 0 1.000 Team folded in 1954 and is the only championship-winning team to fold. Not to be confused or related with the Washington Wizards, who had started out as the Chicago Packers/Zephyrs, before relocating to Baltimore, Maryland in 1963 and became the Baltimore Bullets, taking the name from the original Baltimore Bullets, and were known as such from 1963–1973.
1 Chicago Stags 0 1 .000 Team folded in 1950.
1 Washington Capitols 0 1 .000 Team folded in 1951.

Active Franchises with no Finals appearances[]

Team No. of seasons Founded Other achievements
Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers 54 1970 Reached the Western Conference Finals in 2021, but lost to the Phoenix Suns. Oldest active franchise with no finals appearances.
Minnesota Timberwolves 35 1989 Reached the Western Conference Finals in 2004 and 2024, but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the former and the Dallas Mavericks in the latter.
Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets* 34 1988 Reached the Eastern conference semifinals four times, in 1993, 1998, 2001, and 2002, but lost to the New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, and New Jersey Nets, respectively.
Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies 29 1995 Reached the Western Conference Finals in 2013, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets/Pelicans* 22 2002 Reached the Western Conference semifinals twice, in 2008 and 2018, but lost on both occasions to the San Antonio Spurs in seven and Golden State Warriors in five, respectively.


  • (*) 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, named the Bobcats, was established for the 2004–05 season. In 2014, the original Hornets were renamed the Pelicans and obtained the records during their time in New Orleans and Oklahoma City from 2002 to 2013. The Bobcats became the second incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets, and retained the history and records of the Hornets organization from 1988 to 2002.


Controversially, the NBA Finals are often regarded by league officials and U.S. media as a "World Championship," implying that no basketball team in the world could compete with NBA Finalists. This issue has become notable since NBA-based U.S. national teams have been unable to decisively win (or even qualify for the final game) at official international competitions like the 2004 Olympics and the 2002 Basketball World Championship.


  • Steve Kerr and Robert Horry had the peculiar distinction of alternating NBA Championships for a decade, and combined to win 11 championships over a twelve-year period. Though neither player was ever selected to the All-Star Game, nor ever played on each other's team, one of the two players was on the roster of every NBA Champion from the 1993-1994 season thru the 2002-2003 season. Kerr's teams were winners in the NBA Finals in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2003. Horry's teams were victorious in the NBA Finals in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2005. Each won 3 consecutive titles playing for Phil Jackson-coached teams (Horry's Lakers and Kerr's Bulls), and every other championship with a team from Texas (the Spurs and Rockets). Kerr has gone on to coach the Warriors to four more titles (2015, 2017, 2018, and 2022).
  • The 2001 NBA Finals, between the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, after the Lakers' series-clinching Game 5 win over the 76ers, fans stormed the streets of Los Angeles, in excitement that the Lakers had won their 13th NBA title, and second consecutive NBA championship. It resulted in a riot and fans started several bomb fires and flipped several cars, including a news van.

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