NBA Finals History and NBA Championship History
by David A. Lane - 08/12/2007
Through the years, interest in the NBA Finals has steadily increased as the league has grown and become more international in nature. Certainly, dramatic performances made by key star players in the clutch haven't hurt the game's popularity at all. Watching two teams of the worlds greatest athletes compete against each other in this best-of-seven series for all the marbles has led to some very memorable match-ups since pro basketball's inception back in the 1946-1947 season.
The Basketball Association of America was the 11-team league that was the forerunner of today's NBA and was also the first major organized professional basketball league. In 1947 they held the first Finals ever between the Chicago Stags of the Western Division and the Philadelphia Warriors of the Eastern Division, and the Warriors took the series behind the hot shooting of Joe Fulks. The winner brought home about $2,000 those days, approximately half of their full season's salary. Other teams in the league that year were the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Washington Capitols, and later the BAA would also absorb the National Basketball League's Minneapolis Lakers -- starring famed center George Mikan -- and the Fort Wayne Pistons, among others. Officially, in 1949, the BAA merged with the NBL to form a 17-team league playing games in some large arenas, some smaller gymnasiums, and even in armories.
One of the early dynasties in the new league, the Minneapolis Lakers, won five titles in six years behind Mikan. The next official dynasty in the then-called NBA was the 1957-1969 Boston Celtics, who won an amazing and still unprecedented number of titles in professional sports -- 11 championships in 13 years, including eight in a row between 1959-1966. Hall of Fame Coach Red Auerbach, who employed the talents of Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, among others, was a master at motivating his squad by keeping things fun amid grueling practices. The result was success like no other team has enjoyed before or since. During the run they beat the Minneapolis-Los Angeles Lakers seven times in the NBA Finals while never losing, beginning the early roots of one of the biggest rivalries in sports history. The 1974-1976 Boston Celtics continued the winning tradition in the league by winning two of the next three titles behind the stellar play of John Havlicek.
In 1980, the Lakers began their impressive run of five titles in nine years with a rookie guard that ended up winning three NBA Finals MVP awards, Magic Johnson, and two-time winner, star center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In fact, the team went to nine Finals in 12 years during the run beating the Celtics with Larry Bird twice along the way and losing once to Boston, which made the two teams' rivalry even greater. Between 1984 and 1986 the Celtic won two more titles in three years behind two-time NBA Finals MVP Bird. In 1989 and 1990, Coach Chuck Daly's Detroit Pistons became a dynasty that certainly can't be overlooked.
The 1991-1998 Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan were the next dynasty in the league, winning six titles in eight years. The Bulls very well might have won all the Finals during that span had the six-time NBA Finals MVP not retired to play baseball. From 2000-2002 the Lakers resumed their dynasty behind center Shaquille O'Neal to win three titles in a row. O'Neal took home all three MVP awards during the run by dominating opponents with his size and skills around the basket. Finally, the most recent dynasty in the league has been the 1999-2007 San Antonio Spurs with stud center Tim Duncan, who have won four NBA titles in that time with Duncan taking home three of the MVP awards in those series.
Certainly, there have been quite a few key games and memorable series in the 60 years of NBA Finals. Of them, the '51 series between the eventual champion Rochester Royals and the New York Knicks, was the first seven-game series and did much for the popularity of the sport at the time by coming down to the last minute before being decided.
Another great match-up that lasted seven games and launched the Celtics amazing run of success in 1957 was against the St. Louis Hawks. The seventh game went to double overtime and was decided by two points as the Hawks' final shot and last bid for a third overtime rolled off the rim as time expired.
The 1969 series between the Celtics and the Lakers also went seven games as Boston won the final game by two while LA's Wilt Chamberlain was kept on the bench for the last 5:45 by his coach because of a leg injury. Jerry West of the Lakers became the only member of a non-winning team to win Finals MVP, a record that still stands today.
In 1980, the Lakers, despite losing star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to injury in game five, won the Finals against a terrific Philadelphia 76ers team that featured Julius Erving and Darryl Dawkins. Behind their amazing rookie point guard Magic Johnson, who played center in Kareem's absence, the Lakers went into Philadelphia and surprised everyone by taking over the fourth quarter and ending the series in the six games.
In 1984, the Celtics and Lakers hooked up again in one of the more memorable series they've ever played. Magic met Bird for the first time that year in a Final that went seven games and was decided ultimately by a Cedrick Maxwell steal with seconds remaining.
The 1988 Finals pitted the Lakers against the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons and the series went to the final seconds of the seventh game, when A.C. Green made a layup with time running off the clock to give the Lakers a three-point lead which ultimately was the final margin of victory. Isiah Thomas couldn't get off a shot to tie the game with a second remaining in this classic between two of the best NBA teams ever. The Pistons returned the favor by winning the championship and sweeping LA in the following year's Finals.
In 1993, the Phoenix Suns matched up with the Chicago Bulls in a six-game series that was ended on a dramatic last second three-point shot by John Paxson that earned the Bulls their third straight NBA title. Jordan passed up the last shot and instead kicked it out to Paxson who was wide open on the perimeter. By drawing the double team to himself he showed his mastery of the game and that his biggest concern in the clutch was for his team to win the game.
The 1998 season concluded with a Final in which the Bulls faced the Utah Jazz, as Jordan tried to lead his team to their sixth championship in eight years. In the sixth game of the series, the home-team Jazz were leading by one and had the ball with only seconds remaining when Jordan stripped Karl Malone, drove the length of the court, and hit a pull up jump shot with 5.4 seconds left to take the lead and win the series for Chicago. It was perhaps the greatest shot of his storied career.
During the 60-year NBA Finals history there have been quite a few memorable teams and players that have won championships. Many of these teams have had very key star players making clutch shots when they were needed most. These dramatic performances combined with terrific competition have made the Finals the spectacle it has become today. It's no wonder why the league has become so popular worldwide as interest continues to build not only because of the great game of pro basketball, but also because of the incredible athleticism and diverse international backgrounds of many of its players.
|2006-07||San Antonio Spurs||Cleveland Cavaliers||4-0|
|2005-06||Miami Heat||Dallas Mavericks||4-2|
|2004-05||San Antonio Spurs||Detroit Pistons||4-3|
|2003-04||Detroit Pistons||Los Angeles Lakers||4-1|
|2002-03||San Antonio Spurs||New Jersey Nets||4-2|
|2001-02||Los Angeles Lakers||New Jersey Nets||4-0|
|2000-01||Los Angeles Lakers||Philadelphia 76ers||4-1|
|1999-00||Los Angeles Lakers||Indiana Pacers||4-2|
|1998-99||San Antonio Spurs||New York Knicks||4-1|
|1997-98||Chicago Bulls||Utah Jazz||4-2|
|1996-97||Chicago Bulls||Utah Jazz||4-2|
|1995-96||Chicago Bulls||Seattle SuperSonics||4-2|
|1994-95||Houston Rockets||Orlando Magic||4-0|
|1993-94||Houston Rockets||New York Knicks||4-3|
|1992-93||Chicago Bulls||Phoenix Suns||4-2|
|1991-92||Chicago Bulls||Portland Trail Blazers||4-2|
|1990-91||Chicago Bulls||Los Angeles Lakers||4-1|
|1989-90||Detroit Pistons||Portland Trail Blazers||4-1|
|1988-89||Detroit Pistons||Los Angeles Lakers||4-0|
|1987-88||Los Angeles Lakers||Detroit Pistons||4-3|
|1986-87||Los Angeles Lakers||Boston Celtics||4-2|
|1985-86||Boston Celtics||Houston Rockets||4-2|
|1984-85||Los Angeles Lakers||Boston Celtics||4-2|
|1983-84||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-3|
|1982-83||Philadelphia 76ers||Los Angeles Lakers||4-0|
|1981-82||Los Angeles Lakers||Philadelphia 76ers||4-2|
|1980-81||Boston Celtics||Houston Rockets||4-2|
|1979-80||Los Angeles Lakers||Philadelphia 76ers||4-2|
|1978-79||Seattle SuperSonics||Washington Bullets||4-1|
|1977-78||Washington Bullets||Seattle SuperSonics||4-3|
|1976-77||Portland Trail Blazers||Philadelphia 76ers||4-2|
|1975-76||Boston Celtics||Phoenix Suns||4-2|
|1974-75||Golden State Warriors||Washington Bullets||4-0|
|1973-74||Boston Celtics||Milwaukee Bucks||4-3|
|1972-73||New York Knicks||Los Angeles Lakers||4-1|
|1971-72||Los Angeles Lakers||New York Knicks||4-1|
|1970-71||Milwaukee Bucks||Baltimore Bullets||4-0|
|1969-70||New York Knicks||Los Angeles Lakers||4-3|
|1968-69||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-3|
|1967-68||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-2|
|1966-67||Philadelphia 76ers||San Francisco Warriors||4-2|
|1965-66||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-3|
|1964-65||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-1|
|1963-64||Boston Celtics||San Francisco Warriors||4-1|
|1962-63||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-2|
|1961-62||Boston Celtics||Los Angeles Lakers||4-3|
|1960-61||Boston Celtics||St. Louis Hawks||4-1|
|1959-60||Boston Celtics||St. Louis Hawks||4-3|
|1958-59||Boston Celtics||Minneapolis Lakers||4-0|
|1957-58||St. Louis Hawks||Boston Celtics||4-2|
|1956-57||Boston Celtics||St. Louis Hawks||4-3|
|1955-56||Philadelphia Warriors||Fort Wayne Pistons||4-1|
|1954-55||Syracuse Nationals||Fort Wayne Pistons||4-3|
|1953-54||Minneapolis Lakers||Syracuse Nationals||4-3|
|1952-53||Minneapolis Lakers||New York Knicks||4-1|
|1951-52||Minneapolis Lakers||New York Knicks||4-3|
|1950-51||Rochester Royals||New York Knicks||4-3|
|1949-50||Minneapolis Lakers||Syracuse Nationals||4-2|
|1948-49||Minneapolis Lakers||Washington Capitols||4-2|
|1947-48||Baltimore Bullets||Philadelphia Warriors||4-2|
|1946-47||Philadelphia Warriors||Chicago Stags||4-1|