The basketball world has been sitting around dying for the NBA Finals to start. We are only one day away from one of the most anticipated Finals in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are set to go head-to-head for the third year in a row. Many believe this is going to finish as one of the best NBA Finals of all time. With just one day remaining before the start of this year’s NBA Finals now is the perfect time to countdown the 10 best NBA Finals.
10: 1978 FINALS: WASHINGTON BULLETS VS. SEATTLE SUPERSONICS
The 1978 NBA Finals displayed a great matchup of teams not expected to make it to the Finals. Seattle was the four seed from the Western Conference that went 47-35 while Washington was a three seed that went just 44-38.
It was a back-and-forth series as each team traded wins every game until Game 7. Game 7 took place in Seattle and when Washington won the game it marked the first time in the series that either team won back-to-back games. Wes Unseld scored 15 points and also added six assists and nine rebounds and was later named Finals MVP.
The 1978 NBA Finals are the only Finals in NBA history in which both teams had under 50 wins in an 82-game season. It was also the first and only championship for the Washington franchise that is now named the Wizards.
9: 2005 FINALS: SAN ANTONIO SPURS VS. DETROIT PISTONS
In 2005, the Pistons were trying to do what the Lakers accomplished in 1988 and that was to win back-to-back titles. The Spurs were going for their second title in three years. It was a battle of the previous two champions. The Spurs went up 2-0 behind two big scoring games from Manu Ginobili. The next two games were won by the Pistons to tie the series up at 2-2.
Once the series was tied up, the Spurs and Pistons traded wins to force a Game 7 in San Antonio. The Spurs held Detroit to just 41 percent from the field and 14 percent from behind the arc. San Antonio won the battle of champions in Game 7, 81-74. Tim Duncan won Finals MVP averaging 20.6 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
8: 1970 FINALS: NEW YORK KNICKS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
In 1970, the Knicks were very different from today’s Knicks team, as they were actually good enough to make it to the Finals. Not only did they make it to the Finals, but they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a tough seven-game series. This series was as back-and-forth of a Finals as possible as neither team strung together two wins in a row and Games 3 and 4 both went into overtime.
This series is widely remembered for the return of an injured Willis Reed. Reed reportedly tore a thigh muscle in Game 5 and did not play in Game 6. Reed did not have a major impact in the game but his teammate, Walt Frazier, had one of the greatest games in NBA Finals history.
The Lakers lost the series despite Jerry West averaging 31.3 points and 7.7 assists per game. West’s numbers were impressive but what Wilt Chamberlain did was even more impressive. Wilt averaged 23.3 points per game and an astonishing 24.1 rebounds per game. Neither performances were enough to win though.
Frazier shot 12-17, (70.6 pecent) scoring 36 points and he also added 19 assists to go along with seven rebounds. He put the Knicks on his back to win Game 7, and the series.
Even with Frazier’s epic performance in Game 7, Willis Reed was actually named the Finals MVP. Reed averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and had 37 points in Game 1 and 38 points in Game 3. It was the first of two championships for the New York Knicks franchise.
7: 1988 FINALS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. DETROIT PISTONS
The Lakers won the 1987 NBA Finals and at the victory parade head coach, Pat Riley promised a repeat. Los Angeles won 62 games and got back to the Finals to meet the Bad Boy Pistons.
Heading into Game 6 in Los Angeles, the Pistons had a 3-2 series lead. Pistons star point guard, Isiah Thomas, twisted his ankle in the third quarter but that didn’t stop him from dropping 43 points in the game. The Lakers held on to a 103-102 victory behind 28 points from James Worthy. Magic Johnson also had a double-double with 22 points and 19 assists.
Game 7 was in the famous Laker Forum. Entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers led 83-73. Detroit pushed hard in the fourth quarter outscoring the Lakers 32-25 but it wasn’t enough as the Lakers won 108-105. After a big Game 6, Thomas had just 10 points. James Worthy had a triple-double putting up 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists and was named the Finals MVP. It was the Lakers fifth title in nine years and last of the Magic and Showtime era.
6: 1962 FINALS: BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
Hop into your time machine for this one. The 1962 NBA Finals was one of the best in NBA history. Boston was going for its fourth championship in a row. Los Angeles had dreams of ruining the Boston dynasty that was forming. Fast forward to Game 7, one of the best games that most NBA fans have never seen.
The game went into overtime tied at 100. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Bill Russell each played more than 50 minutes. The only reason the game went into overtime was because Lakers guard Frank Selvy missed a baseline jumper as time expired.
The Celtics were able to outscore the Lakers 10-7 in overtime to win their fourth NBA title in a row. They would continue to win the next four as well finishing with eight NBA championships in a row.
In the 1962 Finals, many records were set. Elgin Baylor set and still holds, the record for most points in a Finals game with 61 in Game 5. Bill Russell had a record 40 rebounds in Game 7 and finished with an NBA-record 189 for the entire series. The 1962 NBA Finals will always be one of the best in the Lakers versus Celtics rivalry.
5: 2006 FINALS: MIAMI HEAT VS. DALLAS MAVERICKS
The 2006 Finals is the first one on the countdown that didn’t go seven games. This series has to be on the countdown because Dwayne Wade had arguably the greatest finals performance of all time. The Heat team was loaded with Hall of Fame talent around Dwayne Wade. Players such as Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal and Hall of Fame head coach Pat Riley surrounded Wade. Despite all the talent around him it was Dwayne Wade who stole the spotlight.
Dallas went up 2-0 in the series and it looked like they were on their way to winning the championship. Dwayne Wade preceded to score 42 points, 36 points, 43 points and 36 points in games three through six. An average of 39.3 points per game in those four games. He finished the series as the Finals MVP averaging 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game.
His domination is still remembered to this day as legendary and because of his performance, the 2006 Finals was one of the top five NBA Finals of all time.
4: 2010 FINALS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. BOSTON CELTICS
It was a rivalry renewed. In 2008 these two long-time rivals met and Boston came away victorious. The following year Los Angeles got redemption by beating the Magic. It was now time for a chance at revenge.
Kobe Bryant had a wonderful resume but to truly be a Laker legend you had to beat the Celtics in the Finals. He was on a mission to not lose to the Celtics for the second time.
Kobe was the leading scorer in all games except Game 2. Game 7 was a low-scoring nail-biter. Entering the fourth quarter the Celtics led by the low score of 57-53. Kobe and the Lakers were in danger of losing to the Celtics in the Finals for the second time.
The Lakers outscored to the Celtics 30-22 in the fourth quarter to win 83-79. Kobe finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds and was awarded his second consecutive Finals MVP.
The Lakers avenged a 2008 loss to the Celtics in a historic seven-game series. Kobe won his fifth and final ring to cement his legacy as a Laker legend and an overall all-time great.
3: 2016 FINALS: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS VS. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The repeat to the 2015 NBA Finals was one of the most historic and entertaining the NBA had ever seen. The Warriors had defeated the Cavaliers 4-2 the previous season to capture their first title in 40 years. Cleveland was still looking for its first major championship for the city in 52 years.
The chances of ending that drought looked very grim. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead with the largest margin of victory ever through the first two games to Cleveland. After four games the Warriors had a 3-1 lead and no team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in Finals history.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving went bonkers in Game 5 dropping 41 points each to force a Game 6. In Game 6, LeBron had another 41 points and 11 assists to force a decisive Game 7 at Golden State.
Game 7 was close from start to finish. LeBron had an epic block on Andre Iguodala and Kyrie Irving hit a three to seal the game and the city of Cleveland’s first championship in over 50 years. Cleveland will remember this one forever as LeBron brought the trophy home. He was named Finals MVP averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game.
2: 1998 FINALS: CHICAGO BULLS VS. UTAH JAZZ
This series is only one of two that wasn’t a seven-game series. It was also a rematch of the previous year’s Finals in which the Bulls won 4-2. The Jazz were looking for their first-ever title and revenge on Michael Jordan and the rest of the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan was going for a 6-0 record in the Finals and his second three-peat. M.J. came into Game 6 averaging 31.2 points per game and his team had a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 was in Utah, which is a tough place to play. He was going to need a legendary performance to close out the Jazz on their home court.
Jordan did not disappoint. He scored 45 of the team’s 87 points, which was 51 percent of the team’s scoring. The Bulls needed all 45 of those points too because, with just 27 seconds left in the game, the Jazz were up 86-85.
Michael Jordan stole the ball and dribbled down towards the basket. M.J. hit his famous mid-range jumper giving the Bulls the 87-86 lead. It was the game-winning shot for his sixth championship and cemented him as the greatest basketball player of all time.
1: 1984 FINALS: BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The 1984 NBA Finals could be considered the Finals that saved basketball. Ratings had been dropping until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson took center stage. The rivalry that started to form was captivating the entire country.
Bird vs. Magic was deeper than just a head-to-head matchup. It was white vs. black, east vs. west, and some say it was rich vs. poor, even though Bird wasn’t the richest kid growing up.
Magic had beaten Bird in the 1979 NCAA Championship game and Larry Bird could never shake that loss out of his head. He used it as motivation and it made him obsess about being better than Magic.
He got his chance to face Magic in the 1984 NBA Finals. The Lakers franchise was still struggling to beat the Celtics in the Finals and they would have to wait another year to accomplish that feat.
The 1984 Finals went seven games. In Game 7, Larry Bird had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead to an 111-102 victory. Bird was named Finals MVP averaging 27 points and 14 rebounds in the series.
Because of the social impacts of the series and the falling ratings of the NBA, this ranks as the greatest Finals matchup in NBA history. It created a true rivalry between Bird and Magic that saved the game of basketball.
“From Our Haus to Yours”