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NBA Previous Champions & History

  • A guide to the previous winners and runners-up of the NBA Championship
  • The NBA is the world's biggest basketball league
  • Guide to the recent champions and history of NBA basketball
larry o'brien trophy
The Larry O'Brien championship trophy is awarded to the NBA champions (Getty Images)

The NBA is widely considered to be the elite level of men's professional basketball in the world with winning the NBA Championship the pinnacle of the sport.

All 30 NBA teams go through a 82-game regular season. The best eight teams from each conference compete in a playoff series before the Eastern and Western conference champions then square off in the grand finale.

The NBA Finals which culminates in June and the Boston Celtic and Los Angeles Lakers have been the most successful teams in history with 17 NBA titles each.

There are often periods where one team dominates the competition such as the Celtics in the 1960’s, Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980’s and 2000’s, the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s and currently the Golden State Warriors from 2015-2019.

NBA Champions & Runners-Up


Year
Western Conference
Score
Eastern Conference
2020 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Miami Heat
2019 Golden State Warriors 2–4 Toronto Raptors
2018 Golden State Warriors 4–0 Cleveland Cavaliers
2017 Golden State Warriors 4–1 Cleveland Cavaliers
2016 Golden State Warriors 3–4 Cleveland Cavaliers
2015 Golden State Warriors 4–2 Cleveland Cavaliers
2014 San Antonio Spurs 4–1 Miami Heat
2013 San Antonio Spurs 3–4 Miami Heat
2012 Oklahoma City Thunder 1–4 Miami Heat
2011 Dallas Mavericks 4–2 Miami Heat
2010 Los Angeles Lakers 4–3 Boston Celtics
2009 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 Orlando Magic
2008 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 Boston Celtics
2007 San Antonio Spurs 4–0 Cleveland Cavaliers
2006 Dallas Mavericks 2–4 Miami Heat
2005 San Antonio Spurs 4–3 Detroit Pistons
2004 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 Detroit Pistons
2003 San Antonio Spurs 4–2 New Jersey Nets
2002 Los Angeles Lakers 4–0 New Jersey Nets
2001 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 Philadelphia 76ers
2000 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Indiana Pacers
1999 San Antonio Spurs 4–1 New York Knicks
1998 Utah Jazz 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1997 Utah Jazz 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1996 Seattle SuperSonics 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1995 Houston Rockets 4–0 Orlando Magic
1994 Houston Rockets 4–3 New York Knicks
1993 Phoenix Suns 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1992 Portland Trail Blazers 2–4 Chicago Bulls
1991 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 Chicago Bulls
1990 Portland Trail Blazers 1–4 Detroit Pistons
1989 Los Angeles Lakers 0–4 Detroit Pistons
1988 Los Angeles Lakers 4–3 Detroit Pistons
1987 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Boston Celtics
1986 Houston Rockets 2–4 Boston Celtics
1985 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Boston Celtics
1984 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1983 Los Angeles Lakers 0–4 Philadelphia 76ers
1982 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Philadelphia 76ers
1981 Houston Rockets 2–4 Boston Celtics
1980 Los Angeles Lakers 4–2 Philadelphia 76ers
1979 Seattle SuperSonics 4–1 Washington Bullets
1978 Seattle SuperSonics 3–4 Washington Bullets
1977 Portland Trail Blazers 4–2 Philadelphia 76ers
1976 Phoenix Suns 2–4 Boston Celtics
1975 Golden State Warriors 4–0 Washington Bullets
1974 Milwaukee Bucks 3–4 Boston Celtics
1973 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 New York Knicks
1972 Los Angeles Lakers 4–1 New York Knicks
1971 Milwaukee Bucks 4–0 Baltimore Bullets
1970 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 New York Knicks
1969 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1968 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 Boston Celtics
1967 San Francisco Warriors 2–4 Philadelphia 76ers
1966 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1965 Los Angeles Lakers 1–4 Boston Celtics
1964 San Francisco Warriors 1–4 Boston Celtics
1963 Los Angeles Lakers 2–4 Boston Celtics
1962 Los Angeles Lakers 3–4 Boston Celtics
1961 St. Louis Hawks 1–4 Boston Celtics
1960 St. Louis Hawks 3–4 Boston Celtics
1959 Minneapolis Lakers 0–4 Boston Celtics
1958 St. Louis Hawks 4–2 Boston Celtics
1957 St. Louis Hawks 3–4 Boston Celtics
1956 Fort Wayne Pistons 1–4 Philadelphia Warriors
1955 Fort Wayne Pistons 3–4 Syracuse Nationals
1954 Minneapolis Lakers 4–3 Syracuse Nationals
1953 Minneapolis Lakers 4–1 New York Knicks
1952 Minneapolis Lakers 4–3 New York Knicks
1951 Rochester Royals 4–3 New York Knicks
1950 Minneapolis Lakers 4–2 Syracuse Nationals
1949 Minneapolis Lakers 4–2 Washington Capitols
1948 Baltimore Bullets 4–2 Philadelphia Warriors
1947 Chicago Stags 1–4 Philadelphia Warriors

NBA Champions (by titles)


TeamsWinLossTotalYear(s) wonYear(s) lost
Boston Celtics 17 4 21 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1981, 1984, 1986, 2008 1958, 1985, 1987, 2010
Los Angeles Lakers 17 15 32 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1972, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 2020 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2020 1959, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1983, 1984, 1989, 1991, 2004, 2008
Golden State Warriors 6 5 11 1947, 1956, 1975, 2015, 2017, 2018 1948, 1964, 1967, 2016, 2019
Chicago Bulls 6 0 6 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998
San Antonio Spurs 5 1 6 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014 2013
Philadelphia 76ers 3 6 9 1955, 1967, 1983 1950, 1954, 1977, 1980, 1982, 2001
Detroit Pistons 3 4 7 1989, 1990, 2004 1955, 1956, 1988, 2005
Miami Heat 3 3 6 2006, 2012, 2013 2011, 2014, 2020
New York Knicks 2 6 8 1970, 1973 1951, 1952, 1953, 1972, 1994, 1999
Houston Rockets 2 2 4 1994, 1995 1981, 1986
Cleveland Cavaliers 1 4 5 2016 2007, 2015, 2017, 2018
Atlanta Hawks 1 3 4 1958 1957, 1960, 1961
Washington Wizards 1 3 4 1978 1971, 1975, 1979
Oklahoma City Thunder 1 3 4 1979 1978, 1996, 2012
Portland Trail Blazers 1 2 3 1977 1990, 1992
Milwaukee Bucks 1 1 2 1971 1974
Dallas Mavericks 1 1 2 2011 2006
Baltimore Bullets 1 0 1 1948
Sacramento Kings 1 0 1 1951
Toronto Raptors 1 0 1 2019
Phoenix Suns 0 2 2 1976, 1993
Utah Jazz 0 2 2 1997, 1998
Brooklyn Nets 0 2 2 2002, 2003
Orlando Magic 0 2 2 1995, 2009
Chicago Stags 0 1 1 1947
Washington Capitols 0 1 1 1949
Indiana Pacers 0 1 1 2000
Charlotte Hornets
Denver Nuggets
Los Angeles Clippers
Memphis Grizzlies
Minnesota Timberwolves
New Orleans Pelicans

NBA History


The Basketball Association of America was founded in 1946. The first NBA game was played on November 1, 1946, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada when the Toronto Huskies hosted the New York Knickerbockers at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The NBA introduced the 24-second shot clock in 1954.

Bill Russell joined the Boston Celtics in 1957 and went on to lead the Celtics to eleven NBA titles in thirteen seasons. That run included eight straight championships from 1959 to 1966 which is the longest streak in NBA history. 

The NBA evolved with the Minneapolis Lakers moving to Los Angeles, the Philadelphia Warriors relocating to San Francisco, the Syracuse Nationals moving to Philadelphia to become the Philadelphia 76ers and the St. Louis Hawks moving to Atlanta.

The Chicago Packers became the ninth NBA team in 1961. The NBA saw rapid expansion from 1966 to 1968 when it expanded from 9 to 14 teams. In 1967 the NBA faced a threat from the American Basketball Association (ABA) who succeeded in signing a number of major stars in the 1970s.

From 1966 to 1974 the NBA grew from 9 franchises to 18. Following the 1976 season the ABA and NBA reached a settlement which saw the addition of four ABA franchises to the NBA - San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and New York Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets).

The NBA added the ABA's three-point field goal in 1979. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson joined the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers respectively which saw interest in the NBA grow significantly.

In the 1980s Johnson led the Lakers to five NBA titles and Bird led the Celtics to three NBA titles.

Michael Jordan entered the league in 1984 with the Chicago Bulls. The Detroit Pistons won the back-to-back NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990 but the Bulls became the dominant force with Jordan and Scottie Pippen leading the Bulls to two three-peats in eight years from 1991 to 1998.

Hakeem Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and 1995.

In 1998 the NBA owners began a lockout that suspended the season until a new labor agreement was reached. Half the season was lost.

In the early 2000's Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships. 

The 2008 Finals saw a rematch of the NBA's biggest rivalry, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics won their 17th championship largely thanks to the big three of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

In 2011 there was another lockout which resulted in a shortened 66-game season. 

LeBron James became the dominant player in the NBA when he switched from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat. After four seasons with the Heat, LeBron James returned to the Cavaliers. In 2016 he led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Championship, becoming the first team in history to overturn a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

In the 2016-17 season, the Golden State Warriors recruited Kevin Durant. He was the Most Valuable Player in the 2017 NBA Finals and led the team to another Championship in 2018 when the Warriors swept the Cavaliers.

During free agency in 2018 LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. The Warriors returned to the Finals for the fifth straight year but were beaten 4-2 by the Toronto Raptors who were led by Kawhi Leonard. It was the Raptors' first NBA championship.

On March 11, 2020 the NBA suspended the remainder of its season "until further notice" because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The season restarted on July 30, 2020 with 22 teams playing eight additional regular season games to determine playoff seeding.

The delayed season was eventually won by the LA Lakers for a record-equalling 17th NBA title.

NBA Champions FAQs

Who has won the most NBA Championships?

Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have both won 17 NBA Championships.

How are the NBA champions decided?

The NBA Finals is a seven match series between the Western Conference winners and Eastern Conference winners. This match decides the winner of the NBA Championship.

What is the NBA Championship trophy called?

The NBA champions are awarded the Larry O'Brien trophy.

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