Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The NBA Finals is the championship series of the National Basketball Association, played under a best-of-seven playoff format. The team winning the Eastern Conference Finals earns one of the two berths in the championship round, with the other going to the team that wins the Western Conference Finals. This event has been played at the conclusion of every NBA and BAA season in history, the first being held in 1947 .
2.1 The Early Years
The Boston Celtics won the championship in all but two of the years between 1957 and 1969, inclusive, and eight in a row from 1959 to 1966, forming one of the most celebrated dynasties in league history. Famous people of this dynasty include Bill Russell, Bill Sharman, John Havlicek, and coach Red Auerbach. Larry Bird is also famous for having led the team to three championships in the 1980s. The Celtics have, in fact, won 16 championships, more than any other team in the league. Other powerful championship teams include the Minneapolis (later Los Angeles) Lakers (14 championships) and the Chicago Bulls (6 championships, all in the 1990s).
As basketball is a major sport in the United States, the Final round has become a large-scale event on the sports calendar, with higher popularity than the concurrent Stanley Cup final in the National Hockey League.
Inevitably, many spectacular Finals series will occur. Among the most memorable were the episodes of 1957 , 1969 , 1970 , 1976 , 1980 , 1984 , 1987 , and 1998.
The Early Years
|1947||Philadelphia Warriors||4–1||Chicago Stags|
|1948||Baltimore Bullets||4–2||Philadelphia Warriors|
|1949||Minneapolis Lakers||4–2||Washington Capitols|
|1950||Minneapolis Lakers||4–2||Syracuse Nationals|
|1951||Rochester Royals||4–3||New York Knicks|
|1952||Minneapolis Lakers||4–3||New York Knicks|
|1953||Minneapolis Lakers||4–1||New York Knicks|
|1954||Minneapolis Lakers||4–3||Syracuse Nationals|
|1955||Syracuse Nationals||4–3||Ft. Wayne Pistons|
|1956||Philadelphia Warriors||4–1||Ft. Wayne Pistons|
During the 1940s and early 1950s decades, the NBA Finals were nothing but a minor highlight on the calendar. Franchises which had previously been in the National Basketball League tended to dominate, especially the Minneapolis Lakers.
However, with the arrival of Bill Russell in 1956, the popularity of the league multiplied immensely. Although, still considered a minor league, it was gaining support in sports fans' views. His games against Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors contributed massively, as they were the two players in the league who were widely considered the best.
The Celtics Dynasty
|1957||Boston Celtics||4–3||St. Louis Hawks|
|1958||St. Louis Hawks||4–2||Boston Celtics|
|1959||Boston Celtics||4–0||Minneapolis Lakers|
|1960||Boston Celtics||4–3||St. Louis Hawks|
|1961||Boston Celtics||4–1||St. Louis Hawks|
|1962||Boston Celtics||4–3||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1963||Boston Celtics||4–2||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1964||Boston Celtics||4–1||San Francisco Warriors|
|1965||Boston Celtics||4–1||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1966||Boston Celtics||4–3||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1967||Philadelphia 76ers||4–2||San Francisco Warriors|
|1968||Boston Celtics||4–2||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1969||Boston Celtics||4–3||Los Angeles Lakers|
For most of the late 1950s and the 1960s, the Celtics always seemed to have the upper hand on Chamberlain's teams. With the establishment of the Celtics dynasty in 1957, Russell instantly became the star of the league. The seventh game of that year's championship was decided on a Celtics basket in the final seconds of the second overtime.
In 1964, Chamberlain, who had moved to California with his team, led the Warriors to a Western Conference championship, but again failed to conquer the Celtics. The following season, he was traded back to Philadelphia, to join the 76ers that had moved to cover the vacancy created with the departure of the Warriors.
The year 1966 produced a clash between the two stars in the playoffs, and Boston won 4-1. However, Chamberlain's desire to score was so great that the coach made a famous statement to him to seek to play a team game, not an individual game, to avoid drawing double-teams. His newfound spirit brought his team to a new record of 68 wins the following season, and they defeated the Celtics and then advanced to, and won, the Finals.
In 1968, Boston overcame a 3-1 deficit against Philadelphia to once again arrive in the Finals. Playing against Jerry West's Lakers, they seemed doomed to defeat. Nevertheless, for the sixth consecutive time, they defeated L.A., winning by a four games to two margin. The following year was similarily frustrating, again with the Celtics winning the East and the Lakers winning the West. However, now that Chamberlain had been traded to the Lakers, early estimates had the probabilities going largely in favour of the Lakers. They easily won the first two games at the L.A. Forum. However, when the series shifted to Boston Garden, the Celtics won two close games, by margins of 110-105 and 88-87, respectively, in Games 3 and 4. The fifth game, played into the Forum, returned the advantage to the Lakers, but the sixth game was a massive Celtics win, Chamberlain scoring just two points in the entire duration. Game 7 was held on May 5, balloons being hung up in the arena in anticipation of a Lakers victory. Russell immediately used the balloons as an inspiration for his team, and they raced off to an early start and held off a furious Lakers comeback to win 108-106 and take the series, their eleventh championship in thirteen years. This game represented the final one in this first incarnation of the dynasty.
The Rise of the Knicks and Lakers
|1970||New York Knicks||4–3||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1971||Milwaukee Bucks||4–0||Baltimore Bullets|
|1972||Los Angeles Lakers||4–1||New York Knicks|
|1973||New York Knicks||4–1||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1974||Boston Celtics||4–3||Milwaukee Bucks|
In 1970 , a classic final featured the New York Knicks against the Lakers. In the waning moments of Game 3, with the series tied, Jerry West hit a basket from sixty feet away to tie the game, a shot which would become one of the most famous ever. Although the Knicks went on to win the game in overtime, and carried on their momentum for a 4-3 win, the Lakers were still far from defeated. Just two seasons later, the coach introduced a new plan, and it proved effective, as, after losing several games at the beginning, the team won thirty-three games consecutively, the longest such streak in NBA history. By the season's end, they had broken the record for most wins in a season, tallying up 69 wins, one more than the 76ers of 1966-67. The Lakers finally, after a tough playoff season, took home the championship for the first time since the NBA since the Minneapolis days. The Knicks won the championship again in 1973 , using much the same formula, for their second franchise victorious season. The 1974 championship went back to the Celtics as the remaining players demonstrated excellent teamwork and resilence in the Finals.
The Western Breakthrough
|1975||Golden State Warriors||4–0||Washington Bullets|
|1976||Boston Celtics||4–2||Phoenix Suns|
|1977||Portland Trail Blazers||4–2||Philadelphia 76ers|
|1978||Washington Bullets||4–3||Seattle SuperSonics|
|1979||Seattle SuperSonics||4–1||Washington Bullets|
The late seventies were charactarized by a major breakthrough of the league's western franchises. The Golden State Warriors defeated the heavily-favoured Chicago Bulls in the conference final in 1975, after compiling a 48-34 regular-season record. They then swept the Washington Bullets 4-0 in a Finals series where the odds favoured the eastern representative. This accomplishment has largely been overlooked, but the history books nevertheless betray this remarkable season, comparable to that of the New York Yankees in 1978. The next year, 1976, saw the rise of the Phoenix Suns. Only eight years in existence, they overcame a losing record early in the season to build remarkable win streaks to finish 42-40. The events culminated in an upset victory over Golden State. In the final against Boston, the teams split the first four games. Game 5 became one of the most memorable games of all. It went into three overtimes but eventually went to Boston 128-126. Two days later the Celtics finished it off for their 13th championship.
The Decline of the NBA
The late seventies were seen by many to be a low point in the history of the NBA. Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were the only remaining major stars, and college basketball took over the fans' support, as players who would later become NBA stars were playing. The West continued to dominate in these years, with the Portland Trail Blazers winning the 1977 trophy and the Seattle SuperSonics winning in 1979 .
The Resurrection of the League
|1980||Los Angeles Lakers||4–2||Philadelphia 76ers|
|1981||Boston Celtics||4–2||Houston Rockets|
|1982||Los Angeles Lakers||4–2||Philadelphia 76ers|
|1983||Philadelphia 76ers||4–0||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1984||Boston Celtics||4–3||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1985||Los Angeles Lakers||4–2||Boston Celtics|
|1986||Boston Celtics||4–2||Houston Rockets|
|1987||Los Angeles Lakers||4–2||Boston Celtics|
|1988||Los Angeles Lakers||4–3||Detroit Pistons|
|1989||Detroit Pistons||4–0||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1990||Detroit Pistons||4–1||Portland Trail Blazers|
The 1979 NCAA final featured Earvin "Magic" Johnson's Michigan State University team facing off against Larry Bird's Indiana State team. Michigan State won the game. This meeting has been immortalized, in fact, it attracted the largest ever TV audience for an NCAA game, with 38 percent of all television viewers that night tuned to the game.
Bird had actually been drafted the year before, but later decided to stay in college for one more year, and the two superstars both entered the league that same year, 1979, leading their respective teams to dazzling heights. Johnson's Lakers reached the final in 1980 , and took a 3-2 lead, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar could not play in Game 6 due to injury. Johnson shifted to center, ended up playing every position on the court and scored 42 points to win his first championship, a remarkable performance in the annals of the sport.
Boston won the 1981 championship against Houston thanks to Bird, and the team continued dominating the league afterwards, taking many Atlantic Division titles.
Philadelphia, led by Moses Malone and Julius Erving, took the 1983 prize , losing only once in the entire playoffs. (Malone had predicted earlier that they would sweep every series.) However, in the 1984 NBA Finals , the Celtics and Lakers met for the first time since 1969, and again, from Bird's performance, the Celtics toppled Johnson's Lakers 4-3. The seventh game of that series attracted the largest TV audience ever for an NBA game, and the second-largest ever for a basketball game, with only the game between the two stars played five years earlier having a larger audience.
In the 1985 championship , the Lakers made amends for their previous eight losses to the Celtics by defeating them in six games. After losing the first game in a rout, 148-114, dubbed the "Memorial Day massacre", they won four out of five, including a clincher in Boston Garden, to finally end the long years of failing to defeat the Boston franchise.
The 1986 NBA Finals brought the Celtics back against the Houston Rockets. Boston won in six games, taking their sixteenth championship, with the MVP award going to Larry Bird, his second Finals MVP trophy.
In 1987, the Lakers and Celtics met again for a rubber match. Both sides had won one series, and now a third was being played. The Lakers pounded out two victories, but Boston took the third. Game 4 would be one of the most memorable games ever played. In the waning moments, Magic Johnson scored a skyhook to give the Lakers a 107-106 win, and a 3-1 series lead. They dropped one more, but won Game 6 to take the series. This championship team was recently voted the best in history by the NBA's officials and experts.
In 1988 and 1989, the Lakers and Pistons were the best of their conferences. The first of these contests went to Los Angeles in seven games, but the second was a Detroit sweep. The next year, Detroit won it all again, and the name "Bad Boys" became attached to the team.
The Chicago Bulls Dynasty
|1991||Chicago Bulls||4–1||Los Angeles Lakers|
|1992||Chicago Bulls||4–2||Portland Trail Blazers|
|1993||Chicago Bulls||4–2||Phoenix Suns|
|1994||Houston Rockets||4–3||New York Knicks|
|1995||Houston Rockets||4–0||Orlando Magic|
|1996||Chicago Bulls||4–2||Seattle SuperSonics|
|1997||Chicago Bulls||4–2||Utah Jazz|
|1998||Chicago Bulls||4–2||Utah Jazz|
The majority of the 1990s were marked by the rise of the Chicago Bulls dynasty (otherwise known as the 'Michael Jordan era'), which ended in 1998. Coached by legendary head coach Phil Jackson and led by superstar Michael Jordan, the Bulls won six championships from 1991 to 1998. Supported by such remarkable players as Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Jordan led the Bulls to victory in all NBA Finals series they competed in, and won the Finals MVP award each time. He cemented his position as the best player in the league with dominating performances over superstar Magic Johnson in 1991 and MVP candidiate Clyde Drexler in 1992. Particularly memorable were the 1993 Finals, which became an offensive showdown between Jordan and regular-season MVP Charles Barkley.
Jordan decided to retire after the 1993 championship season, causing the Bulls to falter. Without the Bulls to compete against, the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, won the 1994 and 1995 NBA championships.
Jordan decided to return to basketball in 1995, after a short stint as a baseball player. Although he failed to lead the Bulls to the Finals in that year, he returned to pre-retirement form the next year and led the Bulls to one of the most memorable seasons ever. The 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls finished the regular season with a record of 72-10, the best regular season record of any team in the history of the NBA. They proceeded to dominate in the playoffs, defeating Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp and their SuperSonics.
In 1997 and 1998, the Bulls met with perhaps their most formidable foe, the Utah Jazz. Led by Olympians John Stockton and Karl Malone, the Jazz were defeated in both Finals by Jordan's unstoppable play. Before the beginning of the 1999 season, Jordan decided to retire from the NBA, opening the door for teams other than the Bulls to win the championship.
The Modern Era
|1999||San Antonio Spurs||4–1||New York Knicks|
|2000||Los Angeles Lakers||4–2||Indiana Pacers|
|2001||Los Angeles Lakers||4–1||Philadelphia 76ers|
|2002||Los Angeles Lakers||4–0||New Jersey Nets|
|2003||San Antonio Spurs||4–2||New Jersey Nets|
|2004||Detroit Pistons||4–1||Los Angeles Lakers|
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs dominated the NBA. In the 1998-1999 off-season, veteran stars Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley signed with the Houston Rockets, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler in an attempt to win the championship. Although they were the favorites, the San Antonio Spurs, led by the "Twin Towers" Tim Duncan and David Robinson, defeated them in the playoffs and proceeded to defeated the injury-plagued New York Knicks in the NBA Finals.
For the next 3 years, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, won the NBA Finals in dominating performances. However, their streak of championships ended when they were defeated by the Spurs in the playoffs, who proceeded to defeat the Jason Kidd-led New Jersey Nets in the finals.
In 2004, 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 best teams in NBA history. The Lakers were the clear favorites to win the NBA championship. However, the Detroit Pistons, under coach Larry Brown and led by defensive star Ben Wallace, defeated the injury-ridden Lakers to become the first Eastern Conference team since the Bulls to win the NBA championship.
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