by Rob Joyce
Consider it the rubber match. Starting Thursday night the Cavaliers and Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season, the first time in NBA history for such an occurrence. Golden State won in 2015, with Cleveland getting revenge a year ago. Now with all of the big names once again squaring off (LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, Klay Thompson) plus the addition of another megastar (Kevin Durant) it’s perhaps the most-hyped Finals in league history.
Among Finals rematches, here are the other series that can make a claim to such a title, generating a ton of buzz before the ball was tipped into the air:
5) SuperSonics vs. Bullets (1979):
In the 1978 Finals it was Washington that won its first (and, still, only) championship with a Game 7 win in Seattle. The two teams dominated the regular season the following year, with the Bullets and SuperSonics finishing first and second, respectively, in the league standings, eventually leading to a rematch in the Finals. This time it was Seattle that evoked its revenge, using the combination of Finals’ MVP Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams to win the series in five games.
4) Lakers vs. Pistons (1989):
The 1988 Finals was among the best in league history, with the Lakers winning Game 6 by a lone point (103-102 despite Isiah Thomas’ otherworldly performance) and hanging on in Game 7 108-105. When they met the next year on the same stage, another classic was expected. What fans got was total demolition. The Bad Boy Pistons put an end to the Showtime Lakers, as Detroit waltzed to a series sweep.
3) Lakers vs. Celtics (1969):
Boston’s dynasty was starting to wind down by the end of the 1960s, but it wasn’t over yet. After having their streak of eight straight titles snapped in 1967, they again cut down the nets against the Lakers in ’68. Having lost six times in the Finals to Boston that decade, Los Angeles made a major move by trading for Wilt Chamberlain, in theory in an effort to combat Bill Russell, who was in his final season. In the classic seven-game series, six of the games were decided by single-digits, including a 108-106 Game 7 white-knuckler.
2) Lakers vs. 76ers (1983):
This time it was Philadelphia that made a major trade in an effort to get over the hump, after Los Angeles beat the Sixers in six games to win the ’82 title. There was already a Hall of Fame matchup in that series, in the form of Magic Johnson vs. Julius Erving. Philly then went and added Moses Malone via trade in the offseason, in an attempt to square off with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It worked – the 76ers went 12-1 in the playoffs, including a sweep in the Finals as Malone averaged 25.8 points and 18 boards per game, winning MVP honors.
1) Lakers vs. Celtics (1985):
This was the peak of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. In 1984 Boston won a seven-game masterpiece that featured two overtime games, including a Game 2 win for the C’s that was fueled by Gerald Henderson’s steal and layup in the waning seconds of regulation. It’s perhaps the greatest series to ever be played. Fast forward one year, and the two were set for a rematch in ’85. With 10 Hall of Fame players and two Hall of Fame coaches, the Lakers, for the first time in nine tries, finally beat their hated rivals in the championship round, taking the series in six games.