The Americans call it ‘World Champion’.
Whatever you think of it, it’s one of the most sought after sporting titles in the world.
It’s what each of the 30 NBA teams grind through an 82 game season and months of playoffs to achieve.
The two teams that make it out of the NBA playoffs go head to head in a bid to lift the holy grail: The Larry O’Brien Trophy.
And while the best basketballers on the planet hare up and down the hardwood chasing their dreams, you can bet on the NBA finals, and who will be champion, 365 days a year.
Some bookmakers kick off markets on the following season’s NBA Finals winner, even before the current version is done.
So whether its your favourite team and you’re punting with your heart, or if you’ve done your research and you think your pick is on point, you can almost always find a market to lay your hard earned on.
Throughout the season there is usually just the NBA Championship winner market to bet on, but, once the Western and Eastern conference finals are decided, that’s when the action heats up.
The NBA Finals are played out over seven games in a 2 – 2 – 1 – 1 – 1 format (the higher seed hosts games 1, 2, 5, and 7, and the lower seed hosts Games 3, 4, and 6). Whichever team is the first to four games is the winner.
So sit back, relax and we’ll take you through some of the many betting options available to punters on the NBA Finals.
Backing who you think will be the NBA champion
Pretty straight forward, right?
This is simply selecting who you think will be crowned the winner at the end of the NBA Finals.
It’s like a head to head bet over seven games. It doesn’t matter how they do it, there are only two teams and there can be only one winner.
One thing about this market is that is almost always available.
So, if you think your team can win the title, you can simply log on to one of our recommended online bookmakers, find the market and click away to place your bet. You’ll usually find it under ‘Futures Market’ or similar.
Most people lay their bets at the start of a season, right before the playoffs or right before the finals.
Prices on the NBA title can fluctuate greatly. This is often due to player movement or injuries throughout the season.
Teams are very active throughout the NBA off season and usually right before the February trade deadline.
The most notable addition in 2014/15 was the move of arguably the league’s best player, Lebron James, from Miami, back to Cleveland, the team he began his career with.
Partnering with Kyrie Irving, and then later signing up Minnesota Timberwolves stretch four Kevin Love forced bookmakers to crunch the Cavaliers in from double figure odds to title favourites.
All 30 teams start out with title aspirations, whether they are packed with experienced, seasoned campaigners who have been around the block, or they finished on the bottom of the league and selected the number one draft pick.
But high hopes can quickly fade and, if teams start the season poorly, they’ll often look to the future and off load some of their veterans for salary cap relief and draft picks – and also to ensure they get something for them, rather than allowing them to leave in free agency. These players usually end up on title contenders, keen to improve their chances of ‘winning now’.
Take the 2004 Detroit Pistons. A good team, lead by star point guard Chauncey Billups, his back court partner Richard ‘Rip’ Hamilton, star small forward Tayshaun Prince and defensive beast Ben Wallace.
But they were missing a big man scorer to tip them over the edge.
Enter silky smooth hard man Rasheed Wallace.
In possibly the greatest trade deadline deal ever, the Pistons worked out a three team deal involving Boston that netted the two time all star from Atlanta, in exchange for draft picks that became Josh Smith (who ironically ended up on the Pistons on a ridiculous $56 million deal, but was waived) and Memphis’ defensive wing man Tony Allen.
The Pistons were a mediocre, but playoff bound 34-22 before the deal went down, but their title odds were slashed by the bookies and for good reason.
Wallace helped them go 20-6 to close the season, before leading them to the 2004 NBA title over the Los Angeles Lakers in five games.
Injuries can also play a big role in title odds.
The NBA’s 2010/11 Most Valuable player, Derrick Rose, went down in November 2013, with the Bulls one of the favourites for the title. That caused the bookies to blow them out and, despite having a solid season without their superstar, they lost to Washington in the first round. A similar thing happened following his 2010-11 MVP winning season, when he blew out his knee while playing against the Philadelphia 76ers in round one. Their title odds immediately expanded and the Bulls duly lost to the Sixers.
Betting on who you think will make the NBA finals
Before the Finals start, the two teams that make it through the playoffs from each of the East and the West battle it out in the Conference Finals.
Here’s where you select who will win the Conference Finals and make it to the NBA Finals.
It is similar to the NBA Champion bet, except you select the winner of the series in the East or the West.
In 2013/14 the Miami Heat defeated the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, four games to two, to make their way through to the NBA Finals.
In the Western Conference, San Antonio knocked over the Oklahoma City Thunder, also in six games, before going on to win the title over Lebron and the Miami Heat, giving Tim Duncan a fifth NBA championship ring.
Betting on the correct result in the NBA Finals
This is where you select how many games each side will win.
You need to predict not only who will win the series, but also how many games each team will win during the series.
Here’s an example of an exact series result bet on a playoff game, the same concept applies to the finals:
Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trailblazers: Portland wins the series, four games to two.
The Rockets enjoyed home court advantage in this first round series of 2014 and were favoured to win, but star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard proved too much for Dwight Howard and James Harden. They upset Houston by winning the two opening games on the road, before the Rockets hit back at the Rose Garden to make it 2-1. But Portland was good enough to make it 3-1 in the next game, before Houston one on its home floor and then the Blazers closed it out in the sixth game, giving them a 4-2 series win.
A variant of correct result betting is how many games the NBA Finals will last.
You don’t need to pick who will win the series, just how many games it will go to. The minimum is four games (title winner gets home in a whitewash, 4-0) and the maximum is seven games (the series goes the distance, with the winner making it out in a thriller 4-3). You’d need to have selected six games if you wanted to win the bet in our Houston-Portland example.
How do you back the Finals Most Valuable Player, or MVP winner?
There are many ways to make the NBA Finals a little more interesting.
Chief of those is backing your favourite player to take home the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, or MVP award.
The Finals MVP is awarded to the best player in the series, usually on the winning team.
You’ll get odds on every player on the roster to win the MVP, but you can usually narrow it down to between four and six players to select from.
They’re the superstars. The guys who win games on their own. The guys who carry their teams to the promised land and get the most touches on the way to doing that.
Perhaps the greatest of all of them is Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan.
He has six NBA titles… and six NBA Finals MVP awards. Not a bad strike rate.
But he might be playing second fiddle to Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell, had the award been coined before 1969.
His men in green had won 10 titles before that season, with the big man providing the glue that held it all together. Given his supreme performances, six Finals MVP awards wouldn’t be out of the question.
‘The Logo’ Jerry West won the first NBA Finals MVP award in 1969, despite his Los Angeles Lakers losing to Russells Celtics. He remains the only player to win the award in a losing effort.
Lakers superstar point guard Magic Johnson, the marauding Shaquille O’Neal and the Big Fundamental Tim Duncan have won it three times, with Shaq joining Jordan as the only man to win it three times in a row (MJ did it twice).
But it can sometimes go to someone less heralded.
San Antonio Spurs swingman Kawhi Leonard was a surprise winner of the NBA Finals MVP award in 2014 after his all round efforts led the Spurs to the title. The reason he was a surprise is that the series involved seasoned superstars Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, both former winners of the MVP award with San Antonio and obviously Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, who have also won the award with Miami (James twice).
What are player props bets on the NBA Finals
Here’s where you can go a little more in depth with your individual player bets.
Not sure on who will win the MVP award, but your set on who will average the most points in the series?
Easy, you’ll find a bet for that.
How about the most rebounds? Blocks? Assists? Steals?
They’re all available.
Simply pick the player you like and visit our recommended bookmaker to get the odds and place your bet.
The scoring machines like Houston’s James Harden, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant or New York’s Carmelo Anthony are the men you want to score the most points.
Big defensive beasts, like Houston’s Dwight Howard or the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan are the guys to go for if you want blocks or rebounds.
And the little men, like Stephen Curry, Rajon Rondo or Kyle Lowry are always on the radar for most steals and assists.
Thos guys obviously need to make the finals first, before you can back them.
Some bookmakers also provide head to head player props for both the series and in each game, usually on who will score more points or rebounds.
So two players will be selected in the game – for argument’s sake, let’s take last year’s finals and pit Miami’s Dwyane Wade up against San Antonio’s Tony Parker. The bet will usually be a head to head one, and it will pay if your man scores more points than his opponent, in either the series or in an individual game, depending on your bet.
Sometimes there will be a handicap or line placed on the players. Say Parker is up against Lebron James, who is a more prolific scorer than Wade, in game one. He will probably have a handicap in the vicinity of +3.5. That means he can score 3.5 (3) points less than James and still win the bet. Conversely, if James scores four or more points than Parker, he gets home. The lines will obviously be larger if placed on the series.
Having a bet on each NBA Finals game
We’ve mentioned the overall markets, but NBA Finals games work exactly the same as regular season games.
We’ll go over some of the more simple options on game betting here, but, you can click here for a more comprehensive guide.
Money line (match or head to head) bet
It’s simple. Pick the winner of the game.
On a money line bet, known in some countries as match or head to head, your goal is simply to select who will win the game.
This includes over time, so all your team has to do is win by one point or more for you to collect.
Point spread (handicap or line)
You might think the head to head is the most popular market, but that’s not true. The points spread, some times known as handicap or line betting, is the market favoured by punters the world over. So what happens is the bookmaker gives a handicap to the favoured side and an allowance to the outsider to create a points spread that either team has to cover.
Example: Milwaukee Bucks +9 ($1.91) @ Dallas Mavericks (-9) ($1.91)
Dallas has to win by 10 or more to win this bet, while Milwaukee can lose, but you will still win if it is by less than nine. If the margin is exactly nine, you’ll usually get your money back.
Margin betting usually appears as either under 10.5 – over 10.5 or 1-10 – 11+.
This is simply deciding whether the team you believe will win the game is going to do it by 10 points or less, or 11 points or more.
Total match points over – under
With total match point bets, it’s also simple – predict whether the two teams between them will exceed, or fall short of a set point total for the game.
Example: Denver Nuggets @ Atlanta Hawks
Over 212.5 ($1.91)
Under 212.5 ($1.91)
For overs punters, the combined total must reach 213 points. For those backing the under, it just has to fall short of that mark – 212 wins.
A history of the NBA Finals
The first NBA Finals series was held in 1947 when the Philadelphia Warriors knocked over the Chicago Stags, four games to one to become the first ever NBA champions. The Warriors have since made their home in Golden State, while the Stags are on the scrap heap, but the NBA Finals have grown to be the pinnacle of the sport.
Since that series, nearly half of the NBA titles have been shared by two legendary franchises.
The Boston Celtics, with 17, and the Los Angeles Lakers, with 16, account for 33 of the 68 title winners since 1947.
The last 31 titles have been shared between just seven teams, which many feel is an indictment on the way the NBA functions today.
Once a one game championship playoff, the finals have become a seven game showcase of the best of the best.
It’s the stories that make the NBA Finals great.
(All Auerbach’s Celtics)
All superstars, all multiple title winners in a short period of time.
Big George Mikan might be the first NBA superstar.
A giant of a man, he led the then Minneapolis Lakers to five titles in six years from 1948 to 1954.
The first true dynasty that paved the way for the legendary Russell, with his band of merry Celtic men, to win an amazing 11 titles.
The Celtics went to the finals a ridiculous 12 times in 13 years from 1957 to 1969, winning it all 11 times and cementing themselves as the greatest team in NBA history, all masterminded by the great manager Red Auerbach. At one point they won eight titles in a row. It’s hard to see that happening again.
Eight teams shared championships in the 1970s before the wonderful Los Angeles Lakers Boston Celtics rivalry of the 1980s.
That bitter battle rejuvenated the NBA.
Every single NBA Finals in the decade featured either the Lakers, led by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy or Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish’s Celtics.
The Lakers took home the title five times in this period, while their rivals, the Celtics, nabbed three.
As Magic and Bird began to fade, a new, young star emerged.
Michael Jeffrey Jordan
Or simply Mike, as he has come to be known.
Everyone wanted to be Like Mike, when he burst onto the scene in 1984 and, while it took him until 1991 to claim his first title, there would be two more after that in a row, before he retired to take a stab at baseball.
While he was off, Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets pinched two titles, before Jordan, deciding that baseball wasn’t for him, made his triumphant return.
I simple statement “I’m Back” sent shudders through the NBA and for good reason – he would go on to partner Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman in leading the Bulls to a second three peat of titles from 1996 to 1998, cementing his place as the greatest player of all time.
Since then, the NBA has changed significantly, but two teams – of course, the Lakers, and the San Antonio Spurs have remained constants.
Ten of the past 16 titles have been shared by the two teams.
Duncan won the first title after Jordan’s second retirement, partnering with David Robinson to lead the Spurs in his rookie season.
But Shaq’s Lakers took over Jordan’s legacy, winning three consecutive titles from 2000 – 2002. A little fella named Kobe Bryant had a hand in it but Shaq was the man.
O’Neal deserves special mention here for the most dominant NBA Finals performances of any man in history.
His 2000 Finals series is widely renowned as the greatest individual performance of all time.
He averaged 38 points per game, eclipsing 30 in every game and topping 40 three times, 16.7 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.3 assists, while shooting 61.1 per cent from the field.
His efforts in 2001 and 2002 were also gaudy, his three year finals average looking like something out of a video game: 35.9 ppg, 15.2 rpg, 3.5 apg on 59.5 per cent shooting.
Since then, the Kobe Bryant led Lakers have won two extra titles, but Duncan has really been the player of the last 15 years, claiming five titles as the alpha dog on his team.
Lebron fulfilled his dream and won back to back titles with the Miami Heat, before Duncan and his men tipped them out in 2013/14 to be the reining champs.
– Unbelievably, two teams have actually made it to the NBA Finals, despite possessing losing records. The Lakers, then in Minneapolis, made the playoffs with a record of 33-49 in 1959, and then, in 1981, the Houston Rockets took their 40–42 record into the final decider. The New York Knicks of 1999 actually made the finals from eighth spot.
– A later version of the Rockets became the lowest ever seed to win the NBA Finals. The Hakeem Olajuwon led 1995 incarnate was seeded sixth after battling to a 47-35 record, but then proceeded to murder a young Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic in the finals, whacking four other teams that had won 50 games or more on their way there. Adding to their mythology, that team is the only one in NBA history to have won the title without ever having home court advantage in any series.
– Michael, Scottie and Phil, of the Bulls variety, Jordan, Pippen and Jackson made it the finals for Chicago six times and never lost. The Bulls are the only club that has made it to the finals more than once to have never lost.
– While Boston’s Russell won 11 titles in 13 years, his team mate, Sam Jones, won 10 in 12.
– As mentioned, the Celtics have the most titles, with 17, the LA Lakers are second with 16 and then no other club has double figures – the Bulls are next with six.
List of NBA Finals results
2014 San Antonio Spurs 4-1 Miami Heat
2013 Miami Heat 4-3 San Antonio Spurs
2012 Miami Heat 4-1 Oklahoma City Thunder
2011 Dallas Mavericks 4-2 Miami Heat
2010 Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 Boston Celtics
2009 Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 Orlando Magic
2008 Boston Celtics 4-2 Los Angeles Lakers
2007 San Antonio Spurs 4-0 Cleveland Cavaliers
2006 Miami Heat 4-2 Dallas Mavericks
2005 San Antonio Spurs 4-3 Detroit Pistons
2004 Detroit Pistons 4-1 Los Angeles Lakers
2003 San Antonio Spurs 4-2 New Jersey Nets
2002 Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 New Jersey Nets
2001 Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 Philadelphia 76ers
2000 Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 Indiana Pacers
1999 San Antonio Spurs 4-1 New York Knicks
1998 Chicago Bulls 4-2 Utah Jazz
1997 Chicago Bulls 4-2 Utah Jazz
1996 Chicago Bulls 4-2 Seattle SuperSonics
1995 Houston Rockets 4-0 Orlando Magic
1994 Houston Rockets 4-3 New York Knicks
1993 Chicago Bulls 4-2 Phoenix Suns
1992 Chicago Bulls 4-2 Portland Trail Blazers
1991 Chicago Bulls 4-1 Los Angeles Lakers
1990 Detroit Pistons 4-1 Portland Trail Blazers
1989 Detroit Pistons 4-0 Los Angeles Lakers
1988 Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 Detroit Pistons
1987 Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 Boston Celtics
1986 Boston Celtics 4-2 Houston Rockets
1985 Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 Boston Celtics
1984 Boston Celtics 4-3 Los Angeles Lakers
1983 Philadelphia 76ers 4-0 Los Angeles Lakers
1982 Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 Philadelphia 76ers
1981 Boston Celtics 4-2 Houston Rockets
1980 Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 Philadelphia 76ers
1979 Seattle SuperSonics 4-1 Washington Bullets
1978 Washington Bullets 4-3 Seattle SuperSonics
1977 Portland Trailblazers 4-2 Philadelphia 76ers
1976 Boston Celtics 4-2 Phoenix Suns
1975 Golden St Warriors 4-0 Washington Bullets
1974 Boston Celtics 4-3 Milwaukee Bucks
1973 New York Knicks 4-1 Los Angeles Lakers
1972 Los Angeles Lakers 4-1 New York Knicks
1971 Milwaukee Bucks 4-0 Baltimore Bullets
1970 New York Knicks 4-3 Los Angeles Lakers
1969 Boston Celtics 4-3 Los Angeles Lakers
1968 Boston Celtics 4-2 Los Angeles Lakers
1967 Philadelphia 76ers 4-2 San Francisco Warriors
1966 Boston Celtics 4-3 Los Angeles Lakers
1965 Boston Celtics 4-1 Los Angeles Lakers
1964 Boston Celtics 4-1 San Francisco Warriors
1963 Boston Celtics 4-2 Los Angeles Lakers
1962 Boston Celtics 4-3 Los Angeles Lakers
1961 Boston Celtics 4-1 St. Louis Hawks
1960 Boston Celtics 4-3 St. Louis Hawks
1959 Boston Celtics 4-0 Minneapolis Lakers
1958 St. Louis Hawks 4-2 Boston Celtics
1957 Boston Celtics 4-3 St. Louis Hawks
1956 Philadelphia Warriors 4-1 Fort Wayne Pistons
1955 Syracuse Nationals 4-3 Fort Wayne Pistons
1954 Minneapolis Lakers 4-3 Syracuse Nationals
1953 Minneapolis Lakers 4-1 New York Knicks
1952 Minneapolis Lakers 4-3 New York Knicks
1951 Rochester Royals 4-3 New York Knicks
1950 Minneapolis Lakers 4-2 Syracuse Nationals
1949 Minneapolis Lakers 4-2 Washington Capitols
1948 Baltimore Bullets 4-2 Philadelphia Warriors
1947 Philadelphia Warriors 4-1 Chicago Stags
List of NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, or MVP winners
YEAR PLAYER POS TEAM
2014 Kawhi Leonard F San Antonio Spurs
2013 LeBron James F Miami Heat
2012 LeBron James F Miami Heat
2011 Dirk Nowitzki PF Dallas Mavericks
2010 Kobe Bryant SG Los Angeles Lakers
2009 Kobe Bryant SG Los Angeles Lakers
2008 Paul Pierce SF Boston Celtics
2007 Tony Parker PG San Antonio Spurs
2006 Dwyane Wade SG Miami Heat
2005 Tim Duncan PF San Antonio Spurs
2004 Chauncey Billups PG Detroit Pistons
2003 Tim Duncan PF San Antonio Spurs
2002 Shaquille O’Neal C Los Angeles Lakers
2001 Shaquille O’Neal C Los Angeles Lakers
2000 Shaquille O’Neal C Los Angeles Lakers
1999 Tim Duncan PF San Antonio Spurs
1998 Michael Jordan G Chicago Bulls
1997 Michael Jordan G Chicago Bulls
1996 Michael Jordan G Chicago Bulls
1995 Hakeem Olajuwon C Houston Rockets
1994 Hakeem Olajuwon C Houston Rockets
1993 Michael Jordan G Chicago Bulls
1992 Michael Jordan G Chicago Bulls
1991 Michael Jordan G Chicago Bulls
1990 Isiah Thomas G Detroit Pistons
1989 Joe Dumars G Detroit Pistons
1988 James Worthy F Los Angeles Lakers
1987 Magic Johnson F Los Angeles Lakers
1986 Larry Bird F Boston Celtics
1985 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar C Los Angeles Lakers
1984 Larry Bird F Boston Celtics
1983 Moses Malone C Philadelphia 76ers
1982 Magic Johnson F Los Angeles Lakers
1981 Cedric Maxwell G Boston Celtics
1980 Magic Johnson F Los Angeles Lakers
1979 Dennis Johnson G Seattle SuperSonics
1978 Westley Unseld C Washington Bullets
1977 Bill Walton C Portland Trail Blazers
1976 Joe White C Boston Celtics
1975 Rick Barry F Golden State Warriors
1974 John Havlicek G Boston Celtics
1973 Willis Reed C New York Knicks
1972 Wilt Chamberlain C Los Angeles Lakers
1971 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar C Milwaukee Bucks
1970 Willis Reed C New York Knicks
1969 Jerry West G Los Angeles Lakers