The NBA finals are such a competitive and intense series that it often comes as no surprise when the best teams come out on top. But what about those times when they don’t? When we look back at NBA history
We see some of the most memorable moments and players to ever play in this league. But some managed to lose more than anyone else. This blog post will take a look at some of these NBA legends who lost the most NBA finals games. We will also take a look into which NBA team has lost the most championships overall!
Most NBA Finals Lost – Players
4. Larry Foust – 5
We start the list with one of the NBA pioneers, Larry Foust, who spent 12 seasons playing in the NBA for the Fort Wayne Pistons, Minneapolis Lakers, and St. Louis Hawks. He was a 6’9 center and has made the NBA All-Star 8 times and was selected for All-NBA First Team in 1955.
Larry Foust was part of the all-time lowest-scoring game in NBA history when the Fort Wayne Pistons defeated the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18. Since the shot clock was not yet introduced in the NBA (came to use in 1954), Pistons players were holding the ball to prevent the Lakers from scoring and eventually came to win, with Foust scoring one field goal.
When it comes to the NBA Finals, Larry Foust has played in it 5 times in a span of 7 years and lost each one of them. He lost in NBA Finals in 1955 and 1956 while playing for the Fort Wayne Pistons, in 1959 he lost with Minneapolis Lakers and fell short again in 1960 and 1961 with the St. Louis Hawks.
Even though he lost in the NBA Finals 5 times, Foust was considered a great player and a great teammate, quickly becoming a low-post force in the 50s NBA era.
3. LeBron James – 6
What can be said about Kind James, what’s already not known? Just to name a few, LeBron James is the all-time scoring leader, Top 5 in both All-Time Assists, scored 40 points against all 30 NBA teams and was the NBA MVP 4 times!
Despite all the records and individual achievements, one thing does not help him in the GOAT debate! He lost in the NBA Finals 6 times in 10 appearances!
As a young star, he lost the 2007 NBA Finals playing for the Cavaliers to the San Antonio Spurs, being swept 4-0. Playing for the Miami Heat in 2011, the most surprising loss was against Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks 4-2. He fell short again in 2014 with the Heat, losing again to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1.
In the 2014-15 season, he came back to Cleveland Cavaliers, promising that he will bring them a first NBA championship, and in the same season he made the trip to the Finals, however, came short to the raising dynasty of the Golden State Warriors. He made his promise in 2016, however, he lost the Finals twice after that, in 2017 and 2018 to the Golden State.
As of today, LeBron James holds the record 4-6 in the NBA Finals. Despite the negative record in the Finals, LeBron James is the top 5 players in NBA history and the day he retires will be a sad day for the NBA and basketball!
2. Elgin Baylor – 7
A runner-up on our list is NBA legend, Elgin Baylor. Playing for the Lakers from 1958-1972, made the NBA Finals 7 times and lost each one of them. He lost 6 of them to the Lakers nemesis, the Boston Celtics and Bill Russell, and in his last NBA Finals appearance in 1970, he lost to the New York Knicks.
Despite all the losses in NBA Finals, Elgin Baylor is part of the NBA’s 75 Greatest Players at No. 23. During the course of his career, Baylor averaged 27.4 points per game, was named to the NBA All-NBA First Team 10 times and appeared in 11 NBA All-Star games.
Even though he never won in the Finals, Elgin Baylor has one championship ring. In the 1971-1972 season, he retired from basketball due to his nagging injuries just after 9 games.
As a result, Baylor missed two historic events, the Lakers’ NBA record of a 33-game winning streak and winning the championship Finals against the New York Knicks. The organization awarded Baylor a championship ring despite his early retirement in order to think him for a 14-year service.
1. Jerry West – 8
And the winner is non-other than Mr. Logo himself, the great Jerry West! In his 14-year-long NBA career, Jerry West has made the Finals 9 times and lost 8 of them! What’s more interesting, he is the only one in NBA history that won the Finals MVP award while being on the losing team. In 1969 NBA Finals, he averaged 37.9 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 7.4 APG, however, his Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in 7 games series.
The only championship that Jerry West won was in the 1971-72 season when the Lakers brought the first championship to the franchise since their move to Los Angeles from Minneapolis in 1960.
Despite all the losses in the NBA Finals as a player, Mr. Logo was more than successful as the General Manager of the Lakers. As GM, he won 8 championships, and helped to build the great 1980s Lakers dynasty which brought five championships to the franchise!
Getting to the NBA Finals is a hard task to achieve and winning it makes it even harder. There were numerous players that reach the Finals multiple times and yet failed to win it.
Players such as Keith Erickson, Rudy LaRusso, Steve Mix, and Max Zaslofsky reached the Finals 4 times and ended up losing all of them. Danny Ainge, Wilt Chamberlain, and Mel Counts played in the Finals 6 times and lost 4 of them.
The only players who lost 4 NBA Finals and have a winning percentage above .500 are Magic Johnson with 5 championships and the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 6 championships.
|1.||Jerry West||Los Angeles Lakers||1-8|
|2.||Elgin Baylor||Los Angeles Lakers||0-7|
|3.||LeBron James||Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers||4-6|
|4.||Larry Foust||Fort Wayne Pistons, Minneapolis Lakers, St. Louise Hawks||0-5|
Most NBA Finals Lost – Teams
3. Boston Celtics & Golden State Warriors – 5
When you are one of the two franchises with the most NBA Finals appearances, it will be hard to expect that you win them all. The Boston Celtics went to the Finals in total 22 times, however, ended up on the losing side 5 times, with the most recent one in 2022. What’s interesting about the Celtics’ run in the Finals is that 4 out of 5 losses were to their main rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Next to the Celtics, there’s another big franchise, the Golden State Warriors with the same number of losses in the NBA Finals. The Warriors made 12 NBA Finals appearances, losing two of them recently in 2016 and 2019. Despite the losses in the Finals, they are still fifth best organization with 7 titles, behind the Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
2. New York Knicks & Philadelphia 76ers- 6
As one of the oldest franchises in NBA history, founded in 1946, the New York Knicks made only 8 Finals appearances. They’ve lost in the Finals 6 times, getting them 2nd place tied with the most NBA Finals losses. The last time they made the Finals was in 1999 when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs 4-0.
Founded in the same year as the Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers made the NBA Finals 9 times. Despite that, they’ve ended up losing on 6 occasions. In spite of losses, they are considered one of the biggest franchises, and with the players such as Joel Embiid and James Harden, maybe we will see them at the new NBA Finals soon.
1. Los Angeles Lakers – 15
From Minneapolis to Los Angeles, the Lakers lost in a total of 15 NBA Finals! They’ve made the Finals recorded 32 times from 1947 to today’s day.
If it weren’t for the Boston Celtics, maybe the number would be smaller, however, the Lakers lost to them 9 times! Despite that, they hold the record for the most games won in the NBA Finals and are tied with Boston Celtics with the most championships won – each 17!
|Team||Finals Record||Win %|
|1.||Los Angeles Lakers||17-15||.531|
|3.||New York Knicks||2-6||.250|
|5.||Golden State Warriors||7-5||.583|
Given all that you’ve learned about some NBA greats and teams/franchises who had a knack for losing championships back then (and probably still do today), what’s your opinion? Do any stand out from the rest? And why is it so?
Thank you for reading our blog post. We hope you enjoyed it! If you want to read more NBA articles, be sure to check our basketball section on Field Insider.
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