Tim Duncan and the Spurs had an intense rivalry with the Lakers in the 2000s. It felt like they played each other every season because of the magnitude of their clashes. San Antonio had a stronger regular-season record than the Lakers in 2004.
Unsurprisingly, the oddsmakers considered them to be strong favorites. But the Lakers belied their underdog status when they upset the odds and knocked the Spurs out of contention. Derek Fisher scored the all-important Game Five winning points (via Bleacher Report).
LeBron James’s spell with the Miami Heat remains a perplexing period of his career. On the one hand, he won two championship rings. But James also suffered high-profile chokes and the team failed to take full advantage of its incredible attack. Their 2014 defeat to the Spurs proved this.
James wasn’t that bad in the Finals but he didn’t exactly set them on fire either. The Spurs crushed them in five games as they earned their revenge on the previous year. 2013 saw the Heat win in a seven-series thriller. If they lost a tight series it wouldn’t have been as bad as seeing them wilt like this (via Bleacher Report).
The New Jersey Nets pulled off one of the greatest upsets of all time when they knocked the 76ers out of contention. Philadelphia came into this series as the defending NBA champions. But the Nets overwhelmed them in a shock for the ages.
New Jersey had never won a playoff series before this one. Then they cruised into a two-game lead and left the Sixers with too much work to do. Their away day form was outstanding as they beat the heavy favorites. It was a wasted opportunity for the Sixers (via Sports Illustrated).
The ’94/95 Rockets featured already on this list but they pulled off multiple shocks that year. After all, nobody expected them to make the playoffs, never mind win the title. But they did and they stunned the Spurs along the way as they knocked them out of contention.
David Robinson had an MVP regular season but Hakeem Olajuwon shut him down completely. The Dream turned the series into a nightmare for him. Statisticians gave them an 18 percent chance of victory but they upset the odds in style. The Spurs didn’t know what hit them (via Houston Chronicle).
Somehow the Cavaliers contrived to make the Finals in 2018 but they shouldn’t have been there. On paper, they weren’t a top team despite the presence of King James. However, they had an outstanding second round when they swept the Raptors in four games.
This was a major upset because Toronto had a fantastic regular season. They had 59 victories but couldn’t handle LeBron James. In the end, it didn’t matter because they didn’t have to wait long for their title. Meanwhile, James left for the Lakers at the end of the season.
The Lakers were one of the teams of the eighties as they made the Finals seven times. 1986 was one of the rare occasions when they missed out because they ran into the Rockets. They had incredible talent with the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.
But it wasn’t enough to stop Houston from knocking them out of contention. The Lakers won the first game of the series but lost the next four as the Rockets took over. In the end, they lost out and Hakeem Olajuwon’s men progressed. What a shock this was (via L.A. Times).
Seattle had some great teams in the ’90s but failed to reach their full potential. If they won a championship ring they may never have left the city. One of their biggest choke jobs came against the Nuggets. The Bulls lacked Michael Jordan and Seattle took over as the best team in the NBA.
However, their regular-season form didn’t carry over into the playoffs. Denver knocked them out of contention with a demolition job. They carried the series 3-2 after a dramatic comeback. Seattle won the first two games but choked and the Nuggets made them pay (via L.A. Times).
The Celtics defeated the Nets in 2022 and progressed in the NBA playoffs. But this was one of the all-time choke jobs. Not necessarily because Boston defeated Brooklyn. After all, they had a great roster and one of the league’s best players in Jayson Tatum (via N.Y. Post).
However, most oddsmakers considered them to be the preseason favorites. In the end, they slumped their way into the playoffs. Kevin Durant failed to deliver as the Nets proved that buying a super team doesn’t always work. They spent a lot of money but didn’t reap the rewards.
Dallas made the Finals in 2006 and had Dirk Nowitzki at the top of his game. He came off an MVP regular season and also sealed his status as the greatest European to step onto an NBA court. However, the Mavericks lost in a stunning upset against the Warriors.
They won 65 regular-season games but crucially lost against Golden State in all of their meetings. Then the Warriors finished them again in first round. This was an exciting six-round series but the Warriors won 4-2. The ‘We Believe’ Warriors were a special team (via NBC Sports).
LeBron James finally won a title with the Cavaliers in 2016 after they overcame the Warriors. This was a major upset because Golden State had a winning machine. It should have been a formality after they took a 3-1 lead. But the Cavaliers fought their way back into contention.
The Cavs showed immense heart and grit as they ground out a spectacular victory across seven games. There were iconic moments aplenty as the franchise ended its title deficit. Meanwhile, it provided James with redemption after he abandoned the team for Miami (via Sporting News).