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Which conference has won more NBA titles?

The NBA Finals are the culmination of an 82 game eight-month regular season, followed by the NBA Playoffs. The NBA Finals is contested between the Winner of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals.

Which conference has won more NBA titles? From the NBA’s inception in 1946 there have been 76 NBA Titles won. The majority, 41, of these can be attributed to teams from the Eastern Conference. Teams from the NBA’s Western Conference can claim just 35. Since the NBA organised into what we see as the two modern conferences in 1970 the West leads the East 27-24 for the 51 NBA titles contested.

NBA ConferenceTotal NBA Titles
East41
West35
Total76

There have been different dynasties in both conferences to have won a lot of titles, but it is incredibly close between the two for which conference has more titles.

Below is a list of NBA Champions by conference since the first NBA season in 1946.

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List of NBA Champions by Conference
NBA SeasonYearNBA ChampionWinning Conference
11947Philadelphia WarriorsEast
21948Baltimore BulletsEast
31949Minneapolis LakersWest
41950Minneapolis LakersWest
51951Rochester RoyalsWest
61952Minneapolis LakersWest
71953Minneapolis LakersWest
81954Minneapolis LakersWest
91955Syracuse NationalsEast
101956Philadelphia WarriorsEast
111957Boston CelticsEast
121958St. Louis HawksWest
131959Boston CelticsEast
141960Boston CelticsEast
151961Boston CelticsEast
161962Boston CelticsEast
171963Boston CelticsEast
181964Boston CelticsEast
191965Boston CelticsEast
201966Boston CelticsEast
211967Philadelphia 76ersEast
221968Boston CelticsEast
231969Boston CelticsEast
241970New York KnicksEast
251971Milwaukee BucksWest
261972Los Angeles LakersWest
271973New York KnicksEast
281974Boston CelticsEast
291975Golden State WarriorsWest
301976Boston CelticsEast
311977Portland Trail BlazersWest
321978Washington BulletsEast
331979Seattle SuperSonicsWest
341980Los Angeles LakersWest
351981Boston CelticsEast
361982Los Angeles LakersWest
371983Philadelphia 76ersEast
381984Boston CelticsEast
391985Los Angeles LakersWest
401986Boston CelticsEast
411987Los Angeles LakersWest
421988Los Angeles LakersWest
431989Detroit PistonsEast
441990Detroit PistonsEast
451991Chicago BullsEast
461992Chicago BullsEast
471993Chicago BullsEast
481994Houston RocketsWest
491995Houston RocketsWest
501996Chicago BullsEast
511997Chicago BullsEast
521998Chicago BullsEast
531999San Antonio SpursWest
542000Los Angeles LakersWest
552001Los Angeles LakersWest
562002Los Angeles LakersWest
572003San Antonio SpursWest
582004Detroit PistonsEast
592005San Antonio SpursWest
602006Miami HeatEast
612007San Antonio SpursWest
622008Boston CelticsEast
632009Los Angeles LakersWest
642010Los Angeles LakersWest
652011Dallas MavericksWest
662012Miami HeatEast
672013Miami HeatEast
682014San Antonio SpursWest
692015Golden State WarriorsWest
702016Cleveland CavaliersEast
712017Golden State WarriorsWest
722018Golden State WarriorsWest
732019Toronto RaptorsEast
742020Los Angeles LakersWest
752021Milwaukee BucksEast
762022Golden State WarriorsWest

There are a few reasons why the Eastern conference has the lead historically, despite the Western conference leading since the re-organisation of 1970. The Eastern Conference had the most dominant dynasty in the history of the NBA very early on in the league’s creation. 

From 1959 to 1970, the Eastern Conference won every NBA title. It was mainly down to the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics who won 12 championships in 14 years, with titles for the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks also winning NBA titles during this time. 

It gave the East a huge advantage in winning the most titles. The Celtics continued their titles in the 1980s along with the Washington Bullets and Sixers winning titles. The East was also the dominant conference in the 1990s as Michael Jordan’s Bulls reigned supreme.

From 1989 to 1998, the Eastern Conference won eight of the ten championships on offer, starting with the Bad Boy Pistons who won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. This was followed by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls who had two three-peats in the 1990s. 

Since Jordan retired from the Bulls in 1998 the West has won 15 titles to the Easts 8. Fueled by the Shaq & Kobe Lakers, Duncan Spurs and current Warriors Dynasty.

ConferenceTitles Since 1999
East8
West15
Total23

Since Jordan retired, the Eastern Conference have not had any more proper dynasties, the closest being the Big Three of the Miami Heat, who only won two titles after expectations of eight in their opening press conference. The Eastern Conference has become the weaker conference since Jordan retired and the West is catching up.

Who won the first NBA Title?

The first NBA title was won in 1947 by the Philadelphia Warriors, who defeated the Chicago Stags 4-1 in the Finals. Chicago at this time represented the West and the Warriors the East. The East would win again in 1948 before the West would go on to win the next 7 titles, with the Minneapolis Lakers taking 5 of them.

Who won the first title for the Western Conference?

Officially the Western Conference as we know it today was formed for the 1970-71 season. This season saw the Milwaukee Bucks, led by Kareem Abdul Jabar face the Eastern Conference Champions Baltimore Bullets in the Finals.

Yes that’s right, the Bucks (now from the East) were the first team to win the NBA title for the newly formed Western Conference in 1971. They would move over to the Eastern conference in 1980.

Who has won the most NBA titles since 1971?

When the NBA re-organised in 1970 to form the 2 conference structure we know today it created a break in how we can view conference domination.

ConferenceTitles Since 1971
East24
West27
Total51

As you can see from the table above, since the 1971 title was won for the West by the Bucks the West has won more titles – 27 to the Easts 24.

After the Eastern Conference dominated the 1960s, the West began to pick up a few titles through different teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors and Seattle Supersonics. The Lakers would again add multiple championships to the West in the 80s thanks to the Showtime Lakers. 

Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar won five championships in the 1980s and were able to prevent the Eastern Conference’s best team of the 1980s, the Boston Celtics, from winning a lot more titles than they could have done. 

With the Eastern Conference being dominant in the 1990s, the Western Conference got its revenge in the 2000s as the Lakers and Spurs rose to prominence.

Alongside Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers won three straight titles to start out the 21st century, but could not build any further on that success. Years after Shaq had left Kobe Bryant was back in the NBA finals, winning two more titles in 2009 and 2010. 

In the middle of the Laker’s success, there was another of the Western Conference’s best dynasties. The San Antonio Spurs led by Greg Popovich, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker would become one of the most successful teams of the 200s. Titles in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014 made the Spurs a dominant Western Conference team. 

Which conference has won more NBA titles in the modern era?

The Golden State Warriors have made a case for being another Western Conference dynasty over the last seven years and are closing the gap between the two conferences. The Warriors have won four titles in the last seven years thanks to Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. 

The Western Conference is also the conference that currently holds the NBA title thanks to those Golden State Warriors. They defeated the East’s most successful team, the Boston Celtics, to win the team’s seventh title and take them past the Chicago Bulls as the third most successful team in the history of the NBA.