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5 Biggest Upsets in NBA Finals History

The National Basketball Association Finals ranks amongst the biggest, most popular, and most important sports fixtures in the world. Pairing the two best teams following the regular season and NBA playoffs gives one side an opportunity to etch their name into the history books by becoming a first-time winner of the trophy or a multiple champion. Played annually, it’s a series of games marked on every sports fan’s calendar alongside the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, and the MLB World Series.

First contested way back in 1947, there have been some memorable games in the NBA Finals series and some surprise champions. Which Finals do you remember best? Followers can cheer for the favorite and hope they live up to expectations and deliver the goods. Others love a giant killing story and love to throw the weight of their support behind the underdog. We’ve enjoyed more than a few shock results in the NBA Finals, with supposed no-hopers battling to silence their critics and make headlines worldwide.

Watching the NBA Finals as a spectator at the stadium or live on television from home is dramatic and great fun. Many sports fans love to add an extra layer of drama to the occasion by predicting the winner in a major sportsbook. They do this before the first game of the regular season, at the NBA Playoffs stage, or approaching the opening game of the Finals. Pick smart, and you could use your basketball knowledge to make a profit.

Expect the unexpected

Studying the form, listening to interviews, researching the head-to-head stats, and predicting the winner is an enjoyable pastime for many fans of professional sports. There’s only one slight problem: the NBA Finals is famously unpredictable and difficult to call. Games don’t always follow the script and live up to the stats. The teams are so well-balanced that one error or slip can change everything. For that reason, you must tread carefully when making predictions at sportsbooks or with friends.

We’ve seen plenty of shock results over the years, and in this article, we will take time out from our NBA Finals preparation to reflect on some classics. In this article, we highlight five huge upsets that remain fresh in the memory of the NBA Finals. The games weren’t expected to be tight, and everyone, including some of their supporters, wrote off the underdog. But there’s nothing sweeter in professional sports than a group of players that doesn’t listen to its critics and refuses to lose.


Keep reading as we remind readers of some classics while introducing others to unbelievable results. Our team of content writers have trawled the archives to highlight some gems, including the 1975 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Washington Bullets. What about the 2004 NBA Finals when the Detroit Pistons played the Los Angeles Lakers? Both are in this interesting article.

1969 NBA Finals: Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The 1969 NBA Finals remains a classic example of an underdog team rising to the occasion against all odds. The Boston Celtics, led by Bill Russell, were in the twilight of their dominant era, facing off against a star-studded Los Angeles Lakers team led by Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.

The Lakers were heavily favored, having finished the regular season with a remarkable 55-27 record compared to the Celtics’ 48-34. However, the Celtics, embodying the spirit of champions, stunned the basketball world by defeating the Lakers in seven games. This victory marked the Celtics’ 11th championship in 13 seasons, cementing their legacy as one of the greatest dynasties in sports.

1975 NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors vs. Washington Bullets

The 1975 NBA Finals witnessed another monumental upset as the underdog Golden State Warriors clashed with the Washington Bullets. Led by Rick Barry, the Warriors entered the Finals as heavy underdogs against the Bullets, who boasted a formidable lineup featuring Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes.

Despite the odds stacked against them, the Warriors showcased their resilience and team chemistry, stunning the basketball world by defeating the Bullets in a four-game sweep. This victory marked the Warriors’ first NBA championship since 1956 and remains one of the most remarkable Cinderella stories in NBA history.

2004 NBA Finals: Detroit Pistons vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The 2004 NBA Finals will forever be remembered for the stunning upset orchestrated by the Detroit Pistons against the star-studded Los Angeles Lakers. Led by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Gary Payton, the Lakers were heavily favored to win their fourth championship in five years. However, the gritty and defensively dominant Pistons had other plans.

Led by Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, and Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons outplayed the Lakers at every turn, capturing the championship in five games. The Pistons’ victory not only shocked the basketball world but also signaled the end of an era for the Lakers’ dynasty, forever altering the NBA landscape.

2011 NBA Finals: Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat

The 2011 NBA Finals witnessed one of the most improbable upsets in recent memory as the Dallas Mavericks clashed with the Miami Heat. Led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, the Heat were the overwhelming favorites to win the championship after assembling a superstar trio during the offseason.


The Mavericks, led by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, and a cast of veteran players, stunned the basketball world by defeating the Heat in six games. The Mavericks’ victory not only showcased the importance of teamwork and perseverance but also cemented Nowitzki’s legacy as one of the greatest players in NBA history.

2016 NBA Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

The 2016 NBA Finals will forever be in basketball lore as one of the greatest comebacks and upsets in NBA history. Facing a formidable Golden State Warriors team that had set the regular-season record with 73 wins, the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, found themselves down 3-1 in the series.

Fueled by sheer determination and resilience, the Cavaliers made a historic comeback, winning three straight games to capture the franchise’s first NBA championship. The Cavaliers’ victory not only ended Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought but also solidified LeBron James’ legacy as one of the greatest players ever to grace the hardwood.

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