The NBA Finals are where legacies are made and broken. They allow players we seldom hear from to flourish, and they put the NBA’s stars under the greatest scrutiny they’ll ever face as a professional athlete. Legends and legacies are made in the NBA Finals, and stories of the greatest triumphs achieved during the Finals are told for years to come, but occasionally some are forgotten.
These are some of those series that, for whatever reason, haven’t withstood the test of time the way the Jordan Bulls, the LeBron James Heat, or Shaq and Kobe Lakers have.
Celtics vs. Lakers, 2008 and 2010
Although the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are historically the greatest rivalry in the NBA, the two most recent NBA Finals that they faced off in do not get brought up in the same breath as those Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird matchups in the 1980s. Despite that, they were two very entertaining series: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol versus Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen.
The 2008 series was a six-game affair that famously featured the game where Paul Pierce left a game in a wheelchair only to come back in the game and beat the Lakers. Dramatics or not, this image lingers in the memories of fans.
After Kevin Garnett’s injury in 2009 potentially prevented an encore, the two teams met in 2010. This time, Bryant and Gasol prevailed in a thrilling seven-game series which went down to the buzzer.
Spurs vs. Pistons, 2005
It wasn’t the ideal matchup for those looking for highlight plays and superstar dominance, but the 2005 NBA Finals in which the Spurs defeated the Pistons was a fundamental dream for those who liked to see two well-oiled machines go at it for seven games. Despite his fundamentals constantly being used against him, Tim Duncan is one of the best players in history, and that Pistons teams was one of the most well-balanced rosters ever put together.
The series gets maligned for being one featuring two “boring” teams, while other series that only went four or five get remembered far more often, but the series had a little bit of everything: A late-career resurgence of “Mr. Big Shot” Robert Horry, seven hard-fought games, and a dominant performance from Tim Duncan that netted him one of his three NBA Finals MVPs.
Trailblazers vs. 76ers, 1977
The late seventies were a fascinating time in NBA history. The era is often labeled as an in-between period between the ABA merger and the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird years that put the NBA on the map. Despite that, there were some interesting matchups. One of those was Portland versus Philadelphia. Bill Walton versus Dr. J.
It was a six-game series where three of the games were decided by six points or less. Julius Erving, still relatively fresh off of his domination of the ABA, put on a clinic. However, it was Bill Walton, one of the best big men in NBA history who was constantly hobbled by injuries, who prevailed and led the Trailblazers to a thrilling Game 7 victory over Philadelphia 109-107 on his way to his only NBA Finals MVP honor.
76ers vs. Warriors, 1967
The 1967 Finals featured a storyline that the modern media would salivate over. Wilt Chamberlain’s first few years as a pro, aside from the dominance on the court that is part of NBA lore, were an interesting and convoluted tale from the beginning. After beginning his career in Philadelphia with the Warriors, the team moved to San Francisco, but two years later, Wilt was back in Philadelphia with the Sixers.
It’s been said that Wilt never connected with the Bay Area, but the storyline of him bringing his second Philadelphia team to the NBA Finals and facing the team he began his career with was one of the best in NBA Finals history. Wilt and the 76ers won in six games, but Golden State’s Rick Barry surprisingly took the scoring lead in the series. Wilt led the series in rebounds and assists, however, and he won his first of two rings in the process.