Ten NBA Finals To Remember
The 2009 NBA Finals could go down in history as one of the most compelling and interesting contests.
The Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic get set to do battle, with both sides having significant star power.
Kobe Bryant wants to win a championship without the help of Shaquille O'Neal for the first time. Dwight Howard is aiming to set himself among the NBA elite by winning his first title.
Here are ten NBA Finals to remember. Each series impacted the league in different ways.
Some were instant classics due to evenly matched clubs and competitive games, others had historical significance, all share the intrigue that has become part of the legacy of the NBA Finals.
1957: The Dynasty Begins
Bill Russell was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1956 draft.
He was traded to the Boston Celtics and joined Bob Cousy and Tom Heinson. Together, this trio and coach Red Auerbach launched the Celtics championship run that would see Boston in the NBA Finals for 13 consecutive seasons.
During that stretch, the Celtics won 11 NBA Titles, winning eight consecutively between 1959 and 1966.
1959: A Rivalry Is Born
In the midst of their impressive dynasty, the Boston Celtics swept the Minneapolis Lakers 4-0 in the NBA Finals 1959 edition.
The entire country was locked in racial turmoil, and the league itself was struggling to find its' own identity.
Gone were the days of a game in which African-American players were rarely seen. The NBA had no major television deals at the time, as many of the teams were integrating faster than society at large.
The Lakers would make their first appearance in the NBA Finals facing a Celtics franchise, which at the time would be the genesis for a lasting NBA rivalry.
After 10 years of struggle with the Cincinnati Royals, Oscar Robertson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Along side heralded newcomer Lew Alcindor, who would later become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Bucks mowed through the competition in '70-71 and claimed the title for the first time.
This was significant because the Big O had yet to win a title, and it would also be the first for Abdul-Jabbar.
The '71 Finals would also be Alcindor's coming out party as a dominant player in the NBA.
1977: Walton and
After years of bitter talks and negotiations, the NBA and ABA completed their merger in July of 1976.
The NBA had been the old guard to this point in history, with the upstart ABA being the maverick.
The ABA had colorful personalities, uniforms, mascots, tremendously talented players and the fabled red white and blue ball.
Among those absorbed by the NBA was Julius Erving, who in the previous season was the ABA leading scorer. Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers and joined an already powerful Philly lineup.
The individual style of play for the ABA contrasted so greatly with that of the NBA, that many acknowledged the supreme talent of the 76ers.
What was overlooked was the importance of team play, which Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers embodied. Walton helped the Blazers to Portland's only NBA crown.
In the 1979 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers took a ballyhooed point-forward from Michigan State named Earvin Johnson.
In the season that followed, Johnson helped revive a franchise and energize a city. The Lakers were loaded with talent, having Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon, Michael Cooper, and Jamaal Wilkes.
In the Finals, the Lakers faced a Philly team that was equally packed with star power, boasting a roster with the likes of Julius Erving, "Dr. Dunkenstein from the planet Love-Tron" or Darryl Dawkins as he is more commonly known.
Doug Collins, Maurice Cheeks, and Bobby Jones were other notable players on the 76ers roster.
In the end, after a game five win in L.A. in which Abdul-Jabbar was injured, L.A. came to Philly for game six with Johnson as center.
L.A. won without their team captain, Kareem, and the legend of Magic Johnson was born.
1984: Bird Bests Magic In First of Three Epic Battles
Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson. If there was no other explanation for this series, that would be enough.
Since being drafted by their respective clubs in the 1979 draft, Bird and Johnson would only play against each other twice per year.
A Playoff showdown between the two was inevitable.
This battle had many contrasts, pitting old vs. new, east vs. west, Showtime vs. Beantown. What developed throughout the course of this seven game thriller of a series was a rivalry, and over time a sincere friendship, that will endure in the annals of hoops lore.
1989: Bad Boys Take Center Stage
The only thing better than a fiercely contested NBA Finals match-up is one that is filled with intense play, hard physical fouls, and colorful personalities.
The 1989 edition had all of the above.
Perhaps the Detroit Pistons were growing tired of Showtime and Celtic Pride. Perhaps they were anxious to join the championship party.
Detroit and its' cast of colorful players dispatched Magic Johnson's Lakers four games to none.
The Bad Boys roughed up the Lakers, often imposing their will and physical style of play on them.
In addition to the contrasting styles of play, the head coaches, Pat Riley for the Lakers and Chuck Daley for Detroit waged a chess match of X's and O's that would cement them as legends in the sport.
The 1989 final was also a changing of the guard of sorts as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar concluded his illustrious career.
1991: Magic Gives Way to Air Jordan
The 1991 NBA finals signified the end of one era in modern basketball, and the beginning of another.
The Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan ended the run of Showtime and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jordan, who had dazzled the league and fans with his eye-popping flights to the rim had yet to win the coveted NBA crown.
Magic Johnson was nearing the end of his stellar career. This was the perfect storm of sorts for a passing of the torch.
The old meets the new, and this game and stage would propel Jordan into Super-Stardom.
Johnson did not ride quietly into the sunset, showing flashes of his brilliance at times. The Bulls and Air Jordan proved to be more than the Lakers could handle, winning easily four games to one.
This would be the first of six titles for Chicago, and it would be the Lakers last appearance in the finals in the decade.
1998: Air Jordan Cleared for Take-off One Last Time
The 1998 Finals were a repeat of the previous year, pitting Chicago against Utah.
The Jazz had Stockton and Malone, the Bulls had Scottie and Michael.
Even though the series was not truly close, it had drama and suspense throughout.
Five of six games were tightly contested throughout and the Jazz with their two aging stars seemed hungry for a title.
The lasting memory of this final was the last shot.
After stripping Karl Malone and less than a minute to play, Jordan left no doubt that he was this generation's most compelling athlete.
He was guarded by Bryon Russell, who got tangled in a Jordan cross-over. When Jordan saw Russell lean, he elevated from just outside the free-throw line and pumped in the game and series winning shot.
Bulls 87, Utah 86.
2007: Return of Celtic Pride and Showtime
After more than 20 years out of the spotlight, the Boston Celtics again captured NBA Championship gold by defeating the Lakers four games to two.
This series was made for history as two cities steeped in NBA tradition renewed a championship rivalry.
Kobe Bryant helped the Lakers to their first finals since the departure of Shaquille O'Neal. Boston got there with the help of the Big Three, (Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett).
For the Celtics, their win put an end to 20 plus years of futility, which started with the drafting and untimely death of Len Bias.
Kevin Garnett was welcomed into the Celtic family by Boston legend Bill Russell, who said in an interview that should KG and the C's fail to win a championship ring in Boston, Russell would give one of his to Garnett. No need.
The Celtics won the series going away, and thrilled the city of Boston in the process.