The NBA has been a league traditionally built on dynasties, and so it has come as no surprise when sustained runs of success have given us repeated rivalries on the game's biggest stage. After Miami dispatched Indiana rather easily, and San Antonio fought hard to win game 6 on the road versus Oklahoma City Thunder, we as NBA fans were treated to the rematch of the memorable 2013 Finals.
Heat vs Spurs is, in many ways, the perfect matchup. On one side we have the best player of his generation trying to lead his shaky team to a threepeat, while on the other we have the aging squad built on guile and fundamentals trying to secure its place as the best team of the NBA's modern era. The Heat rely on the genius of LeBron, while the Spurs share the ultimate teamwork and the best coach in the twilight years of an amazing run.
After San Antonio was just a few lucky bounces away of a championship last year, the notion was that the team was probably done. Instead, they regrouped with their timeless core of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, while also adding important pieces from unlikely sources, like former NBA outcast Patty Mills, veteran Boris Diaw, and a few other players that will try to dethrone the Heat. Miami has benefited from the weakest Eastern Conference in ages to reach this stage, where they will be tested like they haven't been in almost a year.
All in all, it should be a heckuva series.
With this in mind, today we take a look at the history of NBA Finals that have featured rematches in consecutive years. This particular quirk has been more abundant in the NBA than in any other major American sport, giving us some of the most memorable rivalries and games the league has ever seen.
In the early years of the NBA, back when only 10 teams conformed the league, it was predictable to expect the same teams battling out for glory. On the first instance, the unlucky Knicks lost three straight Finals, two of which came against the Lakers. The first one went all the way to 7 games, while the rematch saw Minneapolis win in 5. By the end of the decade, the Celtics were starting to mount their dynasty, finding their first big foe in St. Louis. They would split their consecutive Finals, in what became a rivalry that carried to the sixties.
In what has been the most dominant run in American sports history, the Celtics completely owned the 1960's, winning 9 titles (including 8 in a row dating back to 1959). During this span, they swept 4 consecutive rematches, and stopped the Lakers from forming a dynasty of their own.
The start of the decade became a turning point for the Lakers, who erased too many bad memories and finally won a title in California. The Knicks regrouped in 1973 and split the rematch, with both series ending in only 5 games. By the end of the seventies, Seattle and Washington split the rematch in what remain the only title in each franchise's history.
The Lakers dominated the 80's by reaching 8 Finals, though they only won 4 of them. In each of their rematches, the series was split. Coincidentally, the only time the Lakers could repeat as champions during this decade came in 1987 and 88, when they first beat their archrival Celtics and then by defeating the Pistons.
During their complete dominance of the 90's, the Bulls first defeated four different rivals: Lakers, Blazers, Suns, and Sonics. However, in Jordan's last two titles, he had to defeat Stockton, Malone, and the Utah Jazz. During both series, Chicago won in 6 games with Jordan being the MVP. The 1998 Finals gave us one of the most iconic images in NBA history.
As the league has gotten more and more competitive, Finals rematches have become scarce, with Miami-San Antonio being the first one in 16 years. During this span, for example, the Lakers have made 6 Finals, but they only had the same foe twice, as the Celtics faced them in 2008 and 2010.
While the Western Conference has only featured 4 different teams making the Finals since 2000, the East has sent 8 different franchises.
So far, 6 of the previous 11 Finals rematches have featured a sweep, so San Antonio will try to even up the number and win the fifth championship in franchise history. On the other side, Miami will be eager to have a three-peat of their own.