Winning an NBA Championship is one of the greatest things that a player can ever hope to accomplish. However, some stellar players in league history have wound up retiring without appearing in a single Finals.
What NBA Player Has the Most Finals Appearances? The Boston Celtics center Bill Russell has advanced to the NBA Finals the most times in history. In total, he made the Finals 12 times throughout the course of his 13 year career. Within those 12 appearances in the NBA Finals, Russell has played in a total of 70 games, winning 11 titles.
Russell not only appeared in 12 Finals, but had an incredible winning percentage. Other NBA players have gotten close to Russell’s total, however, have they won as many as he did?
Let’s start all the way back at the beginning. Russell made it into the NBA Finals in his very first season in the league. The Celtics were playing against the St. Louis Hawks and the series went a full seven games. Despite trailing 1-2 after the first three games, Boston rallied off back-to-back wins and eventually won Game 7 to claim a championship. That next season, Russell led them to another final’s series against the Hawks. This time, St. Louis got the better of them. Boston was knocked out 1-3 in the series. It really started to become a trend by year three, as Russell and Boston were playing the Minneapolis Lakers in the finals. That series wasn’t competitive at all, Boston swept them in four games to pick up Russell’s second championship. For the fourth straight year, Russell made the finals and they once again played the Hawks. It was kind of reminiscent of the Warriors and the Cavaliers constantly making the finals not too long ago. Nevertheless, the series went a full seven games again but Russell emerged victorious again for his third championship. The year after they made it for a fifth time, and once again matched with the Hawks. Yet again, Russell led them to victory, winning in five games. At this point, it seems like a broken record but the appearances just kept on coming. They were playing the Los Angeles Lakers that next year and beat them in seven games for a fifth championship. Now that you essentially got the trend of it, let’s cover the remaining ones a little quicker. That year after they beat the Lakers again, this time in six games. That would go as their sixth championship. They followed that up by beating the San Francisco Warriors in five games for their seventh. After that, they beat the Lakers in five games for their eighth. Then beat them again the year after for their ninth, this time being a full seven game series again. For the first time in his career, Russell missed the NBA Finals the year after that. He found his way right back in the season following by winning his tenth championship. Then finally, he beat the Lakers once again for his 11th championship in 12 NBA Finals appearances. Throughout his career, he missed the finals just one time. He also only lost one out of those 12 series as well.
Players Who Got Close To Russell’s Number
Obviously, making it into the NBA Finals 12 times throughout your career is incredibly hard to accomplish. However, there were a few different players who almost got it done. Sam Jones was one of those guys, as he made it into the big series 11 times, one less than Russell. However, he was on the Celtics for the majority of his career so a lot of those appearances came alongside Russell. The third highest total is actually a tie between LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Surprisingly, James is already on the fast track to breaking this record. Both of these guys have made it 10 times up to this point. Abdul-Jabbar may not be playing anymore, but LeBron certainly still is and making it look easy on the court. If he can make it three more times before he officially calls it a career, then we could be looking at a brand-new leader.
Teams with The Highest NBA Finals Appearances
When you look at this statistic, it honestly becomes laughable. The competition isn’t even a competition. The Los Angeles Lakers have made it into a whopping 32 NBA Finals since their franchise was first created. Out of those appearances, they have played in a total of 185 games, by far the highest number. The team with the second highest number of appearances is the Boston Celtics with 21, though the majority of these came with Russell leading the charge. When it comes to their games played, they are only at 129. From this point forward, nobody is really close. The Golden State Warriors are sitting at 11 appearances with 59 games played. The Philadelphia 76ers are right behind them at nine appearances for 53 games. However, from this point on they just get lower and lower. Just looking at this stat you can tell what two teams have historically dominated the NBA. Or better yet, you can tell which organizations are more enticing to free agents and players. Just look at the market these sports have along with the players that decide to join them. It’s really hard nowadays to pull superstar free agents away from places like Los Angeles and Boston. Maybe someday this trend will change and we can see a new star franchise get born. Who knows, maybe even the Warriors will keep this excellent play up for so long that they can compete with Boston for that second highest spot. We will have to just wait and see for a change but it doesn’t seem likely.