The first few games of the 2019 NBA Finals delighted fans as both the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors threw heavyweight punches at each other. It will be a great finish as we crown a champion, and we will see history regardless of who wins.
If Golden State comes out on top, it will have accomplished the sixth three-peat in NBA history while winning four titles in five seasons. The Raptors are in their first ever NBA Finals appearance, and they could bring the first championship to Toronto since 1993.
Where will the 2019 NBA Finals series rank among the all-time best? We won’t know until all is said and done, but these are the 10 best championship series in the history of the league so far.
10. Bullets vs. Supersonics, 1978
A matchup of two teams with less than 50 wins each making our list? It doesn’t seem like a dream matchup on the surface, but it was highly competitive.
This series went seven games, with only one game being decided by more than 10 points. The defining moments of the series came in the final game, as Sonics guard Dennis Johnson started out 0-for-14, which helped the Bullets win the game and the series. The Supersonics won the rematch in the 1979 NBA Finals for the only title in franchise history.
9. Celtics vs. Lakers, 1969
In one of the greatest Game 7 performances in NBA history, Jerry West did something no player did before him (or has done since). He won the NBA Finals MVP in a losing effort, as the Lakers were beaten by the Celtics to win their eighth consecutive NBA Championship. West had a triple-double in the final game, scoring 42 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 12 assists. West’s dominance throughout and Boston winning its 10th title in 11 seasons make this one of the best NBA Finals series of all time.
8. Spurs vs. Heat, 2013
The Spurs and Heat had two good NBA Finals matchups during LeBron James’ time in South Beach. The first of the two showdowns was a seven-game classic, that saw Miami win their second straight championship after a 37 point performance by James in Game 7.
7. Celtics vs. Lakers, 2010
The Celtics and Lakers squared off in a classic matchup to kick off the new decade. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were looking for their second straight championship.
The Lakers defense played tough all series long, as Ron Artest and company held the Celtics to 63 and 79 points, respectively, in the final two games of the series to clinch it in seven. This series featured Bryant at the top of his game, and Boston’s big three of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce making one last title run.
6. Rockets vs. Knicks, 1994
A decade after they played against each other for the NCAA tournament title, the Knicks’ Patrick Ewing and Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon played for another title in the 1994 NBA Finals.
Houston and New York were looking to become the first team to win a championship since Michael Jordan retired, and Hakeem Olajuwon put up one of the best NBA Finals performances the league had ever seen.
However, Knicks guard John Starks was the real hero for the Rockets, as he shot 2-of-18 in Game 7 as Houston won their first of back-to-back titles. Ewing never made another Finals appearance, and he remains one of the best players to never win a title.
5. Lakers vs. Sixers, 1983
The Los Angeles Lakers were a wrecking crew during the regular season in 1982-83, but facing off against Moses Malone and Dr. J proved to be too much for them. The Sixers were able to put up arguably the best postseason run in NBA history, sweeping all of their series en route to the championship. Moses Malone posted a double-double in every game of the series as he became one of the best NBA Finals MVPs ever.
4. Lakers vs. Pistons, 1988
The flashy style of the Showtime Lakers against the hard-nosed defensive-minded Pistons? What’s not to love?
These teams met in an epic seven-game series, with the Lakers coming out on top. Los Angeles won the final two games by a combined four points. Hall of Famer James Worthy put up 36 points and 16 rebounds in the deciding game, and the Lakers became the first team in 19 seasons to repeat as champions.
3. Celtics vs. Lakers, 1966
This is higher than most people would have on their list for a few reasons. The first is it signaled the end of Celtics legend Red Auerbach’s illustrious coaching career, and it also featured the first team to come back down 3-1 in the Finals to force a game seven. Six of the seven games were decided by 10 points or less, including the Celtics two-point victory in the final contest.
The 1966 NBA Finals also capped Boston’s incredible run of eight straight titles, though after a year away, the Celtics won championships over the Lakers in 1968 and 1969.
2. Bulls vs. Jazz, 1998
Michael Jordan’s clutch shot. Scottie Pippen’s tenacious defense. Karl Malone’s unrelenting effort in the post. This is one of the best series in NBA history because it featured several Hall of Fame players in a rematch of the 1997 NBA Finals.
Byron Russell hounded Jordan all series, but Jordan made one of the most iconic shots in sports history to seal the championship for the Bulls while stunning the home Utah crowd. It was the Bull’s second three-peat, and they went 6-0 in the Finals during Jordan’s time with the team.
1. Warriors vs. Cavaliers, 2016
The 2016 NBA Finals series had it all. Surefire Hall of Fame players, such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant. An epic comeback, a handful of great moments in Game 7, and an excellent postgame interview.
The Cleveland Cavaliers went down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors, a team that finished 73-9 during the regular season. Against all the odds, they won three straight to claim the title. All it took was a Draymond Green suspension to give the Cavs a chance, and they seized the opportunity.
Kyrie Irving hit a dagger in Curry’s face, LeBron made a historically important chase down block of Andre Iguodala (the reigning Finals MVP), and the Cavs brought the first championship to the city of Cleveland in decades.