As we sit and wait (and wait and wait…) for this year’s NBA Finals between the Eastern Conference-champion Boston Celtics, and the Western Conference-champion L.A. Lakers, who are meeting to decide the league title for the 12th time, it is a prime window for reflecting on the history of the NBA’s championship round.
And in examining the past of NBA Finals’ match-ups, the questions emerge naturally: What makes for a “great” series?
Is it familiarity and contempt for one another?
Is it two established teams, replete with recognizable faces and names and games, going at it tooth-and-nail for one last (or one more) taste of glory?
Because if those are the primary measuring sticks, the 2010 rendition could soon fall into that category of great.
Two teams, just two years removed from a Finals meeting, with a history and an animosity, and two franchises with deep reservoirs of both, dating back to their first Finals rendezvous, in 1962.
Or, is a memorable series defined by competitiveness?
Are great series really made by great plays and great games—moments frozen in time, seemingly capturing the essence of what a championship should be?
Because, of course, that could surely manifest with an array of talent as balanced and diverse as we will see come Thursday night.
Maybe it will be a Kobe buzzer-beater in the waning moments of a Game Seven.
Maybe a Rajon Rondo 25-15-15 game to put the Lakers away—only time will tell.
Or finally, maybe it’s a landmark pivot point in the trajectory of NBA history which renders a Finals legendary?
Because if that’s the criteria, the case could be made that either one of these battle-tested units is on the threshold of establishing a mini-dynasty, or, at the very least, groups that must be mentioned as the cream of the era.
In short, there is no right answer, nor one black-and-white formula for classifying the greatness of a series.
Ultimately, how it resonates in time is settled by the content of the games, and the ebb-and-flow of a particular series, and all of the above factors could play a role.
Which is why I have sifted through the 62 Finals already in the books, and carefully selected the top 10 NBA Finals in league history.