Every year in June, one NBA team will stand above the rest as the Finals Champions. In the 2010s, the Golden State Warriors have dominated the pack. Before them, it was the Los Angeles Lakers. And of course, the Chicago Bulls dominated the 1990s.
If there is one thing these teams have in common, its superstar players: Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant are just a few stand-out players. These legends have set records and made the Finals must-see television year in and year out. We’ve listed everything you need to know about iconic moments, star players and more as we head into the NBA Finals.
The Warriors Run Of Dominance Has Happened Before
The Golden State Warriors swept the Portland Trailblazers in the 2019 Western Conference Finals to make their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance. The feat, which to many might seem impossible, has been done before. But that was 50 years ago.
From 1957 until 1966, the Boston Celtics called the NBA Finals their home. There were only nine teams in the NBA then, meaning the Celtics had a lot less competition to accomplish the feat. There was also no such thing as the three-point shot!
Buzzer Beaters Are A Rarity
During the NBA season, one of the most exciting plays is the buzzer beater; a game-winning shot made as the final seconds on the game clock tick away. As exciting as this play is, it hasn’t happened in the NBA Finals since 1997.
In game one of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan made an incredible last-second shot to lift the Chicago Bulls over the Utah Jazz. His team would go on to win the Championship in six games.
Darko Milicic Is The Youngest Player To Win It All
Darko Milicic was just 18-years-old when he won the NBA Championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. It was the only title he ever won as he wound up bouncing his way around the league. When Milicic retired in 2012, he had played for six separate teams!
On the flip side, the oldest player to ever win the NBA Championship was Robert Parish. He was 43-years-old and playing for the Chicago Bulls when they beat the Jazz in 1997.
Robert Horry Has Done Something No One Else Has
When he retired, Robert Horry had won seven NBA Championships; two with the Rockets, three with the Lakers and two with the Spurs. He is the only player to win multiple rings with three different teams.
This unique record is one you would think would qualify Horry for the Hall of Fame, but it didn’t. He’s one of two players with seven or more rings to not be inducted. The other was Jim Loscutoff, a defensive specialist on the Celtics during the 1960s.
The Only MVP That Was Never An All-Star
In a seven-game series, it can be impossible to predict who will be crowned the NBA Finals MVP. Usually, it ends up being a player with all-star credentials, but one time it wasn’t. In 1981, Cedric Maxwell earned the dubious honor with the Celtics.
Another interesting fact about Maxwell is that he’s the only player to win the Finals MVP who was Hall of Fame eligible and denied. That could change after Andre Iguodala retires. The Warriors’ star sixth man was a surprise MVP selection after the 2015 NBA Finals.
Only Five Teams Have Been To Four Straight Finals
At this point, you know that the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics have both been to at least four straight NBA Finals. The three other teams to also do this are the Cleveland Cavaliers (2015-2018), the Miami Heat (2011-2014), and the Los Angeles Lakers (1982-1985).
The NBA Finals are 73-years-old, and in that time, these teams have proven to be the most dominant in the history of the sport. While we doubt any team will go to ten straight finals again (like the Celtics), the Warriors are certainly giving it their best effort.
The Lakers And Celtics Have Combined For The Most Championships
In 73 years, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have combined to win 33 NBA Championships. They have also appeared in 40 NBA Finals, playing each other 12 times.
In the overall series, the Celtics have beaten the Lakers in the Finals nine times. Their most recent meeting was in 2010 and pitted Kobe Bryant against Ray Allen. Bryant’s team toppled Allen’s in seven games, giving Los Angeles the most recent bragging rights in the long-standing rivalry
The Only Eight Seed To Ever Make The Finals
The NBA Finals are almost always dominated by the team with the most talented players– the first or second seeds. Only one time, in 1999, has the lowest seeded playoff team reached the mountain top, and it was the New York Knicks.
If you remember, the 1999 NBA season was shortened due to a lockout. The Knicks went 27-23 during the regular season, which was good enough get them into the postseason. In the Finals, they matched up against the San Antonio Spurs and lost in five games.
Seven Teams Have Never Made The Finals
With such a long history, it would be easy to assume that every team in the NBA has been to the Finals at least once. Shockingly, seven franchises have never made an appearance; the Hornets, Pelicans, Clippers, Timberwolves, Raptors, Grizzlies, and Nuggets.
The Raptors are the closest to breaking off of this list. They’ve made strong postseason pushes the last few years, and even fired their head coach in 2018 when he failed to get them to the Finals.
The Warriors Didn’t Have A Home Game During The 1975 Finals
Prior to the current Golden State Warriors dynasty, the team had won the NBA Championship once, in 1975. The odd thing about that win is they didn’t technically play any home games in the Finals. The stadium they played their home games at in Oakland was previously booked, forcing them to play at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
Of course, this proved difficult as the Cow Palace was also already booked for certain days. This led the NBA to create a strange 1-2-2-1-1 home/away format for the seven-game series.
Game Five Of The 1976 Finals Was Legendary
The 1976 NBA Finals featured what many consider the greatest game of basketball ever played. The Boston Celtics faced off against the Phoenix Suns and the iconic fifth game ended after three overtimes with a score of 128-126. Boston won.
The momentum the Celtics gained from the long game helped them win the entire series. The Suns were crushed and didn’t make the Finals again until 1993; another loss. They haven’t made it back since and haven’t made the playoffs since 2010.
The Lowest Seed To Win The NBA Finals
The Houston Rockets won the NBA Finals in 1995 as the sixth seed. They were and still are the lowest seeded team to ever win the Championship. They are also the only team to win it all without having home court advantage in any postseason series.
To get to the top, the Rockets took down four teams that had won 50-plus games: the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, and Orlando Magic. As far as Cinderella runs go, this one is one of the greatest.
Five Franchises Have Won 69 Percent Of NBA Finals
The Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and the San Antonio Spurs have won 69 percent of all NBA Finals. The Celtics and Lakers combined to have the most, while Chicago has six, Golden State has five, and San Antonio has five.
If the Warriors win again in 2019, they will tie Chicago, and these teams will account for more than 70 percent of all NBA Championships. No wonder the rest of the league is out to get them!
Michael Jordan Never Had A Bad Finals Game
This statistic is just one of the many reasons that Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the greatest NBA player of all time. In 35 NBA Finals games, he never scored fewer than 20 points and was the team’s leading scorer in 32 of those affairs.
Jordan won six NBA titles and was named the MVP every time. He was also the league MVP five times. In the other three NBA Finals games, Scottie Pippen took the scoring crown twice, and Toni Kukoc once.
2017: The First Year Four Players Averaged 25 Points A Game
With offense more important than ever in the NBA, it’s no surprise that the 2017 NBA Finals marked the first time in league history that four players average more than 25 points a game. Those players were, in no particular order, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving.
The Finals matchup was the first for Kevin Durant as a Golden State Warrior, too. He won his first ring and was named the Finals MVP. During the celebration, the first thing he did was find his mom and hug her.
LeBron James Is The King Of These Categories
LeBron James has accomplished a lot in the NBA Finals. When a player makes The Finals eight straight years, he’s bound to set some records. James is the only player to appear in more than 20 Finals games with two different teams.
He’s also the only player to be in the top ten statistically in total points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and assists. The only other player near him is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who retired in the top ten in every category except assists.
The Case Of The Auctioned Ring
Hakeem Olajuwon was on the 1994 NBA Champion Houston Rockets when he found himself in a strange situation. Because he was of Muslim faith, he could never wear his gold ring; the religion forbids men to wear the precious metal.
To solve the problem, Olajuwon auctioned off the ring, although we don’t know how much it sold for or who bought it. The next year the Rockets won the Championship again. To make sure Olajuwon could wear his second championship ring, they had it made out of platinum.
The First NBA Finals MVP Was Named In 1969
In 1969, Jerry West was named the first-ever MVP of the NBA Finals. He was playing for the Lakers, who actually lost the championship to the Boston Celtics. To this day, he is the only NBA Finals MVP who did not play for the winning team.
In 2015, LeBron James almost became the second player to win the MVP award without winning the title. He was the best player in the Finals, but his Cavaliers fell to the Warriors. To help seal the victory, Andre Iguodala made clutch plays near the end of the series and earned MVP honors.
There Has Only Been One 60-Point Performance
From the start of the NBA through today, there have been 68, 60-plus point performances by players. Of those, only one came in the NBA Finals. Elgin Baylor was playing for the Lakers in the 1962 NBA Finals when he scored 61 points against the Boston Celtics.
The Los Angeles Lakers won the game 126-121, but lost the series in seven games. Unfortunately, Baylor also has been to the most NBA Finals without winning a ring. He’s appeared in the series eight times and has never come home with jewelry.
Magic Johnson Pulled This Trick
Magic Johnson has appeared in six NBA Finals series, winning five titles and being named the MVP three times. In all six series, he averaged over 12 assists a game and is the only player to ever do so.
A Laker for life, Johnson continued to work for the team after retiring, most recently serving as president of the franchise. In 2019 he stepped down from his position and claimed that Rob Pelinka, the team’s general manager, betrayed him on several occasions.