Sports

The Best NBA Finals Series Of All Time

List Rules
Only NBA Finals series, not other playoff rounds

What is the best NBA Finals matchup in history? The best NBA Finals series match-ups are the most memorable and iconic NBA Championship series in the history of the league. From the series that reignited fierce rivalries to those which pitted the best basketball players of all time against one another, these NBA Finals series stand out as some of the best ever. And this, of course, is a list of the best NBA Finals matchups of all time.

If it appears that two teams appear far more frequently than others on this list, that's because the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have appeared in the NBA Finals far more than all other teams with a combined 52 appearances in the 63 seasons between 1950 and 2012. The rivalry has been fueled numerous times but was at its height in the 1980s. Between 1980 and 1989 one or both of those teams played in the finals each season with the likes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar battling it out on the court.

As the years passed, it was the Chicago Bulls who would next dominate the league, much from the help of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson. Especially memorable was the 1993 NBA Finals which saw Jordan and company defeat the Phoenix Suns led by Charles Barkley. Chicago would go on to win three more titles, for a total of six in eight years in the 1990s, while Barkley would play out the rest of his days without a championship ring. The NBA Finals matchups history can be cruel, depending on just which side you're on.

Whether the best NBA Finals series match-ups are between rival teams, feature Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame players or are the ones yet to be played, each tells the story of one team who emerged victorious and another who went home disappointed. Which NBA Finals match-up do you think is the best?

Vote up the NBA Finals series you loved the most, and re-rank the list as you see fit. Check out more lists like the most hilarious internet reactions to the NBA finals, the best NBA players of all time, or check out the fittest cheerleaders of the NBA finals.

Photo:
Ranked by
  • 1984: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers
    1

    1984: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

    Celtics in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - Larry Bird

  • 1987: Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics
    2

    1987: Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics

    Lakers in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Magic Johnson

  • 1991:Chicago Bulls Vs Los Angeles Lakers
    3

    1991:Chicago Bulls Vs Los Angeles Lakers

    Bulls in 5

    NBA Finals MVP - Michael Jordan

  • 2016: Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Golden State Warriors
    4

    2016: Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Golden State Warriors

    Cavaliers in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - LeBron James

  • 1985: Los Angeles Lakers Vs Boston Celtics
    5

    1985: Los Angeles Lakers Vs Boston Celtics

    Lakers in 6 

    NBA Finals MVP - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

  • 2013: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs
    6

    2013: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Heat in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - LeBron James

  • 1969: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers
    7

    1969: Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers

    Celtics in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - Jerry West

  • 1998: Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz
    8

    1998: Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz

    Bulls in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Michael Jordan

  • 1993: Chicago Bulls vs Phoenix Suns
    9

    1993: Chicago Bulls vs Phoenix Suns

    Bulls in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Michael Jordan

  • 1997: Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz
    10

    1997: Chicago Bulls vs Utah Jazz

    Bulls in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Michael Jordan

  • 1980: Los Angeles Lakers vs Philadelphia 76ers
    11

    1980: Los Angeles Lakers vs Philadelphia 76ers

    Lakers in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Magic Johnson

  • 1988: Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons
    12

    1988: Los Angeles Lakers vs Detroit Pistons

    Lakers in 7 

    NBA Finals MVP - James Worthy

  • 1986: Boston Celtics Vs Houston Rockets
    13

    1986: Boston Celtics Vs Houston Rockets

    Celtics in 6 

    NBA Finals MVP - Larry Bird

  • 2014: San Antonio Spurs Vs. Miami Heat
    14

    2014: San Antonio Spurs Vs. Miami Heat

    Spurs in 5

    NBA Finals MVP - Kawhi Leonard

  • 1981: Boston Celtics Vs. Houston Rockets
    15

    1981: Boston Celtics Vs. Houston Rockets

    Celtics in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Cedric Maxwell

  • 1992 Chicago Bulls vs Portland Trailblazers
    16

    1992 Chicago Bulls vs Portland Trailblazers

    Bulls in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Michael Jordan

  • 1982: Los Angeles Lakers Vs Philadelphia 76ers
    17

    1982: Los Angeles Lakers Vs Philadelphia 76ers

    Lakers in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Magic Johnson

  • 1994: Houston Rockets vs New York Knicks
    18

    1994: Houston Rockets vs New York Knicks

    Rockets in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - Hakeem Olajuwon

  • 2005: San Antonio Spurs Vs Detroit Pistons
    19

    2005: San Antonio Spurs Vs Detroit Pistons

    Spurs in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - Tim Duncan

  • 2011: Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat
    20

    2011: Dallas Mavericks vs Miami Heat

    Mavericks in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Dirk Nowitzki

  • 2001: Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Philadelphia 76ers
    21

    2001: Los Angeles Lakers Vs. Philadelphia 76ers

    Lakers in 5

    NBA Finals MVP - Shaquille O'Neal

  • 1970: New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers
    22

    1970: New York Knicks vs Los Angeles Lakers

    Knicks in 7

    NBA Finals MVP - Willis Reed

  • 2012: Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City Thunder
    23

    2012: Miami Heat vs Oklahoma City Thunder

    Heat in 5

    NBA Finals MVP - LeBron James

  • 2015: Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Golden State Warriors
    24

    2015: Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Golden State Warriors

    Warriors in 6

    NBA Finals MVP - Andre Iguodala

  • 2004: Detroit Pistons Vs Los Angeles Lakers
    25

    2004: Detroit Pistons Vs Los Angeles Lakers

    Pistons in 5

    NBA Finals MVP - Chauncey Billups