The NBA Finals evolved from a simple championship playoff in the late 40’s into one of the most anticipated series in all of sports. The first NBA finals were played following the 1946-47 season where the Philadelphia Warriors emerged victorious over the Chicago Stags. The Warriors now hail from the Golden State, and the Stags are no more, but the Finals carry on. Since its earliest inception, the NBA finals has been dominated by dynasties, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, and San Antonio Spurs. In addition to these dynasties, there were rivalries that really established the NBA Finals as must see TV.
The first true NBA Dynasty was the Minneapolis Lakers, who won 5 titles in a 6 year span from 1948-1954. This team was led by legendary center George Mikan. This Lakers team established the fact that the best teams in the world were playing in this annual tournament and lent legitimacy to the NBA Finals.
The next dynasty to dominate the NBA finals was the Boston Celtics. It can be argued this dynasty is the most impressive in all of sports. The Boston Celtics, led by such players as Bill Russell and John Havlicek, went to 12 NBA finals series in 13 years between 1957-1969. During that time span they won 11 championships, including 8 straight titles. The team was led by legendary coach Red Auerbach, whom many experts tab as the best head coach in NBA history because of the Celtics’ dominance during the late 1950’s and the 1960’s.
After the demise of the Boston Celtics dynasty the 1970’s saw 8 different teams capture the NBA title. This is the most teams to win a championship in any decade in NBA history. NBA Finals began to lose its luster due to the lack of an ascendant dynasty upon which fans and rival teams could focus their attention.
The league’s popularity boomed once more with the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980’s. The Boston Celtics were led by Larry Bird and the Lakers led by Magic Johnson. The rivalry between these two teams is widely considered to be the best rivalry in all of NBA history. During the 1980’s, either one or both of these team played in the NBA finals, with the Lakers claiming 5 titles and the Celtics claiming 3. This rivalry gained international attention and allowed new players to become stars while aging players began to retire. This evolution would be important to the next dynasty led by the greatest player in the history of the NBA.
In the 1990’s, the Chicago Bulls were led by Michael Jordan and the team that built up around him, one that made themselves into one of the most successful teams in NBA history. The team won 6 championships in 8 years from 1991 through 1998. The 2 losses occurred when Michael Jordan left basketball for two years to pursue a lifelong desire to play baseball.
After the Bulls dynasty was dismantled following the 1998 season, there have been two teams that have dominated the NBA finals and have won the majority of the titles since. The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs have won 7 titles combined since 1999. The Los Angeles Lakers won three straight NBA championships from 2000-2002 led by Shaquille O’ Neal and Kobe Bryant. The San Antonio Spurs have won 4 titles since 1999 led by such players as Tim Duncan, Robert Horry, and Tony Parker and every year since 1999 have been a favorite to win the NBA finals because of playoff experience.
The roles of the dynasty has led to the popularity of the NBA finals over the years. Fans of other teams would wait for the reigning dynasty to trip up, following the finals even if their team was not playing. It can be argued without the success of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics throughout NBA finals history that it might not be the event that it is today. That rivalry brought the country together as every fan picked a side. The NBA finals is becoming stronger than ever with many young players beginning to establish themselves as the next generation of legitimate superstars.