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A Concise Summary Of NBA Finals History

The modern era of NBA Finals history effectively began in 1977. That was the year the NBA merged with the American Basketball Association (ABA) to bring into the league a number of bright young stars, most notably the legendary Julius Erving. The NBA-ABA merger also increased the number of total teams to 23.

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Finally, 1976 marked the end of the amazing Boston Celtics run where they won 13 titles in 20 seasons. Much like modern Final Four history is marked with the end of the UCLA Dynasty, so too is the timeline of NBA Finals history impacted by the end of the Celtic Dynasty.

This page has a concise summary of each NBA Finals played from 1977. The teams, their record and their playoff seeding are all listed, as is the Finals MVP. We then wrap it up with a brief description of the events that made each particular Finals unique. Bookmark this page as a reference tool and check out our accompanying Pinterest board for a pictorial tour of the same era.


1977: Portland (49-33, #3 in the West) vs. Philadelphia (50-32, #1 in the East)
Result: Portland in 6
MVP: Bill Walton
Summary: Portland had the first winning season since their 1971 founding and behind Bill Walton and Maurice Lucas, and upset the Los Angeles Lakers and MVP center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Philadelphia’s Julius Erving had been one of the ABA’s brightest stars and quickly made his mark on NBA. The Sixers and Blazers each held serve on their homecourts and came to Philly for Game 5. Walton took over. In Game 5, he pulled down 20 rebounds in a surprisingly easy win. In Game 6 at home, Walton’s 20 points/23 rebounds/7 assists/8 blocks was one of the great individual performances ever seen.

1978: Washington (44-38, #3 in the East) vs. Seattle (47-35, #4 in the West)
Result: Washington in 7
MVP: Wes Unseld
Summary: An injury to Bill Walton opened up the landscape for Washington and Seattle. An odd 1-2-2-1-1-1 scheduling format was used for the only time. The Bullets trailed 2-1 in games and were down 15 in the third quarter of Game 4. A rally keyed by Bobby Dandridge kept them alive and the series ultimately came back to Seattle for Game 7. The Bullet defense forced Dennis Johnson into an 0-for-14 night and it would be the only road winner of a Finals Game 7 for nearly forty years. Elvin Hayes averaged 21ppg and should have been Finals MVP.

1979: Seattle (52-30, #1 in the West) vs. Washington (54-28, #1 in the East)
Result: Seattle in 5
MVP: Dennis Johnson
Summary: For three quarters, the 1979 NBA Finals picked up where 1978 had left off. The Bullets led Game 1 by 18 points with nine minutes to play. Seattle closed hard, only lost 99-97 and from that point the series belonged to the Sonics. Jack Sikma averaged 16 points/15 rebounds per game and outplayed Washington big men Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. Once that happened, the result was a foregone conclusion because Seattle could dominate the backcourt. Gus Williams knocked down 29 per game. Dennis Johnson went for 23/6/4 and his defensive dominance gave him the edge for the MVP vote.

1980: LA Lakers (60-22, #1 in the West) vs. Philadelphia (59-23, #3 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 6
MVP: Magic Johnson
Summary: Magic Johnson arrived, but the league belonged to Los Angeles’ MVP center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The Lakers & Sixers split the first four games. The fifth game was a great battle between Kareem and Dr. J. Kareem got the last word—late in a tie game, he returned from a sprained ankle, slammed a dunk home, got fouled and hit a free throw. His ankle did not survive the aftermath though. The team went to Philly without him and won Game 6 on a dramatic night from Magic, who went for 42/15/7. Wilkes added 37 more and the Lakers were champs.

1981: Boston (62-20, #1 in the East) vs. Houston (40-42, #6 in the West)
Result: Boston in 6
MVP: Cornbread Maxwell
Summary: Boston was a heavy favorite, but Houston had MVP center Moses Malone. The Celtics locked down Malone in Game 1, but the big man bounced back with 31 points in a Game 2 road victory. Larry Bird struggled in the middle games being held to single digits. Cornbread Maxwell picked up the slack and the Celts got a split. Cornbread went off again in Game 5, with 28/15 in an easy win. Bird finally broke free in Game 6. He scored 27 points, including a late dagger trey that put him on the board when it came to championships.

1982: LA Lakers (57-25, #1 in the West) vs. Philadelphia (58-24, #3 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 6
MVP: Magic Johnson
Summary: Los Angeles had control from the outset. A trapping defense led by Magic Johnson, Norm Nixon and Michael Cooper keyed a stunning 40-9 run in the second half of Game 1, turned an 11-point deficit into a win and seized homecourt advantage. Back in the Forum for Games 3 & 4, Magic went for a combined 46/17/15, while Nixon scored 29 in Game 3, then dished 14 assists in Game 4. When they returned to LA for Game 6, Magic dropped a Lucky 13—points/rebounds/assists. Jamaal Wilkes averaged 20 ppg for the series and the Lakers were champs again.

1983: Philadelphia (65-17, #1 in the East) vs. LA Lakers (58-24, #1 in the West)
Result: Philadelphia in 4
MVP: Moses Malone
Summary: The 76ers acquired Moses Malone and they repeatedly used control of the boards to take control of games late. They trailed Game 1 by three at the half and Game 2 by four at the half. Moses went for 27/18 and 24/12 to turn both into wins. In Game 3, the Sixers trailed by three at the half. Moses and Dr. J combined for 31 rebounds and Philly won. The coup de grace came in Game 4, when they fell behind by 14 at the half. Moses went for 24/23 and the Sixers completed the sweep.

1984: Boston (62-20, #1 in the East) vs. LA Lakers (54-28, #1 in the West)
Result: Boston in 7
MVP: Larry Bird
Summary: Through the first four games, Los Angeles was in command. They took Games 1 & 3 decisively and were in position to take Games 2 & 4. But turnovers and missed free throws cost them both and the Celtics were alive. The heat was turned up in the old Boston Garden—quite literally, with temperatures going 90-plus degrees in the humidity. Bird dropped 34/17 in a Game 5 win for the Celtics. In Game 7, Cornbread Maxwell again came through—24 points and forcing a big turnover from Magic in the final minute that sealed the game.


1985: LA Lakers (62-20, #1 in the West) vs. Boston (63-19, #1 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 6
MVP: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Summary: The Celtics crushed the Lakers in a 148-114 Game 1 win called the Memorial Day Massacre. Kareem only had three rebounds. Then everything changed. Bird went into a shooting slump later revealed to be caused by an injured hand from a bar fight. Kareem went to the Fountain Of Youth, with 30/17 in a Game 2 win. At home, Jabbar got 26/14 in Game 3 and 36 more in Game 5, both Laker wins. Only a buzzer-beater from Dennis Johnson to win Game 4 saved the Celtics. But the Lakers, with 26 from their Captain, finished the job in Boston.

1986: Boston (67-15, #1 in the East) vs. Houston (51-31, #2 in the West)
Result: Boston in 6
MVP: Larry Bird
Summary: Houston had the “Twin Towers” of Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, but Boston’s Kevin McHale outplayed Sampson, going for a combined 46 points in the first two games, while Bird scored 52 in that same span. The Celtics took control of the series. After the Rockets took Game 3, Boston got 20-plus from Bird, McHale, Johnson and Robert Parish, including a big three from Bird down the stretch for a 106-103 win that put them in firm command. After mailing in Game 5, the Celts returned home, got a 29/11/12 line from Bird, 29/10 from McHale and sealed the championship.

1987: LA Lakers (65-17, #1 in the West) vs. Boston (59-23, #1 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 6
MVP: Magic Johnson
Summary: Magic flawlessly orchestrated the Showtime offense in two blowout wins to start the series. The Celts grabbed Game 3 and at the end of a tight Game 4 came the critical sequence: Bird hit a corner trey to give Boston the lead. Kareem missed a free throw…but the ball bounced out of bounds off the Celtics. Magic drove the lane and hit a little “Junior Skyhook” to win the game and all but seal the series. The Lakers mailed in Game 5, and blew open Game 6 in the third quarter.

1988: LA Lakers (62-20, #1 in the West) vs. Detroit (54-28, #2 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 7
MVP: James Worthy
Summary: Worthy and Magic led the way as the Lakers won Games 2 &3. The Pistons got big nights from Adrian Dantley in taking Games 1 & 4. Detroit appeared a step faster in winning Game 5 and then led 102-99 late in Game 6. But Los Angeles won four straight possessions, two on offense, two on defense and aided by a debated foul call against Kareem. In Game 7, Worthy led the Lakers to a 15-point lead deep into the fourth quarter before Los Angeles had to turn back one last ferocious rally from the Pistons to win 108-105.

1989: Detroit (63-19, #1 in the East) vs. LA Lakers (57-25, #1 in the West)
Result: Detroit in 4
MVP: Joe Dumars
Summary: Detroit had superior depth to Los Angeles, particularly in the backcourt and that’s what decided this series. Laker guard Byron Scott was injured just prior to the Finals. Magic Johnson pulled up lame in Game 2. The Piston backcourt trio of Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson ran wild against a non-existent Laker bench. Dumars dropped 86 points in the first three games, with Isiah and VJ continually chipping in. In the finale, six Detroit players scored between 13-23 points to complete the sweep. Kareem’s retirement became official after the game and “The Bad Boys” had arrived in Detroit.

1990: Detroit (59-23, #1 in the East) vs. Portland (59-23, #3 in the West)
Result: Detroit in 5
MVP: Isiah Thomas
Summary: Portland stole Game 2 in Detroit with a one-point win and briefly introduced an element of doubt as to whether the favored Pistons would repeat. But Detroit re-established control with a 121-106 win and then won the next two in the final seconds. A 35-foot shot by Blazer reserve Danny Young that appeared to tie Game 4 was waved off as coming after the buzzer. In Game 5, the Pistons erased a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes with Vinnie Johnson hitting the game-winner. Isiah averaged 28ppg and seven assists per game in leading the repeat title.

1991: Chicago (61-21, #1 in the East) vs. LA Lakers (58-24, #3 in the West)
Result: Chicago in 5
MVP: Michael Jordan
Summary: It was Magic vs. Michael and the Lakers drew first blood when Sam Perkins hit a late three to steal Game 1. Jordan answered by hitting 13 straight shots in the second half of Chicago’s Game 2 rout. In Los Angeles, the Bulls rallied from thirteen down in the third quarter to take Game 3. They coasted home with an easy Game 4 win. Magic Johnson fought nobly in Game 5 and the Lakers had a 93-90 lead late. But with Scottie Pippen going for 32/13, Chicago closed the game on a 9-0 run. The Jordan Era had begun.

1992: Chicago (67-15, #1 in the East) vs. Portland (57-25, #1 in the West)
Result: Chicago in 6
MVP: Michael Jordan
Summary: There was a theory that Portland’s outstanding two-guard, Clyde Drexler, was good enough to “cancel out” Michael Jordan and allow a superior Blazer supporting cast to decide this series. Jordan answered in Game 1 by hitting six treys in the first quarter and then turning to Magic Johnson at the broadcast table and simply shrugging his shoulders. With the series tied 2-2, Drexler delivered a 30-point effort in Game 5…but Jordan answered with 46 in a Chicago win. In Game 6, Jordan got 33 as the Bulls rallied from a 15-point fourth quarter deficit. No one cancels out Michael Jordan.

1993: Chicago (57-25, #2 in the East) vs. Phoenix (62-20, #1 in the West)
Result: Chicago in 6
MVP: Michael Jordan
Summary: Chicago took their foot off the gas in the regular season, while Phoenix got an MVP year from Charles Barkley. But the Bulls took two on the road and the series looked over. The Suns answered by winning a triple-OT thriller in Game 3. When Jordan dropped 55 in a Game 4 Chicago victory, the series again looked over. The Suns answered by winning a road Game 5. And they held a 98-94 lead late in Game 6. The Bulls got a score, a stop and with one second left, John Paxson drilled a three. Now the series was over.

1994: Houston (58-24, #2 in the West) vs. New York (57-25, #2 in the East)
Result: Houston in 7
MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon
Summary: For four games the Rockets and Knicks staged a good series that was tied 2-2. Then things heated up. Game 5 was unforgettable—good basketball, with New York winning. But the real drama came when NBC took viewers to split-screen coverage of police chasing O.J. Simpson’s White Bronco. On the court back in Houston, the Knicks trailed by two in the final seconds of Game 6. John Starks tried a corner three for the championship that Hakeem blocked. In Game 7, Starks went 2-for-18, while Rocket guards Kenny Smith and Vernon Maxwell were in control for a 90-84 win.

1995: Houston (47-35, #6 in the West) vs. Orlando (57-25, #1 in the East)
Result: Houston in 4
MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon
Summary: Houston was better than the record suggested with a February trade bringing them Clyde Drexler. They hit their stride in the postseason. Orlando was the rising power with Shaquille O’Neal and Afernee Hardaway. Their series victory over the Chicago Bulls, who saw Michael Jordan return from his brief retirement in March, seemed to validate that. But these Finals were no contest. Shaq was good, but Hakeem went to another level and averaged 33 points/12 rebounds/6 assists/2 blocks/2 steals. “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”, said Rocket coach Rudy Tomjanovich amidst the celebration.

1996: Chicago (72-10, #1 in the East) vs. Seattle (64-18, #1 in the West)
Result: Chicago in 6
MVP: Michael Jordan
Summary: The Bulls wanted to validate the winningnest regular season in NBA history. In the first two games, Chicago held Seattle’s star guard Gary Payton to a combined 12-for-32 shooting. The Bulls broke open Game 1 in the fourth quarter and took a 92-88 decision in Game 2. Jordan dominated Game 3, scoring 36 and Chicago blew it open in the first quarter. The Sonics didn’t go quietly, winning Game 4 and pulling away in Game 5. But the Bulls’ defense returned in the Windy City. Even with Jordan shooting 5-for-19 in Game 6, Dennis Rodman’s rebounding keyed an 87-75 win.

1997: Chicago (69-13, #1 in the East) vs. Utah (64-18, #1 in the West)
Result: Chicago in 6
MVP: Michael Jordan
Summary: Game 1 was tied 82-82 with nine seconds left. Utah’s Karl Malone missed two free throws and Jordan answered with a 20-footer win it. The Bulls won Game 2. Utah took Games 3 & 4, and Jordan was sick with the flu for Game 5, barely able to carry himself. In a performance for the ages, he scored 38 and willed his team to a 90-88 win. Game 6 was tied in the closing seconds. Jordan gave the ball up to Steve Kerr, who hit a wide-open jumper from the top of the key to win the championship.

1998: Chicago (62-20, #1 in the East) vs. Utah (62-20, #1 in the West)
Result: Chicago in 6
MVP: Michael Jordan
Summary: Utah had homecourt advantage and grabbed Game 1. Jordan knocked down 37 as the Bulls won Game 2 and then crushed the Jazz 96-54 in Game 3. Chicago took Game 4 and was down a bucket at the end of Game 5, but Jordan missed a three-pointer. Utah led 86-83 at the end of Game 6, when one of the most legendary sequences in sports went down. Jordan scored. He stripped Karl Malone on the other end. Jordan brought the ball over halfcourt, backed down defender Byron Russell, got away with a push-off and hit a title-winning jump shot.


1999: San Antonio (37-13, #1 in the West) vs. New York (27-23, #8 in the East)
Result: San Antonio in 5
MVP: Tim Duncan
Summary: It was Duncan and defense as San Antonio took the first two. The Spurs’ power forward scored 58 points and grabbed 31 rebounds, while San Antonio gave up just 72ppg. New York’s backcourt of Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell rolled in Game 3, but Duncan and David Robinson dominated the boards for the Spurs in a Game 4 win. An ugly Game 5 came down to a late jumper by San Antonio guard Avery Johnson for a 78-77 lead. The Spurs then stopped Sprewell underneath the basket to win a championship.

2000: LA Lakers (67-15, #1 in the West) vs. Indiana (56-26, #1 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 6
MVP: Shaquille O’Neal
Summary: Shaq was a beast in the first two games, scoring a combined 86 points in Laker wins. He was almost as good in Game 3, with 33/13, but Indiana’s Reggie Miller got 33 of his own and won. Game 4 went to overtime with both Shaq and Miller on fire. Los Angeles won by a bucket. They mailed in Game 5 and went home for Game 6, where they still trailed after three quarters. But Shaq finished as he’d begun. He posted a 41/12 line, Kobe Bryant added 26 more and the 116-111 win put the Lakers back on top.

2001: LA Lakers (56-26, #2 in the West) vs. Philadelphia (56-26, #1 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 5
MVP: Shaquille O’Neal
Summary: The identical records hide that Los Angeles was a big favorite in this series, having bulldozed the West without a playoff loss. The Sixers came west and stole Game 1 in overtime behind 48 points from league MVP Allan Iverson, but the Lakers asserted themselves thereafter. Iverson continued to get his points, but at 41 percent shooting for the series. Shaq and Kobe combined for 62 points in a Game 3 win that restored homecourt advantage and Los Angeles coasted home to double-digit wins in Games 4 & 5 that secured their repeat title.

2002: LA Lakers (58-24, #3 in the West) vs. New Jersey (52-30, #1 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 4
MVP: Shaquille O’Neal
Summary: The Finals were tainted by controversy, due to a widespread belief that rigged officiating pushed the Lakers past the Sacramento Kings in a Western Conference Finals that featured the two best teams in the NBA. The Lakers-Nets was a repeat of 2001, with Jason Kidd standing in the role of Alan Iverson as the elite point guard carrying an overmatched team against Shaq & Kobe. Shaq averaged 36/12 for the series, including a 35/13 win in Game 3 when he offset Kidd’s best game of the Finals and that 106-103 win effectively sealed the threepeat.

2003: San Antonio (60-24, #1 in the West) vs. New Jersey (49-33, #2 in the East)
Result: San Antonio in 6
MVP: Tim Duncan
Summary: Duncan’s 32/20 gave the Spurs the opener, but Kidd knocked down 30 in Game 2, while the Net defense forced 21 turnovers in a series-tying win. Duncan and Tony Parker led the way to a Game 3 win. New Jersey defense produced an ugly 77-76 win in Game 4. Duncan and Kidd each scored 29 points in Game 5, but New Jersey shot 35 percent, as the San Antonio took the crucial 93-83 win. The Spurs were down six in the fourth quarter of Game 6, but Duncan and an aging David Robinson took over to clinch the championship.

2004: Detroit (54-28, #3 in the East) vs. LA Lakers (56-26, #2 in the West)
Result: Detroit in 5
MVP: Chauncey Billups
Summary: The Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton, but Piston defense was the story in a Game 1 win. The series went to the Midwest tied. Detroit’s defense continued to frustrate Kobe, and an 88-68 rout in Game 3 was followed by another Piston win in Game 4. Detroit’s team-oriented approach had its finest hour in Game 5, with all five starters in double figures. The 100-87 win was never close. Billups and Rip Hamilton each averaged 20-plus for the series and Larry Brown became the first coach to win both the NBA Finals and the Final Four.

2005: San Antonio (59-23, #2 in the West) vs. Detroit (54-28, #2 in the East)
Result: San Antonio in 7
MVP: Tim Duncan
Summary: In each of the first four games, losing team was held to fewer than 80 points each time. Home teams held serve and set the stage for Game 5. With nine seconds left in overtime, the Spurs had the ball, down 95-93. Robert Horry inbounded, got the ball back on a give-and-go and drilled his fifth trey of the night for a 96-95 win. San Antonio shot poorly in a Game 6 loss and then trailed Game 7 by nine in the third quarter. Duncan took over, with ten straight points and the momentum sustained itself to an 81-74 win.

2006: Miami (52-30, #2 in the East) vs. Dallas (60-22, #4 in the West)
Result: Miami in 6
MVP: Dwayne Wade
Summary: Dallas rolled to double-digit wins in the first two games before Wade took over, Miami began winning close games and rumors of a league conspiracy against renegade Maverick owner Mark Cuban gained steam. Wade went for 42/13 in a two-point Game 3 win. He dropped 36 more in Game 4 while Dirk Nowitzki struggled to a 2-for-14 night for Dallas. In Game 5, Wade scored 43 more, including two free throws with a second left to secure a 101-100 win. Wade finished the job with 36 points in Game 6’s 95-92 win that brought the title to Miami.

2007: San Antonio (58-24, #3 in the West) vs. Cleveland (50-32, #2 in the East)
Result: San Antonio in 4
MVP: Tony Parker
Summary: The arrival of a 22-year-old Cleveland star named LeBron James highlighted the opening of the Finals, but it was the dominance of the San Antonio core that controlled the games. Tony Parker scored 27 in Game 1 and knocked down 30 more in Game 2 as the Spurs comfortably defended their home floor. Both games in Cleveland were close, but San Antonio got some clutch outside shooting from Bruce Bowen and Brent Barry to survive Game 3, 75-72. Parker was back on in Game 4, shooting 10-for-14, scoring 24 and leading the 83-82 win that gave the Spurs another ring.

2008: Boston (66-16 #1 in the East) vs. LA Lakers (57-25, #1 in the West)
Result: Boston in 6
MVP: Paul Pierce
Summary: The Celtics controlled Game 1, then jumped out to a 22-point lead in Game 2 before holding off a furious Laker rally. Los Angeles won Game 3 and jumped out to a 24-point lead in the third quarter of Game 4. The Celtics began a furious rally, with a 21-3 run to close the quarter. The difference in the Finals was that Boston was able to complete their comeback, winning 97-91. They waited to return to the Hub before winning a 131-92 blowout. Pierce averaged 22/5/6, while Kevin Garnett averaged 18/13 and keyed a consistent rebounding edge for the Celtics.

2009: LA Lakers (65-17, #1 in the West) vs. Orlando (59-23, #3 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 5
MVP: Kobe Bryant
Summary: Kobe Bryant was still looking to prove he could finish the job without Shaq and the Lakers opened with a blowout in Game 1. Orlando had defeated Boston and LeBron James’ Cleveland en route to the Finals and began to show their mettle. They won Game 3, while Games 2 & 4 went overtime. But Laker experience showed itself at these key moments and they won both OT games to all but secure the series. The title became official with a 99-86 win in Game 5. Kobe averaged a 32/6/7 line for the Finals. He was second fiddle no more.

2010: LA Lakers (57-25, #1 in the West) vs. Boston (50-32, #4 in the East)
Result: LA Lakers in 7
MVP: Kobe Bryant
Summary: The Kobe/Pau Gasol combo delivered Game 1, but the Celts got 32 from Ray Allen in a Game 2 win. But Allen went cold in Game 3 ,while Gasol and Andrew Bynum controlled the boards in a 91-84 win that re-established Laker control. The Celts bounced back with two straight wins, overcoming electric individual games by Kobe with better overall balance. LA’s Game 6 blowout was also marked by Boston losing center Kendrick Perkins to injury. Without their best rebounder, the Celts were killed on the boards in Game 7 as Los Angeles rallied to an ugly 83-79 win.

2011: Dallas (57-25, #3 in the West) vs. Miami (58-24, #2 in the East)
Result: Dallas in 6
MVP: Dirk Nowitzki
Summary: LeBron James took his talents to Miami and joined with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat won the first game, then led Game 2 by 15 points in the fourth quarter. Dallas rallied to win 95-93 on a driving layup by Nowitzki in the closing seconds. After Miami won Game 3, James disappeared in Games 4 & 5, negating big nights from Wade. Nowitzki was outstanding, averaging 26/10 per game for the series and the Mavs won both games. In Game 6, Jason Terry came off the Dallas bench to drop 27 points and key the 112-103 win.


2012: Miami (46-20, #2 in the East) vs. Oklahoma City (47-19, #2 in the West)
Result: Miami in 5
MVP: LeBron James
Summary: The two brightest stars, LeBron and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant were after their first ring. Durant scored 36 in OkC’s Game 1 win and had 32 more in Game 2, but he also missed a baseline jumper to tie the game and Miami evened the series. LeBron was consistent and got 29 in Game 3, then 26 in Game 4. The Heat won both games by six, in spite of Russell Westbrook’s electric 43-point night in Game 4. Miami took over with the championship in their grasp. Mike Miller hit seven treys off the bench in a Game 5 rout.

2013: Miami (66-16, #1 in the East) vs. San Antonio (58-24, #2 in the West)
Result: Miami in 7
MVP: LeBron James
Summary: The Spurs took Game 1 when Tony Parker hit the game-winner as the shot clock expired. The teams traded blowouts for the next four games. Game 6 was a classic. San Antonio was in control after three late turnovers by James. But some missed free throws set the stage for Ray Allen to drill a game-tying trey and the Heat won in overtime. LeBron hit 37 in Game 7, and Shane Battier came off the bench to hit seven treys but the Spurs had a chance to tie in the final minute. Duncan’s short layup missed and Miami survived.


2014: San Antonio (62-20, #1 in the West) vs. Miami (54-28, #2 in the East)
Result: San Antonio in 5
MVP: Kawhi Leonard
Summary: San Antonio rallied to win Game 1 when LeBron left in the fourth quarter with cramping legs. He bounced back for 35 in Miami’s Game 2 win and another classic Heat-Spurs battle seemed in the offing. Then the Spurs took over, while LeBron’s supporting cast fell apart. Kawhi Leonard scored 49 points in the two games at Miami, as Wade and Bosh disappeared. San Antonio won 111-92 and 107-86 respectively in a stunning turnabout. They won Game 5 at home with 22 more from Kawhi, along with big performances off the bench from Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills.

2015: Golden State (67-15, #1 in the West) vs. Cleveland (53-29, #2 in the East)
Result: Golden State in 5
MVP: Andre Iguodala
Summary: LeBron was back in Cleveland, but injuries cost him his supporting cast. Golden State was heavily favored, but each of the first two games went overtime, the Cavs split and then won at home in Game 3. Iguodala hit 22 in Game 4 and forced LeBron into 7-for-22 shooting in a blowout that changed the series. LeBron’s 40 points in Game 5 were answered by Steph Curry’s 37 and the Warriors had more depth. Golden State closed it out in Game 6 with 25 apiece from Iguodala and Curry. LeBron averaged a 36/13/9 line for the Finals.

2016: Cleveland (57-25, #1 in the East) vs. Golden State (73-9, #1 in the West)
Result: Cleveland in 7
MVP: LeBron James
Summary: After a historic regular season, Golden State opened with two blowout wins. Cleveland returned the favor in Game 3 and the Warriors won Game 4. But Golden State forward Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, and the Warriors lost at home. Cleveland won Game 6. The seventh game was an all-time NBA classic. Late in a tie game, LeBron capped off a series where he averaged 30/11/9 by blocking a breakaway layup. Kyrie Irving capped off a series where he averaged 27ppg by drilling a trey that broke the tie. Cleveland was a champion.

2017: Golden State (67-15, #1 in the West) vs. Cleveland (51-31, #2 in the East)
Result: Golden State in 5
MVP: Kevin Durant
Summary: Golden State added Durant and he scored at least 30 points in all five games. The Warriors opened with two easy home wins for the second straight year. Game 3 in Cleveland was tight down to the wire, but Durant hit a short jumper on the baseline late—ironically similar to the one he missed against LeBron in 2012 when both were with other teams. After mailing in Game 4, the Warriors wrapped up the title in Game 5. In defeat, LeBron had averaged 34/12/10 and shot over 50 percent, his best individual performance in a Finals yet.

2018: Golden State (58-24, #2 in the West) vs. Cleveland (50-32, #4 in the East)
Result: Golden State in 4
MVP: Kevin Durant
Summary: The fourth straight Warriors-Cavs matchup didn’t come quite as easily—both teams had to win road Game 7s in the conference finals. A heroic effort by LeBron James nearly stole Game 1 for Cleveland. But a big mistake by J.R. Reid helped Golden State survive in overtime. The rest of the Finals seemed a fait accompli. Steph Curry heated up from behind the arc and dropped 33 points in Game 2. Curry hit for 37 more in the Game 4 clincher. Durant rang up 43 points in a Game 3 win and for the series averaged 29 points/11 rebounds/8 assists.

2019: Toronto (58-24, #2 in the East) vs. Golden State (57-25, #1 in the West)
Result: Toronto in 6
MVP: Kawhi Leonard
Summary: Injuries played a big part in undoing the Warrior three-peat bid. Kevin Durant was injured during the playoffs. Klay Thompson was injured during the Finals themselves. And then there’s Toronto. With Kawhi Leonard acquired from San Antonio, the Raptors won Games 3 & 4 on the road to take control of the Finals. They missed a chance to clinch at home with a one-point loss in Game 5. But with Kawhi averaging 29/10, the Raptors had more road toughness left. They won Game 6 and brought the title north of the border for the first time.