Explore the five most unforgettable Finals in NBA history with a deep dive into each game. Discover the highlights, the defining moments, and the players that made these Finals a cut above the rest.
The NBA Finals is the pinnacle of professional basketball. The best teams and players from the Eastern and Western conferences face off in a best-of-seven series to determine the NBA champion. Over the years, there have been many memorable matchups, but these stand out above the rest. Let’s take a closer look at each of the top 5 Finals in NBA history.
5. 1985 NBA Finals
The LA Lakers, led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, won the series in six games. It clinched Los Angeles a ninth NBA championship in franchise history. The series was notable for its high scoreboards, with the Boston Celtics even winning Game 1 by as much as 34 points.
In Game 6, the Lakers secured the championship with a 111-100 victory over the Celtics at the Boston Garden. Magic Johnson was named the Finals MVP after averaging 18.3 points, 14.0 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game in the series.
The championship also marked the first time that the Lakers had defeated the Celtics in the NBA Finals. The series is often cited as one of the greatest NBA Finals in history.
4. 2016 NBA Finals
The 2016 NBA Finals was a historic series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors had won a record 73 games during the regular season and were heavy favorites to win. Yet, the Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series in seven games. It handed Cleveland its first-ever NBA championship.
This series was notable for the incredible performances of James. The forward even hit a triple-double in Game 7 and pulled off a memorable block on Andre Iguodala in the waning moments of the game. It also featured clutch performances from Kyrie Irving, who hit the game-winning shot in Game 7, and a suspension of Draymond Green that may have swung the series in Cleveland’s favor.
3. 1998 NBA Finals
In 1998, the Chicago Bulls faced off against the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals. Many pundits fancied Utah, but Chicago was too much in the end.
The Bulls, led by Michael Jordan, won the series in six games, clinching their sixth NBA championship in eight years. They won Game 6 by a score of 87-86, with Jordan hitting a game-winning shot with 5.2 seconds left on the clock.
Jordan collected the Finals MVP for the sixth time in his career. He averaged 32.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in the playoffs. The championship was also notable for being the last one won by Chicago before Jordan’s second retirement from the NBA.
2. 1984 NBA Finals
The 1984 NBA Finals pitted the Boston Celtics against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers were looking to go one better after ending second best in the previous year’s Finals, but the Celtics had other ideas.
Led by Larry Bird, the Celtics won the series in seven games, with Bird earning Finals MVP honors. This series was notable for the intense rivalry between the two teams. It also featured the individual matchup between Bird and Magic Johnson.
The series was tied at three games apiece heading into Game 7, which the Celtics won 111-102. Bird finished the playoffs with averages of 27.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game, cementing his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.
1. 1970 NBA Finals
Rounding off our list of the top 5 Finals in NBA history is the 1970 edition. This featured the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. The series went to a dramatic game seven, in which the Knicks won 113-99.
This series is memorable for many reasons, including the fact that it was the first NBA Finals to be broadcast in color. The Knicks were led by Willis Reed, who famously played through a torn thigh muscle to inspire his team to victory in Game 7. Reed’s heroics have become the stuff of legend, and this series remains one of the most iconic in NBA history.