The NBA Finals series is the equivalent of a Grand Final series that decides the winner of the NBA season.
The regular season traditionally ends in mid-April, with the playoffs starting just days later. The NBA Finals, following the playoffs, traditionally commence in June.
To qualify for the NBA Finals teams must finish in the top eight places of their respective conference, and win their way through to become conference champion during what are called the playoffs.
Playoff matches are played as part of a best of seven game series whereby the top four teams in each conference play their lower ranked counterparts – 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6, 4 v 5.
Teams progress forward when they have won four games against an opponent until they are knocked-out of contention or remain as the lone team standing in their conference.
The Finals sees the East and West conference winners competing for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
For much of the NBA’s nascent years the Finals were dominated by the Boston Celtics and Minneapolis Lakers (now Los Angeles Lakers). From 1947-56 the Lakers won an incredible five from six championships, not to be outdone in the years 1957-69 Bill Russell and the Celtics won 11 from 12. The Celtics have also had considerable success from the 1980s onward.
In the era spanning 1990 – 2000 the competition was dominated by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, arguably one of the greatest basketball teams of all time. In the modern era, 2000-present, the Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs have dominated, with the LeBron James-led Miami Heat winning twice.
In total, the Celtics have won the most championships to date (17), with the Lakers second (16) and Bulls third (6). Winning a Larry O’Brien Trophy is considered so prestigious amongst players and fans alike that they will largely ignore individuals from discussions of greatness if they have not won a ring, or an NBA Finals most-valuable player (MVP) title.
In 2016, a Stephen Curry led Golden State Warriors took on a Cleveland Cavaliers side boasting the likes of Lebron James and Kyrie Irving. The Warriors flew out of the gates and to a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead as Curry as well as fellow splash brother Klay Thompson and big man Draymond Green asserted their dominance on the fixture.
However, it wasn’t pleasant for Warriors fans from then on as James inspired his Cleveland side to come back from the brink and claim a famous victory. Games five and six saw big performances from the Cleveland native as well as point guard Irving who posted big numbers to force the series to a seventh and final game.
Game seven was an absolute thriller as the Cavs edged the star-studded Warriors by a slender four points. Irving’s match-winning three-pointer over Curry will live on in history as will the Warriors’ infamous surrender of a 3-1 buffer. James had delivered on his promise and delivered the Cavaliers their first ever championship.