NBA Finals

NBA Finals
GenreSporting event
Date(s)Late May–June
CountryUnited States
Inaugurated1947 (1947)
SponsorYouTube TV (2018–present)
Most titlesBoston Celtics
Los Angeles Lakers
(17 each)

The NBA Finals is the annual championship series of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Eastern and Western Conference champions play a best-of-seven-game series to determine the league champion. The team that wins the series is awarded the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, which replaced the original Walter A. Brown Trophy in 1977, though under the same name.

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, in which 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. This team hosts the first two games and the other team hosts the next two games. If needed, the remaining three are played at each team's home arena alternately, starting with the arena of the team with the better regular season record.

A total of 21 franchises have won the NBA Finals, with the Denver Nuggets winning the most recent title in 2023. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics hold the record for the most victories, having both won the championship 17 times. The Boston Celtics also won the most consecutive titles, winning eight in a row from 1959 to 1966. The Los Angeles Lakers have competed in the NBA Finals the most times, with 32 appearances. The Eastern Division/Conference has provided the most champions, with 40 wins from 11 franchises with the most recent being the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021; the Western Division/Conference has 37, from nine franchises including the defending champion Nuggets.


1946–1956: Beginnings and Lakers dynasty

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 California.

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 Empire

Bill Russell (off ball) was a member of one of the first dynasties in the NBA, winning eight straight titles while contending against Wilt Chamberlain (on ball).

The Boston Celtics won 11 of the 12 NBA Finals they reached during 13 seasons (1956–57 to 1968–69), including eight straight NBA championships from 1959 through 1966. During this time the St. Louis Hawks also captured their only title before eventually moving to Atlanta, the Philadelphia 76ers won their first title since relocating from Syracuse, and the Lakers and Warriors returned to the Finals for the first time in California.

With the establishment of the Celtics dynasty in 1957, spearheaded by center Bill Russell, the team saw great success. Despite encountering some difficulty when up against teams led by Wilt Chamberlain, for most of the late 1950s and 1960s, the Celtics and Russell managed to have an upper hand on Chamberlain's teams.

In 1964, Chamberlain, who had moved to the state of California alongside his team, led the San Francisco Warriors to a Western Division championship, but again failed to conquer the Celtics. The following season, he returned to the Eastern Division to join the Philadelphia 76ers, who were the former Syracuse Nationals that had relocated to the city to cover the vacancy created with the departure of the Warriors.

The first clash between the two stars in the playoffs was in 1966, with Boston winning the series 4–1. In the following season, Philadelphia coach Alex Hannum instructed Chamberlain to provide an increased focus on playing a team game, to avoid drawing the double-teams that troubled Chamberlain during the Finals. This tactical change brought the team to a new record of 68 wins the following season, as well as defeating the Celtics before winning the 1967 Finals. In 1968, Boston overcame a 3–1 deficit against Philadelphia to once again arrive in the Finals. They went on to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals to again become NBA champions.

In 1969, the Celtics faced great difficulty entering the postseason, as they had an aging team and multiple injuries to a number of players. They qualified for the playoffs as the fourth and final seed in the East, while the Lakers, who had added Chamberlain in the off-season to join stars Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, won the West and were prohibitive favorites to become champions for the first time since relocating to Los Angeles. Despite holding a 2–1 advantage going into Game 4, the Lakers led 87–86 and had the ball with 10 seconds to play. But after a turnover, Sam Jones scored to give the Celtics a narrow 88–87 win and tying the series. The series was eventually tied 3–3 going into Game 7 in Los Angeles, with Lakers owner Jack Cooke hanging balloons in the arena in anticipation of a Lakers victory. West also picked up injuries to his thigh and hamstring during the series, but returned to play for the final game. Russell utilized this newly lacking mobility in West to organize fast breaks at every opportunity for the Celtics, which allowed them to gain an early lead. They held off a furious Lakers comeback to win 108–106 and win the series, and win their eleventh championship in 13 years.

As many stars either declined or retired following this win, it is largely recognized as the last NBA Finals conducted by the Celtics dynasty.

1970–1979: Decade of parity

The 1970s saw ten different teams reach the Finals and eight different teams win a championship, the most of any decade in the NBA, with the Celtics and New York Knicks winning twice.

In 1970, a classic final featured the Knicks against the Lakers. In the waning moments of Game 3, with the series tied, Jerry West hit a basket from 60 feet to tie the game, a shot which became one of the most famous ever. However, the Knicks won in overtime and continued their momentum for a 4–3 win, becoming the first team after the Celtics dynasty to win an NBA championship. The Milwaukee Bucks also won their first title, defeating the Baltimore Bullets in 1971.

Two seasons after losing in the Finals, the Lakers won 33 straight games, the longest such streak in NBA history. By season's end, they broke the record for most wins in a season with 69, one more than the 1966–67 Philadelphia 76ers, before taking home the championship for the first time since relocating to Los Angeles, beating the New York Knicks. The Knicks returned to win the Finals again a season later, their second championship.

Despite the rise of the Knicks, the 1974 championship returned to the Celtics.

Following the success of the Lakers, the 1970s were characterized by a major breakthrough of the league's western franchises. In 1975, after compiling a 48–34 regular season record, the Golden State Warriors swept the Washington Bullets 4–0 in the 1975 NBA Finals. In 1976, the Phoenix Suns, after only eight years of existence as a franchise, overcame a losing record early in the season to build a remarkable win streak to finish 42–40. They achieved upset victories over the Seattle SuperSonics and the Warriors, before facing Boston in the Finals. The teams split the first four games, before Game 5 went into three overtimes and Boston won 128–126. The Celtics quickly managed to secure their 13th championship, defeating the Suns 87–80 in Game 6.

Other franchises that won their first titles in the 1970s included the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977, and the Washington Bullets, who defeated the SuperSonics in 1978. The SuperSonics managed to exact revenge on the Bullets the following season, as they won their first title in 1979.

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

The 1980s saw a renewal in the rivalry between the Boston Celtics (green) and the Los Angeles Lakers (gold), combining to win eight titles.

The 1980s were mostly known for the rivalry between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, who combined to win eight titles in the decade. The rivalry began at the 1979 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Game, featuring Magic Johnson's Michigan State University team facing off against Larry Bird's Indiana State University team, which attracted the largest TV rating ever for an NCAA Championship game, as 38 percent of all television viewers that night tuned in. Bird and Johnson both entered the league in 1979, leading their respective teams to dazzling heights.

Rookie Magic Johnson led the Showtime Lakers to the 1980 NBA Finals against the 76ers, which were led by NBA superstar Julius Erving. The Lakers took a 3–2 lead, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could not play in Game 6 due to injury. Johnson, a natural point guard, was shifted to center, and ended up playing every position on the court during the game, scoring 42 points, while also attaining 15 rebounds and 7 assists to win his first championship and Finals MVP honors, the first and only rookie to win the award.

Boston reached the 1981 NBA Finals led by the "Big Three" of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. Considered to be one of the best frontcourts of all time, all three players later made the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. They met the Houston Rockets in the 1981 Finals, carried practically single-handedly by Moses Malone, who upset the Lakers and Johnson in the first round. The Rockets were only the second team in NBA history to make the Finals after posting a losing record in the regular season, and the Celtics had an NBA best record of 62–20. The Celtics won the Finals in 6 games.

The Lakers returned to the NBA Finals in 1982, this time led by new coach Pat Riley, in a rematch against the 76ers. The 76ers defeated the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals in a 7-game series, but were defeated by Lakers in 6 games, with Johnson being named Finals MVP. Upon losing their past three NBA Finals appearances, the 76ers decided that they needed one more piece to become champions, and on September 15, 1982, they traded for Malone, who was also the league's reigning MVP. With the new duo of Malone and Erving, the 76ers won the 1983 NBA Finals, losing only once in the entire playoffs, including a sweep of the Lakers.

The 1984 NBA Finals were contested by the Celtics and Lakers, who faced each other for the first time since 1969. After an inspired performance from Bird, the Celtics toppled the Lakers 4–3. The final game of this series attracted the largest ever TV audience for an NBA game, and the second-largest ever for a basketball game, with only the NCAA Championship game between the two stars played five years earlier having a larger audience. It was the last NBA Finals played in the 2–2–1–1–1 format until 2014.

In the 1985 NBA Finals, the Lakers avenged their previous loss by defeating the Celtics in six games. Although the Lakers lost the first game by 34 points in the Memorial Day Massacre, they won 4 of the next 5 games, including Game 6 at the Boston Garden. These finals were the first to be played in the 2–3–2 format, which was suggested by Boston executive Red Auerbach to NBA commissioner David Stern, as he hoped to cut back on the frequent traveling from Boston to Los Angeles.

The 1986 NBA Finals saw the Celtics face off against the Rockets, with Boston winning in six games, securing their 16th title. Bird was named Finals MVP for the second time. In 1987, the Lakers and Celtics met again. The Lakers won the first two games, but Boston won Game 3. In Game 4, Johnson hit a hook shot with two seconds left to give the Lakers a 107–106 win and a 3–1 series lead. The Lakers lost Game 5, but eventually won Game 6 to clinch the series, and a 2–1 Finals record against the Celtics. Johnson was named Finals MVP for the third time.

In the following two seasons, the aging Celtics failed to reach the Finals, becoming overshadowed by the rise of the Detroit Pistons. The Lakers managed to defend their title in the 1988 Finals, winning the series in 7 games against the Pistons. They then became the first team to win back-to-back NBA titles since 1969. Seeking a three-peat in 1989, the Lakers were swept by the Pistons in a rematch of the previous year's Finals. In 1990, the Pistons then went back-to-back after defeating the Clyde Drexler-led Portland Trail Blazers in five games, attaining the nickname "Bad Boys" due to their rough, physical play led by a Hall of Fame back court in Joe Dumars and Isiah Thomas and a rugged front court in Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer.

1991–1998: Bulls dynasty

Michael Jordan cemented himself as the greatest player of all time, winning six NBA championships with Scottie Pippen and coach Phil Jackson.

The majority of the 1990s was marked by the supremacy of the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls, led by head coach Phil Jackson and star players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, won six titles in six Finals appearances from 1991 to 1998. The only other team to win a title during this time was the Houston Rockets who won titles in 1994 and 1995.

The first championship came at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers, which also saw the last appearance in the Finals for Magic Johnson. Billed as a showdown between the aging Johnson and the upstart Jordan, the Lakers won the first game, 93–91. For the rest of the series, Pippen guarded Johnson, allowing Jordan to primarily focus on scoring, and Chicago won the next four games. The Bulls returned to the Finals the next year, pitted against Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trail Blazers. Throughout the 1991–1992 season, Jordan and Drexler led their teams to the best records in their respective conferences, leading to several comparisons between the two players in anticipation of a postseason match-up. Chicago defeated the Trail Blazers in Game 1 by 33 points, a game notable for Jordan breaking the record for the most three-pointers in a first half, with six. Game 2 went into overtime, with the Trail Blazers outscoring the Bulls 18–7 in the final period to win the game, even with Drexler fouling out in the 4th quarter. Games 3 and 4 were split between Chicago and Portland, respectively, but the Bulls won the final two games, clinching their second championship.

In 1993, Jordan was matched against close friend Charles Barkley, who was the league's reigning MVP of the Phoenix Suns. The Bulls won the first two games in Phoenix, 100–92 and 111–108. The Suns, rallying behind Barkley, won Game 3, 129–121 in Chicago in triple overtime. The Bulls won Game 4, 111–105, with Jordan scoring 55 points and tying Rick Barry for the second-most points in an NBA Finals game. The Suns won Game 5, 108–98, sending the series back to Phoenix. Chicago clinched the series in Game 6, 99–98, on John Paxson's three-pointer, as the Bulls became the third team in history to three-peat. After this win, Jordan retired from basketball to pursue a career in baseball.

Following Jordan's departure, the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, won the 1994 and 1995 NBA titles. During this time, Olajuwon became the only player in history to win the NBA MVP, NBA Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP awards in the same season. That was the only year that both the NBA and NHL Finals went to seven games, with the Rockets facing the New York Knicks in 1994. With their win in Game 7, the Rockets denied New York from winning both the NBA and NHL titles in the same year, as the New York Rangers won the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. After trading for Clyde Drexler midseason, the Rockets later swept an Orlando Magic team consisting of Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway in the 1995 Finals; Olajuwon was again named Finals MVP, and the Rockets became the fifth franchise to win back-to-back titles and became the first 6th-seeded team to win the title without enjoying home court advantage on any of their playoff series. The Houston Rockets also beat teams with at least 50 regular season wins in every round of the playoffs, with "Road Court" advantage. No other team in NBA History has done that. The Houston Rockets were down 3 games to 1 to the Phoenix Suns in the Semi-Finals and won 2 out of 3 games on the road, including game 7 to advance to the Conference Finals.

After his short stint with baseball, Jordan returned to basketball late in the 1994–95 season. Although he did not lead the Bulls to the Finals for that season, he returned to pre-retirement form the next season while the team acquired perennial rebounding champion Dennis Rodman. The 1995–96 Bulls finished the regular season 72–10, attaining, at the time, the best regular season record in NBA history. They dominated in the playoffs, with series records of 3–0, 4–1 and 4–0, before facing the Seattle SuperSonics in the NBA Finals. After the Bulls took a 3–0 series lead, Seattle won the next two games after point guard Gary Payton asked his coach George Karl to be switched onto Jordan, leading to a sixth game. Jordan altered his game to deal with Payton, and the Bulls won Game 6 to win their fourth title.

In 1997 and 1998, the Bulls met the Utah Jazz in the Finals twice. Led by Dream Team Olympians John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz were defeated in both Finals by the Bulls in six games. In both series, Chicago won by hitting winning shots in the sixth game, the first by Steve Kerr in 1997 in Chicago, and the second by Jordan in Utah in 1998. This saw Chicago winning their sixth NBA championship, and winning their second three-peat. Before the lockout shortened 1998–99 season, Jackson decided to retire, which set off a chain reaction that resulted in most of the team, including Jordan and Pippen, leaving the Bulls. With no foundation of youth to build upon, the Bulls became a lottery-bound team for the next six seasons.

1999–2010: Spurs and Lakers dominance

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

The 2000s were largely dominated by the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers, who appeared in a combined eleven Finals to win nine championships in 12 seasons.

Between the years of 1999 to 2010, the Spurs won four championships, in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007. During the 1999 NBA playoffs, the Spurs finished with a 15–2 mark, including sweeps of the Blazers and Lakers. With a defensive squad led by David Robinson and Tim Duncan, San Antonio's 84.7 points allowed per game was the fewest average points allowed in the postseason in the last 30 years. In the Finals that year, the Spurs held the New York Knicks, the first eight seed team to reach the finals in NBA history, to an average of 79.8 points per game. During the 2003 NBA Finals, the Spurs defeated the New Jersey Nets in 6 games, which also marked the first championship contested between two former ABA teams. In Game 6, Duncan was two blocks short of recording the first quadruple-double in NBA Finals history, finishing with 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists, and 8 blocks. The Spurs also defeated the Detroit Pistons 4–3 in 2005, and swept the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007. Duncan won the Finals MVP in 1999, 2003 and 2005, while Tony Parker won in 2007, becoming the first European-born player to do so.

The Lakers won five championships in the same period, including a three-peat from 2000 to 2002, led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Their first championship came at the expense of the Indiana Pacers, whom the Lakers defeated in 6 games. During their 2001 postseason run, the Lakers swept their first 3 series and won the Finals against the Allen Iverson-led Philadelphia 76ers in 5 games, finishing with an unprecedented 15–1 record, the best postseason record in NBA history at the time. In 2002, the Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets, leading almost the entire time in each game. During the Laker's three-peat champion run, O'Neal earned finals MVP honors all three times.

In the 2003 off-season, veteran stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone signed with the Lakers. Along with Bryant and O'Neal, they formed what many expected to be one of the best teams in NBA history, and were the favorites to win the championship in 2004. However, the Detroit Pistons, under coach Larry Brown, defeated the Lakers in 5 games. Chauncey Billups was named the Finals MVP. Now established as one of the powerhouses of the East, the Pistons returned to the NBA Finals the following year, before losing to the Spurs in seven games.

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

Following bad blood and eventual fallout with former Laker's teammate Kobe Bryant, O'Neal was traded from the Lakers to the Miami Heat in 2004, where he teamed up with young phenom Dwyane Wade. Together they led the Heat to the 2006 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, who won the first two games at home, but Miami won the next four straight after multiple fourth quarter comebacks led by Wade, who won the Finals MVP award.

The Lakers returned to the Finals in 2008 against the Boston Celtics, renewing the teams' rivalry marking the 11th Finals matchup between them. The Celtics defeated the Lakers 4–2, led by their "Big Three" superstars of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Finals MVP Paul Pierce. The Lakers bounced back from the loss and returned to the Finals the following year in 2009, where they defeated the Dwight Howard-led Orlando Magic, in five games. The Lakers met the Celtics once again in 2010, trailing 3–2 before winning the last two at home, marking the first time in history that the Celtics lost a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant was named Finals MVP both years, as head coach Phil Jackson surpassed Red Auerbach's record for most NBA titles of all time with eleven.

2010–2022: LeBron James dominance and the Warriors dynasty

The 2010s were distinguished by the continued excellence of superstar LeBron James, who appeared in nine NBA Finals in 10 seasons while playing for three different franchises, winning four titles. The decade also saw the ascent of the Golden State Warriors, emerging as a dominant force in the Western Conference with their groundbreaking small-ball strategy and 3-point shooting masterminded by coach Steve Kerr and propelled by point guard Stephen Curry, also winning four titles.

During the 2010 off-season, the Miami Heat re-signed team captain Dwyane Wade and added free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh to form a new Big Three. The Heat were subsequently considered heavy title favorites and appeared in the next four Finals, starting in 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks in a rematch from five years earlier. Despite being heavy underdogs on paper, the Mavericks won the series 4–2, with Dirk Nowitzki being named the Finals MVP. The Heat returned to the Finals in the following year against a young Oklahoma City Thunder team featuring future MVPs Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. Miami won the series in five games, with James winning his first championship and Finals MVP honors by unanimous vote. The Heat repeated as champions in 2013, this time over the San Antonio Spurs, featuring a Heat comeback in Game 6 that is widely regarded one of the greatest playoff games ever played. James was named Finals MVP for the second straight year. Miami sought a three-peat in a 2014 rematch with the Spurs, but this time San Antonio prevailed in five games, winning their first title since 2007 and the fifth and final title of Duncan's career. Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP, becoming the third-youngest Finals MVP after Duncan and Magic Johnson.

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

In the 2014 off-season, James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he teamed up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to form a new "Big Three" in Cleveland. The Cavaliers would appear in the next four straight Finals against the upstart Golden State Warriors, becoming the first two teams to play in more than two consecutive Finals against one another. The Warriors drew first blood in the 2015 NBA Finals, coming back from a 2–1 deficit to win the series in six games, with Andre Iguodala winning NBA Finals MVP for his efforts in containing LeBron James on defense. The following season, the Warriors broke the record for most regular season wins with a record of 73–9 and Curry won his second straight MVP award by unanimous vote, shattering his own record for three-pointers made in a single season. The Warriors opened up a 3–1 series lead in the 2016 NBA Finals, but James and Irving led the Cavaliers to two straight victories to force a deciding Game 7. In a key sequence with two minutes remaining in Game 7, LeBron James made a memorable chase-down block on Iguodala to keep the game tied, while Irving hit a 3-point shot a minute later to take the lead. Cleveland held on to win the title and end the city's championship drought, with James earning his third Finals MVP honor. In the subsequent off-season, the Warriors acquired Kevin Durant through free agency, forming what many considered to be one of the greatest teams ever assembled. In 2017, the Warriors set a playoff record of 15 consecutive wins en route to a five-game series win over the Cavs, followed by a dominant sweep in 2018. Kevin Durant earned Finals MVP honors both years.

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

In 2018, James left the Cavaliers and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. Without James, the Cavaliers struggled and did not return to the playoffs. In 2019, the Warriors with their dynastic success sustained their triumphant run and achieved their fifth consecutive Finals appearance, marking a historic milestone as the first Western Conference team to accomplish the feat since the 1960s Celtics. However, after injuries to stars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors were ousted by the Kawhi Leonard-led Toronto Raptors 4–2, resulting in the first NBA title for a team based outside the United States. Toronto's Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP, becoming the first player to win the award while representing teams from both conferences.

The 2019–20 NBA season was suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed on a shortened schedule in July 2020 inside the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida. LeBron James returned to his tenth Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers against the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals, marking the first time in NBA history that two teams that missed the playoffs the year before met in the Finals. The Lakers won the series 4–2, claiming their 17th title to tie the Boston Celtics' franchise record; LeBron James was named Finals MVP for the fourth time in his career, becoming the first player to win the award with three different franchises.

The 2021 NBA Finals saw the Milwaukee Bucks defeat the Phoenix Suns in the first Finals since 1971 to feature no players who had previously won a championship. Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo earned Finals MVP honors.

After missing the playoffs two years in a row, the Warriors returned to the 2022 Finals for their sixth appearance in the last eight seasons. They defeated the Boston Celtics in six games for their fourth championship in eight seasons, and Curry won his first NBA Finals MVP award unanimously.


The Denver Nuggets reached their first Finals in franchise history in 2023, defeating the Miami Heat in five games, becoming the second expansion team from the ABA to win the championship. Nikola Jokić was named Finals MVP, becoming the lowest-drafted player (41st overall) to win the award.


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

Team records

Finals appearances

The statistics below refer to series wins and losses, not individual games won and lost. For individual game statistics, see Individual games records.

No. Team W L Win% Most recent appearance Most recent title Notes
32 Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers 17 15 .531 2020 2020 5–1 in Minneapolis and 12–14 in Los Angeles. Currently hold the record for the most appearances in the NBA Finals, and have appeared in the Finals in every decade since the 1940s. With 17 championships, no team has won more, and they are tied with 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.
22 Boston Celtics 17 5 .773 2022 2008 Won eight straight titles from 1959 to 1966, and are tied with the Lakers as the most successful team in the NBA Finals, winning 17 championships each. Three of their five Finals losses occurred against the rival Lakers. Appeared in a record 10 consecutive NBA Finals.
12 Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors 7 5 .583 2022 2022 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 to appear in five consecutive NBA Finals.
9 Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers 3 6 .333 2001 1983 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 1999 1973 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/Detroit Pistons 3 4 .429 2005 2004 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 2023 2013 Udonis Haslem featured in all Finals appearances. Coach Erik Spoelstra featured in six Finals as head coach and one finals as assistant coach. One of five franchises to reach four consecutive Finals. In their most recent appearance, they became the first team to reach the Finals after qualifying in the play-in tournament.
6 Chicago Bulls 6 0 1.000 1998 1998 All six titles were with head coach Phil Jackson and players Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. 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 San Antonio Spurs 5 1 .833 2014 2014 All five titles were with Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. They were the first franchise to move from the ABA to the NBA, and subsequently win a championship.
5 Cleveland Cavaliers 1 4 .200 2018 2016 LeBron James featured in all five Finals appearances. The Cavaliers appeared in four straight Finals from 2015 to 2018, all against the Golden State Warriors, winning in 2016. One of five franchises to reach four consecutive Finals.
4 Houston Rockets 2 2 .500 1995 1995 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 against the Boston Celtics.
4 St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks 1 3 .250 1961 1958 All appearances when the team was in St. Louis. Reached four NBA Finals in five years, all against the Boston Celtics.
4 Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder 1 3 .250 2012 1979 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 1979 1978 0–1 as the Baltimore Bullets, and 1–2 as the Washington Bullets. All appearances in the Finals came between 1971 and 1979, featuring Wes Unseld.
3 Milwaukee Bucks 2 1 .667 2021 2021 Won in the 1971 and 2021 Finals. 1971 and 1974 appearances were by teams that featured Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
3 Portland Trail Blazers 1 2 .333 1992 1977 Their only title was won with Bill Walton. The team lost two finals with Clyde Drexler.
3 Phoenix Suns 0 3 .000 2021 None Lost in the 1976, 1993 and 2021 Finals to the Celtics, Bulls and Bucks, respectively. Best historical win–loss record and most Finals appearances amongst all franchises to have not won a title.
2 Dallas Mavericks 1 1 .500 2011 2011 They lost in 2006 and won in 2011, both times against the Heat in six games. Both Mavericks teams were led by Dirk Nowitzki.
2 New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets 0 2 .000 2003 None All appearances when the team was in New Jersey.
2 Orlando Magic 0 2 .000 2009 None They lost both of their Finals appearances, winning just one game between the two series.
2 Utah Jazz 0 2 .000 1998 None Both appearances were with coach Jerry Sloan and players Karl Malone and John Stockton, and losses to the Bulls in six games.
1 Rochester Royals/Kansas City/Sacramento Kings 1 0 1.000 1951 1951 Only appearance in NBA Finals as the Rochester Royals.
1 Toronto Raptors 1 0 1.000 2019 2019 Only appearance in NBA Finals. The first and only team based outside the United States to win an NBA title or reach the NBA Finals.
1 Denver Nuggets 1 0 1.000 2023 2023 Only appearance as of 2023.
1 Chicago Stags 0 1 .000 1947 None Team folded in 1950.
1 Baltimore Bullets 1 0 1.000 1948 1948 Team folded in 1954 and is the only championship-winning team to fold.
1 Washington Capitols 0 1 .000 1949 None Team folded in 1951.
1 Indiana Pacers 0 1 .000 2000 None Only appearance was in 2000 and led by Reggie Miller and coach Larry Bird, losing to the Lakers.

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 and lost. Oldest active franchise with no finals appearances.
Minnesota Timberwolves 35 1989 Reached the Western Conference finals in 2004 and lost.
Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets* 34 1988 Reached the Eastern conference semifinals four times, in 1993, 1998, 2001, and 2002, but lost each time.
Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies 29 1995 Reached the Western Conference finals in 2013 and lost.
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets/Pelicans* 22 2002 Reached the Western conference semifinals twice, in 2008 and 2018, but lost on both occasions.

(*) 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 2013, the original Hornets were renamed the Pelicans and obtained the records during their time in New Orleans and Oklahoma City from 2002 to 2013. In 2014, the Bobcats became the second incarnation of the Charlotte Hornets, and retained the history and records of the Hornets organization from 1988 to 2002.

Individual games records

No. Team W L Win% Notes
185 Los Angeles Lakers 93 92 .503 Holds the record for the most games in the Finals, with a record of 20–15 in Minneapolis and 73–77 while in Los Angeles. Won 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2020.
129 Boston Celtics 77 52 .597 Recorded the first ever sweep in the Finals. Lost 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2022.
65 Golden State Warriors 38 27 .585 Includes records of 10–6 while in Philadelphia, 3–8 while in San Francisco, and 25–13 in their current incarnation. Won 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2022.
53 Philadelphia 76ers 24 29 .453 Includes a record of 9–11 while in Syracuse, and 15–18 while in Philadelphia. Lost 4–1 in their last Finals appearance in 2001.
48 New York Knicks 20 28 .417 Lost 4–1 in their last Finals appearance in 1999.
41 Miami Heat 18 23 .439 Lost 4–1 in their last Finals appearance in 2023.
40 Detroit Pistons 22 18 .550 Includes a record of 4–8 while in Fort Wayne, and 18–10 while in Detroit. Lost 4–3 their last Finals appearance in 2005.
35 Chicago Bulls 24 11 .686 Won 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 1998.
34 San Antonio Spurs 23 11 .676 Won 4–1 in their last Finals appearance in 2014.
25 Atlanta Hawks 11 14 .440 All appearances in the Finals occurred while the team was in St. Louis.
23 Houston Rockets 12 11 .522 Won 4–0 in their last Finals appearance in 1995.
23 Oklahoma City Thunder 10 13 .435 Includes a record of 9–9 while in Seattle, and 1–4 while in Oklahoma City. Lost 1–4 their last Finals appearance in 2012.
26 Cleveland Cavaliers 7 19 .269 Lost 4–0 in their last Finals appearance in 2018, as well as becoming the only team in the Finals to overcome a 3–1 deficit in 2016.
20 Washington Wizards 5 15 .250 Includes a record of 0–4 in Baltimore and 5–11 in Washington, all as the Bullets.
18 Phoenix Suns 6 12 .333 Lost 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2021.
17 Milwaukee Bucks 11 6 .647 Won 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2021.
17 Portland Trail Blazers 7 10 .412 Lost 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 1992.
12 Dallas Mavericks 6 6 .500 All games played during the Finals have been against the Heat; lost 2–4 in 2006 and won 4–2 in 2011.
12 Utah Jazz 4 8 .333 Lost 4–2 in both Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998, both times against the Bulls.
10 Brooklyn Nets 2 8 .200 All Finals appearances have occurred while the team was in New Jersey, and lost 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2003.
9 Orlando Magic 1 8 .111 Lost 4–1 in their last Finals appearance in 2009.
7 Sacramento Kings 4 3 .571 All appearances have occurred while the team was in Rochester.
6 Baltimore Bullets 4 2 .667 Franchise defunct. Only championship-winning team to fold.
6 Toronto Raptors 4 2 .667 Won 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2019.
6 Indiana Pacers 2 4 .333 Lost 4–2 in their last Finals appearance in 2000.
6 Washington Capitols 2 4 .333 Franchise defunct.
5 Chicago Stags 1 4 .200 Franchise defunct.
5 Denver Nuggets 4 1 .800 Won 4–1 in their last Finals appearance in 2023.

Player records

Career Series Game Total points (finals)
  1. Jerry West – 1,679
  2. LeBron James – 1,562
  3. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – 1,317
  4. Michael Jordan – 1,176
  5. Elgin Baylor – 1,161
  6. Bill Russell – 1,151
  7. Sam Jones – 1,143
  8. Tom Heinsohn – 1,037
  9. John Havlicek – 1,020
  10. Magic Johnson – 971
PPG average (min 10 games) (finals)
  1. Rick Barry – 36.3
  2. Michael Jordan – 33.6
  3. Jerry West – 30.5

See also


  1. ^ Notable exceptions include the 2020 NBA Finals, which was played in September and October due to the suspension of the season from March to late July due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 NBA Finals, which was held entirely in July due to the delay of the start of the 2020–21 season.


  1. ^ Ballard, Bill (June 4, 1989). "Here Are Some Final Facts on NBA Playoffs". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015.
  2. ^ "NBA and YouTube TV announce first-ever presenting partnership of the NBA Finals". (Press release). NBA Media Ventures, LLC. March 26, 2018. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "NBA, YouTube TV announce first-ever partnership for 2018 Finals". USA Today. March 26, 2018. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  4. ^ Avalos, Christopher (June 7, 2022). "What is the NBA finals format?". Boundtoball. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  5. ^ "Stern: Celts' Auerbach played role in Finals format". June 9, 2008. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  6. ^ Delamater, Tom. "2010 NBA Finals, Game 4: Does the 2-3-2 Format Favor L.A. or Boston Most?". Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  7. ^ "NBA Board of Governors unanimously approves format change for The Finals". (Press release). NBA Media Ventures, LLC. October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  8. ^ Golliver, Ben (October 23, 2013). "NBA Board of Governors unanimously adopts 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format change". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 20, 2024.
  9. ^ "Boston Celtics History". Boston Celtics. Archived from the original on October 26, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2017.
  10. ^ " Magic Fills in at Center". Archived from the original on February 10, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  11. ^ Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
  12. ^ "NBA Season Recaps". July 1, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  13. ^ Team Stream Now. "LeBron James and the Ghost of 23". Bleacher Report. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  14. ^ Jones, Michael C. (June 19, 2013). "NBA Finals 2013, Spurs vs. Heat Game 6: The greatest game ever played?". Archived from the original on June 23, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2013.
  15. ^ Johnson, Jared. "NBA Finals Live: Cavs vs. Warriors in Game 7". Bleacher Report. Retrieved June 20, 2016.
  16. ^ "G.O.A.T. Grade: Definitive proof the 2017 Warriors are the Greatest Team of All Time". Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  17. ^ "Powered by Kevin Durant, Warriors roll to second NBA title in three years". Retrieved June 13, 2017.
  18. ^ "Raptors top Warriors for 1st title in team history". Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  19. ^ Reynolds, Tim (September 27, 2020). "The Finals are set: LeBron, Lakers will meet Butler, Heat". Associated Press. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  20. ^ "LeBron James makes history, wins Finals MVP with 3 different franchises". October 11, 2020. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  21. ^ "No prior champions in NBA Finals for first time in 50 years". NBC Sports. July 6, 2021. Retrieved July 6, 2021.
  22. ^ "Dubs beat Mavs in five games, head to sixth Finals in eight years". Retrieved May 26, 2022.
  23. ^ "Warriors beat Celtics 103–90 to win 4th NBA title in 8 years". Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  24. ^ "Stephen Curry wins Finals MVP for 1st time in his career". Retrieved June 17, 2022.
  25. ^ "Nuggets star Nikola Jokic named NBA Finals MVP". Retrieved June 13, 2023.
  26. ^ a b c " Líderes en la historia de las Finales (Estadísticas)". Archived from the original on October 26, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  27. ^ " All-Time Records Index". Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  28. ^ "Player Game Finder".
  29. ^ "NBA Career Finals Leaders and Records for Points". Retrieved June 11, 2019.
  30. ^ "Player Game Finder". Retrieved June 19, 2019.

External links