1947: Philadelphia Warriors vs. Chicago Stags 4-1 Warring--Woosh
1948 Balitmore Bullets vs. Philadelphia Warriors 4-2 Blowby
1949: Minneapolis Lakers vs. Washington Capitols 4-2 Lancet
1950: Minneapolis Lakers vs. Syracuse Nationals 4-2 Launch 1950 was the first year of the NBA. Minneapolis defeated Rochester in a one game playoff for first place in the Central Division. Fort Wayne defeated Chicago in a one game playoff for third place in the Central Division.
1951:West Conference Rochester Royals(Sacramento Kings) vs. NY Knicks 4-3 Rocking The Rochester Royals (currently the Sacramento Kings) had appeared in the NBL Finals all three years they had been in the league, winning one championship. Their 1951 NBA championship win marks the first (and as of 2011, only) time the franchise has made it to the NBA Finals, let alone won the title. New York made the first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history; it would turn out to be their first of three consecutive appearances in the league's championship series. They would have to wait until 1970 for their first NBA championship, however. The 1951 playoffs featured the return of the Boston Celtics to the postseason after a three-year absence; they would not fail to make the playoffs again until 1970, after they had won eleven NBA championships.
1952: Minneapolis Lakers vs. NY Knicks 4-3 LurkingThe first great NBA dynasty, the Lakers won their third NBA/BAA championship in the last four years and what would become their first of three titles in a row. If not for their division finals loss to the Rochester Royals the previous season, Minneapolis would have won six consecutive championships.
1953: Minneapolis Lakers vs. NY Knicks 4-1 Lanky The Lakers won their fourth championship in the last five years, and for the second consecutive season defeated the Knicks in the Finals to complete their run. The Indianapolis Olympians played their very last game, a Game 2 loss to the Lakers, in the first round of the 1953 playoffs. They would fold at the conclusion of the season, and major professional basketball would not return to Indianapolis until the Indiana Pacers were founded for the inaugural 1967-68 season of the American Basketball Association. The Boston Celtics earned their first playoff series victory in the 1953 playoffs with a two-game sweep of the Syracuse Nationals. The 1952–53 Baltimore Bullets hold the distinction of having the worst regular season record heading in NBA playoffs history. The team's record was 16–54.
1954: Minneapolis Lakers vs. Syracuse Nationals 4-3 Laxness For the Lakers it was their third consecutive NBA championship, and fifth in the last six years. With the folding of the Indianapolis Olympians after the previous year's playoffs, leaving the NBA with nine teams, they resorted to a round-robin playoff format in 1954 for the only time in the league's history. Although the Minneapolis Lakers, Fort Wayne Pistons, Rochester Royals and Syracuse Nationals all play in different cities now (Los Angeles, Detroit, Sacramento and Philadelphia respectively), this was the first NBA playoff in which every team that participated still exists today.
1955:Syracuse Nationals vs. Fort Wayne Pistons 4-3 NippingAlthough both markets were small, the series was spectacular, in part due to the addition of the 24-second shot clock.The home team won every game, the Nats taking the series with a free throw by George King at the end of Game 7. This was the only championship for the Nationals under that moniker; the franchise won its next title in 1967 as the Philadelphia 76ers. For the Pistons, this was their first trip to the NBA Finals in franchise history; they would return to finals the following year, but would not win their first championship until 1989 as the Detroit Pistons. After experimenting with a round robin playoff format the previous year, the NBA moved to a system in which the top team in each conference earned a first-round bye, giving them the right to start out in the conference finals. This system would remain in place until 1967, when the league changed to an eight-team format,in which all teams played the first round.
1956: Philadelphia Warriors vs. Fort Wayne Pistons 4-1Wispy It was the Warriors' second NBA championship; their first title had come in 1947 back when the NBA was known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). They would have to wait until 1975 to taste championship gold again; by that time they had moved to the Bay Area and become the Golden State Warriors. This was the Pistons' second consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, but they would not make another appearance until 1988 as the Detroit Pistons. No team from Indiana would return to the NBA Finals until the Indiana Pacers did so in 2000.
1957: Boston Celtics vs. St. Louis Hawks 4-3Cowherd The first championship in what was to become the Celtics dynasty. A hard-fought series against the Hawks. Jim Loscutoff won the game for the Celtics in double overtime in Game 7 with two free throws. It was the first championship in Celtics history; as of 2009 the Celtics lead the league in NBA titles won, with 17. The Celtics and Hawks would meet in four out of five NBA Finals from 1957 to 1961, with the Celtics winning three series and the Hawks one. While the Hawks' dominance of the Western Conference would be succeeded by the Los Angeles Lakers afterward, the Celtics would only miss the NBA Finals once between 1957 and 1969, and win the NBA championship in every year but two.
1958: St. Louis Hawks vs. Boston Celtics 4-2 Hiccup was the second consecutive year the Celtics and Hawks met in the NBA Finals; they would meet four years out of five, with the Celtics winning three series and the Hawks one. This was the first (and as of 2010, only) championship in Hawks franchise history. St. Louis made it to the NBA Finals four times in the five years between 1957 and 1961, but since moving to Atlanta in 1968, they have had considerably less success in the playoffs.
1959: Boston Celtics vs. Minneapolis Lakers 4-0 Call It was the Celtics' second NBA championship. This was the first NBA Finals matchup between the Lakers and Celtics; as of 2008 the franchises have met in the championship series 11 times. Boston won the first eight NBA Finals series of the rivalry, spanning three decades-- the 1950s, 1960s and 1980s-- before the Lakers finally defeated the Celtics for the title in 1985 and again in 1987, with Boston topping the Lakers again in 2008. See also: Lakers–Celtics rivalry This was also the only Celtics/Lakers NBA Finals series that would take place while the latter team was based in Minneapolis. Indeed, the Lakers would only remain in Minneapolis one more year before moving to their current home of Los Angeles.
1960: Boston Celtics(east) vs St. Louis Hawks(west) 4-3 Calhoun This was the second consecutive and third overall NBA championship for the Celtics, who gained a measure of revenge for the Hawks' championship win over them two years prior. The 1960 Finals marked the third Celtics/Hawks championship series in the past four years.
1961: Boson Celtics vs. St. Louis Hawks 4-1 Cushy For the Celtics it was their third consecutive NBA championship and fourth overall. This would be the last NBA Finals appearance for the Hawks franchise to date; though they still exist in the NBA 48 years later as the Atlanta Hawks, they have yet to return to the championship series.
1962: Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers 4-3 Carload The second NBA Finals with the Lakers against the Celtics (after 1959). Elgin Baylor scored a Finals record 61 points in a game 5 Laker victory. In Game 7, the clock was winding down with the score tied at 100, when Frank Selvy (who once scored 100 points in a college game) missed an eight-foot game and series winning basket for the Lakers. The Celtics won in overtime, with Bill Russell tying his own Finals record with 40 rebounds. The Celtics won their fourth consecutive championship, becoming the first (and as of 2010, only) NBA team to do so. The Celtics' game seven victory occurred in overtime, with Boston's Bill Russell tying his own NBA finals record with 40 rebounds. This was the second NBA Finals series played between the Celtics and Lakers, though it was the first one the Lakers played in since the franchise moved to Los Angeles. Though the NBA has existed since 1947, this is the earliest NBA Finals played between two teams that still reside in their present (2010) locations.
1963: Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers 4-2 Cycler The Celtics won their fifth consecutive, and sixth overall, NBA championship. Boston defeated Los Angeles in the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, something that would become a regular occurrence throughout the 1960s. The Cincinnati Royals advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 1952, extending the Celtics to seven games. This was the last playoff appearance for the Syracuse Nationals under that name; they would move to Philadelphia the following season and become known as the Philadelphia 76ers.
1964: Boston Celtics vs. S.F. Golden State Warriors 4-1 Crowd Boston earned their sixth consecutive, and seventh overall NBA championship, as they continued to dominate the 1960s; with the exception of 1967, the Celtics won every NBA championship awarded in the sixties. This was the San Francisco Warriors' first trip to the NBA Finals since 1956 when they were based in Philadelphia; they would make a repeat appearance in 1967 and (as the Golden State Warriors) would earn the franchise's second championship in 1975. The Philadelphia 76ers earned their first playoff appearance in their new city; they had been founded as the independent Syracuse Nationals in 1939 and joined the National Basketball League in 1946.
1965: Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers 4-1 Crowd The Celtics won their seventh consecutive, and eighth overall, NBA championship, and handed the Lakers their fourth straight Finals defeat in the process. The 1965 playoffs marked the first postseason appearance for the Baltimore Bullets, who had begun play in the 1961-62 season as the Chicago Packers.
1966: Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers 4-3Chiller Another Celtics-Lakers classic. In Game 7, Red Auerbach, Boston's coach, lit up his traditional "victory cigar" midway through the 4th quarter, only to see his team's big lead melt away. They held on, however, and won 95–93 to preserve the Celtics' eighth straight championship and ninth in ten seasons. The Celtics won their eighth consecutive, and ninth overall, NBA championship, defeating the Lakers in the Finals for the fifth straight time. This would be the last NBA playoff tournament made under the "top team in each conference gets a first-round bye" format established in 1955; the 1967 NBA Playoffs would feature an eight-team tournament with no first-round byes.
1967: Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers vs. SF. Warriors 4-2 Slowed It was the 76ers' second NBA championship in franchise history; their first title had come in 1955 as the Syracuse Nationals. The Boston Celtics were denied the chance to win their ninth consecutive championship, though they would win the title in the following two seasons. The expansion Chicago Bulls made the playoffs in their debut season, and the New York Knicks returned to the postseason for the first time since 1959. As of 2006, the seven-year gap between playoff appearances is the longest such gap in Knicks franchise history. The 1967 NBA playoffs marked a change in playoff format for the league; every tournament since 1955 had given the top-ranked team in each conference a first-round bye, but starting this season the NBA upped the number of playoff teams from six to eight and removed the bye privilege from the regular-season conference champion.
1968: Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers 4-2. Curled Overcame 3-1 deficit to beat Jerry West’s LA to win 4 games to 2. The Celtics won their 10th NBA championship, first under player/coach Bill Russell after the retirement of Red Auerbach. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics became the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3 games to 1 deficit to win a series, as they knocked off the defending champion Philadelphia 76ers in 7. In the West, The Lakers swept the San Francisco Warriors 4 games to none. It was the first time since 1954 that the top team in a conference failed to make it to the conference finals; from 1955 to 1967 the league had given the regular-season conference champion a first-round bye.
1969: Boston Celtics vs. LA Lakers 4-3:Coiling For the third time in the decade, a Lakers-Celtics final went to seven games. Chamberlain, Baylor, and West, three of the game's best players, were now all playing for the Lakers. Nevertheless, the aging Celtics (who had finished fourth in the Eastern Division), led by player-coach Bill Russell, put on an effective counter-attack. In Game 4, with the Celtics trailing 2–1 in the series and 88–87 in the game, Sam Jones hit an incredible buzzer-beater with three seconds left to even the series and preserve the Celtics' championship winning streak. In game 7, Boston built a big lead and Wilt Chamberlain picked up his 5th foul. The Lakers rallied behind their subs, and cut the deficit to 2 points in the final minutes. Laker guard Keith Erickson knocked the ball away from John Havlicek, but it bounced to Don Nelson with only 2 seconds left on the 24 second shot clock. Nelson's shot hit the heel of the rim, bounced high in the air and came down through the hoop to restore the lead to 4 with a minute remaining. Boston ended up winning 108–106. Despite finishing in 4th place, the Celtics won their second consecutive NBA championship, marking their 11th overall as their era of 1960s dominance drew to a close. They upset Philadelphia and the Knicks on the way to the finals. Out west, the San Francisco Warriors stunned the Lakers by winning the first two games in L.A., and Bay Area fans were thinking of avenging the prior year's sweep by the Lakers with a sweep of their own. But the Lakers won 4 straight to win the series in 6. This year marked the debut of the Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award; it was awarded to Jerry West of the Lakers, which marks the only time, thus far, that the trophy has been given to a player on the losing team. The second-year San Diego Rockets earned their first playoff appearance; the next time they appeared in the playoffs would be in 1975 as the Houston Rockets.
1970: NY Knicks vs. LA Lakers 4-3: Killing With the series tied 1–1, Game 3 produced an instant classic (see game 3 of 1970 finals). The Knicks' Dave DeBusschere made a basket with 3 seconds left to give the Knicks a 102–100 lead. Jerry West then made a 63 foot shot to force overtime. However, the Knicks recovered to win the game and eventually the series in 7. Game 7 is best remembered when the injured Willis Reed, who supposedly was out of Game 7, started the game and scored the first two baskets to inspire the Knicks just when they needed it. New York claimed its first title. Walt "clyde" frazier also scored 36 points and had 19 assists. New York's Willis Reed was named NBA Finals MVP. It was the first NBA championship for the Knicks in franchise history, and marked their first appearance in the NBA Finals since losing their third consecutive NBA Finals in 1953, ironically, to the Lakers while they still played in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For the Lakers, it was the third straight Western Conference championship, and the second consecutive year they lost in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers dropped their eighth straight NBA Finals series (the previous seven, to the Boston Celtics) and were denied their first NBA championship since 1954. The 1970 playoffs featured the postseason debut of the second-year Milwaukee Bucks, and they managed a first-round defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers became only the second NBA team to win a series after trailing 3 games to 1 when they beat Phoenix in 7 games in the first round. The Boston Celtics failed to make the playoffs in 1970, despite being the defending champions.
1971: Milwaukee Bucks vs. Maltimore Bullets 4-0: Bomb Led by Finals MVP and the previous season's Rookie of the Year Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson, the Bucks not only became the fastest expansion team in NBA history to win the championship (a record that as of 2010[update] they still hold), but they did so in dominating fashion, finishing 12-2 in the playoffs with an unprecedented 14.5 points postseason average point differential.The playoff format was changed from the previous two-division format. There were now four divisions, with each division qualifying its champion and second-place team. In the conference semifinals, the champion of each division played the second place team in the other, with the divisional champion having home-court advantage. The two conference semifinals winners then played for the conference championship. This was the first NBA Finals appearance for the Bullets, and would be their only trip to the championship round in Baltimore; they would make three more appearances (winning one championship) later in this decade. The 1971 playoffs would be the last for the San Francisco Warriors under that moniker; the following season, symbolizing their already-established home base of Oakland, they changed their name to the Golden State Warriors.
1972: Minneapolis/LA Lakers vs. NY Knicks 4-1:LankyWilt Chamberlain was named NBA Finals MVP. The Lakers finished the regular season with the best record in NBA history at 69-13, a mark that would be unequalled until the 1995–96Chicago Bulls finished 72-10. Led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, the Lakers won their first championship in Los Angeles; their previous title had been in 1954 as the Minneapolis Lakers. The Lakers won their first NBA Finals in the last nine appearances, without superstar Elgin Baylor, who had played in each of the preceding eight finals losses. Baylor retired nine games into the season because of ongoing knee problems.
1973: NY Knicks vs. LA Lakers 4-1: Keels(even keel) The Knicks won their second (and as of 2010[update], most recent) NBA championship. New York's Willis Reed became the first player to win the NBA Finals MVP twice, in the fifth year of the award's existence. The playoff format was modified, as only the divisional champions qualified automatically; two wild-cards were also added from each conference. Once qualification was determined, the four qualifiers were seeded 1-2-3-4 based entirely on record; divisional position no longer mattered. The #1 seed then played #4, and #2 played #3. Because of this new format, New York, the Atlantic Division runner-up, had the home-court advantage versus the Baltimore Bullets, the Central Division champion, since the Knicks had the better regular-season record. The Bullets had had the home-court advantage in the 1972 playoffs versus the Knicks and in the 1971 playoffs versus Philadelphia, even though their record was worse than New York's and Philadelphia's were those seasons, because they had won their division, while the '72 Knicks and '71 76ers were runners-up. This was the second consecutive time (and third in the last four years) that the Lakers and Knicks met in the championship series, and the Lakers-Knicks rivalry ended with two championships won by the Knicks and one by the Lakers. Los Angeles would have to wait until 1980 to return to the finals; New York would not be back in the championship round until 1994.
1974: Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks 4-3: Cutback It was the Celtics' 12th NBA Championship, and the very first one accomplished in the post-Bill Russell era. John Havlicek of the Celtics was named NBA Finals MVP. An injury to Bucks' starting guard Lucius Allen was a key factor in the finals. Using the revised playoff format adopted in 1973, two third-place teams (Buffalo in the East, Detroit in the West) qualified for the playoffs, while the second-place finishers in the Central (Atlanta) and Pacific (Golden State) divisions did not qualify. Also, since the top three Western qualifiers were in the Midwest Division, the two divisional champions in the Western Conference (Milwaukee and Los Angeles) played in the conference semifinals. With a 4-3 series victory over the Detroit Pistons in the first round, the Chicago Bulls earned their first playoff series victory. In their first eight years of existence, the Bulls made the playoffs seven times. As a matter of historical curiosity, three of the four teams in the 1974 Western Conference bracket (Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago) now reside in the Eastern Conference. This was the only appearance of the Capital Bullets in the playoffs under that moniker; the Bullets assumed the "Capital" name for only one year before changing to the Washington Bullets the following season. The 1974 playoffs also marked the playoff debut of the Buffalo Braves, who had joined the league in the 1970-71 season. For the first time in NBA/BAA history (dating back to 1947), neither the Lakers (of Minnesota then Los Angeles) or the Warriors (of Philadelphia then San Francisco and Golden State) participated in a conference (or division prior to 1971) finals series.
1975: Francisco/Golden State Warriors vs. Washington Bullets 4-0: Womb Was an upset (Bullets expected to win) Rick Barry of the Warriors was named NBA Finals MVP. The Warriors won their third NBA championship, first since 1956 as the Philadelphia Warriors, and as of 2010, their most recent title. The playoff format was revised again, as the result of which the first two finishers in each division were guaranteed playoff berths, along with the best third-place team from each conference. Once each conference's qualifiers were selected, they were seeded 1 through 5, with the fourth and fifth seeds playing in a best-of-three series, with the victor advancing to play the first seed in a best-of-seven semifinal, while the second and third seeds played the other semifinal. The eight-year-old Seattle SuperSonics made their playoff debut in 1975, winning the first playoff series in franchise history against the Detroit Pistons. Seattle would go on to make consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 1978 and 1979, winning the championship the latter year. The Kansas City-Omaha Kings made their first postseason appearance since 1967 as the Cincinnati Royals, and the Houston Rockets made their first playoff appearance since 1969 when they played in San Diego. The 1975 playoffs featured an expansion in the number of postseason qualifiers from 8 to 10 teams; it would be expanded to 12 in 1977 and again to its current number of 16 in 1984. At the time, this was the closest the Chicago Bulls would ever come to an NBA title, losing in seven games to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. They wouldn't make it this far again until 1989, this time as a member of the Eastern Conference. They would finally win an NBA title two years later.