Even though the Milwaukee-Phoenix NBA Finals may not be the flashiest of markets, it has proven to be an entertaining championship stage. There are plenty of storylines that have fulfilled this series. Either the Suns will win their first championships, or the Bucks will be winners for the first time since 1971.
When looking at the NBA Finals over the last 10 years, there have been other storylines that have led to memorable moments too. Will the 2021 NBA Finals find a spot in the upper part of the rankings? If so, these are the top NBA Finals over the last 10 years.
10. Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks - 2021
For now, the Suns-Bucks series ranks at the bottom of the rankings because it has not concluded yet. With that said, it has the potential to rank as high as the top-5 with the way it has started. Chris Paul has a chance to win his first championship and lead the Suns to their first-ever championship. Meanwhile, Giannis Antetokounmpo could lead the Bucks to their first title since the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The play of Giannis has also been widely spectacular. Giannis owns back-to-back games of at least 40 points. Michael Jordan owns the record with four consecutive games of at least 40 points in the NBA Finals. If Giannis can break the record, which would be three more games, and an NBA Finals championship, this would be just as legendary of a series.
9. Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - 2018
The 2018 NBA Finals were an absolute dud. The Cavaliers didn’t have Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers made their way through a watered-down Eastern Conference. The Golden State Warriors were just too good. Kevin Durant won his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP.
The Warriors swept the Cavaliers 4-0 and the games weren’t competitive. The smallest deficit of loss by the Cavaliers was eight points. The Cavaliers were then blown away 108-85 in the final game. Talk about an absolute bore.
8. Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - 2017
In the first year of Kevin Durant joining the Warriors, it was nice to see Durant finally win a championship, but it came with adversity. The fact that Durant joined a superteam that won 73 games the previous year made Durant and the Warriors villains. Just like in 2018, the Finals were somewhat boring because of how good Golden State was.
In the first game, the Warriors won 113-91 and then won Game 2 by a score of 132-113. The Warriors then won Game 3 in Cleveland 118-113 before getting blown away by 20 points in Game 4. When the series shifted back to the Oracle, Durant, and Curry teamed up for 73 points to win 129-120.
7. Miami Heat vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - 2012
It was the supervillains versus the young kids. It was the first time that the big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh won an NBA championship, with it being LeBron and Bosh’s first overall title in general. They had to battle a trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden in their younger 20s.
While the story of OKC making the NBA Finals was a headline on its own, taking down the Heat Big 3 was another story. The Thunder won Game 1 and the whole country erupted with joy, but then dropped four consecutive games to lose the series. The Heat won three straight games by six points or less, making it one climatic ending for each night.
6. Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs - 2014
It was the rematch of 2013 and the Spurs were a hungry team. The Heat were trying to complete the first three-peat since Kobe Bryant and Shaq’s Lakers in 2000-2002. With the series tied 1-1, the showdown moved back to Miami. From there, a young ballplayer named Kawhi Leonard erupted for 29 points in Game 3 to give the Spurs a 111-92 win. Then, Leonard secured a double-double in Game 4 as the Spurs blew away the Heat 107-86.
It almost felt like the Heat gave up when the series returned to San Antonio. The Spurs blasted the Heat 104-87 and Tim Duncan secured championship number five. Leonard won NBA Finals MVP, while the loss contributed to LeBron leaving the Heat and returning to the Cavaliers.
5. Miami Heat vs. Los Angeles Lakers - 2020
This NBA Finals featured a lot more emotions compared to the past. While the pandemic had given fans across the globe its emotional stress, the loss of Lakers icon Kobe Bryant was never forgotten. Bryant touched a lot of players during his career, but it was fitting that it was LeBron James that led the Lakers to a title to celebrate Bryant’s life.
The series itself featured some great moments too. LeBron and Anthony Davis were an offensive force that could not be stopped. Jimmy Butler scored his first career 40-point game in the NBA Finals. A 21-year old Tyler Herro nearly shot the Heat past the Lakers in Game 4. In the end, given the circumstances, seeing the Lakers win this title was a surreal moment.
4. Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - 2015
The first game of this NBA Finals featured 44 points from LeBron James in a losing, overtime effort to the Warriors. Then, a second consecutive overtime battle was decided dramatically as LeBron’s 39 points led Cleveland to a 95-93 victory in Game 2. Cleveland took a 2-1 series lead after a 96-91 win and 40 points from LeBron in Game 3.
After the Warriors blew out Cleveland in Game 4, the Warriors took Game 5 thanks to 37 points from Steph Curry. In the final game, Finals MVP Andre Iguodala had his best offensive showing with 25 points, while Curry added 25 of his own, to claim Golden State’s first championship since 1975.
3. Toronto Raptors vs. Golden State Warriors - 2019
While we mostly associate the 2019 playoffs with Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer-beat in Game 7 of the semifinals, the 2019 NBA Finals were equally spectacular. In the first game, Pascal Siakam scored 32 points to lead the Raptors 118-109 in Game 1. Then, the Warriors used a combined 48 points from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to tie the series. When the series returned to the Bay, Leonard scored 30 points to give Toronto a 2-1 series lead.
Leonard upped the ante in Game 4 by scoring 36 points to sweep both games on the road and the series returned to Toronto with a chance to clinch. Then, we remember how it all went down. Kevin Durant ruptured his Achilles tendon in his first game back from an injury. At the time, Durant had scored 11 points in 12 minutes. The Warriors somehow staved off elimination to win an epic 106-105 game.
However, the misfortunes for Golden State continued in Game 6 when Thompson tore his ACL. Who can ever forget Thompson hobbling to the free-throw line and making both shots? Thompson was on fire with 30 points at the time. With two superstars gone, the Raptors won their first-ever NBA championship with a 114-110 win, and Leonard was named Finals MVP.
2. Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - 2016
The Golden State Warriors were supposed to be like the 1996 Chicago Bulls. The team broke the regular-season wins record with a 73-9 season. It was supposed to be capped with a championship, but instead, LeBron delivered on a promise to bring his home state its first NBA championship and he did it dramatically.
The Warriors played their way to a 3-1 series advantage. To push off elimination, the Cavaliers won Game 5 thanks to two 41-point performances by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Then, LeBron scored 41 points for a consecutive night to help the team win Game 6 by a score of 115-101.
In the decisive Game 7, it featured some memorable moments. With the score tied 89-89 in the final minutes, you take your pick of the most thrilling play. There was Irving’s go-ahead three-point shot. There was a block by LeBron on Andre Iguodala in transition. The Cavaliers held the Warriors to 13 fourth-quarter points. LeBron was hailed as a hero and the Warriors choked away the series, putting an asterisk on their record-setting season.
1. Miami Heat vs San Antonio Spurs - 2013
In the first four games of the series, the two teams battled to a 2-2 series tie. The Spurs were able to take Game 5 thanks to 20-point efforts from Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green. The Spurs needed to take just one game as the series transitioned back to Miami, but it would never happen.
Game 6 is a game that will always be remembered by fans. The Spurs were 18 seconds away from winning their fifth championship when leading 95-92. LeBron took the game-tying three-point shot but missed to the right. Chris Bosh secured the offensive rebound and found Ray Allen open on the baseline. Allen took one shot back and hit the game-tying three-point shot.
In overtime, the Heat won 103-100 to force a Game 7. LeBron had one of his best games of the series with 37 points and Miami won their second consecutive title. Many Lebron-haters go back to that Game 6 as a reason for why he shouldn’t be considered the greatest of all time. In the end, it was one of the best moments in the NBA Finals in the last 10 years.