The recently concluded 2022 NBA Finals had all the makings of a classic but narrowly fell short of the all-time stakes. Leading 2-1 at one stage, the Boston Celtics folded over the next three games as the Golden State Warriors asserted their superiority. Hit by a combination of Steph Curry– aided by an expert supporting cast-and their follies, Ime Udoka’s young side fell short in 6 exhilarating games. Although their tussle was often riveting, it fails to burst past some of the legendary Finals contested over NBA’s 75-year history. Here’s our pick of three finals series which trump the one we just witnessed. 

Also Read: NBA Finals, Game 6: Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors quarter-by-quarter breakdown 

#3. Chicago Bulls vs Phoenix Suns (1993) 

After a mediocre regular season, Michael Jordan-led Bulls upped the ante in the playoffs. Cruising past the Atalanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bulls would dump the New York Knicks 4-2 in the Conference Finals. Drawn against a Suns side studded with star names- Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge- the two sides would duel over six games. The Bulls might have sealed the deal 4-2, but the point differential between the two stood at a grand zero. 

Leading 3-1 and at home, the Bulls had the chance to clinch the finals in five, but an all-round team performance by the Suns stretched the series to a sixth. At Phoenix’s home court, the Bulls trailed by 2 with 14.4 seconds remaining. Jordan off-loaded to Scottie Pippen as he stomped past the half-court. The maverick forward found Horace Grant on the edge of the Suns’ paint. Crowded out by their rearguard, Grant laid off to John Paxson. Unchallenged, the guard would tee off a crucial three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left on the clock. It would be enough to seal a nerve-shredding 99-98 win for the Bulls and their third consecutive NBA Championships!

Also Read: Analysis: On Stephen Curry, far more than a great shooter

#2. Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors (2016)

In arguably the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, the Cavs would outdo the Golden State Warriors over seven rip-roaring encounters. After dumping the Charlotte Hornets and Atalanta Hawks, the Cavs eased to a 4-2 win against the Toronto Raptors in the Conference final. It brought them face-to-face with a dazzling Golden State side. The Bay Area side had an unbelievable regular-season record of 73-9 and was an odds-on favourite for back-to-back NBA titles. 

The Dubs stormed to a two-love lead, whiplashing the Cavs 104-89 and 114-77 in the first two games. The Cavs would respond with a 120-90 roasting of their own, but a commanding 108-97 win would leave the Warriors a game away from the Championship. However, Draymond Green got slapped with a one-game suspension for picking up too many flagrant fouls in the four games leading up to Game 5. Green- then at the peak of his powers- was a miss for the Warriors as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving racked up 41 points each to fire the Cavs to victory. Andrew Bogut’s injury ruled him out of Games 6 and 7, leaving Kerr’s side without an effective presence at the rim. James would hit another 41 points in Game 6 to level the series 3-3!  

In Game 7, James and Green were sublime as ever. The Cavs talisman notched up 25 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. Draymond’s 32 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists outdid his tally, but it mattered little on the night. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were off-colour, allowing the Cavs to stay in the game. With scores level deep into the fourth, Kyrie Irving arrowed in a crunch three-pointer to edge Cleveland ahead. Curry missed a crucial FG attempt before a foul on James ensured the Cavs would end Cleveland’s 52-year curse!     

Also Read: Why Boston Celtics failed to clinch the 2022 NBA champions title

#1. Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers (1984)

The most decorated rivalry in NBA history would reach mythical proportions in this most gilded of NBA Finals. The Lakers went one-up in this see-saw series, helmed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 32-point headline act in Game 1. The Celtics would respond with a narrow 124-121 win to level the series one apiece. 

The Lakers turned on the style in Game 2, annihilating the Celtics 137-104. Larry Bird’s 30-point push aside, the Cs never quite got to grips with the Lakers’ all-court brilliance. But Boston was resourceful enough to hold off the Lakers 129-125 at their Los Angeles base. Larry Bird found support in Dennis Johnson and Robert Parish to undo the Lakers’ charge. Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all posted impressive numbers, but it wasn’t to be for California’s finest. 

Larry Bird was on hand to give the Celts a 3-2 lead in the finals, scoring 34 points to go with his 17 rebounds and 2 assists. But the Lakers hit back with a 119-108 win to tie the series 3-3. Worthy, Johnson and Jabbar scored 20+ points each to set up a delicious decider. The raucous Boston crowd were in full voice throughout Game 7, as the Celts powered past the Lakers 111-102. Larry Bird was excellent throughout, netting 20 points to go with his 12 rebounds and 3 assists. But Cedric Maxwell would upstage the great man himself, pocketing 28 points, 8 assists and 8 rebounds. For the Lakers, Jabbar’s 29 points would go in vain!