11 amazing stats about the NBA’s surprising Final Four


1. For the first time in 21 years, NBA conference finals don’t include the Spurs, Heat, Lakers or Bulls.

Because the NBA is the rare league where the best teams usually win in the playoffs, it’s been tremendously top-heavy over the past two decades, with at least one of two Western teams (San Antonio, Los Angeles Lakers) or two Eastern teams (Miami and Chicago) appearing in every conference final since 1995. This year breaks that streak.

2. In every year since 1996, the finals has included one of those four teams.

It’s going to be a different NBA finals this year without the presence of one of those four teams. You have to go back to Bill Clinton’s first term, way before anyone had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky, to find a finals that didn’t include the Spurs, Lakers, Heat or Bulls.

3. Those four teams have won 19 of the past 24 NBA titles.

You sense the pattern. It’s been nearly a quarter-century of domination. The only outliers: Dallas, Detroit, Boston and Houston (x2).

4. Add Detroit, Houston and Boston to that list of four teams and you have to go all the way back to 1979 to find an NBA finals that didn’t include one of those seven teams.

The last NBA finals that didn’t include either the Spurs, Lakers, Heat, Bulls, Pistons, Mavs or Rockets was 1979, when the Seattle Supersonics beat the Washington Bullets. Neither of those teams currently exist.

5. Let’s look at players instead. At least one conference final since 1991 has featured one the following players: Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James.

That’s a quarter-century with a starting five and a sixth man (sorry, Hakeem, we’re playing small) and continues this year with LeBron in his new Cavs uniform.

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