The NBA Finals is the most important event in basketball. After four grueling rounds of playoff action, only two teams battle it out for a title. Over the years, there have been some incredible series that made the NBA Finals a must-see event. As this year’s series also promises to be a great one as well. To take us back in memory lane, here are the best five championship matchups in league history:
1. 1989 Pistons over Lakers
In the first NBA Finals to go seven games, the Detroit Pistons handily defeated Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers in five games. The series was highlighted by several key moments, including Isiah Thomas’s steal from Magic at midcourt in Game 4 and Bill Laimbeer’s flagrant foul on Byron Scott that resulted in him being suspended for Game 6.
The win marked the third championship for Detroit head coach Chuck Daly and his “Bad Boy” Pistons, who would repeat the same win the following year against Twin Towers David Robinson and Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs before losing to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in 1992-93. The Pistons’ victory gave them their first and only championship of the decade, as well as their third in franchise history. It was also one of the most significant wins in NBA playoff history, as it ended the Los Angeles Lakers’ string of eight finals appearances dating back to 1980’s Magic Johnson-led squad. This period included two title runs by Showtime teams featuring Hall-of-Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1980) and Earvin “Magic” Johnson (1985)
2. 1965 Celtics over Lakers
The 1965 series was the first time a team had ever won the Finals after being down two games to none. Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Jerry West were an unstoppable trio on paper. The Lakers were heavily favored to win the series, but they were forced to play seven games against a Celtics team that was led by Bill Russell and eleven other future Hall of Famers.
The Celtics opened up strong by winning both home games in Boston (Game 1: 111–109; Game 2: 123–108). They then traveled to LA where they won Game 3 and Game 4 by scores of 116–95 and 113–99 respectively. After losing two straight games in LA, Boston took back home court advantage with wins in Games 5 and 6 as well as game 7 at home—the first time such occurred since 1951 when Rochester beat New York three times in a row before losing Game 7 at Madison Square Garden by just one point (91-90).
3. 1949 Capitols over Lakers
It was a series so lopsided that it would be best compared to the current Warriors vs. Rockets series (which has already seen one sweep). The Lakers were so good and had such a dominant talent in George Mikan that they made their opponents look like they were playing 5-on-1 basketball.
The Capitols were able to hang around for games at first but eventually succumbed as the Lakers won four games in a row and cemented their reputation as an early dynasty of the NBA. It wasn’t just Mikan though; John Kundla coached them to two championships before moving on to coach Minnesota for another 10 years after this loss. Although this was probably one of the worst performances by a team during these playoffs, it’s still worth watching because you’ll get an idea of how much things have changed over time.
4. 1970 Nats over Lakers
After the Lakers lost to the Knicks in the playoffs, this was their chance to get revenge. The series was close throughout, but just like any good underdog story, it was ultimately the team that played better together as a unit that won. The game-winning shots in Game 6 were both made by Walt Frazier and Dick Barnett. This was also the first time either of these players had ever won an NBA championship, which makes this moment even more memorable for them. The Knicks went on to sweep the Lakers in four straight games, winning their first title since 1955. The series was so memorable that it inspired Michael Jordan’s “Flu Game” that, arguably, helped propel him into becoming one of the greatest players of all time.
5. 1929 Bullets over Knicks
The 1929 Bullets over the Knicks is a legendary Finals series that took place between the Baltimore Bullets and New York Knicks. The Bullets dominated the Knicks in every game, winning 4-1 (with one tie). The real star of this team was Walt Bellamy, who averaged an incredible 24 points and 21 rebounds per game during the series. He also won MVP honors for his efforts. This team has several other notable players including Bob Feerick, John Beckman, and Nat Holman.
NBA 2023 Season
The 2022-2023 NBA season will begin on October 18. The first game of the season will be between the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets at 8:00 pm Eastern Time. The second game of the season will be between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks at 8:30 pm Eastern Time. The playoffs start on April 13 and end on June 19. The NBA Finals will take place between May 3 to June 16, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
As we can see, the NBA Finals have a rich history. It’s been through many different eras and witnessed some of the most important moments in sports history. These are just five of the greatest series that have taken place in this storied competition. These series are ones that will stick with us forever.