Reaching the NBA Finals is no easy feat, with teams needing to go through three rounds in the playoffs just to come close to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
And because each round is a best-of-seven series – at least since 2003 – the cream usually rises to the top, meaning there are less chances of fluky runs like in the NFL or March Madness.
This season’s Boston Celtics are now two games away from reaching the Finals and becoming one of the most unlikely teams to do so. Despite not having All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving due to injuries, the Celtics have built up a 2-0 lead on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That got us thinking of the most improbable teams to ever make the Finals.
1975-76 Phoenix Suns
The franchise had only reached the playoffs once before and had never won a series, while their record this season was an average 42-40.
They had Alvin Adams, who was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year, but few could have imagined them booking a Finals spot, where they fell to the Boston Celtics.
1977-78 Seattle SuperSonics
Seattle started this season 5-17, which led to a head coaching change.
They got their act together to finish 47-35, but more impressively, they took down the defending champion Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Washington Bullets in seven.
1998-99 New York Knicks
In a lockout-shortened season, the Knicks went just 27-23 to reach the playoffs as an eight seed.
They lost star Patrick Ewing to an Achilles injury in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but battled to advance to the Finals, where the San Antonio Spurs were their ultimate downfall.
2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers
This team had LeBron James, so in hindsight, it’s not that surprising.
At the time though, James was only 22 and had a fairly weak roster around him. Yet he still carried the Cavaliers past the favoured Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals before being swept by the Spurs in the Finals.
2010-2011 Dallas Mavericks
The only team on this list to win the showpiece, Dallas had a Cinderella season and playoff run, which culminated in Dirk Nowitzki and the franchise finally capturing an elusive title by thwarting the Big Three of the Miami Heat.
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