Which teams have played in the NBA Finals over the last 20 years?


Wednesday’s release of the full NBA regular season schedule is a reminder for how quickly the season is approaching.

While some major questions remain -- namely, whose jersey is Kevin Durant wearing? -- rosters are shaping up and old rivalries will pick up right where they left off. The Golden State Warriors are back on top and will have a target on their back. Meanwhile, the uber-talented Boston Celtics seem to be reloaded and ready to make a run at a title again. 

Here’s a look back at the NBA Finals for the past 20 years:

Which team has the most NBA Finals appearances over the past 20 years?

The Warriors and Miami Heat lead the pack with six appearances apiece over the last two decades. Following closely behind are the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers with five appearances each. The only other teams with multiple Finals appearances over the past 20 seasons are the Celtics (3), Detroit Pistons (2) and the Dallas Mavericks (2).

The New Jersey Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks have each made one Finals appearance since 2003, with the latter two making the most of their time and leaving with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. 

Which team has the most NBA championships over the past 20 years?

Golden State’s most recent win gives them the edge over Miami with its fourth championship in eight years. However, the Warriors don’t own the past two decades outright. The Spurs also have four titles since 2003 … and on one less appearance than the Warriors. 

The Heat and Lakers are the only other franchises with multiple titles over the past two decades with three apiece. 

What is the most common NBA Finals matchup of the past 20 years?

It wasn’t too long ago that a Finals matchup between Cleveland and Golden State was a foregone conclusion. Luckily for basketball, that’s not the case anymore, but the rivalry is the most common of the past two decades by claiming 20% of the matchups since 2002. 

There are only three other matchups that have met multiple times in the Finals since 2003: Mavericks-Heat, Celtics-Lakers and Spurs-Heat. Each of those matchups occurred twice in the past decade, splitting the championships in all three cases.

Every NBA Finals appearance over the past 20 years:

2003: San Antonio Spurs def. New Jersey Nets 4-2
2004: Detroit Pistons def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-1
2005: San Antonio Spurs def. Detroit Pistons 4-3
2006: Miami Heat def. Dallas Mavericks 4-2
2007: San Antonio Spurs def. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0
2008: Boston Celtics def. Los Angeles Lakers 4-2
2009: Los Angeles Lakers def. Orlando Magic 4-1
2010: Los Angeles Lakers def. Boston Celtics 4-3
2011: Dallas Mavericks def. Miami Heat 4-2
2012: Miami Heat def. Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1
2013: Miami Heat def. San Antonio Spurs 4-3
2014: San Antonio Spurs def. Miami Heat 4-1
2015: Golden State Warriors def. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2
2016: Cleveland Cavaliers def. Golden State Warriors 4-3
2017: Golden State Warriors def. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1
2018: Golden State Warriors def. Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0
2019: Toronto Raptors def. Golden State Warriors 4-2
2020: Los Angeles Lakers def. Miami Heat 4-2
2021: Milwaukee Bucks def. Phoenix Suns 4-2
2022: Golden State Warriors def. Boston Celtics 4-2

When do the Warriors and Celtics play each other this season?

There are still a lot of question marks around the 2022-23 regular season schedule, but fans can go ahead and mark their calendar for the 2022 NBA Finals rematches between the Warriors and Celtics. 

Golden State will kick things off by hosting Boston on Dec. 10. Boston will then repay the favor by playing the defending champions at TD Garden on Jan. 19.

The complete schedule will be released Wednesday afternoon. 

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