Becoming an NBA Finals winner is the goal for every team and player. Many of the game’s greatest never got to celebrate NBA Finals success. It’s a moment which can define careers and shape legacies.

Even those new to the NBA will be aware of the teams who have enjoyed the most Finals success. From the Lakers and Celtics dynasties to the Warriors and Spurs in the 21st century, teams have taken turns in ruling the Association.

In between, however, there are NBA Finals surprises like 2011. Some teams take advantage of circumstances to assert themselves like the mid-1990s Houston Rockets.

Most NBA Finals won

The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are tied with 17 NBA championships apiece. Boston was dominant through the 1950s and 1960s. While both are level on titles won, it’s the Lakers who have appeared in the NBA Finals on the most occasions.

They are far and away the two most successful franchises in NBA history. No other team has won more than six titles, a feat achieved by both the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls.

With a threepeat at the turn of the century, the Lakers are also the most successful team this millennium. The San Antonio Spurs push them close, however, winning all five of their titles since 1999.

Most common NBA Finals matchups

Unsurprisingly, it’s the Lakers and Celtics. The Lakers and Celtics have met in the NBA Finals on 12 occasions, seven of which were between 1959 and 1969.

Their most recent Finals bout was in 2010, a rematch of the 2008 clash. Boston leads the Finals contests by a 9-3 margin, though they lost to Kobe Bryant’s Lakers in 2010.


Most NBA Finals MVP awards

The NBA Finals MVP was first introduced in 1969. Michael Jordan has won the award more than any other player, receiving the honour in all six of the Bulls’ titles during the 1990s.

LeBron James is the only other player in NBA history to have won Finals MVP more than three times. James picked the trophy up for a fourth time in the Orlando bubble in 2020. Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan have all won Finals MVP thrice.

Winner of the first ever Finals MVP, Jerry West remains the only player in NBA history to win the award while losing the Finals.

Cedric Maxwell, a champion with the Celtics in 1981, is the only eligible player to not make the Hall of Fame having won Finals MVP.

Least successful NBA teams

Of active NBA teams, 11 haven’t won a title. Six of those teams have never made the NBA Finals.

Those six are: Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets.

The Suns, Jazz, Nets, Magic and Pacers have all registered NBA Finals appearances without lifting the trophy. The first four of that group have all lost the NBA Finals twice.

Utah famously lost to Michael Jordan’s Bulls twice during the second threepeat, while the Suns’ last Finals appearance came during Jordan’s first threepeat.

NBA Finals winners

1950 – Minneapolis Lakers

1951 – Rochester Royals

1952 – Minneapolis Lakers

1953 – Minneapolis Lakers

1954 – Minneapolis Lakers

1955 – Syracuse Nationals

1956 – Philadelphia Warriors

1957 – Boston Celtics

1958 – St Louis Hawks

1959 – Boston Celtics

1960 – Boston Celtics

1961 – Boston Celtics

1962 – Boston Celtics

1963 – Boston Celtics

1964 – Boston Celtics

1965 – Boston Celtics

1966 – Boston Celtics

1967 – Philadelphia 76ers

1968 – Boston Celtics

1969 – Boston Celtics

1970 – New York Knicks

1971 – Milwaukee Bucks

1972 – Los Angeles Lakers

1973 – New York Knicks

1974 – Boston Celtics

1975 – Golden State Warriors

1976 – Boston Celtics

1977 – Portland Trail Blazers

1978 – Washington Bullets

1979 – Seattle SuperSonics

1980 – Los Angeles Lakers

1981 – Boston Celtics

1982 – Los Angeles Lakers

1983 – Philadelphia 76ers

1984 – Boston Celtics

1985 – Los Angeles Lakers

1986 – Boston Celtics

1987 – Los Angeles Lakers

1988 – Los Angeles Lakers

1989 – Detroit Pistons

1990 – Detroit Pistons

1991 – Chicago Bulls

1992 – Chicago Bulls

1993 – Chicago Bulls

1994 – Houston Rockets

1995 – Houston Rockets

1996 – Chicago Bulls

1997 – Chicago Bulls

1998 – Chicago Bulls

1999 – San Antonio Spurs

2000 – Los Angeles Lakers

2001 – Los Angeles Lakers

2002 – Los Angeles Lakers

2003 – San Antonio Spurs

2004 – Detroit Pistons

2005 – San Antonio Spurs

2006 – Miami Heat

2007 – San Antonio Spurs

2008 – Boston Celtics

2009 – Los Angeles Lakers

2010 – Los Angeles Lakers

2011 – Dallas Mavericks

2012 – Miami Heat

2013 – Miami Heat

2014 – San Antonio Spurs

2015 – Golden State Warriors

2016 – Cleveland Cavaliers

2017 – Golden State Warriors

2018 – Golden State Warriors

2019 – Toronto Raptors

2020 – Los Angeles Lakers

2021 – Milwaukee Bucks