Which Team Has the Most NBA Finals Appearances?

The Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors are among the teams with the most NBA Finals appearances in league history

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Which team has the most NBA Finals appearances? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Entering the season, six teams had never advanced to the NBA Finals. Cross one of those teams off the list. 

The Denver Nuggets are set to make their NBA Finals debut next week after sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. That leaves only the Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans as the only teams yet to reach the Finals.  

Prior to this season, the Nuggets had been 0-4 in the Western Conference Finals. They finally broke that streak by easily disposing of the Lakers, the team with the most Finals appearances, and will now face another team that has become a Finals regular. 

The Miami Heat will play in their seventh NBA Finals, matching the Lakers for the most appearances in the NBA since 2000. 

The Heat first made the Finals in 2006, with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal leading the team to its first championship. LeBron James then took his talent to South Beach and led the Heat to the Finals in all four of his seasons with the team, winning three titles. Jimmy Butler guided Miami back to the Finals during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season in the NBA Bubble, where the Heat fell to the Lakers.

And now, after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals and preventing a near historic comeback by winning Game 7, they’re back. 

How many NBA teams have made more Finals appearances than the Heat? Here’s a look at the 10 teams with the most Finals berths in league history:     

1. Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers – 32 appearances

The Lakers’ extensive championship pedigree stretches over 70 years. They won their first title in Minneapolis in 1949 and won their most recent title in the Orlando bubble during the 2020 season. Overall, the Lakers are tied for the most championships in NBA history and are 17-15 in their Finals appearances.

2. Boston Celtics – 22 appearances

The Celtics have the same number of rings as the Lakers in 11 fewer Finals appearances. Boston is 17-5 in their Finals series, including a run of eight straight triumphs from 1959 to 1966. Their most recent championship came in 2008 against the Lakers and their most recent Finals berth was last year against the Warriors.

3. Philadelphia/San Francisco/Golden State Warriors – 12 appearances

The Warriors won the first-ever Finals as part of the Basketball Association of America in 1947. After winning in 1956 and 1975, the Warriors broke a 40-year title drought in 2015 and have been a consistent Western Conference representative in the Finals ever since. Only the Lakers have more NBA Finals appearances since 2000 (8) than the Warriors have since 2015 (6).

4. Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers – 9 appearances

The Nationals won one of their three Finals appearances before becoming the Sixers in 1963. They are 2-4 in their six Finals series since making the switch, with their most recent championship coming in 1983. They’ve made it to the Finals just once since then, falling to the Lakers in 2001.

5. New York Knicks – 8 appearances

The Knicks reached a pair of Finals in the 1990s, but their last championship dates back to 1973. They had two stretches in franchise history where they made three Finals appearances in quick succession, making three straight from 1951 to 1953 and three more between 1970 and 1973. In all, the Knicks are 2-6 in the eight Finals they’ve played.

6. Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons – 7 appearances

The Pistons have made their seven Finals appearances in bunches. They lost consecutive Finals in 1955 and 1956, made three straight appearances from 1988 to 1990 and made back-to-back trips in 2004 and 2005. They are 3-4 in Finals with their championships coming in 1989, 1990 and 2004.

7. Miami Heat – 7 appearances

All six of the Heat’s Finals appearances have come since the turn of the century, giving them the most of any Eastern Conference team in that span. The stretch began with a championship run in 2006 before moving into the Big Three era, which included four appearances and two wins. With their loss to the Lakers in 2020, the Heat are 3-3 all-time in the Finals.

T-8. Chicago Bulls – 6 appearances

Speaking of bunches, all six of the Bulls’ Finals appearances came in an eight-year stretch thanks to No. 23. Michael Jordan’s squads not only reached the Finals – they won them. Chicago put together a pair of three-peats by winning titles each year from 1991 to 1993 and again from 1996 to 1998.

T-8. San Antonio Spurs – 6 appearances

The Spurs’ dynasty included six Finals appearances. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan were centerpieces for the entire run, beginning with a 1999 championship in Duncan’s second season and concluding with a 2014 championship, which came two years before Duncan retired. The team won five Finals compared to its one loss, an epic seven-game series against the Heat in 2013.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers – 5 appearances

The Cavs’ Finals appearances came thanks to a different No. 23. The team had never advanced past the Eastern Conference finals until LeBron James arrived. In 11 years with James in town, Cleveland reached the Finals five times and won its only championship in 2016

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