History of NBA Finals Dynasties
The first dynasty to emerge within the NBA following the 1949 merger of the BAA and NBL was that of the Minneapolis Lakers, who won five NBA championship titles in six years spanning 1948-1954, led by center George Mikan, now a legend within the sport.
The next dynasty to emerge within the NBA, during the years spanning 1957-1969, were the Boston Celtics, competing in twelve Finals series during that period and winning eleven NBA championship titles within those thirteen years alone – with eight of them as consecutive wins from 1959-1966. Leading the team to its legendary victories were coach Red Auerbach and players Bill Russell and John Havlicek.
In years absent of NBA dynasties and rivalries upon which fans can direct their fervor and support, NBA Finals fail to draw nearly as much attention as in pique years. In the 1970’s, eight different teams succeeded in winning NBA championship titles, and fan fervor waned temporarily. It grew heated once again, however, as a rivalry surfaced during the 1980’s between the Lakers (led by Magic Johnson) and the Celtics (led by Larry Bird), both leading players having entered the league the year before, carrying over their widely-viewed college basketball rivalry from their respective teams, Michigan State University and Indiana State University. Magic Johnson made an even bigger name for himself when playing in his first NBA Finals in 1980, the conclusion of his first season in the professional league, and leading his team to victory after having to play every position on the court during game six after an injury that took star player Kareem Abdul Jabbar out of the game, scoring 42 points contributing to his teams win during his first championship. Throughout the decade either one or both of the rivaling teams competed in the Finals – the Lakers won the title five times (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988) and the Celtics won the titles three times (1981, 1984, and 1986). In 1984, the Celtics and the Lakers contested one another in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1969, and the match-up drew the largest NBA game television audience in the history of the championship. The Celtics emerged as the victors in a close competing, winning four games to three. During the 1985 NBA Finals, during the first game of the playoffs – remembered as the “Memorial Day Massacre” – the Celtics set the still-standing record of 148 points as the highest point total by a team in the NBA Finals. However, the Lakers won the championship title that year in six games, the Celtics losing the sixth and final game on their home court for the first and only time in their playoff history.
At the conclusion of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980’s, emerged the Chicago Bulls dynasty, spanning 1991-1998, winning six championships during that eight year period, led by Phil Jackson as coach and by legendary player Michael Jordan, along with notables Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. (The only two losses had been suffered during the two years, 1994 and 1995, when Michael Jordan temporarily left the team and the sport to pursue a baseball career instead. During the years he had played for the Bulls in the play-offs, he had been honored as the recipient of the Finals MVP sports award after each game.) He returned and began again leading the team to victory in the 1996 play-offs, and continued until the end of the 1998-1999 season. At the start of the 1999 basketball season, however, Phil Jackson retired from his position as coach, and the majority of the teams’ strongest players left as well, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen included, effectively ending the team’s dynasty and strong performance record. Since that team’s dynasty, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs have dominated the NBA Finals, winning more titles than any other team combined during the period since 1999. Each year from 1999-2010, the NBA Finals have featured either or both of the Los Angeles Lakers (led by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal) or the San Antonio Spurs (led by Tim Duncan). In 2008, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers contested the championship title for the eleventh time in the history of the playoffs – the first time since 1987 – with the Celtics emerging victorious in six games, marking their record-setting 17th NBA Championship. In 2010, they met on the court for the playoffs once again, this time with the Lakers emerging victorious, inching upon the Celtics’ most titles record, with this marking their 16th NBA Championship win.