NBA Set to Crown Sixth-Straight New Champion

NBA's parity has surged to unprecedented levels, with six distinct champions emerging for the first time since the 1975-1980 period.
Anna Ciao
By: Anna Ciao

With the Minnesota Timberwolves stunning the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 to advance to the Conference Finals, the NBA's Final Four is set. The Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and Timberwolves are now the remaining contenders for the NBA Championship, ensuring a unique champion for the sixth consecutive year.

Since Kevin Durant's Golden State Warriors repeated in 2017-18, the league has entered an era of parity and competitive balance, with five different teams winning the Larry O'Brien trophy: the 2019 Toronto Raptors, 2020 Los Angeles Lakers, 2021 Milwaukee Bucks, 2022 Warriors, and 2023 Nuggets.

Moreover, for the sixth straight year, there will be no back-to-back conference champion in either conference. This shift indicates the end of dominance by a single team and the rise of multiple squads, typically four to eight each year, with genuine title aspirations. This season's Western Conference exemplified this trend perfectly.

NBA fans have long desired a league where the NBA Finals matchup isn't predictable before the season begins. Now, they have it.

Sixth Straight Year With a Unique NBA Champion

The NBA has traditionally been dominated by a few teams or players at any given time in its history. Bill Russell's Celtics dominated the 60s, while Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics defined the 80s. Michael Jordan's Bulls had two three-peats in the 90s, Kobe Bryant's Lakers and Tim Duncan's San Antonio Spurs controlled the 2000s, and LeBron James was the central figure of the 2010s.

NBA Dynasties

Team

Time Period

Titles

Finals Appearances

Celtics

1957-1969

11

12

Celtics, Lakers

1980-1989

8

13

Bulls

1991-1998

6

6

Lakers, Spurs

1999-2010

9

11

LeBron James

2011-2020

4

9

The lone exception to the NBA's historical dominance by a few teams occurred in the 1970s, a decade without a single dominant team. Only the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics won multiple titles during this period, allowing eight different franchises to claim championships. From 1975 to 1980, the Warriors, Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers, Washington Bullets, Seattle SuperSonics, and Lakers each took home a trophy, marking the only other time in NBA history with six unique champions.

During the Warriors' recent dominance, fans often complained about the lack of parity, overlooking the fact that it's rare for the NBA to have several teams with legitimate title hopes in any given year. However, the league has now entered an era where numerous teams feel they are genuine contenders each season—and rightfully so.

Sixth Straight Year Without Back-To-Back Conference Winners

Not only will this be the sixth consecutive season with a different NBA champion, but it will also be another year where both conferences are represented by new teams in the Finals. The Boston Celtics are the only team left that has appeared in an NBA Finals since 2018, having lost to Golden State in six games in 2022.

Moreover, the defending champions have not reached the conference finals in any season since Durant's Warriors lost in the NBA Finals in 2019. The league is currently so stacked with talent that sustaining a long championship run and surviving multiple playoff rounds the following season has become exceedingly difficult.

Defending Champion Woes

Champion

Next Season Result

Conf. Finals Matchup

2019 Raptors

Lost 2nd-Round

Celtics-Heat

2020 Lakers

Lost 1st-Round

Suns-Clippers

2021 Bucks

Lost 2nd-Round

Celtics-Heat

2022 Warriors

Lost 2nd-Round

Lakers-Nuggets

2023 Nuggets

Lost 2nd-Round

Mavericks-Timberwolves

To underscore the incredible competitive balance even further, the only two teams to have appeared in back-to-back conference finals are the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics, who faced each other in the 2022 and 2023 Eastern Conference Finals. With injuries playing a significant role, the talent gap shrinking across the league, and anti-tanking rules in place, sustaining long-term success has become exceedingly difficult.

NBA Is Too Stacked With Talent for One Team To Dominate

As recently as 2017-18, it appeared that only two teams, the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, had legitimate shots at contending for an NBA title. With Kyrie Irving's departure from the Cavaliers, some argued there was only one possible champion that season given the stacked roster of the Warriors.

For much of NBA history, only a handful of teams were considered true contenders each season. However, this trend has shifted dramatically due to the increase in total talent across the league and a change in team building philosophies from relying on "big threes" to a more balanced roster-based approach.

Nowadays, there are typically at least two teams in each conference with legitimate hopes of vying for an NBA Championship, often more. In the 2023-24 season, ten to twelve teams genuinely believed they could win their conference, and many had valid reasons to believe so.

Teams with Championship Expectations in 2025

Team

2024 Record

2024 Result

Celtics

64-18

In ECF

Pacers

47-35

In ECF

Mavericks

50-32

In WCF

Timberwolves

56-26

In WCF

Knicks

50-32

Lost 2nd-Round

Nuggets

57-25

Lost 2nd-Round

Thunder

57-25

Lost 2nd-Round

Bucks

49-33

Lost 1st-Round

76ers

47-35

Lost 1st-Round

Suns

49-33

Lost 1st-Round

In the past, many seasons saw even the Conference Finals as uncompetitive affairs. For instance, in 2017, both Cleveland and Golden State lost just one game or fewer on their entire path through the conference, with the Warriors achieving a perfect 12-0 record.

However, in 2024, both Western Conference second-round matchups felt like championship-level series, with any of the four teams capable of not only winning the conference but also the title. Although the Celtics/Pacers series may seem like a mismatch, the Mavericks/Timberwolves matchup is evenly balanced, and there have already been numerous tightly-contested series.

The era of a few teams dominating conferences for extended periods is now a thing of the past, and the NBA has undoubtedly benefited from this shift.

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Anna Ciao
Written by: Anna Ciao
Anna Ciao is a sports content contributor at Betimate. Born and raised in a rural village in China, I have had a passion for football and various sports such as basketball, volleyball, badminton, from a young age. Along with diligent studies, I achieved an IELTS score of 8.0 in the English language, and I have become a content contributor specializing in sports, particularly football, as I am today. I hope that my articles are helpful to readers.

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