The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs have punched their tickets back to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, giving basketball fans all over the globe a much-anticipated and welcomed finals rematch. Making it to the NBA Finals in consecutive years is an achievement that has been reserved for the best of the best. To have two teams accomplish that feat in back to back years is something very rare and special. Let’s take a look back at some of the best NBA Finals rematches of the last 50 years.
1- 1998 NBA Finals, Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz had worked their way into the NBA’s elite during the early-to-mid 90’s and reached their first NBA Finals in 1997, only to run into a peaking Chicago Bulls team that was in the midst of their second Finals 3-peat of the decade. The following season Utah was poised to end the Bulls run of dominance. The Jazz and Bulls finished the season tied with the league’s best record, each winning 62 games, but Utah was awarded the top seed in the NBA by virtue of sweeping the two-game regular season series with Chicago. Michael Jordan clinched the series for the Bulls by making one of the most memorable shots in NBA Finals history, dribbling by Utah defender Byron Russell and hitting a long jumper to give Chicago the lead with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6. The Bulls would defeat the Jazz four games to two for the second straight year.
2- 1983 NBA Finals, Philadelphia 76ers vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Julius Irving was one of the most polarizing players of his era in the NBA but couldn’t seem to get his Sixers over the top. He led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals in 1980 and 1982, both times running into the Los Angeles Lakers who were just beginning their run of eight Finals appearances in the 1980’s. The Lakers won their second title in three years in ’82 led by new coach Pat Riley and Finals MVP Magic Johnson. Philadelphia would finally get their revenge in 1983 after adding hall of famer Moses Malone during the offseason. Malone would be named MVP of the Finals, as well as league MVP, and the 76ers completed a dominant postseason with a four-game sweep of the defending champion Lakers.
3- 1973 NBA Finals, New York Knicks vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The 1960’s was a very frustrating decade for the Los Angeles Lakers. From 1962 to 1970 the Lakers reached the NBA Finals seven times only to be dispatched each and every year. They would finally get over the hump in ’72 giving Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West their long coveted NBA titles. The win came at the expense of the injury riddled New York Knicks who had beaten the Lakers in the Finals just two years earlier. New York would get the last laugh in the ’73 Finals, dropping Game 1 before winning four straight to clinch their second NBA championship. The Knicks were led by Finals MVP Willis Reed and fellow hall of famers Jerry Lucas, Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe. Game 5 of the Finals would be the final NBA game for Wilt Chamberlain.
4- 1989 NBA Finals, Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Detroit Pistons of the late 1980’s, better known as the Bad Boys, had been steadily improving every year leading up to their first visit to the NBA Finals in 1988. The Pistons were one of the most physical teams in league history and had embraced being the villain of the NBA while becoming one of the best teams of their era. Led by Isiah Thomas, Detroit almost dethroned the Lakers in ’88, leading the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 in L.A. Thomas had one of the most memorable games in Finals history, badly twisting his ankle during the 3rd quarter but still scoring a still-NBA Finals record 25 points in the period. Thomas finished with 43 points despite barely being able to walk let alone run for most of the second half, but the Lakers would persevere both in the game and the series.
The following year Detroit logged the NBA’s best record with 63 wins, but it was the Lakers who looked like the better team heading into the Finals after sweeping their way through the Western Conference with a perfect 11-0 record. This time around it was the Lakers who were bit by the injury bug, losing both Magic Johnson and Byron Scott to hamstring injuries. With their starting backcourt in shambles, Los Angeles was no match for the Pistons who swept the Lakers en route to their first NBA Finals victory.
5- 1979 NBA Finals, Washington Bullets vs. Seattle Supersonics
The Bullets franchise finally got over the hump in 1978 after being swept in its previous two Finals appearances during the 1970’s. Washington battled injuries throughout the ’78 season but finished with the 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, beating the top-two seeds on their way to meeting Seattle in the Finals. In a memorable 7-game series the Bullets would fall behind three games to two before winning Game’s 6 and 7. It remains as the last time that the road team won a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. The teams would meet again in the Finals the following year and this time it would be the Sonics who got the last laugh. Seattle lost Game 1 on the road before winning the next four, led by Gus Williams who led the Sonics in scoring during all five Finals games.
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