To become an NBA Champion is the ultimate goal of every single one of those youngsters that dream of stardom walking their first steps in this beautiful sport, every time they have the ball on their hands, every time they make the game winning basket, every time they play pickup and every time they shut their eyes.
Nonetheless, this is perhaps one of the toughest goals to reach and just a handful of talented and gifted athletes are lucky enough to be called NBA Champions and hold the beloved Larry O’Brien trophy on their hands, being one of the most competitive leagues in any major sports.
Over the course of history, some teams have looked like huge locks to win the title, having the best players or the best record, but failing to live up to those expectations against some underdogs that knock down the table and write their names in the books of history.
These teams have won the hearts of all NBA fans across the globe (except the ones on the defeated teams for obvious reasons), making great stories about success and peaking at the right time, playing their heart out to defeat a better squad. Today, we’ll remember those 5 underdogs that were vastly underrated on their way to an NBA Championship.
5. Portland Trail Blazers 1976-1977
The Portland Trail Blazers started the Blazermania after a subpar record during the regular season but starting 5-0 to really kick off things during the playoffs. Still, owning a not so bright record of 49 and 33, finishing with the 3rd seed in the Western Conference and defeating the Nuggets and Lakers on their way to the finals.
But things didn’t go too well for Walton and his Blazers on the early going, falling 0-2 against Julius Erving and his Philadelphia 76ers before making an epic 4-0 comeback despite not having home court advantage, winning their lone NBA Championship in franchise history.
4. Miami Heat 2005-06
The 05-06 campaign was a breakout year for a surging shooting guard: Dwyane Wade, who almost single handedly carried the 52-30 Miami Heat to the NBA finals alongside Shaquille O’Neal and under Pat Riley’s tutelage, defeating the Detroit Pistons 4 games to 2 on the Eastern Conference Finals.
Of course, owning a 52-30 record isn’t bad at all, but this team didn’t stand a chance against Avery Johnson and his Dallas Mavericks that went 62-20 during the regular season, especially after falling 0-2 during the first 2 matchups before also making a 4-0 comeback to win their first ever NBA Title.
3. Houston Rockets: 1994-95
After ending the regular season with a 47-35 record, 10th best in the league and being seeded 6th in the fierce Western Conference, nobody had much hopes on the 94-95 Houston Rockets to reach the ultimate stage of the NBA, especially considering they’d have to defeat the San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz in order to do so.
Nonetheless, Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon carried the Houston franchise through the postseason just to be rewarded with the chance to play against Anfernee Hardaway and a surging Shaquille O’Neal for the title, a couple of guys that led the Orlando Magic to a 57-25 record. Still, the Rockets were just too much to handle, with Olajuwon shutting down Shaq and Drexler playing lights out to lead the Rockets to a 4-0 series win.
2. Detroit Pistons 2003-04
With the Los Angeles Lakers winning a three-peat and completely dominating the NBA under Phil Jackson’s command, no team seemed to have a chance against Shaquille O’Neal and a young Kobe Bryant just entering his prime, especially not the 54-28 Detroit Pistons that had one of the best team defenses in the NBA but lacked the firepower to beat a team like the Lakers.
Or so it seemed, but after whopping Milwaukee’s butt, handling the Nets and beating Indiana on their way to the NBA Finals, there was no stopping a locked down Larry Brown squad that took the last 3 in a row thanks to their suffocating defense, making the Lakers infamous “Fab Four” season completely fall apart in despair.
1. Dallas Mavericks 2010-11
It took a while before the Dallas Mavericks had their revenge against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, and it was until the 2010-11 campaign after finishing 8th in the league with a 57-25 record when Dirk Nowitzki finally became an NBA Champion, defeating Miami’s big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and the aforementioned Wade.
Jason Terry had a tattoo of them winning the Championship before the season even started, something that made pretty much everybody in the league mock him considering how little chance that veteran crowded squad had to actually pull it off.
But, with both Wade and LeBron mocking Dirk’s flu after a couple of Heat wins, the German carried his squad to a 4-0 come back to make LeBron James wait yet another year to win his first ever NBA Championship.