Over the last two weeks, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors have battled on the NBA’s biggest stage to win the best-of-seven series for the Larry O’Brien Trophy to become champions.
It has been a closely contested series thus far, which got my mind wondering: What is the best NBA Finals matchup I’ve witnessed?
So, here are my top five NBA Finals matchups I’ve watched. (Note: The first NBA Finals I remember watching is the 2007 NBA Finals).
No. 5: 2020 Los Angeles Lakers defeat Miami Heat 4-2
This is often referred to as the “bubble” championship by a lot of people. After the NBA season endured a lengthy postponement due to COVID-19, the league moved to finish the season in Florida.
For the purposes of this column, I won’t revisit all of the details surrounding that season. Suffice it to say that the players played through some strenuous circumstances. Knowing that made this Finals run by the Lakers even more impressive to me.
The 2020 championship was also the organization’s 17th title, which tied the Lakers with the Celtics for the most in the league.
No. 4: 2011 Dallas Mavericks defeat Miami Heat 4-2
I remember vividly all of the questions surrounding this Finals result. Will Lebron James ever
win a championship? Is the Heat’s “Big 3” a failure?
Obviously, those questions have since been answered and are removed from NBA fans’ minds, but it was still an interesting result at the time. On top of that, it seemed like no one gave the Mavericks a shot heading into this matchup and they stunned the world.
No. 3: 2013 Miami Heat defeat San Antonio Spurs 4-3
Remember those questions I mentioned earlier? This is the series that really put those to rest. Now, I know Lebron and the Heat won the Finals the year prior, but it was against a young, inexperienced Oklahoma City Thunder squad. This time, Lebron led his team to defeat a dynasty in the Spurs.
Plus, Ray Allen delivered an iconic moment with a clutch three-pointer and forced the seventh game that the Heat won 95-88.
Following this Finals, the discussion seemed to really take off concerning Lebron’s status for greatest of all-time. In my opinion, he’s not, but that’s a discussion for another day.
No. 2: 2010 Los Angeles Lakers defeat Boston Celtics 4-3
Legacy was on the line for this Finals matchup in more ways than one.
My favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant was searching for his fifth championship. The Lakers were seeking revenge for the 2008 Finals matchup they lost to the Celtics. Then, the Celtics had a “Big 3” of their own with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen whose legacies were on the line, too.
It’s safe to say that NBA fans could look at the history books differently based on this Finals result.
After going the distance, the Lakers defeated the Celtics giving Kobe his fifth championship — his second championship without Shaquille O’Neal and one more than his former teammate. The Lakers got their revenge from their loss two years prior and the Celtics’ “Big 3” separated a couple of years later having only won one Finals.
It was a Finals series that I thought would never be topped until it was.
No. 1: 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers defeat Golden State Warriors 4-3
This is not only the best NBA Finals I’ve ever watched, but it is arguably the best Finals in NBA history, too.
The Warriors recorded the best regular season finish by going 73-9 and advancing to the NBA Finals and establishing a 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers. Then, the Cavaliers became the first and still the only team to come back from such a deficit and win the Finals.
To cap off the historic series was one of the best game sevens of all-time that delivered many memorable moments that will live on forever.
Phillip B. Hubbard is sports editor for The Covington News. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org